Photographing The Burj Khalifa in Dubai From Roof Tops

A few months ago we released the landscape photography tutorial Photographing The World 3 with Elia Locardi. Today, the behind the scenes series on the creation of that tutorial continues with Episode 11. 

Normally, the shooting locations for these tutorials are public and wildly popular. In Dubai, things are a little bit different. Most of the best shots of the city are actually taken from the roofs of different skyscrapers. Some of them, like the Shangri-La hotel (which is in next week's episode), is open to hotel guests, but others, like the one in today's episode, are not. Luckily Elia's friend Sebastian Tontsch, who lives in Dubai, knew someone who got us up to the top of this building. 

Filming this lesson was quite tricky as both Elia and I had to balance on a small lip while we tried to film and photograph over the side of a wall. Elia ended up using a Really Right Stuff Multi-Clamp to secure his camera to the wall and Patrick and I filmed the entire lesson handheld. In the end, Elia came away with a killer pano shot of Dubai.

If you're interested in landscape photography you may want to check out the full tutorial, “Photographing The World 3” in the Fstoppers Store. Subscribe to our YouTube channel to see next week's episode when we get stuck in the desert attempting to shoot the stars. 

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20 Comments

Lee Christiansen's picture

So just in case I got this wrong...

A video about you guys climbing to the roof of a building, that you didn't have official permission to be there, (hence the undercover statements).

Where there were no apparent safety considerations and multiple comments about safety concerns.

And you felt the urge to make a video about how great it all was...?

And every now and then, we read about some dumb smuck who fell off a building when he wasn't supposed to be there, and "thought" he was safe until he wasn't.

Why are we seeing promotion of this sort of expolit? If you had permission to all be there, then fine. If you didn't all have permission - why did you feel it was OK. If you had permission for this venture then there would have been safety protocols to observe - clearly not the case here and you made comments to demonstrate elements of risk.

As photographers / video makers, we all love to "get the shot" but we should be doing it in the right way - legally and safely. Otherwise we're just trespassers with a lens. And just because it is a corporate building doesn't water that down.

So maybe I got that wrong and the building managers / owners knew and approved of the whole photography and filming thing, (but why the undercover statements), and maybe I didn't notice all the safety procedures you were taking.

Tell me I got it wrong.

Wonder Woman's picture

Head over to fstoppers.com/store to purchase an official Fstoppers photographic safety harness or emergency BASE jumping kit.

We got permission and we are were wearing harnesses.

So you edited it to make yourselves look...what? Cool?

Well if we showed that we were wearing harnesses and there was a safety team that was belaying us, and airbags down below, we would have looked like total nerds.

But you didn’t have security parachutes in case you will be blown away by the wind! Were your liability insured for this specific building? Did Dubai Federal Building Commission approved this photoshoot? Was your clamp certified to work on this height? Was location permit paid in full? Were you escorted by properly trained bedouin-cliffhanger? Did you send your photos for release to Dubai Royal Society of Scyscrapers and Shopping Malls?

These are first questions I have when I see this amazing video.

Yes, we had all of that plus permission from President Trump as well.

Patrick Hall's picture

I don't know if you watched the video but it was impossible to be blown over a building with a 5' barrier. We did not climb over that barrier.

That's a risk, and you shouldn't recklessly deny it. People could have died...

Patrick Hall's picture

People can die walking across suspension bridges that have a walk path....what's to stop them from jumping?

Come on... You can’t use common sense to deal with such a dangerous things.

Fritz Asuro's picture

I just hope the Government of Dubai doesn't find this video. They will ban you from coming back here or charge you with fines and lawsuit whenever you come back. It's not the first case of tourists/people climbing up rooftops without permission here in Dubai.
I suppose you could have published this video without mentioning that you guys did something "illegal". In some way, this might influence other photographers to sneak their way to rooftops.

If it was legal, it might not influence other photographers as it will still be legal. If it was illegal, then it might not influence other photographers as it will still be illegal.

Why does everyone think this is illegal? Like there are laws in Dubai that say you can't go to the tops of buildings? We had someone who works for the building take us to the roof. We say and show that in the video.

Fritz Asuro's picture

It is illegal. There are actually laws for unauthorized access to buildings, not to mention, filming for commercial purposes, working in a high risk area without permission.
You guys just have "someone" helped you to access the building but not the right way.

I know this because our company have to secure all the paperwork just for us to do shoots in such scenario.

Ya that’s called trespassing and of course that’s a law. We were literally walked up to the roof by someone who works for the building.

Fritz Asuro's picture

Lee, I didn't mean to have an argument about this. But what I think is, like most foreigners do, is they tend to forget that UAE has a different approach to such matter. Even in my home country, I can easily do whatever I want as long as the owner of the premises knows about it. But in Dubai, it's a different story. Many just don't get caught and if they do, they get a hefty punishment or a "don't do this again letter" (depending on where you from, but I'm not gonna talk about it).

I have nothing against your tutorials, your production, etc. I was just bothered that due to the nature of your video, Dubai would probably not be happy seeing you guys with very minimal "safety" precaution and practices while being on a rooftop.
Because in my case, Me and my camera had to be harnessed every time.

Michael Meade's picture

I'm really enjoying these videos. Would love to be in that position on the rooftop to get shots like that. If we all observed every law in the land, we wouldn't be living. I don't begrudge the amazing experience you all had. That's what life is about. Live it and enjoy it while you can! Looking forward to the next episode

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

The wind happens a couple times a week in the winter. That's when the Surf is up. I used to live in the building down the street from your location for 3 years. Apple purchased one of my images for the first shot on iPhone campaign and again for the front page of the site.