Tuesday, June 2, 2015

UAE Trip - Part 1

The entrance to Palm Island (if you don't know what that is, this is an island that looks like a palm tree from the sky, google it)

First of all, I have to apologize for disappearing suddenly. Besides the usual daily burdens, I am working on a long video series that is sucking any free time for blogging. I initially planned to make this post on two parts, but it seems that it will become three or more. We'll see.

I travelled to UAE for the first time in my life on the first week of April 2015. I didn't know what to expect regarding photography. And to be honest, I didn't want to concentrate on chasing photographic opportunities, and lose valuable time where I could be enjoying myself and having fun, so I packed accordingly. If you check my packing post, I chose to go with the E-M1 + 12-40 f/2.8 combo for the majority of the photos. I also added the Panaleica 25 f/1.4 as my night/low light shooter, added the Rokinon 7.5mm fish-eye for extreme-wide perspective, packed the 40-150 just in case, and finally I packed the brilliant Panasonic LX100 as a take-everywhere camera when I wasn't in the mood of carrying a larger bag.

Burj Al Arab, picture taken from Palm Island. You can see the haze effect of the atmosphere due to the distance between us.

Before sharing my photos and impressions of the trip, let me tell you about my experience with each of the camera gear I took with me.

ThinkTank Retrospective 5: the best shoulder camera bag I have ever used. It doesn't look like a camera bag. It can carry lots of gear if asked to. It has lots of pockets everywhere, it is beyond well-padded, it has a nicely padded shoulder strap, and the flap has a velcro silencer that is a bless to have. I use this bag anytime I want to carry more than just one camera and one lens.

Olympus E-M1: a well-known quantity. No surprises. The image quality is top notch, with accurate skin tones and smooth shadow recovery that makes me love this sensor every time I use it.

Olympus 12-40 f/2.8: the lens didn't get much use because I depended on the LX100 (which has a 24-75mm f/1.7-f/2.8 lens) for general shooting, and restricted the E-M1 usage for the fish-eye and the 25mm f/1.4.

Olympus 40-150R: my least used lens. And it only one or two pictures during the whole trip. I discovered that I only use this lens when I am shooting sports or auto-cross during daylight. Otherwise, it hardly sees the real world.

Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 fish-eye: a brilliant little lens. I mainly used this lens to take photos of the dancing fountain beneath Burj Khalifa. It is sharp sharp sharp. There is no replacement for this lens when I need an extremely wide perspective. I also prefer fish-eye rendering (which can be un-fished in post if needed) to the UWA rectilinear lenses. However, this is a special lens and not for everyday use.

Panasonic 25mm f/1.4: my favorite focal length and fast aperture in a compact package. I used this lens all the time when shooting inside the malls or dark restaurants.

Panasonic LX100: I packed this camera as a sort of lightweight alternative to the E-M1 + 12-40 f/2.8. I enjoyed the simplicity of having a small camera inside a small pouch that was capable of shooting in all sorts of conditions, and producing great image quality. It can be simple to use when left in aperture priority with the aperture wide-open most of the time and Auto ISO. It features very fast focusing, and can shoot lots of frames per second if you want to capture action. I used the LX100 around 50% of the time during my stay in UAE, which says a lot. My main gripe with the camera would be the sub-par noise and shadow recovery performance. Despite claiming to have the GX7 sensor technology, it is nowhere near as good as an E-M5 or E-M1.

I had the pleasure to play with my friends' silver XT-1 and 35mm f/1.4 lens. The camera is as good looking as I imagined it would be.

With that out of the way, let me give you a brief about my itinerary. My trip plan was three and a half days between Abu Dhabi (where I will be staying at a friend’s place) and Dubai (where I will be visiting and meeting long-time friends). I arrived at Abu Dhabi airport on Thursday night ~ 12 pm. My friend picked me up and showed me around Abu Dhabi main streets. I also got to take a couple of pictures for Masjid Khalifa that you see below.

Masjid Khalifa. Tripod and a few seconds exposure.


Wake-up. Breakfast. Then off to Dubai to visit one of our common friends and have lunch at a Lebanese restaurant with a view on Burj Khalifa’s fountain. After sunset we went inside Dubai Mall strolling and having friendly chats. Around 9 pm we were planning to go to Jumeirah Beach Resort (aka JBR) to have dinner on the beach. But…

And this is where the exciting part of my trip begins. Our original plan was to rent a Chevrolet Corvette from Abu Dhabi next day (Saturday) for 24 hours. Until that moment, my friend didn't know what Corvette model the dealer had. I assumed it would be a C6 Corvette. When we talked to the dealer, their insurance terms were not acceptable, and we cancelled the deal. A few minutes later, I decided to search online for a place that rented Corvettes in UAE. I found a dealer called “Al Momayaz” in Dubai who had a C7 Stingray Corvette for rent. One phone call later, and we struck a deal. They had a 2014 C7 Stingray Corvette Grand Sport. The price was good, and the insurance terms were very reasonable. The only issue was that they were closing in 30 minutes (~ 10 pm).

To be continued in the next post. Now you can enjoy a few pictures taken on day one.

Motion in all directions.

Can you guess what that is?

When I went inside that sweets shop, I thanked God I didn't have the kids with me. Bright colors and delicious sweets cover every part of that mall.

One type of the sweets that are hand-made at that shop.

And here's the friendly chap who makes them.

Fish-eye perspective inside Dubai Mall.

This is how the fountain lake looks like before sunset, Restaurants and people circle the water. This is a very crowded place at night.

Dancing fountain doesn't look very attractive in daylight.

However, at night, the effect is magical. I was shooting 10 fps bursts with the fish-eye for around 50 photos at a time. The view in the EVF looked like stop-motion.

Another view that I liked.


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