He cannot count the number of times he has to hold his breath. It is necessary especially when one is tracking wild animals.
As a photographer, he has to learn a few tricks — how to assess situational risks, how to angle his camera properly, what settings to use so he’ll get the shot he needs and most of all, learn about the wild creatures, their habits and intuitions, so as to pre-empt how they would react to predators or threats.
There were times that he has to spend a few weeks or a month just to get the right shot of a wildlife he and his team were tracking. It might sound exciting and fun to an observer but to Waheed al Fazari, it is an actual job with actual rewards and repercussions.
A FIAP photographer and a member of the Photographic Society of Oman, Al Fazari’s job is serving as head of the Wildlife Department of the Diwan of Royal Court. His background in Ecology has served him well as he pursues both hobby and profession ensuring that he acquire massive knowledge regarding wildlife behaviour, especially wild birds.
“I am a member at Birds Records Committee and a wildlife expert in the Life-Line Charity Organisation. I have several scientific papers published in scientific journals. I was awarded the FIAP photographer title by the International Federation of Photography in 2017. I also contributed to the production of a number of documentaries on life in Oman, and a number of books on nature and wildlife in Oman,” Al Fazari narrated when asked for his credentials.
He explained that what he does is monitor the wild animals, study how they interact with their surroundings whether alone or in group and document these findings for posterity and preservation.
Waheed is aware that there are different risks involved whether he is observing wild animals for his job or his hobby.
He said, “Risks vary according to the animal you are dealing with and the location. In Africa for example, it is risky because you are in the presence of predatory wildlife. Most of the time when you go around where these animals are, there are no barriers. Of course, you also have to put into consideration the risks of diseases which is why taking the proper antibiotics necessary.”
Waheed said that even just studying or photographing wild animals in Oman has their own risks.
“In the Sultanate, some areas are rough. They are not ideal if you don’t pay attention. The rough terrain can endanger you especially when your attention is focused on taking photos of wild birds,” he said.
Despite the challenges, Waheed said that different creatures, especially the rare ones in Oman which are barely seen, brings him joy.
“I’m amused to see how they interact with their environment and each other. I’m also constantly curious. I always look for scientific answers to questions that I formulate in my head. This is a part and parcel of being a wildlife researcher — it’s the essence of my work,” he said.
He shared that this curious mind has been fostered when he was still in his early 20s.
“I was on a constant search, always reading. I have a very fertile imagination. I remember one of the questions that always bugged me — how can small falcons which hatched in the northern part of Oman have to energy and power to migrate 7000km to a strange country? How do they reach their destinations? This questions and more had led me to where I am now,” he said.
Being both a photographer and wildlife enthusiast, Waheed said that self-learning, reading and watching lectures in the net, sharing thoughts with photographers can largely enhance his abilities and knowledge of the field.
“I joined PSO in 2013 and started attending their lectures and courses which helped me greatly and learning many photography tricks,” he shared.
“Tours and trips, both for work and for photography, give you chances to get new and different photos,” he said.
He added that by travelling, he is able to learn about different animal characteristics not only of the rare breeds that are found in Oman but those from other countries as well.
“I visited Madagascar twice. The photos I took were of course very different not only because of the ecology but because the wildlife of Madagascar wasn’t designed for tourism. There is always something to learn along the way,” he said.
MAI AL ABRIA