Hi Brandon & Steve!
From Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. My name is Brendan Jack. I’m a long time reader but first time poster to your site (which is a daily addiction!!)
My wife & I relocated to Dubai seven years ago from our home in the Blue Mountains, outside of Sydney, Australia. It was our first time living outside of our Blue Mountains home, surrounded by our World Heritage National Park, and our first time living in a big city. Culture shock was an understatement but we have grown to love Dubai and it’s exotic ways and now call it home.
For the first time in our seven-year sojourn, we spent Christmas here in Dubai, flying our 2 boys and one of their families in from Oz to Dubai, to share Christmas and New Year. Having had a late night getting home from the New Year’s Eve world record fireworks show, we headed off around midday to the camel races about 25kms out of town. It was on our list to go & we had tried once before earlier in the year but the races weren’t on then……they are a winter activity. Winter here is a great time, with temperatures in the mid-twenties centigrade & mostly blue skies. Think high contrast desert shooting conditions.
Camel racing is something to behold, if you ever get a chance. It is a big money sport over here in terms of prize money & value of the steeds, with prize camels being traded for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Being a Muslim country, there is no gambling, of course, just the pride of the win, but make no mistake, it is a serious business for those owners and trainers. Jockeys, on the other hand are totally ambivalent, being small remote-controlled robots!! Not long before we arrived seven years ago, after several bad accidents, they changed from child jockeys over to these small but robust little machines. They come complete with rotating whips that can be controlled by the owners, who all race along beside the pack of camels in their Toyota Landcruiser 4×4’s, yelling encouragement to their charges, abuse at the other owners & drivers, and punching buttons & wiggling the joysticks on their jockey remote controls. Semi-controlled, high adrenaline, chaos. A great spectacle.
I have submitted a bunch of photos, that I hope give a bit of a feel for the day. The officials were really friendly & helpful, letting us behind the scenes & into the staging areas. The folks over here mostly don’t mind having their photo taken, providing you have the courtesy to ask first.
In terms of my photography experience, I bought my very first camera, a Nikon D300 DSLR, in 2008 a year after arriving here, and I still use it in situations such as the camel races, where versatility is the order of the day, fitted with a Nikon 18 – 200mm (27 – 300mm equivalent with 1.5x APS-C crop) travel zoom. Not the sharpest tool in the shed to be sure, but in Dubai’s harsh desert conditions, where there is sand in the air constantly, you don’t want to change lenses a whole lot. So, don’t expect any great photographic heights from these shots, they are more photojournalism-ish snaps than anything else. I have shot a lot of travel snaps with this combo & it has stood me in good stead. The 1.5kg weight is getting to me though, as my 50+ body is not getting any younger and I bought a Sony RX-100 (the first version) last year to travel to China. I’m thinking of now trading the Nikon in for a Sony A7, which should be up to the harsh conditions here & make for a lighter travelling kit, not to mention, a quantum leap in IQ & some FF goodness to boot. Processing was all done with LR4 & Nik’s Silver EFX 2.
I don’t have a website or any public photo display…..my photos have mainly been for selfish pleasure & frustration in fairly equal measure. Like most first timers, it is a bit of a leap of faith to put yourself out there. Hope you like them.