The life of a car spotter: it’s grueling; the hours are long; and the perfect shot always seems to be just around the corner. But it’s what I love doing.
Photography has been a hobby of mine, and though I was always pleased with the results, things only started to get really serious when I purchased my first Canon EOS 650D. This isn’t a disposable toy, good for quick shots and general larking around: this one purchase has really made me up my game.
It all starts with the hardware. Once you’re determined to put more effort into the hobby (i.e. once you’ve decided to move away from the iPhone camera), you will probably end up with a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex). And rightly so. The ability to hone and tweak the settings for a particular shot make shooting at night – or rather-than-ideal lighting – much easier.
For spotting, I rely on my 18-135mm STM lens, and should my EOS 650D let me down (it’s also pretty good for videography), I have a Canon G1X as backup. I tend not to use a tripod or monopod, since I don’t really think either are necessary. Then again, if you’re looking for long exposure and grand sweeping settings, a monopod on standby wouldn’t hurt. I remember one shot of the Dubai landscape I was taking one evening a few months ago. My hands were moving around too much, and I just couldn’t get the background in focus. In the end I resorted to leaning against a wall: it got the job done, but it did get me thinking about extending my equipment.
On that note, I recently bought a slider dolly, which now allows me to create smooth sliding effects that look pretty cool. Due to the size (and weight!) of the thing, I tend not to bother using it when out spotting. Guerilla style is a lot more effective, and since I also shoot private car videos for some owners I know, breaking it wouldn’t be the best idea.
So, the hardware is set and the enthusiasm is strong. Now all I need is a location (and cars, but we’ll come back to that). Finding the right spot is tricky, since there are quite a few of us out there now. But of an evening – and especially during the weekends – Dubai Mall offers some of the best opportunities, and you’ll quite often find me down there on Thursdays ogling this or that. It can also get pretty busy along The Walk in Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Residence, but that usually means you’ll find something spectacular rolling through. Of course, having several five star hotels in the area help as well.
A good evening of shooting can yield 40-50 cars and a couple of thousand RAW files I then need to wade through. And yes, some nights can be better than others, which can be a little frustrating, especially when you’ve been in the game for a while. I quite often talk with my fellow spotters, and we can finish an entire evening of shooting – up to five or six hours some nights – and only have three or four cars to show for our efforts. That’s just the way it is: some cars we’ve seen so many times before that we just don’t bother snapping them anymore. I am truly passionate about my hobby though, and rarely leave the house without my equipment. I therefore spot wherever I go and whenever I find time in-between.
Okay, so now here is the big one: the cars. Supercars are hardly a rarity in Dubai, and though it’s still fantastic to see them rolling by, I don’t get the same spark I used to from seeing them. Personally, it’s the modified machines that interest me the most. Examples from Mansory, Gemballa, FAB Design, Hamann and BRABUS with insane bodykits, matte or chrome finishes, and bright colours: I imagine I’ve just split the room with that admission. But in a region where everyone is looking to own a one-of-a-kind car, you can stumble across some really interesting finds (as hopefully these images show).
I’ve still got a lot of car spotting nights ahead of me in Dubai, and I’m looking forward to it. But there are some models I would love to see in the flesh. The new Pagani Huayra springs to mind as does the Mansory G-Class. I’m hoping it won’t be too long before a LaFerrari or Lamborghini Veneno rolls past me either.
And this is Dubai. That could well happen someday.
– Our thanks to Patrick3331