Photography at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
If you're visiting Abu Dhabi, and you love taking photos, you can't miss the Grand Mosque. Literally, you can't miss it. It was the first thing I saw from the sky when we flew in by plane and one of the few things you can't miss when driving through to the city. The place is huge and 'Grand' is so appropriate!
When taking photos of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, there are a few things you'll need to know…
Light is important. I recommend going at sunset, or even an hour or two before it. Then wait for the light to dip and then get some night images too.
Time is something you’ll need to both account for as well as have patience with. Just getting into the mosque takes about 20mins, through security and the walkways under ground. But you’ll also need to have some patience. The way the flow of traffic works is circular and so they’ll be clumps of people and then gaps where you can then shoot without the hoards of traffic blocking your shot. Just be patient, if you’ve given yourself time, use here it to get the shot you’re after.
I also always recommend respecting the local customs and rules and laws. You also need to book before you arrive via the website, here they’ll go over some of the rules too. Just don't be the one who tries to bypass them to get a unique shot. You'll only look like the ignorant one. Don't be that guy.
There are some dress rules for women (and men), if you do this right it'll actually play into your hands for some great portrait photography too. Women need to cover their hair, and arms to the hands and legs over the ankles. A full-length dress and scarf usually will get you by. Otherwise, there's a bunch of shops near the entrance which sell clothing appropriate to enter. Men are less restrictive, no shorts or sleeveless shirts. Updated rules can be found on the mosque's website.
When thinking of clothing, think about the colours and style of dress you might want to shoot also. We opted for complementary pastel colours, as the Mosque has a load of white, gold and soft greens, oranges, yellows and blues during the day. But many usually go for darker colours to contrast. At night, again the lights turn on and all the white turns blue with the lights so you'll need to think about that again.
Security guards man every 20 metres of this place and they are well trained in the art of telling you what you're doing wrong. If a women's hair is showing too much, you're shooting photos or video from a space that's not designated (yes you can only do this from small set areas where small signs show you where you can shoot from), the guards will let you know very quickly. Don't attach any microphones to your cameras and don't bring any lenses larger than 300mm either, they'll confiscate them or not let you enter either. 70-200mm should be fine here and really you won't be shooting much at the long end anyway. I only shot up to 85mm. Phone photos and videos are no issue at all.
One thing I found difficult was finding a composition from the set areas to shoot from. I could see many shots I would have loved to take, but from spots where I wasn't allowed to shoot. But this is how it is, so we must work around it. Even still, there's so much symmetry and beauty in this place it's hard not to find a good photo also. I generally looked for frames, symmetry or archways with a person or other part of the structure. The lines are magnificent and if you're around during golden hour, the light streaming through at sunset is amazing.
OUTSIDE THE MOSQUE
Another great spot to shoot the mosque from is over the road at Wahat Al Karama (Oasis of Dignity). It offers incredible reflections and getting there just before sunset will give you almost two different images. There are no real restrictions here too, apart from 'no video' but phone video seems fine for them. As always be respectful. Be mindful that there is a highway running between the water and the Mosque so you might get a few cars in your shot. Just wait for a gap or shooting wide will make them small so you barely see them.
If you have any specific questions, feel free to hit me up via instagram