Anyone who follows my blog might remember last springs post about my first visit to the UAE titled Abu Dhabi Do's & Dont's. I covered most of the etiquette regards visiting Abu Dhabi and if I recall I ended with something like "would I visit again? Probably not". Well, as is now traditional with absolutely anything I say, we made a return trip. The reasoning behind this decision was that we have friends who live out there whom we like to see a couple of times during our visit, it's around the same price if not cheaper than most places on the Med and finally the weather is pretty much guaranteed i.e. always hot and sunny. I'm all for the first two reasons, the final one I'm not so bothered about. Years ago I would lay out in the sun all day getting that "tan" topped up, nowadays and once we get over 35C I get a heat rash if my skin is exposed for more than five minutes. Anyway, the children love it so we go. Thus a week spent with an itch I can't scratch, not just the rash, but the fact that I want to shoot some Street Photography. So it is that I wander around the hotel and swimming pool looking for something to photograph. The trouble with that is;
- Security guards follow you around wondering what the hell it is you're up to.
- Other parents think you're some kind of pervert.
- Other husbands think similar.
- Your wife thinks you're one anyway, but that's irrelevant... why aren't you playing in the pool with our kids.
- The photos you produce are holiday snaps at best.
Not that there's anything wrong with snaps or holidays. I have plenty shots of our friends, the children, hotel, views etc, but these are mostly posted to Facebook. Of course, they're reasonably sharp, focussed and composed, but with this Leica Biker Blog I try to show something different. At the end of this blogpost I will show something that is just that, for me at least. Okay, that bicycle opening shot above is a cliché I admit and it was taken from a taxi, yet this is the type of image I would prefer to show here. Anyway, a few snaps before we rapidly move on because I must also document on this blog. No need to open them up, just skip to the next part if you wish -
It's tricky to try much else other than holiday snaps in the confines of the hotel and eventually you're going to break a few local "Don'ts". I know I'm visiting a country that has strict rules. Alcohol for example is forbidden, yet it's a country of contradictions. I sat outside drinking my beer whist listening to the call to prayer from the Grand Mosque just across the estuary, add to that it was "Happy Hour" so my beer went down in price from £9 to around £4, which is actually less than it would be in the U.K. Isn't that actively promoting it? The Emirati's are tolerant, they even have a Ministry of Tolerance, perhaps the quest for tolerance has gone a bit far, they need tourism so it's a moral price they have to pay supposedly.
I spoke to the lady in the righthand picture whilst travelling up and down the lift/elevator on a couple of occasions, she wasn't wearing her niqab (face covering), was pretty, extremely well dressed and from what I could tell highly intelligent. I think that there's a western belief that these women are some how downtrodden, from what I've witnessed it's far from it, the men are extremely respectful and if ever those robes catch the wind you get a glimpse of a Chanel Handbag or a pair of Jimmy Choos adorning their feet. Outside she was covered, it's a modesty thing. I get that, but is it permissible to photograph someone once they're dressed in this fashion? No one would have any idea who it is which is kind of the point isn't it? A whole can of worms is opened and I'm going to cram them back in for now, there's another shot coming up later which I'm not sure about either, but it's going in anyway. Fortunately there was a Souk a couple of minutes walk down the beach. Don't get any ideas of some old arabic marketplace, it was for all intent and purpose a Mall, complete with the ubiquitous Starbucks. A recurring theme is beginning to establish itself though, the national dress ("dishdasha" I believe it's called) is drawing my eye constantly.
My wife is very understanding and so we get an excursion. It's not because she doesn't want to see more, the complete opposite in fact, it's the children she thinks of and their inexhaustible fascination with the swimming pool. Last year we visited the Grand Mosque which was spectacular. We also ventured into downtown Abu Dhabi, although it must be said that you could be in any city on the planet, it's not that interesting. I'm not sure where the "real" Abu Dhabi is even, I've passed a few places during Taxi journeys and if I was on my own I might stop and have a look around, not with the family though. This year I decided upon the "Louvre Abu Dhabi". I'd get to see some art and the gorgeous building that houses the exhibition. In return for use of the name, some helpful advice and loan art pieces France will reportedly receive £1.2 Billion over the next 30 years. Add the cost of the building £400 Million and we all must hugely admire Abu Dhabi's commitment to the arts. For example they just spent another £400 Million on a Leonardo de Vinci painting to add to their collection. I think I may have missed that particular painting, but no worries because my youngest daughter photographed every single exhibit on her iPod, from old Spearheads to Fossils to Vincent Van Gogh's self portrait - I encourage her interest in art and history, but believe me it got a little tedious after a while, waiting around whilst she photographed everything... hang on, that sounds familiar, ah, so this is how others feel when I'm messing around with the camera! Here's the entrance -
As you can see it wasn't crowded and there was no need to queue to enter (unlike the other outing we took to a Water Park where we stood in line enduring 37C heat for almost an hour, the kids loved it though!). The Louvre Abu Dhabi really is a magnificent piece of architecture, unfortunately I'm not much good at architectural photography, but here's the best taste I could manage to give you -
I even tried a little Street type shot -
It's quite the place as I hope you can see, the epitome of style and elegance. A quick shot of the cafe shows a lot of thought has been put into the aesthetics. Next we'll move inside to the gallery itself -
Once inside there are some very impressive pieces of art to view. I'd rather not simply take pictures of pictures, so I try to include someone. I won't list the well known pieces on display, you can probably recognise most of them for yourself -
The light was torture from a photography point of view, to dark in most instances. I struggled for most of the week, not just the Louvre. I wasn't happy with my exposure settings at the time and upon returning home I was proven to be concerned once I opened the files. Sometimes when I'm with other people shooting I don't entirely concentrate, I'll blame the kids! No, seriously, I think photography is a Lone Wolf occupation, no distractions apart from where you're pointing the lens. Couple this with the fact that I live in a country that is mostly cloudy and therefore bright sunlight is foreign to me. Anyway, this is the photo that I mentioned earlier -
I like it. These two strolling past, Whistlers Mother and Van Gogh's self portrait. I think it sums up the "Louvre Abu Dhabi".
To finish; I've always said airports are a great place to take photos. I've taken hundreds over the years. At Abu Dhabi International you see many different travellers that perhaps you wouldn't see in a Western airport. We're in the Middle East after all. So I sat on a bench which was in some kind of a tunnel leading to one of the departure gates for a while and watched them pass. The viewfinder is to my eye constantly, but on this occasion I decided to shoot more off the hip. I'm not used to this method and not entirely comfortable with it. I feel more as though I'm stealing photos, for example, the photo of the couple at the Louvre above knew I was clicking because I had the camera to my eye. That said, it does provide an interesting perspective and the images appear more candid, which of course they are with this method. Here's a selection of my airport shots, not the usual silhouetted travellers with their luggage in tow. I needed f/11 on hyperfocal for this, but had to settle for f/5.6 or f/8 at a push to keep the shutter speed fast enough, it barely was. I tried pre-focussing too. The Leica M isn't that wonderful with high ISO and I was already at ISO 3,200. I liked these images, they're not technically perfect and I don't really care, lacking some form yes, but I feel the content is there -
I might try this experiment again sometime. Just needs a little more light, sharp focus that close with a 35mm needs a small aperture and quick shutter. Of course if I was to name this series "In Transit" then some movement captured would be a good thing. That's all for now, I'll leave you with my pick of the airport bunch -
As usual I would be delighted to read any comments and my sincere thanks go to anyone taking the time to read my blog.
All images can be opened by clicking on the thumbnails and are taken using a Leica M with either a Noctilux 50mm or Summicron 35mm lens fitted.
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