How To Prepare For Photography In A Dubai Sandstorm

Dubai city in the grip of a summer sandstorm
The short answer is: you can’t

But should you have a camera on you when such a storm hits — even one with dying batteries and not the greatest response time in the world — it’s worth attempting a few shots.

I’ve been very active on twitter since installing TweetDeck, and recently began posting pics there through twitpic. So when today I thought of posting some more, I figured I might as wel do it on my own website rather than on some third party service.

This post marks what is hopefully the first in a new direction for I’ve been mulling a redesign of the site for ages now, and instead of waiting for just the right moment, when everything is perfect, I may as well start laying it all out there, content-wise. The journal was always supposed to be a place for all my junk — if you’ll pardon the term — all the rambles and the random thoughts and the craziness, the mundane and the just plain… well, plain.

To that end, I’ve been taking my Kodak c875 out every day with me nowadays. I never did this much before, but since getting the Pentax K200D SLR a few months back I have grown to appreciate the little silver thing’s qualities anew. It’s not quite as pocketable as some of the slim fashioncams out there, but it does still fit in the pocket of my tightest jeans (okay, so I don’t wear very tight jeans, but still). And there’s no two ways about it; it still produces great results.

So, here’s the recap of a lazy Friday afternoon driving around Dubai, no agenda, no idea of what to do, and partly cloudy with a chance of sandstorms.

A black and white photo of the road along the trunk of the Palm Jumeirah, with the Atlantis resort in the distance
Not knowing where else to go we ended up driving to the Palm Jumeirah. It’s a pretty desolate place, lots of construction and me-too villas. Not a shop or green space in sight. Other than the sheer novelty of driving on a piece of land that didn’t exist ten years ago, there isn’t much to see, and even less to photograph. Still, I try.

Black and White photo of cars in the undersea tunnel of the Palm Jumeirah
To get to the ‘crescent’ (a large circle of land that encircles the Palm shaped landmass itself, and acts both as breakwater and home to several resorts) one takes a twisty underwater tunnel — there are, unfortunately, no windows — from the end of the trunk.

A bobcat earthmover sits in a parking space at one end of the Palm Jumeirah crescent
View of construction on the Palm Jumeirah crescent, in a rear view mirror
Other than the Atlantis Resort (which draws crowds who come to see its fancy aquarium), there isn’t anything else to see on the crescent. There are several resorts under construction — months away from opening — and still more empty lots with signs for future resorts. As a result, the edges of the crescent are pretty empty on a Friday, save for curious people like us driving to the ends, and a couple of construction workers.

View of the sea from Palm Jumeirah crescent, with a jet-ski
It was a typically brown-skied Dubai day — we don’t see the colour blue in the atmosphere until much, much later in the year — hot and humid and oppressive. The only other thing to see from the crescent is the open sea, and it was sparsely populated by jet-skis and pleasure yachts buzzing about. And trust me, this photo is color-corrected — you don’t even want to know how grey it was in reality.

Grafitti in the Dubai Marina on a construction site
From the Palm we followed the roads in a daze and somehow, through the spaghetti-like tangle of roads, ended up in the Dubai Marina. I did not bother with pictures of more skyscrapers under construction, but this picture of some hastily sprayed graffiti caught my eye. It wasn’t on any finished structure — just on a pile of large bricks used to hold up an under-construction overbridge — which makes me wonder if the person who did it actually works on the construction of that bridge.

Road under sandstorm in Dubai
As evening set in the air seemed to get a bit duller, but it wasn’t the usual sharp sunny evening. A cloud peeked pensively over the horizon. “The weather has no right to be this way unless it plans to rain,” my brother said. He wasn’t wrong about a change in weather, but what we got was not welcome rain, but a sandstorm. We literally drove into it. In moments, the air around us was engulfed, the skyscrapers disappeared, and everything went even more brown than before.

Couple taking a picture in front of the Burj Al Arab, obscured by the sandstorm
The sandstorm didn’t stop people from taking exactly the same kind of nonsensical posed pictures they tend to take any other time.

An Audi R8 supercar on the road in Dubai in a sandstorm
I leave you with this photo. I keep hearing of people lusting over sports cars, relishing each instance to see them, and even I like them too, but after you live in Dubai for a while you get very used to it. This wasn’t the first Audi R8 I’d seen in a month, it was the fifth Audi R8 I had seen that day. Exactly five seconds after this a red one passed by going the other direction, and by the time we got home I’d seen two more, and a McLaren Mercedes SLR. Let’s not even talk about the number of Porsches. I’ve stopped even noticing those.

It sounds like I’m boasting, and I suppose I am — I like cars enough to feel lucky that I live in a place where I can and have seen every major car whose poster has been on the walls of every boy’s bedroom — but seeing them so often, you do start to realise: they’re just cars. Are they cool? Yes. Do I have a heat attack whenever one passes by? No.