The Burj Khalifa

Posted by Arlo on Jan 6, 2012 under Photography, Postcard Valet, Travel

The World's Tallest Building, the Burj Khalifa

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We only had one day in Dubai, a 17-hour layover between Moscow and Bangkok.  Oksana and I left our bags at the airport and spent the day in the city.  We explored Dubai’s insane malls, giant hypermarkets, went skiing indoors, and tried (but failed) to ascend the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.

Late in the afternoon, we decided to give the Big Bus Tours company a try.  They run a “hop on, hop off” bus that we, despite the sky-high price they were asking, thought would be a good way to see the city sights.  It wasn’t.  They happily sold us two tickets (for a total of $120 US dollars!) at 3:30pm, failing to mention their buses only run until 5pm.

We chose our seats on the second level of the open-air, double-decker bus and put in our earphones so we could hear the guided audio tour.  We both pulled our cameras out of our bags at the same time and, to our horror (and shame, because we should have known better as Alaskans), watched every glass surface on them instantly fog.  Not only had our cameras been inside a cool, air conditioned mall for the last few hours, they’d also been with us when we went skiing.  By pulling them out of our bags, we’d effectively raised their temperature almost 70 degrees less than 5 seconds.

The air in Dubai is surprisingly humid and after half an hour of frustration, I worried that the inner elements of my lens would never defrost.  Our first few photos were ridiculously blurry.  Finally, by the time we pulled up to the third or fourth gigantic mall on the bus’s loop, the sun had done its job.  My camera was ready to take some pictures again.

When the bus pulled out again, we were the only ones left on the top level.  After 5 minutes or so, we realized that the guided tour was no longer playing through our headphones…

We forgot our worries when the bus pulled onto the highway.  There, in the distance, was the Dubai skyline with the sun sinking into the humid haze behind it.  Oksana and I moved to the opposite side of the bus, leaned over the rail, and tried to frame a photo – any photo – without a telephone pole or an electrical wire in it.

Of the dozens we shot, the one you see above is my favorite.

When we sat back down, we knew something was wrong.  No audio guide and we were moving further and further from the city.  Neither Oksana nor I wanted to go down and ask the driver if we’d stupidly missed the last stop, but of course, eventually we had to.  I walked down when he pulled off at a gas station – the lower half of the bus was also empty – and caught up to him at the pump.

“Um, is the tour over?” I asked.

He looked at me, shocked. “You were on the bus?”

“Yes, upstairs.”

“The tour ended at five! You were not supposed to stay!” He sighed. “Where did you planning to go?” His English wasn’t perfect.

I gave him the name of the mall where we bought the tickets because I knew it had a metro station nearby that would lead us to the airport.  He drove us back as soon as he finished filling up the tank.

I felt guilty, but hey, he should have checked his own bus at the last stop, right?  There was even a security camera on the upper deck, pointed right at us!

Canon 5D Mark II
Date: 5:38pm, 30 September 2011
Focal Length: 82mm
Shutter: 1/8000 sec
Aperture: F/4
Exposure: -1 step
Flash: No
ISO: 100
Photoshop: Minor rotate and crop, Slight crushing of blacks with Levels

Trying to get the shot