“To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.” So said Henri Cartier-Bresson, a French humanist photographer considered a master of candid photography.
Photography is a joyful thing. Nature carries a soothing power. Wildlife is considered the most beautiful part of nature. Wildlife photographers feast upon both the art of photography and images of wildlife.
“Photography is like understanding the world in my own perspectives. Secondly, I get to know lot of people, their cultures and how they behave in a situation. When I am shooting a creature or a human being, I do calculation in my mind about what the subject is going to do next,” shares Shahin Olakara, an avid wildlife photographer, with Community.
Shahin, an expatriate from Kerala, is a software programmer by profession and has been working with a government department for 16 years. “I live with my family here. I am married and have a son. I hold a master’s degree in Information Technology. I carry out training classes on photography for different organisations in Qatar. I tell my students that passion comes from within. My 10-year-old son also takes keen interest in photography.”
Olakara, 37, inherited love for photography from his family. “My father and one of my uncles had an interest in photography. My father also used to write travelogues and short stories in Malayalam. I used to observe the photos taken by my uncle and the pains he took to take a good photo. That is what lured me to photography; I was about 10 then.
“The first thing that comes to my mind about how I got into the art is the way my uncle used to organise things to take a photo. Everything would be neatly organised. I still remember the slide films he used to have those days. He would arrange his photos as if telling a story. I started going out in nature with him to take photos. He used to teach me how to take a good photo in the simplest way. He also gifted me a camera. That is when I started experimenting and shooting nature. I am still a fan of natural light, may be still remembering his lessons. Since my genre is wildlife photography, I cannot use camera flash.”
Shahin expressed thanks to his family for the kind of support he gets from them to pursue his passion. It is a very interesting job for a photographer; however, it is very boring for people around a photographer. I have to wait for a long time to capture a moment under natural light. The family has to have double patience [laughs].”
Shahin has been doing wildlife photography in India, Qatar and different counties in Africa. He lauded his association with Doha Koottam (group), a club of photographers hailing from Kerala, for fuelling his love of wildlife photography.
“Initially, we had a small online photography community on Flicker, a digital platform. We, bunch of photographers from Kerala, used to network on the platform. We used to have chit-chat. One day, we decided to form a group. As many as 10 amateur photographers met and formed the group in June 2008. There were some people in the group who had involvement in wildlife conservation in Qatar. We have been visiting different places in Qatar to observe and photograph wild birds.”
When it comes to wildlife in Qatar, Shahin focuses on migratory birds. “Qatar is like a transit point for lots of migratory birds. There are certain areas in the country where you can see both native and migratory birds in large numbers. The best place is Irkaya farm close to Abu Samra. There are other places in Al Khor and Mesaieed where you can find the birds. As far as wild animals are concerned, I have seen a couple of desert foxes in Zekreet.”
Shahin, who has also been into travel photography, uses the art to understand different peoples and diverse cultures. “Photography is like understanding the world in my own perspectives. Secondly, I get to know lot of people, their cultures and how they behave in a certain situation. When I am shooting a creature or a human being, I do calculation in my mind about what the subject is going to do next. If it is a human being, I will look at how he or she reacts to a situation. The same thing goes for an animal. I have to know what the animal is doing from different gestures. I have to guess and act accordingly. When I guess the next move of an animal correctly and capture it in my camera, it gives me immense pleasure and satisfaction.”
Shahin also sees wildlife photography as a stress-buster. “I am a software programmer. The programming obviously comes with a lot of calculation and stress. It requires a different kind of mindset. Photography is a sort of break for me — an escape, if you like. When you are in the wilderness, you are not just escaping from your office. You actually escape from the entire civilisation. I really enjoy the solitude.”
Shahin, who has followed serious photography for 17 years, has many animals in his wish-list that he wants to capture. “I am yet to capture a tiger with my camera. May be the time has not yet come for me. I have photographed lions, leopards, and cheetahs in Africa. I am yet to shoot a Bengal tiger. That is my unicorn. I am big fan of big cats. My aim is to capture all varieties of big cats in maximum number around the world — especially the jaguar from South America. I also want to photograph leopards in every part of the world as they are different everywhere. I have also not been too far in the globe’s north. I do want to photograph polar bears and snow leopards. That is a different kind of photography. The entire calculation becomes opposite there. There are two different subjects you have to override the camera’s artificial intelligence for — shooting dark elephants and polar bears. I also aim at going to the western world.”
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