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Reaching The Skies
ZEISS INFINITY TOUR
Located on the northern coastline of the United Arab Emirates, the city of Dubai fascinates visitors with its record-breaking architecture and man-made islands. Extremes meet when you leave the city of luxurious modernity to find the more traditional Arabian Life in the magnificent deserts and mountains nearby
I moved to Dubai four years ago and I must say that, having lived in many different countries and cities, Dubai is the youngest out of all of them and it wants to remain young – even the historical or older parts of the city get a facelift.
Dubai is the city that witnessed the biggest shift in my professional life. Here’s where I said goodbye to a boring job and my passion became my profession.
Now I live in Dubai, and if asked what I shoot the most there, my answer is: the skyscrapers. Sometimes I feel that in certain areas the skyscrapers compete to see which of them will reach the sky first.
Everyone who follows my photography would know that I shoot architecture, landscapes, cityscapes and some street photography. And here I’m in a city that offers immense architectural diversity, no matter if you shoot from the ground or from the rooftop.
Accessing rooftops in Dubai is actually rather difficult. Getting a permit is the hard part, and being there at the right moment is challenging. The seasons still change up on the rooftops, and during the few months of fog all the rooftopper photographers in the city don’t get any sleep. Dubai skies don’t usually offer many clouds, so the fog season is every rooftopper's dream. Thanks to this special weather, you get the chance to take incredible photos showing how nature smoothly embraces the massive skyscrapers.
Yet Dubai rooftops also offer you the magnificent skyline and architecture of the young city. As a photographer, I document those gigantic buildings competing to reach the sky – in the city of a thousand skyscrapers.
In our rooftopping workshops, Daniel Cheong and I want to offer beginners and professionals the opportunity to experience and capture the vast landscape from Dubai’s rooftops. Somehow these moments make infinity tangible. Particular striking, as Daniel mentioned when I asked him, is the correlation of size from big to small - moving from the universe to micro worlds. It’s always a pleasure to meet him and to get inspired by his character and his attitudes.
Berlin - A Diverse Capital
The Berlin stop of the Infinity Tour wasn’t my first visit to the German capital. I’d held a couple of workshops there in the past. It is, however, almost guaranteed that you’ll discover new buildings, street art or new local grocery stores every time you visit the city – not just because of its size, but first and foremost because of the constant state of flux.
Some say that Berlin is whatever you want it to be. Be it the business, entrepreneurial and fashion aspects, or – by way of contrast – the laid-back, creative inhabitants roaming the city in a famous neighborhoods like Kreuzberg or Tempelhof-Schöneberg. Everything is there – you just have to discover it for yourself. And a gritty fashion boutique might have become a five star hotel the next time you pass it.
During the workshop, I met Peter who lives in Berlin. We had the chance to discuss not only photography, but also his definition of infinity. He stated that infinity allows you to be creative without boundaries – a challenge all of us face as photographers. Photography force you to realize your vision and be creative with your subject within a limited timeframe.
Although the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag and the TV Tower are some of the popular key landmarks you'll find on most Berlin postcards, I chose the Jacob-and-Wilhelm-Grimm-Library as my infinity spotlight for Berlin. If you pass by the building late in the afternoon, the scenery is simple spectacular as the building is submerged in the setting sun. The library within the building looks like a place of infinite wisdom, as exemplified by the depth of the room. I was told that it houses around 2.5 million books, some of which are more than 100 years old – I find that very impressive!
Iceland, The Land Of Ice & Fire
A country of extreme contrasts situated in the far north of Europe, the small island nation fascinates with its impressive landscapes. Where else can you discover large glaciers, active volcanoes, northern lights and nearly 24-hours of sunlight in summer?
This has been my fourth trip to Iceland during the last three years. It is a destination totally different from any country I have visited before. It is a trip you really have to get ready for and when I say getting ready I mean it in a different way. It’s not only about booking your flight, hotel and packing your bag.
It started off with my clothes. What to wear in Iceland, was the big question before my first trip. I went on a shopping trip to the mall in Dubai, a city where the sun shines 365 days a year without a real winter. Yet, I was surprised to bump into other shoppers that were looking for the very same thing I was looking for. Iceland was becoming en-vogue. The one and only tip I can give to people who are traveling to Iceland is to wear layers, it actually helps to keep you warm and you can always discard one layer if you feel hot. I once read, there’s no bad weather, but bad clothing and that’s definitely right for Iceland. One more thing: if you hate to get wet, don’t even bother doing a trip to Iceland.
My biggest challenge whenever I travel is fitting my gear in one backpack that I can take with me on a plane. I know as a photographer you want to experiment and try all possible equipment, but with all the restrictions on the planes you must focus and decide which are your priority lenses and what other equipment that you should have on you. It took me at least two trips to Iceland to decide.
For the equipment, I recommend a wide-angle lens and of course the ZEISS Milvus 2.8/15 is on the top of my list. I must admit that 80% of my images were shot with this lens. ND filters are recommended and as much batteries as you can afford – due to the cold weather they need to be recharged more frequently.
And take the steadiest tripod you can get and I really mean that, during this trip I lost my camera in frequents of second, when I gave my back to the tripod. Always keep an eye on the camera fixed on the steady tripod!
Don’t expect luxury accommodation, especially if you are traveling from one location to the other. Of course, Reykjavik offers many options for accommodation, but once you are on the road, the hotels become more like guesthouses. But nevertheless, the people are very friendly, helpful, flexible and open to visitors. Maybe the Icelandic way of life influenced one of my workshop participants. As I asked her how she feels about the meaning of infinity, Sabah described it as a platform for happiness and dreams to live, laugh and love ad infinitum – a definition I really like.
I just noticed I used the word planning several times, however in Iceland you often must have a plan B, C or even D. Of course, you plan your route, you know which locations you are visiting, but in no time a storm can make you change all plans. So, in other words you are exposed to nature. But that’s exactly why landscape photographers will fall in love with the stunning Icelandic nature has to offer, whether it’s a waterfall, ice formations, glaciers, volcano or chasing the Northern lights – the best time to catch them is from mid-September to mid-April. I found the stranded melting ice blocks on the beach as a very fitting analogy for the tour’s theme of infinity: The transient relicts of gigantic icebergs are shining in the sun and shrinking until they’re dissolved back into the ocean. Resembling the true process of nature’s infinite circle.
Last but not least after a hardcore photography trip with very little sleep, you can only reward yourself with a visit to the Blue Lagoon.
Namibia - Endless Horizons
I grew up in the Middle East. I was born in Lebanon where it’s quite green. And while there is no sign of sand, there are plenty of cedar trees which unfortunately are shrinking in number. However, I have moved to and lived in other countries where the desert dominates the landscape. Each has its own unique character, and so does the Namib Desert.
It had always been a dream of mine to visit Namibia. I didn’t have much time – only 5 days including my arrival and departure day. I had prioritized, and so I asked myself: "Where should I go?" I marked Sesriem on my map which is located in the Namib Desert and is the main access point to Namib-Naukluft National Park. Here you can visit the very popular Sossusvlei Dune 45, Hiddenvlei, Big Daddy and Deadvlei.
I arrived at night after a very long drive, and I spent the next few days conquering the impressive Dune 45 and the drought Soussusvlei plan. There I met a roaming Oryx with its striking black and white face. But my goal was clear: I had to visually capture one unique feature of the desert, namely it’s very low light pollution.
Usually it's almost impossible to access Deadvlei at night, however I was quite lucky and was allowed to stay for a while after dark to shoot this image. Time was in short supply, but the result was excellent and I ended with this beautiful photo. I live in the city where it's impossible to see a starry sky, yet away from all the light pollution in Deadvlei you can see the constellations. Once the sun is down the landscape becomes quite mystical, with the breathless skeletons of trees, the vast sand dunes and a sky full of stars. All this provides the perfect composition for a long exposure shot – truly exceptional.
During my travels I met the park ranger Bradwin. It was intriguing to learn how he felt about nature, the human spirit and even infinity itself from working in such an extreme environment
My main lenses during the trip where i shot the movie with and the images, Zeiss Milvus 135mm, Zeiss Milvus 15mm & Zeiss Otus 28mm on Nikon mount.
NISI S5 REVIEW
Since Daniel Cheong & i we represent NiSi as a global Ambassadors, we had the chance to be among the first photographers to test the new NiSi S5 holder system 150mm made for Nikon 14-24mm ultra wide angle lens.
Landscape photographers have always dreamed of seamlessly combining the use of an ultra-wide lens, circular polarizer, and filters. Have you ever owned an ultra-wide angle lens but were uncertain as to whether a filter holder system was available for it. In 2016, NiSi released the V5 system which is currently leading the market for 100mm filter holder systems. Its design enabled the use of a built-in circular polarizer with up to 3 square filters.
Since the release of the V5 system, NiSi have received progressively more requests to make a holder system which caters for ultra-wide lenses requiring 150mm filters. Using a circular polariser and filters with these lenses has been problematic to this point but no longer!
NISI S5 BEHIND THE SCENE
NiSi S5 filter holder is ideal for landscape photographers who wish to combine an ultra wide angle lens with a filter system.
Now available for Nikon 14-24mm F2.8 /Tamron 15-30mm F2.8
- Aluminum-Alloy Construction
- Holder for Filters 150mm-Wide,2mm-Thick
- Allows the use of 2 filters with an integrated rotating PRO CPL
- Rotates 360 degrees
- No Vignetting
- Rapid Installation and Quick Release
- It also includes a rounded screw-in thread with external rotation wheel, this allow to use a CPL polarizer, round ND filters alone .