What selfie stick? A 'Walk in Dubai's Clouds' spies skyscrapers poking through the fog

Published January 18th, 2015 - 16:21 GMT

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Dubai rang in 2015 with a splendiferous fireworks display; the spectacular photos from New Year’s Eve made noise among social media users across the web. The best images were captured by Daniel Cheong, a photography “hobbyist” (a telecom worker by day) based in Dubai. Al Bawaba caught up with Cheong to find out more about the man behind the lense.

How does someone who only recently got serious about cameras produce such consistently knock-out portraits of the UAE’s most populous/photographed/photogenic city? Continue reading below »

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Behind the scene of his New Year’s Eve fireworks shoot - or more accurately ABOVE the scene! - Cheong sets up atop the Index Tower to capture Dubai’s pyrotechnic sky show. What attracted him to the Dubai skyline? “The diversity of very modern architecture, and of course Burj Khalifa; I really love this amazing building,” he told Al Bawaba.
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Image 1 of 11:  1 / 11Behind the scene of his New Year’s Eve fireworks shoot - or more accurately ABOVE the scene! - Cheong sets up atop the Index Tower to capture Dubai’s pyrotechnic sky show. What attracted him to the Dubai skyline? “The diversity of very modern architecture, and of course Burj Khalifa; I really love this amazing building,” he told Al Bawaba.

Enlarge
The power of digital blending may be most apparent in Cheong’s nighttime images, where the city lights wash the fog with a palette of colors. Neither the the luminosity of the building, nor the stars is diminished. He strives to achieve a slight element of the surreal in his painterly photographs.
Reduce

Image 2 of 11:  2 / 11The power of digital blending may be most apparent in Cheong’s nighttime images, where the city lights wash the fog with a palette of colors. Neither the the luminosity of the building, nor the stars is diminished. He strives to achieve a slight element of the surreal in his painterly photographs.

Enlarge
Rising up like the Emerald City in the mythical Oz, the 2,722 foot high Burj Khalifa punctures through a snowy fog bank. From this perspective, the world’s tallest building looks more like a spaceship than the address of the world’s highest nightclub.
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Image 3 of 11:  3 / 11Rising up like the Emerald City in the mythical Oz, the 2,722 foot high Burj Khalifa punctures through a snowy fog bank. From this perspective, the world’s tallest building looks more like a spaceship than the address of the world’s highest nightclub.

Enlarge
Morning sunlight appears as if through a prism, a spectrum of colors dye the horizon like a flattened rainbow. “The big difference when it comes to Dubai is that I have access to many high level vantage points, which allows me to capture amazing views of the city. The seasonal fog makes it also quite unique in the world,” he told Al Bawaba.
Reduce

Image 4 of 11:  4 / 11Morning sunlight appears as if through a prism, a spectrum of colors dye the horizon like a flattened rainbow. “The big difference when it comes to Dubai is that I have access to many high level vantage points, which allows me to capture amazing views of the city. The seasonal fog makes it also quite unique in the world,” he told Al Bawaba.

Enlarge
When the cloudlike mists mask the city’s street level, tower tops seem to drift independent of an urban logic. Cheong aims to avoid the common mistake of 'overcooking' his images, and strives to keep a very natural look.
Reduce

Image 5 of 11:  5 / 11When the cloudlike mists mask the city’s street level, tower tops seem to drift independent of an urban logic. Cheong aims to avoid the common mistake of "overcooking" his images, and strives to keep a very natural look.

Enlarge
Air currents that swirl around the manmade towers push up occasional plumes of fog, masking higher towers while revealing lesser ones. By blending multiple bracketed exposures of the same subject he achieves a clarity and high definition not found in single-shot photography.
Reduce

Image 6 of 11:  6 / 11Air currents that swirl around the manmade towers push up occasional plumes of fog, masking higher towers while revealing lesser ones. By blending multiple bracketed exposures of the same subject he achieves a clarity and high definition not found in single-shot photography.

Enlarge
Sun rising over a sunken fog field, gilding the sky in luminous Dubai gold. Meanwhile, over the marina it’s clear skies and smooth sailing.
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Image 7 of 11:  7 / 11Sun rising over a sunken fog field, gilding the sky in luminous Dubai gold. Meanwhile, over the marina it’s clear skies and smooth sailing.

Enlarge
The immense swaths of fog that blanket the city are understandable when we view Dubai as a seaside town, and not a desert oasis. His work is gaining popularity across the UAE, where he just concluded an exhibition at Abu Dhabi’s Alliance Française.
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Image 8 of 11:  8 / 11The immense swaths of fog that blanket the city are understandable when we view Dubai as a seaside town, and not a desert oasis. His work is gaining popularity across the UAE, where he just concluded an exhibition at Abu Dhabi’s Alliance Française.

Enlarge
Cheong’s camera is in love with Dubai. His images exploit the city’s futuristic skyline while maintaining emphasis on its natural beauty. Sky, sun, clouds and water consistently steal the spotlight, although the Burj Khalifa makes frequent cameos. His recent shots of Burj Khalifa have been published on websites including CNN.
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Image 9 of 11:  9 / 11Cheong’s camera is in love with Dubai. His images exploit the city’s futuristic skyline while maintaining emphasis on its natural beauty. Sky, sun, clouds and water consistently steal the spotlight, although the Burj Khalifa makes frequent cameos. His recent shots of Burj Khalifa have been published on websites including CNN.

Enlarge
Many of Cheong’s images channel the mood and richness of classical landscape paintings, with gorgeous articulation of light and shadow.
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Image 10 of 11:  10 / 11Many of Cheong’s images channel the mood and richness of classical landscape paintings, with gorgeous articulation of light and shadow.

Enlarge
When the city is fog-free, Cheong turns his talented eye to other oddities. Here’s his shot of a glass-bottom swimming pool jutting from a skyscraper, photographed from below. File this under #OnlyinDubai!
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Image 11 of 11:  11 / 11When the city is fog-free, Cheong turns his talented eye to other oddities. Here’s his shot of a glass-bottom swimming pool jutting from a skyscraper, photographed from below. File this under #OnlyinDubai!

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1

Behind the scene of his New Year’s Eve fireworks shoot - or more accurately ABOVE the scene! - Cheong sets up atop the Index Tower to capture Dubai’s pyrotechnic sky show. What attracted him to the Dubai skyline? “The diversity of very modern architecture, and of course Burj Khalifa; I really love this amazing building,” he told Al Bawaba.

Image 1 of 11Behind the scene of his New Year’s Eve fireworks shoot - or more accurately ABOVE the scene! - Cheong sets up atop the Index Tower to capture Dubai’s pyrotechnic sky show. What attracted him to the Dubai skyline? “The diversity of very modern architecture, and of course Burj Khalifa; I really love this amazing building,” he told Al Bawaba.

2

The power of digital blending may be most apparent in Cheong’s nighttime images, where the city lights wash the fog with a palette of colors. Neither the the luminosity of the building, nor the stars is diminished. He strives to achieve a slight element of the surreal in his painterly photographs.

Image 2 of 11The power of digital blending may be most apparent in Cheong’s nighttime images, where the city lights wash the fog with a palette of colors. Neither the the luminosity of the building, nor the stars is diminished. He strives to achieve a slight element of the surreal in his painterly photographs.

3

Rising up like the Emerald City in the mythical Oz, the 2,722 foot high Burj Khalifa punctures through a snowy fog bank. From this perspective, the world’s tallest building looks more like a spaceship than the address of the world’s highest nightclub.

Image 3 of 11Rising up like the Emerald City in the mythical Oz, the 2,722 foot high Burj Khalifa punctures through a snowy fog bank. From this perspective, the world’s tallest building looks more like a spaceship than the address of the world’s highest nightclub.

4

Morning sunlight appears as if through a prism, a spectrum of colors dye the horizon like a flattened rainbow. “The big difference when it comes to Dubai is that I have access to many high level vantage points, which allows me to capture amazing views of the city. The seasonal fog makes it also quite unique in the world,” he told Al Bawaba.

Image 4 of 11Morning sunlight appears as if through a prism, a spectrum of colors dye the horizon like a flattened rainbow. “The big difference when it comes to Dubai is that I have access to many high level vantage points, which allows me to capture amazing views of the city. The seasonal fog makes it also quite unique in the world,” he told Al Bawaba.

5

When the cloudlike mists mask the city’s street level, tower tops seem to drift independent of an urban logic. Cheong aims to avoid the common mistake of 'overcooking' his images, and strives to keep a very natural look.

Image 5 of 11When the cloudlike mists mask the city’s street level, tower tops seem to drift independent of an urban logic. Cheong aims to avoid the common mistake of "overcooking" his images, and strives to keep a very natural look.

6

Air currents that swirl around the manmade towers push up occasional plumes of fog, masking higher towers while revealing lesser ones. By blending multiple bracketed exposures of the same subject he achieves a clarity and high definition not found in single-shot photography.

Image 6 of 11Air currents that swirl around the manmade towers push up occasional plumes of fog, masking higher towers while revealing lesser ones. By blending multiple bracketed exposures of the same subject he achieves a clarity and high definition not found in single-shot photography.

7

Sun rising over a sunken fog field, gilding the sky in luminous Dubai gold. Meanwhile, over the marina it’s clear skies and smooth sailing.

Image 7 of 11Sun rising over a sunken fog field, gilding the sky in luminous Dubai gold. Meanwhile, over the marina it’s clear skies and smooth sailing.

8

The immense swaths of fog that blanket the city are understandable when we view Dubai as a seaside town, and not a desert oasis. His work is gaining popularity across the UAE, where he just concluded an exhibition at Abu Dhabi’s Alliance Française.

Image 8 of 11The immense swaths of fog that blanket the city are understandable when we view Dubai as a seaside town, and not a desert oasis. His work is gaining popularity across the UAE, where he just concluded an exhibition at Abu Dhabi’s Alliance Française.

9

Cheong’s camera is in love with Dubai. His images exploit the city’s futuristic skyline while maintaining emphasis on its natural beauty. Sky, sun, clouds and water consistently steal the spotlight, although the Burj Khalifa makes frequent cameos. His recent shots of Burj Khalifa have been published on websites including CNN.

Image 9 of 11Cheong’s camera is in love with Dubai. His images exploit the city’s futuristic skyline while maintaining emphasis on its natural beauty. Sky, sun, clouds and water consistently steal the spotlight, although the Burj Khalifa makes frequent cameos. His recent shots of Burj Khalifa have been published on websites including CNN.

10

Many of Cheong’s images channel the mood and richness of classical landscape paintings, with gorgeous articulation of light and shadow.

Image 10 of 11Many of Cheong’s images channel the mood and richness of classical landscape paintings, with gorgeous articulation of light and shadow.

11

When the city is fog-free, Cheong turns his talented eye to other oddities. Here’s his shot of a glass-bottom swimming pool jutting from a skyscraper, photographed from below. File this under #OnlyinDubai!

Image 11 of 11When the city is fog-free, Cheong turns his talented eye to other oddities. Here’s his shot of a glass-bottom swimming pool jutting from a skyscraper, photographed from below. File this under #OnlyinDubai!

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The man behind the lense

Cheong’s journey with cameras began after buying his first digital single-lens reflex camera in 2006. That’s when he also discovered the world of “high dynamic range photography”, a technique of manually blending multiple exposures of the same subject to achieve a range of luminance levels that surpass those found in real-world scenes.

Cheong told us, “‘Straight Out Of the Camera' is a concept which I am not familiar with. I don't pretend to show reality, but more an idealized vision of it.”

Not long afterwards, his day job brought him to Dubai. His main subjects are cityscapes, seascapes and instances of urban decay. This French national, born in Mauritius, is all about color and light. He told us he is most attracted to the “blue hour”. Cheong described it as, “This very short moment when the sky turns to a beautiful color blue. This happens about 20 minutes after sunset, or 30 minutes before sunrise. I prefer the blue hour after sunset because at that time the city lights turn on, and make a great contrast with the blue sky.”

Kodak-worthy!

If you’re as mesmerized by Cheong’s prints as we are, check out his website or follow him on his Facebook page to keep up with his new projects and exhibitions.

And there’s more for keen and aspiring photographers as well, “For those who would like to learn Digital Blending, I give workshops in Dubai, and sometimes in other Gulf Countries. I also offer private lessons,” Cheong told us.

Now, click through these gorgeous portraits of this artist’s adopted city. They are surreal, and painterly, and magically bring nature to the forefront in the Middle East’s most unnatural city, Dubai: A dreamy display of dramatic cloud-bursting Dubai skyscrapers!

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