Tutor feedback – Assignment 4 Sense of Place

I received my tutor feedback a short while after completing assignment 4 ‘A Sense of Place’. I found the comments constructive, but at the same time a little lacking in encouragement. This is the forth feedback I have had with the same tutor and with other tutors I have had a lot of positive feedback, as well as constructive critique, but I feel too often on these 4 assignments I receive only what I am doing wrong, or what could be better. I rarely read what photos have been well taken and composed and why they are good, I only receive feedback on what images could be better.

My location is Dubai, and in this country at times we are asked to take shots which can be a little sensitive in this region, then I am asked to get a little closer to the people and in certain circumstances I have been lucky even to get the shot at all. Even just pointing a camera at people in this area can be a big challenge and I wonder if sometimes in the feedback this is overlooked.

I am asked to include a contact sheet of the images I decide to discard. In this particular report it is suggested to include all the images I took of some fisherman as an example. I took around 30 plus images in this case, and to include all these images I feel is a little overkill. I am asked to edit a particular picture with ropes across some Dhows which was one image I did not include, but Im not sure why I would spend the time and effort to edit a picture I have no intention of using. This can be very subjective but I submitted a contact sheet of what i thought was relative. I fully understand the purpose of a contact sheet so my thought process can be available, but I feel its not clear how the contact sheet is expected. When looking at other students work I see positive feedback and my work is no different in most cases, so it can be confusing what is expected at times.

My tutor asked what I was trying to get across in tone particular image submitted. The answer is a broad section of what Dubai has to offer, and the type of varied people that live in Dubai. I could spend a whole year taking images of the vast variants in this city and I would still find more areas I could cover. One suggestion would be to limit my area and focus more on one aspect, this maybe true and could be another approach, but the assignment was submitted based on my feelings at the time and I cannot go back and do the whole assignment again. I will however add a comment on this image in question.

Some images have been suggested to edit a little such as the following:

  • Image 225 has a lamppost in the frame which is distracting, and I agree this is in need of a retake or PS removal.
  • Image 226 of the large indoor aquarium needs to be closer. I can and will crop this to make it closer.
  • In image 227 I am asked what I am trying to communicate, The answer is the broad spectrum of architecture, from the most expensive hotel in the world, the been landscaping and the waterways all bringing a landscape that in essence is built in the middle of a desert…I think its quite something.

As a final note, I take all the comments from all tutors as help and constructive, but at times I feel it would be good to include what is a good photo and why, rather than just what could be better and why it falls short.

Assignment 4 – A sense of place

This will be my submission for assignment four in People and Place, ‘ A sense of Place’. I have thought hard about the criteria and brief for this assignment which states the following: Imagine that you are on an assignment for an intelligent, thoughtful travel publication that is demanding a considered, in-depth treatment. Aim to produce sufficient images on a specific location to fill, say, six pages. This would mean about six final images as chosen, but at least twice this number of good publishable images from which to make the final selection. Aim to show the character of the place and of the people who live there with as much visual variety as possible.

I live mostly in Dubai but I travel quite a lot. My first thoughts on this project was to shoot at a location ‘other’ than the one I live in, but taking my camera away with me at times can be difficult due to the job I do. So the only way I was going to get this assignment done was to submit the required images from Dubai.

I was a little confused at first about the difference of a ‘thoughtful publication’ and a ‘tourism promotion’! After some research and I understood these images were not required to be full glossy type images that would appear on a front cover, but I think to be more on the ground and in the streets types of shots. Street photography maybe, but certainly images that are going to show character and as its mentioned in the brief, to show and give a feel of the people also. Dubai is full of tourists so I need to be careful I don’t over emphasise the tourist side but show more of what Dubai has to offer.

The current weather here has been rather poor, with very high winds bringing with it low visibility. I have waited for over a week to try and allow the weather to change, but this time of year here the changing of the high to low temperatures are causing warm and cold air around the ocean to bring with it 30MPH winds. The other issue here is that the winds bring with it sand from the desert so visibility does get very low. So I cannot delay any further as I am already behind, so I will have to concentrate on maybe closer up shots, interiors and maybe some night images if the wind drops enough later in the day.

Without going into too much detail some brief history can be found here: https://www.dubai.com/v/history/

The cultural differences here are huge. Many types of nationalities reside in Dubai, I think well over 200 types. At first I thought of maybe having these numerous cultures part of the theme for my images, but it was proving too difficult and I knew I would have road blocks trying to get into certain areas such as mosques, and having to be careful of taking images of local woman (and men at times) which can be highly frowned upon if not done very carefully. Its getting better here over the last 10 years or so, and Dubai has become very westernised, but one still has to be careful when it comes to pointing a camera at people and in certain locations without causing issues.

Having finally decided of the type of approach I would take, which was to remove myself from taking any glossy images and/or of locals in part of respect, below is a contact sheet of my final selection of images:

Contact sheet:

The images above are my final selection of 12 images, and not in any order. Below is my selection of the 6 images I short listed but decided not to submit , with a short explanation why.

Short listed images:

[219], [220], [221]

-EDIT- Based on tutors feedback, this image of the fisherman was deemed too far away. It was suggested to get in closer. As I was unable to capture the same image again, I have cropped the image to bring the figures into the frame.

[219] – The first image of the fisherman I thought was a good indication of life in Dubai. The buildings in the background also add the the sense of place in the image. But I had selected another image with a similar feel which I thought was a better option.

[220] – I liked this image of the dhows and the view of the people in the boat making the water crossing on the Dubai Creek. But I felt their was too many distractions with the ropes crossing in front of the image and the figures in the boat too small.

[221] – This image of the Dubai landscape I thought of using as the opening shot, making some suggestion in the write up of Dubai waking up early morning and moving on from their with a story. However I felt the lack of people in the image and the fact the buildings are situated quiet far away made me decide not to submit. Although as an overall picture of the Dubai landscape I thought it worked well.

[222], [223], [224]

[222] – I thought this image showed the feel of Dubai, and how busy the creek area gets in the day. Although the wooden barrier and post was too much of a distraction, and I wanted to get a closer feel of the people which is in my final selection.

[223] – Very similar to image [222], this was another option but the faces were too dark. Yes I can bring these dark shadows out in spot production but as the other image I wanted to get a closer feel of the people and faces.

[224] – This came in close to the final selection of 6, and the comments would have been that Dubai is a haven for sporting events. These are the world champion cycling team from Italy and were here for a major race. This was during a training day shortly before the main event. I decided not to use this on my final selection as the background was a little boring, although it is desert it could be in any location and I wanted to remain in the city of Dubai.

Final selection:

[225]

Dubai was basically desert not such a long time ago when compared to other cities around the world. This area now has a metropolis of buildings, golf courses, residence buildings, office blocks and even a metro line. Its hard to believe that just 15 years ago, this was all desert. I was living here then and used to drive passed this area and I was still 15 mins drive away before I reached any buildings within the downtown area of Dubai. Its hard to image how much the city of Dubai has progressed in such a relatively short space of time, and this can be seen almost at every turn. The image was taken also taking into account one of the recent exercises which was a single small figure, as can be seen with the two golfers on the green to the right of the images on the lower third. An interesting fact is two of the tallest buildings that can be seen in the centre image are the worlds tallest office block, and residence block in the world.

[226]

Dubai is a major tourist attraction. It does have oil, but the supplies will soon be reduced within the next 100 years (predicted). The government and rulers of Dubai had a wonderful vision to attract tourist thus bringing in income from another source. The tourist industry now is one of the largest in Dubai with millions of visitors per year, and Dubai Intl airport is now the busiest airport in the world for major destinations in and out of the city. One of the largest attractions in Dubai is indoor shopping centres. Due to the heat in the summer which can go above 50 degree cent, most of the shopping areas are indoors and air conditioned. This shopping mall is called Dubai Mall, and has the largest indoor aquarium in the world. This is a 10 million-litre tank at the Dubai Aquarium with more than 33,000 aquatic animals and the largest collection of sand tiger sharks in the world. It also has 140 species of sea life and has several ways to experience underwater life, starting with a stroll through a 48-metre walk-through tunnel. It’s a complete fish-eye view, with sand tiger sharks and stingrays swimming overhead. The Dubai Mall I believe is currently the largest shopping mall in the middle east and the third largest in the world.

-EDIT- This image of the aquarium was originally further away from the people and aquarium. this image has been edited based on tutor feedback to bring the whole image and people in the frame closer. This is the original image below.

[227]

Dubai is situated on the Persian gulf, and this opens up many options for building and waterways close to the sea. This is an area called Madinat, and has many shops and food outlets, cleverly covered with palm trees and hotels to give a pleasing feel. The water is brought in from the sea and the landscaping is idyllic. People can walk around the waterways, take an Abra ride, shop, eat and take in the sights of an old type arabic souk (market). In the background we can see the only 7 star hotel in the world, the Burj Al Arab hotel, along with its own helipad 750 above the ground. Another use of a small figures can be seen on the left and right of the image.

Tutor feedback notes additional comment – This image is intended to show how diverse Dubai really is. We can see a combination of waterways, green landscaping, shops and eating areas and the worlds only 7 star hotel in the background the Burj Al Arab Hotel…all from what was only a short while ago barren desert.

[228]

Keeping with the water theme, both residents and visitors can enjoy the waterways and open sea for all types of water events from boating, both private and for hire, skiing, jet ski rental, cruising and dining etc. Many residents own expensive boats and yachts which are based in the marina and the water is a major part of Dubai residents and visitors for recreation and spare time. The weekend here is Friday and Saturday so the seas are full of craft during the weekends. These added man made waterways have been a magnet for architects and the construction of buildings and high-rises. Dubai is a open book for designers of such buildings like the ‘twisty’ building which is Cayan Tower (“The building’s twisted shape reduces wind forces on the tower and channels the wind in such a way that its forces are unable to organise themselves,” quote Ref: National Newspaper) and other high rises and office blocks.

[229]

So what about the people? Population of Dubai is currently around 2.67 million. From this around 80% are of Indian or Pakistani origin. From this around 92% are expatriates. The country is built on manual labour to the most part. You will see these workers on the building construction, road construction, serving in shops, petrol stations etc and these are what we could call the worker bees of the city (I mean that in a nice way). Temperatures in the summer can be very hot and Dubai has a temperature limit that allows workers to stop outside activities when it gets to a certain temperature limit, this is to protect the safety of the workers. During the off days again usually a Friday and Saturday, the workers will congregate around many parts of Dubai, one of them being Dubai Creek which is in the old town of Dubai and were many of these workers reside. The main source of income for Dubai started around the creek in the 1830’s as a pearl fishing village and remained so until the 1930’s after the recession. The workers will remove the overalls and be happy to take time to see the sights, drink arabic coffee or sweet tea and wear a nice shirt or local dress while enjoying time with friends. The creek is still used as a major import/export area and a busy hub as can be seen with the Abras or water taxis bringing passengers and tourists between the two sides of the creek.

[230]

I had mentioned in one of the biggest forms of income in Dubai is tourism. Nothing can be seen as an example than in the shopping malls and beach locations. Land is at its prime, and this area is not far away from my first image of the gold course, which 15 years ago was all desert as i mentioned. I remember coming to this area and camping on the beach. Not such a long time ago they were two hotels on this beach, one behind were I’m standing and another about a kilometre ahead of the camera view does the beach. Now we can see a small beach area with towering high-rise buildings which are mainly all accommodation blocks and apartments overlooking the beach. Many of the beaches have now been taken over with construction of hotels and large high rise buildings making beach areas limited. This area is known as JLT Jumeriah Lake Towers and is about 4km of beach front, shops, apartment blocks and hotels. This image was taken on a week working day, so come weekend it would be hard to find any spare area of beach, especially in the winter when the temperatures are bearable. This is one of the most popular spots for beach goers and visitors who like to take in the sun, sand and water and all Dubai has to offer.

Conclusion:

The final brief of this assignment is to write down what we thought of our assignment from the following questions:

What did you set out to achieve, including a description of how you see the essential character of the place?

I wanted to stay away from the glossy type photos of a magazine as what was also mentioned in the brief, and try and show another side of Dubai from more of a person that lives here and also the residents of Dubai, and what it may feel like to I’ve here and not as a visitor. My images were not to be heavily post processed at the risk of them looking slightly boring and plane, but the intention is to show Dubai from a ground level view and not glossy and glitzy.

How well you think you succeeded, including opportunities that were not available to you because of lack of time or access?

I have tried to show a good cross section of Dubai from the people who live and work here, to the offers Dubai has fro both visitors and those who may live and work here. I have included both old and new parts of the city giving viewers an overall feel of the city. I would have liked to maybe include some other recreational aspects of what Dubai has to offer such as camel racing, horse racing and what the desert has to offer, but this would mean more travel and I wanted to remain in the city, and again not include the glossy aspects of Dubai. I would have liked to include locals in some of my images but this can be a sensitive issue here at times, so out of respect I refrained from doing this.

How you might have approached the assignment if you had simply been taking photographs with no-end result in mind (meaning an article to be published)?

Given the choice I think I would have gone for the more glossy type of images. I feel that my submitted images are not types you would see in any high gloss magazine, but this was the brief we needed to stick to. Dubai has a lot to offer both in terms of locations in the city and out in the open spaces such as desert and even further out in the mountains. I would have submitted some images which would include night, and maybe a slow shutter image to show movement either in a night shot or other daytime shot with moving clouds or similar.

Finally I found the subject matter of images hard to conclude as I am more used to taking images that would be seen on postcards, or images of the many interesting buildings that Dubai has to offer. I think I have met the criteria of the brief and shown a good selection of images that show the people and place of Dubai that wouldn’t be first apparent in many of the other publications or personal images of visitors who would focus more on the tourist attractions of the city.

No heavy post production was made to the images, which I think adds to the real life feeling and removes focus from how the image looks, to more of what the image is about.

This concludes Assignment 4 – A sense of place.

Onto Assignment 5 People and Place on Assignment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ref:

http://www.dubai-info.org/en/facts/history

https://www.jumeirah.com/en/hotels-resorts/dubai/madinat-jumeirah/facilities/souk-madinat-jumeirah/

https://www.emirates.com/english/destinations_offers/discoverdubai/aboutdubai/dubaihistory.aspx

http://blog.raynatours.com/5-interesting-facts-dubai-creek/

http://www.visitdubai.com/en/pois/dubai-aquarium-and-underwater-zoo

https://www.dubai.com/v/history/

http://www.thenational.ae/business/industry-insights/property/dubais-twisting-cayan-tower-named-among-worlds-best-new-skyscrapers