Spectacular Time-lapse Video of Dubai

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You’ve probably seen some amazing time-lapse videos. In case you aren’t aware of the technique – it is a trick in which sequential photos are captured over a period of time and compressed into a short video. For example, an image of a scene may be captured once every second, then played back at 30 frames per second. This allows you to see a slowly changing scene at a much faster pace and can open up a whole new world of photography.


Dubai is one of the top cities to live in the Middle East. Being the city of skyscrapers, it is a photographer’s paradise. The megapolis is not only home to modern architectural buildings, including the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa, but also has plenty to offer in terms of cultural heritage.

Richard Bentley on the rooftop of Four Points Sheraton Hotel in Dubai
Richard Bentley on the rooftop of Four Points Sheraton Hotel in Dubai

The amazing time-lapse video on Dubai was shot by British photographer Richard Bentley. The featured video is called Dubai 3.0. As the name suggests, it is the third part of the trilogy. Its predecessor, Dubai 2.0, has been screened at film festivals in Hollywood, Edinburgh, Philadelphia and London. Arabian Gazette caught up with Richard to find out what it took to make this spectacular video.

What triggered the idea of Dubai’s time lapse photography project?

This is my third time-lapse of Dubai. Dubai 1.0 and 2.0 were earlier projects that I wanted to improve upon. Dubai is an architectural landscape photographers’ dream – especially by night! I have visited Dubai around ten times and in a way it feels like a second home now.

How did you manage the Dubai 3.0 project? What difficulties did you face and how pleased are you with the outcome?

I took over 20,000 still images using a Canon 5DmkII. I spend every night from 8pm to midnight/1am walking the streets with camera and tripod looking for vantage points. The difficulties were merely getting around the heat in the evenings and the need to carry a lot of liquid to keep me going. It was like an ‘urban expedition’ in the dazzling nightscape of Dubai. My good friend Sebastian Opitz, who lives in Dubai, was extremely kind with his time and local knowledge as he picked me up on several occasions from my hotel to explore some of his favorite locations to shoot from. He is also an amazing photographer. Everyone I encountered was very helpful and interested in what I was working on. When I returned to the UK, I spent further three weeks working on the still images in spare moments. I even had to build a new PC from the scratch to handle massive RAW image files and run specialist software to create the time-lapse project. I am also very proud to have worked with Athar Saeed from Karachi, who wrote the original score for Dubai 3.0. He is a musical genius.

What are the aspects of Dubai that you like the most?

I got to know the culture and people of the UAE better and better with each trip to Dubai over the last six years. Everyone is friendly, well-educated and committed to improving the circumstances for all, of course they are shown the way by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, a true inspiration.

Please tell us about your professional background.

I am 42 years old and have worked in the broadcast and post-production industry all of my life since graduating from a university in London in 1994. I have lived and worked in Denmark for six years and am fluent in Danish. I have worked for the BBC as a director and ITV as a training consultant in the UK before joining Avid in August 2006 as a professional services consultant. I have worked closely with MBC, Dubai TV and the Dubai Media Office in Dubai on several occasions where I made some good friends.

I also love still photography and ‘moving’ images, and made my first time-lapse of Dubai a little over 18 months ago. My work is now being used to launch TV channels, and also in music videos and documentaries. I hope to be able to pay for the camera equipment one day through licensing of my time-lapse work.

Richard Bentley pose while shooting Dubai 3.0 Time-lapse photography at Burj al Arab, world's only 7-Star Hotel
Richard Bentley poses while shooting Dubai 3.0 Time-lapse photography at Burj al Arab, the World’s only 7-Star Hotel

What advice would you like to give to other photographers?

For new starters rather than pros or keen amateurs who are already aware of many tricks of the trade, I would like to remind them that it is not the camera that takes the picture, it is you! A friend of mine showed me some work he had done on a 1960’s camera – I was blown away. The word photography means ‘the control of light’, from the latin ‘foto’ (light) and ‘grafis’ meaning control. If you can learn to control the light as a photographer, you will make beautiful images.

What are your upcoming projects?

I don’t know yet. It depends on where my next assignment is with my day job. If I am away for more than a week, then I will take my camera equipment with me. Time-lapse is a long process and sometimes I don’t have time in the evenings. I would love to capture the nature and mountains of the UAE to show the other side of this country. I’d also like visit the other six emirates. I have spent some time in Abu Dhabi but have no experience of the other cities. A longer time-lapse project showing the beauty of the seven emirates would be, I am sure, stunning!

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  1. I´d like to call for you attention about wrong information released in this article. Etymologically the word photography, does not come from latin but from the Greek (??? [fós] (“light”)) with the word (grafé) meaning “writing” instead of “control”. This last mistake it´s what made me reply here, because it´s a serious mistake. But generally, we must not forget that the ancient Greece, in its archaic period, predates the founding of Rome …

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