Shooting the Dubai Skyline from a Balcony During Lockdown

Until yesterday it was more or less what I can call a total lockdown in Dubai, the city where I live. Today is a new day and we can leave the house following several guidelines. Hoping that life will go back to normal soon.

I understand that most of us are not used to staying at home, and for someone like me, and I would dare to say many photographers, this was a very unusual situation. What would home office mean for us, cityscape photographers? Tiding up the photo library, going through old images, editing some images, checking online tutorials, or browsing what other photographers are sharing online.

After some time, you miss holding the camera and shooting…

And this is where I decided to shoot a series of images during different timings from my home balcony. And guess what? I was lucky to witness one of the most beautiful sunsets since the beginning of 2020.

Equipment Used

I am a big fan of Nikon and I have been using Nikon for years. Yet for this project – if I may call it project- I decided to use Canon.

After all, I think it’s always good to get familiar and check out other brands. Especially, when you conduct photography workshops and the participants use different brands.

The Location

I must admit, I consider myself lucky that my balcony view is nothing but the Dubai Marina skyline and not too many angles to shoot. Indeed it’s a great view, yet it doesn’t offer a variety in terms of different compositions. To overcome this, however, one can become creative in using different lenses and shooting during different timings. I used a wide-angle lens as well as a telephoto lens to capture as many details as possible and I was shooting during different timing of the day: golden hour, blue hour, and night mode.

The view from my balcony overlooking the Dubai Marina – Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM

The Timing

When shooting cityscape the timing is the key to achieving the best results. So during lockdown, the challenge for me was shooting the same topic during different timings.

Daytime: Not a bad timing, if you decide to shoot a close up playing with shadows and later convert these shots into black and white. If lucky and there were clouds in the sky, you can use ND filters and long exposure, which will result in a black-and-white fine-art image.

Golden Hour is a good time for cityscape photography. During the early morning and late afternoon, the light is softer and the city, in my opinion, looks more interesting. You can achieve a more dramatic result with clouds in the skies.

Blue Hour: In my opinion, this is the best timing to shoot cityscapes. Blue Hour can be defined as the period of the day when the color of the sky ranges from blue to dark blue, followed by black sky at night and vice versa during the day. It depends on your geographical location in the world whether you are lucky and the Blue Hour is long or if you live in a region, where it’s quite short, so you to be quite fast when shooting.

Nighttime: When photographing at night a city or skylines, one of the most critical factors that will impact the image is light metering and controlling the highlights in post-processing. I usually do multiple exposures and blend several images together in PS.

Last but not least I was quite lucky with the weather, it rained and I was able to capture the lightning along with the skylines, so for this purpose, I use a lightning trigger from SkyFinder and I shoot in manual mode.

I recommend that you download the PhotoPills application to check the exact timings of the Blue and Golden Hour according to your location.

Wide Angle vs. Telephoto

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM mounted on RRS travel Clamp

When you think of cityscape photography, you likely think of wide-angle lenses designed to maximize your field of view and capture the bigger/wider view.

For all my architectural and cityscape images, my favorite lens is the tilt-shift, but choosing a wide-angle is also a great choice only if you correct the distortions in post-production.

When using a telephoto lens, you can unlock many features and have more freedom in composing, framing on details, and getting the maximum out of the scene.

Wide-angle shot during Golden Hour for the Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Lake Towers by Canon Tilt-Shift 17mm lens
A close up shot for the Taj Hotel during sunset time by using a telephoto, Canon 300mm
Lightning strike above the JLT skylines. Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM and StrikeFinder
A close up to Jumeirah Lake Towers during Golden Hour: Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM
A close up at night to princess tower: Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Extender EF 1.4x III
Cayan Tower during golden hour. Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM
Taj Hotel during golden hour. Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM
A close up to the Marina Skylines at the Blue Hour – Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM
Vertical Panoramic image by Tilt-shift 17mm
A close up to the Dubai Marina skylines during Golden Hour: Canon EF 70-200mm
Night shots with Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM and Extender EF 1.4x III
A close up at Almas tower in JLT – Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
My favorite tower, Cayan during misty weather – Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM
Grosvenor House Hotel in Dubai Marina at the golden hour. Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM
Grosvenor House Hotel in Dubai Marina at the Blue hour. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM

About the author: Dany Eid is an architecture, cityscape, and landscape photographer based in Dubai. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Eid is an ambassador for Carl Zeiss, fstopgear, and NiSi filters. You can find more of Eid’s work on his website, Facebook, 500px, Twitter, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

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