Three young Arab men have won a national competition to find the best images of the opening of Burj Khalifa.
The spectacular fireworks display and light show was captured on camera by the thousands of spectators who packed the grounds around Burj Lake but just three walked away with cash prizes of Dh20,000 each from Dubai Media Inc (DMI), which is the publisher of Emirates Business.
More than 900 entries were sent in for the still picture contest with around 70 in the video category. And until last week, well after the contest was over, eager residents were ringing the DMI office to ask if they could still send in their entries. The website, dmi.ae, registered 50,000 hits over the contest period, a spokesperson said.
The inauguration of the 828-metre Burj Khalifa on January 4 saw thousands of Dubai residents crowd into the Downtown Burj Dubai district, all eager for a glimpse of the spectacular fireworks display. Many people came armed with video or still cameras, while others simply reached for their mobile phones to record the event. Much of this footage has already been posted on the internet, popping up on Facebook, YouTube and several other sites.
Mahmood Alnajjar, a 22-year-old Emirati won the prize for best picture, while Sayed Mohammed El Sayed Shekeb and Ali Jamal won for their video submissions.
Saudi Arabian expat Jamal, 29, is a keen amateur photographer but submitted his time-lapse images into the video category. "I started taking pictures at 5pm and went through until the end of the fireworks. I had 1,800 pictures on a still camera so I put them together to make a film," he said.
It was this different approach that made Jamal stand out from the other entries. Judge Ahmed Al Mansouri, said: "It was a unique idea. We were looking for entries that captured the event from the eye of the public rather than the media or professional photographers and the idea of capturing Burj Khalifa from the afternoon through to the actual time of the ceremony, conveyed the feeling of people watching and waiting and everything that we were looking for."
Although it was an amateur event, Al Mansouri said many entries that came through the DMI website were from professionals, which helped whittle the numbers down.
"We organised a similar competition for National Day and after that proved successful, we decided to do it again as it allowed the public to get involved with the event and from the reaction we got, we plan to do more in future," added Al Mansouri, Sama Dubai's head manager.
Unlike Jamal, who has a passion for photography, the other video contest winner Shekeb entered after stumbling upon an advert after Burj Khalifa's opening. "I was surprised by the opening. I just went to take a look because I will only see something like this once in my life but it was more than I expected," he said.
Luckily for Shekeb, who turned 28 last week, the Dh20,000 prize will come in handy for his trip home to Egypt in a couple of weeks. "This is the first time I have taken pictures like these but plan to keep doing it in future," he added.
Two video winners were chosen because a third category for best decorated cars, did not yield entries of a sufficiently high standard, the DMI?spokesperson explained. Many of the cars that were entered had been decorated for December's National Day celebrations – with scant reference to the Burj Khalifa.
In the still photography category, winner Alnajjar was inspired by the UAE as he captured the fireworks display. "I wanted to shoot the great moments of the tower's opening and Sheikh Mohammed's happiness at this event and to be a part of my nation's celebration of this phenomenal ceremony," he said. "Dubai is now the top of the world and the sky's the limit for the country."
Alnajjar, a photographer of five years who shoots both landscapes and portraits, plans to spend the winnings on improving his photography skills. The winners' work will be showcased on a specially produced promotional film that will run across DMI's network of channels. In the meantime, entries can still be viewed at the website.
(With input from Keith J Fernandez)
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