Leading the Witness – A Black & White Photo Essay

I should really not have forgotten about my compact camera. Since I’ve been quite prolific on instagram over the past year I have been neglecting my other cameras. Sure, the Pentax SLR gets trotted out quite often, but mostly it’s the smartphone camera that’s been doing the day-to-day shooting. An extra piece of kit to […]

Cross-Processing Dubai

Two Camels - cross-processed in the GIMP

Of late I’ve been trying to take more photos of the country I live in. After 12 years of living here, and coming from a place like India that is infinitely more visually chaotic, it becomes a bit of an effort to keep boredom from setting in. I can’t say I’m taking better photos here now than perhaps I ever did, and I still yearn for a place that isn’t just desert and buildings and malls, but I’m trying.

Recently I finally looked into this whole cross-processing look I’ve always liked, and how to introduce them into my own photos. After appying the knowledge of a few tutorials and a couple of GIMP plugins and scripts (including my favourite GEGL C2G method) I’ve come up with these.

They’re all a bit over the top — nobody said Indians were subtle and I am, in that regard at least, 100% desi — but I do like the strangeness the techniques bring to otherwise bland, brown and grey photos of the UAE. Here’s six more examples.

Old Town in Downtown Dubai - cross-processed
Dubai Desert - cross-processed
Old Town Building textures - cross-processed
Dubai Outer Bypass Road - cross-processed
Sharjah Market Dome - cross-processed(Okay, I lied in the title — this one above is actually in Sharjah)
Burj Khalifa - cross-processed


The Burj Dubai, Day & Night

Photo of the Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world, in the afternoon with a Dubai metro station and footbridge in the foreground

Oddly enough, despite the Dubai Mall being open for over a year now, I have never taken my Pentax SLR out in it to snap a few shots.

But today when my friend Amit was in town (we were meeting after 15 years despite living the the same city for much of that time — and that’s a whole ‘nother story), he asked me to bring along the ‘fancy camera’ to take some touristy shots. Since I rarely take touristy shots, I was looking forward to the challenge! 🙂

And wouldn’t you know it, the batteries were flat and I didn’t have time to recharge them. Lucky for me the Pentax K200D uses four ordinary AA batteries, so I was able to get up and running after a quick stop at a gas station convenience store for some alkalines.

Literally the first shot I took, seconds after popping the batteries in was the one above. It’s not a great shot, but you do get to see a Dubai metro station in the foreground, and once again the speed of an SLR — nearly as good as instant response of the film cameras I cut my teeth on — amazed me.

Later in the evening we found ourselves in the Dubai Mall, outdoors near the fountain. I got one half-decent shot of the fountain, below, which I can’t decide is bad because of the column obscuring it, or likable precisely because of that rogue column in the way. Such is the way with photographs, sometimes.

Picture of the Dubai fountain, near the Burj Dubai and Dubai Mall, in the Old Town development and Business Bay

Needless to say, I need to go back with a tripod someday (of course, first I need to find a tripod that can steadily hold my beast of a camera).

Then followed several unsuccessful attempts at taking shots of the nearly-finished Burj Dubai, all of which were blurry (including one with a borrowed tripod). Finally I managed to get a good, properly composed shot by employing a trick I learnt from the esteemed Samir Bharadwaj — I leaned against one of the same offending columns that had earlier come between me and the fountain.

All was forgiven between me and that piece of decorative architecture, because it helped me get this shot below:

Photo of the Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world, at night with most of the lights on

And that, along with an excellent evening of good food and laughter with friends of old (and some new ones too), made the evening quite worth it.