View from the Top(ish)

Well not quite the top, in fact to be honest no where near the top, but about 2/3rds of the way up the Burj Khalifa – that said plenty high enough.

At over 828 metres (2,716.5 feet) and more than 160 stories, Burj Khalifa holds the following records:

  • Tallest building in the world
  • Tallest free-standing structure in the world
  • Highest number of stories in the world
  • Highest occupied floor in the world
  • Highest outdoor observation deck in the world
  • Elevator with the longest travel distance in the world
  • Tallest service elevator in the world

I decided to brave the notoriously hideous queues and experience the view from the observation decks on floors 124 & 125 (you can pay more to go upto floor 148 but I’m not sure the view improves that much).

I wanted to take-in the view during daylight and at night so I booked a ticket for a 3.30pm slot with the idea of being “up” for sunset (circa 6.00pm) nb: tickets for slots from 4.00pm to sunset are somewhat dearer but as there is no limit to how long you can spend “up” there is no point paying the sunset slot premium unless you are pushed for time.  So I pitched up just before 3.30pm with my ticket to find only a small queue and hence was pretty soon taking in the view.

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6 shot Panoramic @12mm f/6.3 1/640s iso200

Now the view from the “top” is great, but…. From a photographic perspective there are a few issues.

Firstly, and I am told this is common, the air quality around Dubai in part because of the surrounding desert and in part because of the heat, is not that great and hence the visibility is just not as good as you would hope, hence whilst in theory you can see for a very long way in practice the horizon is very hazy.

Secondly, whilst it is true that on floor 124 there is an outside obeservation deck there are some issues in taking photographs from it.  The deck is only on the north side of the tower and hence only offers a view towards perhaps the less interesting part of Dubai.  The second issue is that the deck whilst open above is still glazed, that said there is a small un-glazed strip above headlight where you can jsut about poke a lens through to get a clear shot (see image below), I managed this with my PanaLeica 12-60mm lens and managed the panoramic shot posted above but this is quite a compact lens, you could not for example poke a Canon 16-35 f/2.8 or other FF lens through as the gap is simply not big enough.

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The “outside” observation deck – note glazing to above head height.

Thirdly, most of the photographs you will want to take are going to be through the glass since 3 sides of floor 124 are glazed (all 4 sides on floor 125).  Now hear comes the real issue, the glazed curtain walling panels are double glazed with a very substantial gap between the glass panes and of course what this serves to do is generate reflections from one pane to the next.  It is very difficult and at night virtually impossible to avoid the reflections affecting images even if you place the lens against the inner glass pane and surround it with a black cloth.

So in conclusion I have to say I was somewhat dissapointed at the quality of the images that I managed – that said here are a few of the best(ish).

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Postscript – I had to queue for over an hour to get back down as there are just not enough lifts to cope with so many people that want to descend. I dread to think what would happen in an emergency !

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