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Sarah Al-Sayegh: First Kuwaiti-Arab photographer to chase tornados

Men dominate cityscape and landscape photography in the Gulf region, where the most usual types of  photography for females are portraiture, food and lifestyle.

Cityscape and Storm chaser photographer Sara Al-Sayegh

“Get in,” she yelled at me, as I struggled to open the car doorholding two cups of double extra-hot Americanos in my hands. “Buckle up, I’m a wild driver!” she added as we sped off. Sara Al-Sayegh, a 32-year-old Kuwaiti cityscape photographer, thought the best way to present her story was by inviting me to one of her photo shoots of the sunset in Kuwait.

Men dominate cityscape and landscape photography in the Gulf region, where the most usual types of photography for females are portraiture, food and lifestyle. Sara has broken the image of the Arab female photographer by becoming renowned for her flair.

“As a Middle Eastern woman in this field, I seldom get the heads up from male photographers because they seem to think it’s a guy thing. But there are many female landscape photographers here who have proven that it’s not a man’s world,” Sara told Kuwait Times. “Traditions are also another obstacle. Travelling alone as a woman for photography is not paved with welcome and ease.”

As she zigzagged between cars while sipping her coffee, she pointed at a big grey cloud in the sky. “It’s beautiful, right? I want to include it in my cityscape photographs. We must get there as fast as we can to capture the beauty of the early minutes of the sunset before it gets darker,” said Sara.

The photographer while making her shoe/cityscape photograph. — By Athoob Al-Shuaibi

Understanding the weather
Aside from photographic skills, Sara believes that a proper landscape and cityscape photographer should have good knowledge about weather conditions and how to use them to create a better picture, in addition to protecting oneself from risks. “For example, it’s safer to take a picture of thunderstorm from a rooftop before it rains, as it might mistake you for a lightning rod!” she warned.

When Sara arrived at the high-rise, she was immediately welcomed by the guards, who made sure to remind her of some safety instructions before heading to the rooftop. “It’s my third time to come and shoot from the rooftop of this under-construction building. You have no idea how hard and almost impossible it is to shoot cityscapes in Kuwait. After all, this is private property and we need a permit to access it,” she said.

“But I’m lucky to know the right people to speak to. However, it requires a lot of determination, patience and networking, but most importantly, building a good reputation as a photographer. Your work, at the end, will speak for you. Recently, some photographers have attempted to access rooftops without permission, which provokes the guards and causes us troubles,” explained Sara.

To get around the monotony of landscape photography, Sara added an interesting element in her recent posts – her shoes. On her Instagram account, one can observe the influence of her passion about landscape photography on the way she depicts her coffee break. A photo of a coffee cup looks like it was shot from high above!

Picture taken of a storm in the United States — Photos by Sarah Al-Sayegh

Storm chasing
Sara is also taking serious steps towards storm chasing by learning from the masters of this craft. “Storm chasing is a new thing for me. It first captivated me when I took my first haboob (dust storm) image back in March 2011, when it engulfed Kuwait City. It was such an amazing experience. A storm chaser from the United States decided to travel all the way to chase these storms, and together we did so. Later, I travelled to the United States to storm-chase twice in Tornado Alley, between 2015 and 2016. I also learned much about weather maps by meeting weather experts,” she added.
If you’re a cityscape photographer, don’t expect Sara to tell you where did she clicksher pictures, because it’s a form of escapism for her. “Photography makes me happier!” she exclaimed. No one will ever tell you where they hide from the hustle of life.
Sara Al-Sayegh’s website: wwww.salsayegh.com

By Athoob Al-Shuaibi

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