Last October, while in Doha, Qatar, I met with Khalifa Ahmad Al-Obaidly, curator and director of artists in residence at the Fire Station arts center. Khalifa is an accomplished photographer who loves experimenting with both digital and film.
He was kind enough to get me permission for an early morning shoot at the Al Shahaniya camel racetrack. And although, at race time, the camels are ridden by small robots, they are warmed up in the mornings with human riders. The photos I captured were wonderful.
Qatar is Unique
When it comes to the middle east, Qatar is one of the safest and most welcoming countries an American can visit. And, although this country is small, about the size of Connecticut, it’s quite large when it comes to heart and art. It is home to incredible sculptures by Richard Serra, Damien Hirst and Tom Otterness along with impressive architecture by I.M.Pei, Rem Koohass and Jean Nouvel to name just a few. A recent New York Times 52 Places Traveler story describes Doha as, “an outdoor architecture museum.” I’d have to agree. But the exhibitions and interiors are as compelling as the exteriors.
Upon my return to the states, Khalifa and I continued our conversations, planning on a series of Lightroom workshops scheduled after my scouting trip to Thailand. And so, after Bangkok, I was off to Doha, Qatar to present a series of Lightroom Workshops that David Mark Erickson and I created. This was my fourth time in Qatar. On this trip however, I had little time for sightseeing. I was there to teach.
Starting out was a 7am walking tour of Souk Waqif, a traditional Qatari style marketplace that was renovated in 2006 to conserve its traditional architectural style. You can find everything here: restaurants, bakeries, hardware, pets, falcons, jewelry, souvenirs, clothing, tailors and more. It comes alive late in the day. But, except for the bird auctions, early morning here on Fridays is very quiet. Perfect for photography.
After a quick lesson on shooting hand-held panoramas – to be stitched later in the develop like a pro class – we broke up into groups.
Many of us headed for the Souk’s Bird Market, a sprawling, squawking array of the exotic and familiar. Lots of photo ops and the action of the bird auction.
We all connected a little later for breakfast and a chance to get acquainted. This group was diverse as any I’ve worked with: college students, realtors, graphic artists, engineers and animators.
Then, the Lightroom workshops series began with Develop Like a Pro. And, over the next three days, we covered everything from developing, asset management, backup strategies and bookmaking. Working at the Fire Station has been one of my most satisfying teaching experiences.
It’s the combination of people, art, culture, and landscapes that make Qatar so fascinating. It’s a country where one can travel freely, no matter where you go. I think I’ll be putting together another Doha photo tour with Lightroom workshops very, very soon. Stay tuned.