Catching the city’s dreams through the lens

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Catching the city’s dreams through the lens 24 February 2014 Dubai-based shutterbug Daniel Cheong says about his escapades as a cityscape photographer and explains why light is the key ingredient for that ideal shot. He has scaled some of Dubai’s tallest skyscrapers to capture the ideal shot, and his image of Dubai’s downtown district emerging from the early morning fog caught the eyes of millions of people around the world. So what is it that makes amateur photographer, Daniel Cheong, tick? Dubai as seen through the lens of Cheong … The city gave him the perfect environment for creating the cityscape images he loves. — KT photos by Rahul Gajjar “It’s the adrenalin rush,” he tells Khaleej Times , before openly admitting he often sneaks onto the rooftops of high-rise buildings to freeze-frame Dubai in all its glory. “I do try to get permission from the building’s management first, but that only ever works out about five per cent of the time.” And on the rare occasions when he does get caught, Cheong says he just flashes a smile. “If they catch me in the act, I tell them straight. Give me access to your building and you can have the photos.” A compromise which usually works, he says. Just for fun Despite shooting more than 70,000 shots of 14,000 different cityscape scenes around the world, Cheong, whose images have garnered more than 10 million views on the photo-sharing site Flickr, says photography is still “just a hobby”. “I’m actually a technical manager for a mobile telecommunications brand here by day. Photography is just my passion.” Snapping his camera lens at different exposures, the self-proclaimed “tech geek” uses different exposures to emphasise the visual dynamism of the world’s modern architecture. He then takes to photoshop, and using a digital blending technique, creates “perfection in terms of the visuals”. “It’s a funny thing really. Because people who have seen my work often visit the cities I capture, then get back to me saying I make it look more amazing than it really is. “I call it eye candy for the people.” The perfect environment With Dubai taking on the role of home for now, Cheong says it’s the perfect environment for creating the cityscape images he loves. And with many of his images published on social networking sites including Facebook and Flickr, it’s the perfect platform enabling his creativity to reach the masses. “My photos have been noticed by several magazines thanks to these sites. Some have even been featured in National Geographic (China), travelling magazines and airline brand publications.” Championing bright, provocative colouring in his works, the Mauritius-born photographer says it’s rare to find black and white shots in his photo collection. “I want to create that idealistic vision, and the excessive use of colour helps me achieve this.” So what’s the most important ingredient for a successful freeze-frame? According to Cheong, the camera and production equipment take a back seat when it comes to getting that right shot, describing light as “a photographers best friend”. Harsh lighting can destroy any photo, so the best time to shoot is before 8am or after 4pm he says. “It’s all about the lighting and composition. I don’t think it’s something you can learn. You either have the knack for it or you don’t.”   See his works Cheong’s debut photo exhibition: ‘Dubai – Lights of Dreams’ is on display at Alliance Francaise in Oud Metha till February 26, and is showcasing 35 of his favourite Dubai stills. With prices ranging from an affordable Dh450 to Dh1,500, he says he’s happy keeping his passion his hobby for now. “It’s not about the money for me. I am happy in my job and I love doing my photography. It’s a form of escapism for me. If I turn it into my career at this point, I will have to branch out into the corporate market and I don’t want to do that.” So for now, Cheong says he’ll continue to juggle his work and hobby, despite a severe lack of sleep in the meantime. For more news from Khaleej Times, follow us on Facebook at , and on Twitter at @khaleejtimes Continue reading →

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