x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Dubai photographer snaps up place among the greats

The work of many of the world's best photographers has been showcased by National Geographic magazine since it was founded in 1888 – and now they are to be joined by Amri Arfianto.

Amri Arfianto won the National Geographic photography contest with his entry City Life.
Amri Arfianto won the National Geographic photography contest with his entry City Life.

DUBAI // Many of the world's greatest photographers have had their work displayed in National Geographic magazine since it was founded in 1888. They are about to be joined by a local resident, Amri Arfianto.

His striking night-time cityscape of Dubai has beaten about 80,000 other entries from across the Middle East to win a place on the pages of the magazine's Arabic version.

"I feel so excited," said Mr Arfianto, 41, an Indonesian who has lived in Dubai since 2008. "It's like a miracle for me to win this competition. All of this is beyond my expectations.

"I always wanted my work to be published in National Geographic. That is every photographer's dream. It's not about the prize, it's about the prestige."

The Life in Motion contest was run by the National Geographic Abu Dhabi TV channel in partnership with National Geographic Al Arabiya magazine, which is owned by Abu Dhabi Media, the company that owns and publishes The National.

Mr Arfianto's prize includes photographic equipment worth US$5,000 (Dh18,366).

The winning photo, City Light, shows the Metro Red Line track where it crosses the road running alongside Terminal Three at Dubai International Airport. Mr Arfianto, a load-control officer at Dnata, used a 30-second shutter speed to blur the lights of cars and create a sense of frenetic movement.

"I took the picture from the car park at my office, the Emirates headquarters," he said. "I tried to capture the beautiful universe God has created and the beautiful city man has created.

"The golden colour of the sky is so beautiful and we can see the city has been built with a touch of art. The trailing lights represent the motion of life in the city."

Mr Arfianto used a digital editing process called high dynamic range (HDR) imaging, where a number of shots of the same scene are merged to increase the impact or achieve other effects.

"I mostly do landscapes and cityscapes, though now I am learning minimalist black-and-white photography," he said.

"For cityscape photography, I feel the HDR approach is beneficial, I can get the light as I wish.

"When I take a good photo - I mean, with the correct exposure and good composition - I need around 30 minutes to do the editing. I just do colour balance to get natural colours and fix distortion."

Mohamed Al Hammadi, editor-in-chief of National Geographic Al Arabiya and a member of the judging panel, said: "Having a photograph featured in National Geographic magazine is a dream come true for many photographers around the world.

"This dream has become a reality for our winner, who captured the competition's theme so beautifully and displayed real talent."

Another panel member, the National Geographic photographer George Steinmetz, said: "To be a successful photographer takes more than the ability to click a button. You have to have artistic flair, as well as the ability to portray a story through an image.

"Amri Arfianto's entry did exactly that."

Firos Syed of Qatar won second prize with a photo of a man riding a bicycle through a puddle, leaving ripples in his wake. Reham Darwish from Egypt was third with a study of whirling Sufi dancers.

Their photographs will also be featured on National Geographic Abu Dhabi, and they received equipment worth up to $2,500.

This is not the first contest Mr Arfianto has won. He picked up first prize in a section featuring pictures of Dubai in last year's inaugural Hamdan International Photography Award.

His success has prompted him to consider making photography more than just a pastime.

"I've been doing this as a hobby for a long time, though I've become more serious about it in the past four years and it could be my next career," Mr Arfianto said.

"Photography is my passion. It teaches me to love nature and be patient. Sometimes I manage to capture the moment and sometimes I fail, but that's life."

csimpson@thenational.ae