Ahmad Alnaji, 21, has always been in awe of Dubai’s architecture and skyline.
The Palestinian was born and raised in the UAE, which he credits with the early inspiration behind his love for capturing cityscapes.
While he's loved photography since childhood, the last five years have seen him take it more seriously than just as a hobby. Last year, he started accepting freelance projects, and just two months ago, became a professional cityscape and aerial photographer – just as Dubai started encouraging people to stay at home to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
While many would be dismayed over the timing, Alnaji has taken the stay at home advice in stride. "Of course it's been stressful for many reasons, including wondering over how work can be affected. But at the same time, you do suddenly have more free time – to reflect, to edit, to work on personal projects."
The idea of one such personal project came rather by chance. Alnaji stays in Princess Tower – the tallest residential building in Dubai. Living on the 90th floor meant he also got a striking view of Dubai Marina, Palm Jumeirah, Jumeirah Lakes Towers and more. So, when he started hearing about heavy showers expected in Dubai back in mid-April, he decided to capture it and create a time-lapse.
“I had one of the most beautiful views of all of Dubai, and I know how lucky I am. I wanted to share this view with others,” says Alnaji.
Most of the time-lapse was shot from his 90th floor balcony, although he did have access to another apartment on the 82nd floor of the building, which gave him more angles and views to work with. Shooting the process took about six to seven hours, made more challenging due to the wind and rain, and the fact that he only had access to one camera (a Canon 70D). But it was all worth it, he says. "There was this one moment when I felt like the clouds were literally hitting the window; it was like being on top of the world."
Editing the project took another seven or eight hours, with the entire thing ready in under two days. The result is a two-minute long video showcasing thunderstorms rolling into Dubai. Alnaji called the project Waves to highlight how the moving clouds in the sky resemble the ocean.
He says that he originally wanted it to be part of a larger time-lapse video that features all of Dubai, that he plans to release next year – but decided to release this snippet earlier because it was timely. "I stayed up until 4am editing the video because I wanted to post it as soon as possible. But it was so much fun, I didn't even notice the time flying. That's what happens when you love what you do."
He also wanted to showcase that, just because people are at home more now doesn't mean they can't shoot beautiful pictures or videos. "Of course, I'm really lucky to have such a view," he admits. "But it's possible to do so many other things. I've been following Xposure's #HomeCaptured competition and some of the submissions are very creative captures of home life. Even I couldn't take some of those images."
To those wanting to use this extra time at home to create new content, he says "make the most of your resources. Don’t focus on what you can’t do – focus on the positive. After all, if I wasn’t at home doing nothing, I would not have thought about making this time-lapse!"