When faced with one of the world’s most iconic buildings, Joe takes a different point of view… from the top down!
What it’s like to dangle from the world’s highest building
It is a task as endless as the desert. The Burj Khalifa soars out of the Dubai sands like an elegant needle, seemingly designed to pop the blue balloon of sky overhead. It is a magnet for the eye, and hence the camera.
Courtesy of the gracious folks at Burj Khalifa, and the Emaar Group, I was allowed to climb to the top a couple of years ago, and made a snap of some very battered shoes (below right). This time, with the training given to me by the Grako Corporation, and the intrepid duo of Mike Flamson and Pieter van der Walt, who are top-rated industrial climbers and safety experts, I went over the side of the tower with a crew of wonderful window washers.
These guys… geez. They dangle from the side of this structure daily, vaulting into space on their ropes with the ease most folks display when getting on a bus. Their efforts keep the desert at bay. The sands rise up on the wind every day, and cloak the buildings of Dubai with a gritty shroud. Ignore it, and it will smother you. Fight it, and it becomes a task worthy of Sisyphus. The crews start at the top, shining up the chrome and glass, get to the bottom… and start over.
Slinging into space at floor 112, as a newbie, can shrivel many things deep inside of you. Your confidence, your… well, never mind. Keep calm. Don’t worry about the nothingness below. Your rig is bomb-proof. Push off the glass. Walk the wall. Descend. Shoot. Work it the way Mike taught you. Wax on, wax off. Establish a rhythm. Smile. Enjoy this moment.
Go below the crew and look up. Now your cameras are getting pelted with soapy, sandy water (right). Wipe down your glass. Trust the gear, with camera straps wired, and extra tethers clamped to carabiners. Each camera swinging in space. D810, D4s, 14-24mm f/2.8, 16mm fisheye, 70-200mm f/2.8. They do not fail me.
The click of your shutter mixes with the squeaks of the wipers. It is oddly, pleasantly quiet. Like a silent, invisible hand, the wind will take hold of you and move you. Let it be. You really don’t have a say.
Say the photographer’s prayer: ‘Lord, don’t let me screw this up.’ You won’t get this back. Shoot from above, shoot from below. Work wide, work tight. Concentrate. Do your job, while they do theirs.
It’s the coolest thing. You’re in the world, in the air, looking, seeing, with a camera in hand. Sweat and uncertainty drip off you. But, there is also the knowledge that this is what you were supposed to do – for all the years, and right now, today.
On the other side of the fancy glass, people sit. Computers hum. Meetings take place. Great things are decided. Or deferred. Words in the air.
Click of the shutter. Time trapped. Absolute certainty measured in hundredths of a second. A knot in the string of time, not to ever be undone.
Have I mentioned how much I love being a photographer?
Slinging into space at floor 112, as a newbie, can shrivel many things deep inside of you. Your confidence, your… well, never mind