Symmetry inside Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Symmetry is an important element in both architecture and photography. It gives the subjects a simple, easy to recognize structure and allows the viewer to get an impression without having to move his eyes around much. That same trait makes symmetric images appear a bit hypnotic. Not only do you not have to move your eyes around much, it’s almost as if you don’t want to move them around and instead keep staring at the center of the picture. Creating symmetric photos on the other hand is not that easy. Not only do you have to find symmetric subjects, but getting the shot usually involves dozens of attempts of fine tuning the position and orientation of the camera, especially when you cannot use a tripod. Even then, the photos are almost never perfectly symmetric. But as long as the viewer only notices that upon closer inspection, everything is fine.

Central Chandelier

Abu Dhabi‘s Sheikh Zayed Mosque itself is a very symmetric building. It is the largest mosque of the United Arab Emirates and one of the largest mosques in the world, providing space for about 40,000 worshipers. The main prayer hall alone has a capacity of over 7,000 people. It has three domes, each of which houses a gigantic chandelier. The central one (pictured above) is a bit larger than the other two, but all of them are impressively large.
Most mosques don’t allow photographers inside, especially if they aren’t Muslims. Luckily Sheikh Zayed Mosque is a lot more open towards outsiders and lets tourists inside during certain times, when photography is also allowed and very common. Before entering the main prayer hall, you have to take your shoes off because the entire floor is covered by a giant, handmade carpet – also one of the largest in the world. The carpet’s pattern is aligned with the construction of the hall, making it easier to find the spot directly under the middle of the chandeliers. I only had to wait until all the other visitors were far enough away from me so they would be out of the frame of my ultra wide angle lens.

Side Chandelier

As I said above, getting the photo took a couple of attempts and would have been much easier with a tripod in an empty room. But that is something for professional photographers who have the time, dedication and resources for such projects.
When looking at the pictures, did you notice the places where the symmetry is not perfect? Or where your eyes locked in on the center of the chandeliers too much?

P.S.: I’ll soon post some more pictures of the mosque and the chandeliers with views from different angles that hopefully convey the size.

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