Abu Dhabi, 24th Jan 2013 at 7AM.
I specialize in aerial photography and spend a lot of time shooting subject from helicopters. One thing I miss about shooting from a moving aircraft however is stability. I love HDR photography and to shoot 5 or 7 bracketed exposures where the longest one can last several seconds or even minutes, you need a stable, solid platform. Your camera has to be fixed to a sturdy tripod - plain and simple.
This is why I always wanted to shoot from the roof of the World Trade Center Tower 1 in Abu Dhabi when it reached the 98th floor! From its peak, I could have a true bird's eye perspective of the town below without the drawbacks of the aircraft as a shooting platform. (ok, I guess I'm a bit spoiled, lol)
It took a long time to secure the permit to access the construction site and when I set the date to shoot the town, another rare thing happened; low rolling fog. Any cityscape photographer will be able to tell you that there is NOTHING as beautiful as the fog over the city in the early morning hours. What an incredible blessing and lucky it was to be shooting from the tallest floor in town, as the only photographer ever to be allowed on its roof on the morning with fog which happens once or twice a year at most!
I was so excited when I saw the view in front of me that I completely forgot to look at the platform I was standing on; a wooden scaffolding on the OUTSIDE of the building, over 330 meters high. I was too happy to shit myself from fear! I used Manfrotto Magic Arms to fix the camera onto the scaffolding handrail as the ledge I was standing on was only 30 cm wide and there was no space whatsoever to spread the tripod.
I quickly snapped 7 bracketed exposure for a dynamically blended cityscape of Abu Dhabi.
I've won several photo competitions worldwide with this shot but to me, what matters the most is the thrill which goes into producing a single frame such as this one. The greatest reward I get from photography is a sense of satisfaction and self fulfillment.
Gear: Canon 5dmk2 and Canon TS-E 17mm f4.0L. This lens is quite possibly the best piece of glass you can buy for Canon or any other DSLR maker. Promote Remote Control was used for quick and painless exposure bracketing.
Software: I started in Lighroom 4.1 where I pre-processed the bracketed exposures and exported them as 16-bit TIFF files to Oloneo PhotoEngine for HDR tonemapping. Once I got my HDR base image, I exported it as a 16-bit TIFF image to Photoshop 5.1 where the real work begain. I'm using dynamic blending technique where various patches are applied across the image in order to 'normalize' the dynamic range of the image. I strive for a natural, if somewhat stylized look in my work. I most definitely dislike the cartoonish, flat looking and overcooked HDR images.
Primary grading was accomplished with Color Efex Pro and Nik Software Viveza 2. To sharpen the image, I use NIK Software Output Sharpener which I highly recommend. It does what it's supposed to do without degrading your image with nasty halos and excessive texture structuring.