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I hadn’t been to Dubai in ten years. The Emirates Towers project had just been finished and excavation was just starting on what is now the bustling Dubai Marina. So to suggest that things had changed a little was perhaps understating the magnitude of the transformation that was still quite evidently, a massive work in progress.
After those cold, grey days in Oslo, the crisp winter sun cut the towers of the city against the clear, blue skies. En route to my hotel, between the passing tower blocks, I got my first glimpses of the Burj Dubai, reaching ever skyward in the distance. Perched on the footpath outside my hotel, it was hard to grasp the enormous scale as the towers in the foreground along Sheik Zayed Road dominated the field of view.
Even from the rooftop pool terrace on that first evening, the Burj Dubai at first seemed a little underwhelming.
The next morning we started before sunrise, scouting for unobstructed views of the Burj Dubai. Although the tower is now the tallest structure in the world, getting a clear shot at it is actually harder than it sounds. The entire area surrounding the tower is one huge construction site with few passable roads and an endless array of half built projects.
Once you start getting back from the construction though, the sheer enormity of the tower becomes apparent. I’ve certainly seen my fair share of tall towers recently but none of those prepared me for this. Whether you like the design or not, whether you cringe at the seemingly mad pursuit of being the tallest or whatever, there is little to do in this case but shake your head in amazement at the marvel of design and engineering. Or have a camel do it for you.
There’s something both humbling and exhilarating about photographing a project of this scale. And this is, after all, as big as it gets. Given the underwhelming images I have seen published to date, I suspect the Burj Dubai will crush the inexperienced, the faint of heart and the wide of lens.
Having faced off against several skyscrapers, I know you can’t let the sheer size of the thing intimidate you. To prevail you must rise to the challenge, you must find the way inside the architecture, put in the effort to gain its respect and be patient, allowing enough time for the building to reveal itself to you.
With that openness to explore whatever opportunities were offered, I headed out every day before dawn, setting the cameras to capture the extraordinary range of light that played upon the glass facade as the sun rose. The building is so tall that even from a distance, the top of the facade reflects a completely different portion of the sky than does the base. Every morning brought a new palette of colours, a new formation of clouds, another facet of the character of this amazing building.
It was a marvelous way to start the day.