Sebastian Tontsch is a German full-time interior and architectural photographer and the co-founder of Blowfishmedia in Dubai. When he is not taking pictures of properties in Dubai, he is somewhere on one of those many high-rise rooftops the city’s skyline has to offer. His other areas of strong interest include landscape photography and astrophotography.
Neighborhood: Palm Jumeirah
This spot is probably one of the most famous and most photographed, as it is easy to access and a lot of people know about it. It’s located on the man-made island Palm Jumeirah and gives you a seaside view over the whole Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence area. You can see the longest stretch of Dubai skyline from this spot. As a plus, if you go to this spot to take pictures on the weekend, you might be lucky and capture a laser show as well—this stretch of coast is where a lot of events happen.
Dubai Marina is an artificial canal city with a lot of restaurants and bars. It is a great spot for photography because it has a high density of high-rise buildings and, due to the canal going through it, you get great reflections for almost every composition. With a total length of three kilometres, you can choose from a lot of different spots. There are several bridges, so it is a great place to just walk and photograph the whole afternoon. The many yachts and old wooden boats light up at night and can be a great part of your picture. Part of the Dubai Marina is the tallest block in the world, which features some of the tallest buildings in Dubai right next to each other. You can see this area on the right side of my shot.
Neighborhood: Downtown Dubai
Downtown Dubai is the center where it all happens. The famous Burj Khalifa is the center of this area, and everything around it is fun. You have the Dubai Mall right next to it; outside, you have the Dubai Fountains. There are a lot of great angles to photograph here. For Downtown, I would say to just take a day or two to scout the whole area surrounding the Burj Khalifa. The number of restaurants, bars, and coffee places is endless, so enjoy exploring the area. I took this picture from the 73rd floor of a nearby high-rise building. To get angles like this one, I highly recommend looking for holiday rental flats. It might be a bit more pricy, but if you are serious about photography, you will pay that price.
Neighborhood: At the Top – Burj Khalifa (Downtown)
“At the Top” is the visitor platform on the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa. It has an outdoor balcony and a 360 degree view from the inside. This location is great for getting cityscape shots from a high level, and it is accessible for everyone. Tickets can be bought in the lower ground level of the Dubai Mall where the entrance for “At the Top” is located. Another great feature is that the Dubai Fountains can be seen from the top. This view of the fountains gives you the chance to take some unique and interesting shots. The balcony opens to the Sheikh Zayed Road. This is the main highway in Dubai, and it features a lot of cool-looking high-rises.
Neighborhood: Souk Madinat
The Souk Madinat is a very interesting and different-looking spot in Dubai. Its design reminds of the old days of Dubai, and the classic look is perfect for photography. It features a huge selection of restaurants and bars, so spending the day there and shooting different spots in the whole Souk is comfortable. Highlights of the area include the waterways, which are connected to the sea. Little boats can take you around these waterways.
Neighborhood: Level 43 – Four points by Sheraton, Sheikh Zayed Road
Level 43 at the Four Points by Sheraton is one of the coolest rooftop bars in Dubai. Its location is prime, and the view you get from there is just mind-blowing. You can have a couple of drinks and just enjoy the view during sunset and into the night, when the city lights turn on. If you visit Dubai, I would say this bar is an absolute must-visit. If you plan to do some night photography, you might encounter the problem that tripods are not allowed. You can, however, contact the management and ask for a permit, which they might give you.
DUBAI TRAVEL TIPS
1. The best time to visit Dubai for a photography trip is between October and April. The weather is very pleasant at that time, and you can explore the city without the temperatures being too hot.
2. To get those high-up cityscape views, the best tip is getting a rental flat. No one will just let you go on top of a high-rise; if you want guaranteed access to a high vantage point, rent a flat with a good view.
3. Plan enough time to explore Dubai. If you visit to really explore the city, plan at least one week. Even that won’t be enough to see everything, but it’s a good start.
4. Do your research: I think for most photographers, I don’t have to say how important it is to do proper research if you visit a city for photography, but in Dubai, it’s even more important. Most taxi drivers know Dubai pretty well, but it’s easier if you have all the spots you want to see prepped in your phone with GPS details. Standing between all those high-rise buildings, you can get lost easily if you don’t know the city—so be prepared properly.
5. The last and most probably most important tip: before you go shooting, place your camera gear on the balcony for at least one hour so your gear can warm up to the outside temperature. You will be in air-conditioned rooms all the time, so your camera and lens will be very cold. Going outside in the heat, you will have problems with your lens and camera fogging up, which can take quite some time to go away. Of course, this also depends at what time of the year you are here and how the weather is at that time. But in general, keep that in mind that your lens and camera will fog up if you leave the air-conditioned building—and it can be frustrating when you want to get the shot and you have to wait for your gear to warm up and for condensation to disappear.
To see more of his stunning work, follow Sebastian Tontsch on 500px.