Al Ain is one of the most vibrant leisure place to photographed in the United Arab Emirates, commonly known as the Garden City due to its preserved greenery. The highways connecting Al Ain, Abu Dhabi and Dubai form a geographical triangle in the center of the emirates. It is situated 130 km east of the country’s capital Abu Dhabi and roughly 120km southeast of Dubai. Al Ain, which means “spring" in Arabic, is the birthplace of the first president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
Al Ain is a perfect place to capture stunning landscapes, from the luscious greens of Green Mubazzarah to the majestic mountains of Jebel Hafeet. Jebel Hafeet is located in the outskirt of Al Ain, 35 km (around 40 min drive) from the town proper. It has an impressive height of 1250 m overlooking the city of Al Ain. The road is a great challenge for cyclists due to its snake-like roads and sharp curves, tagged as one of the greatest driving road in the world. The mountain road extends almost 12 km up to the mountain and referred to as the second highest mountain in the UAE (Jabal Yibir is the highest, located in the eastern part of the UAE).
At the foot of Jebel Hafeet lies Green Mubazzarah, the place is filled with beautiful greenery that backdrops the overwhelming view of Jebel Hafeet. Hot springs are scattered all over the place with a number of chalet facilities available for rent. There are a dozen of strategic vantage points to capture stunning and breathtaking rock formations in the area.
The heritage and tourist sites like the Al Ain Palace Museum and Al Jahili Fort are just some of the oldest standing structures to explore in the city. The former UAE President Sheikh Zayed lived in the Palace Museum until 1966 and was turned this into a museum in 2001. The family rooms, majlis (a "place of sitting" for gatherings) and administration facilities are kept and furnished true to the original fort. The fort structure is clustered, it is a huge courtyard wherein the private and official use of the facilities are in one complex. The houses are typically designed with clay walls and wooden architecture. The place is surrounded with palm trees and vegetation, and a little man made water pond can be seen near the backyard. It is located in the southeastern part of Al Ain, just a few minutes away from the town center going to the industrial site, Sanaiya. Since most of the subjects here are interiors with a wide variety of contrast and details, I preferred bracketing my shots to create an HDR images. High Dynamic Range (HDR) Imaging enables you to capture greater range of tonal detail than a camera could capture in a single photo, instead of just taking a single photo, HDR uses an average of three photos taken at different exposures, then those images will be merge together and highlight the best parts of each photo.
The picturesque Al Jahili Fort is one of the oldest structure and the largest fortress in the UAE. It has been restored and rehabilitated comprehensively in year 2008 and now houses a cultural center with a facilities for outdoor events and exhibition. The fort is situated besides the beautifully landscaped public garden, Al Jahili Park and opposite Rotana Hotel-Al Ain, The place is best viewed when the colorful lights surrounding the fort are open under the deep blue sky of the night.
If you enjoy natural wildlife environment, Al Ain Zoo is another place to explore, they have a large collection of more than 4,000 animals that also backdrops the breathtaking view of Jebel Hafeet mountain. One of my favorite spot to visit is the Bird House, several variety of bird species can be seen here, a nice place to enhance your skills in capturing birds in wildlife environment. The area is under a huge skylight roof so the exposure will vary depending on the weather, fast long lens is what I preferred to use here. I used 70-300mm kit lens for a tighter shots and 105mm macro lens for a more detailed one, this lens can give you a superb sharpness even after cropping. Al Ain Zoo is a huge outdoor sanctuary, if you are planning to shoot outdoor be ready to be pierced by the extreme heat of the sun.
The dunes of Al Ain is another interesting subject to capture, I have seen most of the sand dunes in the emirates but I find Al Ain dunes the most attractive due to its saturated colors and stunning sand formations. I often visit the dunes and oasis along Al Ain-Abu Dhabi truck road to capture the place in different perspective, hidden behind the sand dunes is Tilapia lake, the most visited spot due to its stunning wildlife and migratory birds, I have seen some mallards bathing in the oasis during my previous visit. The place is under beautification (early 2013), fence and gazebos are being built, I read in an article that the place is being developed as another attraction in the city.