Putting the Sultanate’s wildlife on the spotlight

Oman’s diverse flora and fauna are one of envy, with birds that make it their midway home while migrating to those animals that are unique only to the deserts of Oman. It is also home to over 500 species of birds, many of them local and others migratory.
Al Ansab Wetlands, Qurum Natural Park, Seeb wetlands are just some of the many places that bird watchers gather to get a glimpse of the common, rare and endangered birds that spend their time in these areas. Oman also has a vast coastline and Islands like Damaniyat and Masira and the lush greenery of Salalah are also host to a large variety of unique flora and fauna.
Capturing wildlife on photo is one of the hardest and most organic photography genre. You only have a single moment to take a good shot as any sudden movement can disturb the animals. There is no posing, no second takes and no reruns.
Althaf Abdul, a 34-year-old Logistics Manager has taken the challenge and gone on a journey to capture the wildlife of Oman with his camera.
Photography has been Althaf’s hobby for many years. Initially, his main theme was the diverse range of beautiful landscapes that this country has to offer. After joining a photography club called FSO Muscat, Althaf got the opportunity to meet other local photographers with different talents and interests.
This group conducted events and gatherings every week so the members could exchange ideas, suggestions, and support.
One such gathering was conducted at the Al Ansab Wetlands to give members an opportunity to photograph the vast variety of local and migratory birds that nest in the area. Watching fellow photographers capture these beautiful animals on film inspired Althaf and soon enough, he invested in the proper equipment and upgraded his gears and joined along with the bird watchers in Oman to shoot these feathery wonders in their natural habitat.
Althaf sources his inspiration from the various world-renowned photographers whose works he is a fan off along with the works of his friends. In his free time, he enjoys browsing the internet looking at the works of photographers to learn about the equipment they use, techniques and angles to improve his own photography abilities.
In the following years, Althaf has traveled far and wide looking to capture the perfect shot of avian life. In 2016, with help from a Kerala-based group called BAF-Photomuse, Althaf fully immersed himself in the art of wildlife photography.
On his quest to photograph wildlife, he visited Jim Corbet National Park in Uttarakhand, India where he got the opportunity to view and photograph tigers and herds of elephants. A trip that was beyond memorable for Althaf and this is what draws him to this hobby, he quotes, “we get to capture a moment before it gone forever, it is impossible to recreate these”.
As visible in his social media, Althaf has taken amazing photos of a multitude of birds from all around Oman. Birds became a large part of his portfolio after a time when his friends and he were at Yiti Beach and they spotted an Osprey on the beach. Sadly, Althaf wasn’t prepared with a telephoto lens and missed the shot. Since then, not only does Althaf ensure he doesn’t leave home without the right equipment, prepared for the perfect shot but also kick-started his inquisitiveness about the Osprey and the other variety of birds that come to Oman. He not only took photos of the birds for his personal collection, but he followed his posts with information about these birds like their weight, food habits, and nesting locations. This taught Althaf about the diversity of Oman’s fauna and helped share awareness about the birds. Althaf’s started sharing his photos first on Facebook on various wildlife groups and gained considerable recognition for his talent. Recently, he has started using Instagram to share his images using hashtags and tags to spread his reach. Althaf is an active member of FSO_Muscat, a local group of photography hobbyists along with BAF-PhotoMuse Club which is the official Facebook group of Friends of Photomuse.
Althaf’s first camera was his Canon 600D that he invested in back in 2015. In the following years, he added much more to his collection – Sony A6000, Canon 7d Mark2, Mark3 and currently his choice of camera is his Nikon D500.
He enjoys the thrill and challenge of action shots and the main reasoning behind his collection of the latest equipment. This kind of photography requires fast shutter speeds, quick focus and short buffering time. When taking these shots, Althaf makes the informed decision about the shutter speed and aperture depending on the light available in the area. His post-shoot process involves the working on Photoshop dealing with editing, light balancing, cropping and adjusting, something that can take anytime between a few minutes to many long hours. All to produce the perfect shot.
Other than having the right equipment and skill, wildlife photography has many more aspects that have to be considered before one takes up the challenge. Althaf shared that once he waited in the same place for over 3 hours to get the right shot and perfect lighting. In Oman, birds are most active in the early mornings and during dawn. The harsh sunlight of the country can often make it difficult to get the right shot as harsh natural lighting can burn creating light distortion, this is one of Althaf’s struggles with trying to take photographs here.
There are various things one should keep in mind for those involved and interested in wildlife photography. Although it is amazing to be able to see these animals and get their pictures in their natural habitat, Althaf said, “we have a lot to learn and understand about nature. Mother nature is beautiful and it is our duty to main this beauty.” One mustn’t disturb the habitat or nests of the animals and this is the first lesson of wildlife photography. Avoid littering and leaving around plastic bags as this creates havoc on the ecosystem. Learn about the environment, the birds of the area and the habitat, this makes it easier to find the animals and also for the photographer to find the right place to get the best shot. Patience is key in this hobby, one can spend any time between a few minutes to hours to get the perfect photo. It is important to have the right equipment, making it easier to get better pictures.
Althaf explains that other than the thrill of seeing these wild animals and be able to get photos of them, wildlife photography is also an extremely healthy hobby.
Lots of walking, trekking and climbing for kilometers at a stretch so as to find the animals in their secluded spaces. Althaf believes an interest in wildlife photography is forever, once you are involved in the hobby you not only appreciate others with similar interests but you also become keen on learning about the environment, nature and the animals themselves.
Althaf’s talents are endless and through his photos, his audience is given the chance to catch a glimpse of the vast diversity of birds and animals in Oman. He hopes that he someday has the opportunity to take action shots of leopards, lions or tigers with their kill in action in their natural habitat. To find out more about Althaf’s work and vicariously live the adventure of wildlife photography, follow him on Instagram @althaf_photography and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Althaf15

Titash Chakraborty