Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Pic(k) of the week 13: IT IS LONELY AT THE TOP - Burj Khalifa during Blue hour

Last week I got the opportunity to go on another rooftop in Dubai, but this time facing East for a sunset/blue hour shoot. With the sun setting in your back, this obviously allows to have the post sunset light reflect on the buildings in front of you. While a more classic rooftop shot might still make it into another Pic(k) of the week, I wanted to share an image that immediately stood out to me. 

Although Dubai is known for its amazing skyscrapers, once above floor 75, there are only a handful buildings around you that exceed the height. Such was the case when I went up to the roof of an undisclosed building the other day. 

The sun had set about 10 mins earlier on ground level, as the worlds tallest building, Burj Khalifa, was still getting a fair bit of reflected light. The sky turned blue and pink for a very short time span; just long enough to grab my second camera body (X-T20) with a longer lens and frame the image below. The first thing that came to my mind was that it gets pretty lonely at the top; it had to be the image caption!

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T20 with the XF50-140 f2.8 lens
  • 1/110s, f5.6, ISO 800, 61mm
  • Lightroom CC for RAW development
  • Nik ColorEfex Pro 4; gradient and skylight filter
As I did not have the time to set-up and second tripod, the image was hand-held; the reason for the ISO 800. It is definitively a case where the in body image stabilization (IBIS) of the new Fujifilm X-H1 would come in handy. Check out my X-H1 review here if interested in this new camera. 

While I normally make a conscious decision to allow sufficient time before adding images to my Architectural portfolio, this one was added pretty much straight away. I have a feeling, it will be one of my favorite Architectural images of the year...

Remember, "It is lonely at the top, so you better know why you are there" - John Maxwell.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018


As a pilot, I've had quite a few opportunities to admire the Northern Lights over the years. When traveling up North to Iceland or Northern Scandinavia to see the Aurora Borealis, one always has to be lucky with the weather as cloud cover will of course hide this amazing spectacle from the viewer on Mother Earth. Being up above the clouds, is of course an advantage! A huge disadvantage and challenge is that one can not use a tripod in the air.

I'm occasionally asked if the Northern Light can be observed during summer. Well, there are of course always rare exceptions, but since up North it pretty much remains daylight all night long, your chances will be close to zero. Obviously it depends on how you define summer; the further you are away from June 21st (longest day in the Northern Hemisphere), the more chances you'll get. So briefly... it is mainly a winter thing! Or alternatively go to Antartica  or New Zealand where the seasons are obviously reversed and one can see the Southern Light (Aurora Australis). 

The other question I always get from people who are seeing the Aurora for the first time, is "What makes it happen?". Without becoming too technical, it is a natural effect that forms due to collisions of particles in the Earth's atmosphere with charged particles from the Sun's atmosphere. The most common color is yellow/green which forms at about 60 miles altitude (airliner typically flies at about 6 miles altitude). Much more rare or complete red auroras which develop at altitudes of 200 miles and higher. A good read-up on the phenomenon can be found here

People or sometimes a bit disappointed on how the Northern Light shows up to the naked eye. It is one of the exceptions were the camera is able to register much more than what a human eye can see at night. The same is valid when observing/photographing the Milky Way

The image below was shot some time ago, over Northern Greenland. Taking well over one hour, the show was exceptionally long. Using the In Body Image Stabilized (IBIS) of the new Fujiifilm X-H1 camera (review here), I was able to get a relatively steady 1.3 sec exposure. 

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-H1 with the XF23mm f2 lens
  • ISO 12800, f2.0, 1.2 sec
  • RAW file development in Lightroom CC
  • Nik Dfine for some noise reduction
Check out my Aerial photography gallery for some more Northern Light images as well as other views from above.

Remember: "Nature is cheaper than therapy" - M.P.Zarrella


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Pic(k) of the week 11: WHEN THE DESERT TAKES OVER - Abandoned village UAE

Even after having lived in the UAE for almost 16 years, there are still new spots to be discovered. Such was the case when I lately saw some images appear on social media of an abandoned village in the Emirate of Sharjah; close to Al Madam. 

The place reminded me a lot about Kolmanskop (Namibia), where the desert had taken over entire houses; providing great scenery for some dramatic images. 

On the edge of the village Al Madam in the UAE, one finds a deserted compound, bordering the desert. Not entirely sure how long the place has been abandoned, some of the houses have the sand dunes piled up to the roof. 

While testing the new Fujifilm X-H1, I shot a series of images of Nature taking over mankind. In the image below I was particularly attracted by the blue walls which stand in contrast to the warm yellow sand. The completely worn out door frame, which clearly has suffered a lot from the elements, adds a nice touch. 

Image details:
  • Fujiifilm X-H1 with the XF18-135 lens
  • ISO 6400, 1/20s, f11, 31mm 
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC
  • Nik ColorEfex pro 4 for optimal contrast
Even after all those years, I'm still intrigued how quickly a desert is changing with the prevailing winds; something that clearly be experienced in places like the above. 

A few years ago, I documented another abandoned village in the UAE, which I called, "The village that always sleeps". Click here for a link to the respective blogpost. 

If you missed it, my Fujifilm X-H1 review can be found here.

Remember: "A desert is a place without expectation" - Nadine Gordimer

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Pic(k) of the week 10: BURJ KHALIFA LASER SHOW - Fujifilm X-H1

For the first time in years, there was no firework display at the Burj Khalifa last New Years eve. While there was still lots of other firework shows around Dubai, the worlds largest tower got an interesting laser show instead. 

Due to the popularity of the show (although slightly changed), it is repeated on certain nights of the week, all the way till the end of this month (March 2018). The latest info shows the show being held at 8pm on SAT, TUE and WED and at 10pm on THU and FRI. So if you haven't seen it, hurry!

While testing the In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) of the brand-new Fujifilm X-H1 camera, I went to one of the light shows. Normally I would take a tripod with me for such a shoot, but this was a perfect opportunity to see whether IBIS could potentially replace, although only under certain conditions, a tripod. In case you missed it, I did do a review of the Fujifilm X-H1.

The below image was shot handheld, at a shutter speed of 1/2 sec; well below the normal rule that would dictate a minimum shutter speed of about 1/35 sec (23mm lens on cropped sensor, makes it 35mm).  

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-H2 with XF 23mm f2.0 lens
  • ISO 1600, 1/2 sec, f10
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC
For the ones wondering what the meaning of the three finger salute is, please refer to an older blogpost of 2016 blogpost here.

Lastly more of my Architectural work of Dubai can be found here. 

Remember: "Photography is painting with light" - Miroslaw Tichy