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Oman through the eyes of a landscape and travel photographer

Oman is a country at the end of the Arabian peninsula. During the history, there was a certain isolation over this country in the past 200 years, so today, this traveling pearl is slowly opening for the foreigners and the development in the past 40 years brought the country in the 21th century.

Here are some notes about the country I've written, while I was there for 3 weeks in November of 2018.

"Muscat; 3rd of November, 2018

Sitting in the hotel lobby in the Omani capital. It is one of the few hotels in the country that serve alcohol drinks. The prices of them are similar to Switzerland. I'll pass. Indian people all around me, mostly employed as a hotel staff. Interesting, as we travel to exotic countries we always expect some exotic experience with the first touch of the land. Muscat is definitely not one of those. Modern, 21st century city, powered by Omani oil with the lack of the skyscrapers is obviously a shock for everyone, expecting simplicity and feeling of another world like Yemen or Northern Africa. New neighbourhoods, new airport, everything in lights, wide open streets, vehicles where the newest Land Cruiser is just a normal car, big mosque on the side of the road and modern shops and malls including the most famous world-wide brands. Surprise, surprise, you are in a modern country.

But. It gets a bit of charm when you visit the old part of the city - the Muttrah and It's souq. This is the closest, as it gets in to medieval in Muscat. Charming market with not so aggressive sellers, shops, full of everything you need and not need, especially silvery, traditional knives (handjars) and souvenirs. In the air, there is a strong presence of burning frankincence, their aromatic resin, and the smell gets into your nose and follows you everywhere. Mark for the diary - just at the entrance, there is a cafe, called Corniche. Best food in the area. Affordable too.

Surrounded with Portuguese forts, there would be a sin, not to climb up and shoot a panoramic shot of the old part.

As I was up, the time was right for the golden hour, so after some shots, I decided, that this would be a nice opportunity for some time-blending, so I set the composition, took a shot with a higher f/stop to get the sun just behind the mountains with the starburst effect and another, about 30 minutes later, when the light turn on. In meantime, I didn't move the camera from the tripod.

Photo from my seriously underpowered phone, old as the great China wall.

While having images on the disk, I open them in LR and tweaked a bit of exposure, whites, blacks, highlights and added a gradual filter as I didn't have my Ray Masters Grad filters with me (big mistake!)

Muttrah, the old part of Muscat, Oman at sunset
Sunset image, just tweaked in LR

Muttrah, the old part of Muscat in the evening
Blue hour image, about 30 minutes later, LR tweaked

Then I opened both images in PS as layers and merged them with the "lighten" method. Than I added some fine retouching and sharpening. I also decided for 16:9 frame as the sky is pretty boring." Final image:

Sunset in Muscat, Oman
Final image composite or time-blending of Muttrah, Muscat, Oman

"Jebel Shams, 8th of November 2018.

Ah, why so early todaaay? A normal question of every landscape photographer when the alarm clock rings. Thomas Heaton had a nice inspirational video, which is the answer when question, stated above gets in my head. Chop chop, friends are waiting, action is just behind the cliff. We jump in the Land Criuser, drive for a few minutes and come to the viewpoint. First here, probably we will be one of the few, even that it is the main season here. Benefit of the not so yet touristy country!

Oh, my God, it is not just a cliff, it's a crack to the middle of the earth down here, are my first thoughts, as I stand above 1000m cliff looking across to the highest peak of Oman - Jebel Shams. Wadi Ghul sure is an Arabic Grand Canyon.

Setting a scene is not so easy, my main concern is the mountain across, which blocks the direct sunrise and also making the scene not so minimalistic. I'll try from the side. Hope my friends will have enough of manoeuvring space as I don't feel comfortable with the composition.

I used my Fujinon XF 10-24 f/4 lens for the wide angle feeling of the landscape and I couldn't help myself to get a human subject in the scene too - me. Here are some composition tests before the sunrise. Not very happy with them, if you have any suggestions, please comment it.

Morning above Wadi Ghul, Oman
Having a catchy windstopper helps, but this is not it, the horizon is too high, not enough surrounding...

Sunrise under Jebel Shams, Oman
Trying to capture the size and dramatic clouds in the Canyon. Not perfect, but the sunrise is not in the frame.

Sunrise above the Wadi Ghul in Oman
Decided to go for the first option with some foreground. Not quite happy with it. Exif: f/16, 1/200s, ISO 200 ; on tripod

Sunrise above Wadi Ghul, Oman
Another image with human subject. Not quite sure.

But, got a second chance for the image of the day. Went for a hike to the Balcony trail, just under the edge of the cliffs. The morning was beautiful, but when we departed for the hike, some clouds started to gather around Jebel Shams and they made a fantastic dramatic effect on the environment. I realized, that in the last months I rather hope for mostly cloudy and dramatic weather than colorful partly cloudy sunrises and sunsets. Getting older, I guess. Here is my favourite shot of the day."

Balcony trail in Jebel Shams, Oman
The silhouette is my friend Vinko, also a great photographer. Only LR processed.

Wadi Ghul, Oman
A village in Wadi Ghul. To think of the size, this image is taken from the balcony trail and made with XF 55-200mm zoom lens on 178mm.

"Wahiba sands, 14th of November 2018

Yesterday it was so nice. We did some dune bashing with our Toyotas, sunset was nice, part of the team got bogged in the sand and they had the whole expedition going on to get the stuck Land Cruiser out...

Today is a new morning. Who ever tried to climb the steep dune by foot? With the camera backpack on his back? Pure suffer. English has a nice expression, huffing and puffing. I was like a steam train, my friends too. Wahiba is a special desert as in the north part, where most of the official accommodations are, is orientated north-south, which means the sunrise/sunset is on the side of the dune ridges and again, composition can be a problem. Still, there is enough patterns to fill the foreground, and it would be really cool, to use the grad filters on this shots. Soon after the sunrise, I focused more on the compression shots with my zoom lens (55-200mm) and I must say, I'm quite happy with the results. I also climbed to the highest dune and got a shot to the south.

Wahiba sands at sunrise.
I did miss my Ray Masters Grad filter at this one. Patterns are nice, image is well balanced and persons get the feeling of the environment

Sand desert in Wahiba, Oman
Compression with the selective light on the side of the dunes. This is a moment to catch between 10 and 20 minutes after sunrise. Shooting towards the sun but not including it in the image. Lines make a nice pattern. It can also work nice as a print

Dunes of Wahiba sands, Oman
Interesting dune pattern with the shallow depth of field. It is not always f/11 rule that works in the Landscape photography.

Golden dunes of Wahiba desert, Oman
Advanced landscape post processing of the golden light in the desert

The desert is a harsh environment for the camera. I used my workhorse Fujifilm X-T2, with 3 lenses (10-24mm, 18-55mm and 55-200mm, from which two of them are weather sealed) and the sand came into my 18-55mm ring so it was difficult to manual focus. Also, my trigger button got some sand underneath and it was difficult to re-focus (I don't use the back button focus) or follow the moving subject until we got out of the desert and where we re-inflate the tires I ask the guy to borrow his air compressor unit and clean both camera and lens. After that, no more problems.

We are preparing a photography tour/workshop with the sense of Adventure in Oman in the spring and autumn of 2019. A bit of photography, 4x4 dune driving, camping under the stars and having a good time. Check our website for the details:

The night in Wahiba Desert, Oman
Playing at night

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