Shazaad Kasmani specialises in Wildlife and Underwater photography and Wildlife filmmaking. Find Shazaad on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube. You can reach him on email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at +254 735 353 589.
How long have you been shooting?
I started photography purely as a hobby. At first it was a great way for me to preserve my memories of the snorkeling and diving that I regularly enjoyed off the Kenyan Coast. I remember getting my first 35mm film camera somewhere around the early 1990s.
When did you go pro?
Since I was spending a lot of my time either on safari or underwater (over 30 years now) I was creating a niche for myself that was inclined towards natural history. It was around 2009 that I decided I was finally as ready as I could be to go pro.
What body/bodies do you use?
There are three camera bodies that I just cannot leave without, the Nikon D50, Nikon D70 and the Nikon D700.
What’s your favorite lens and why?
I’ve always believed that it’s better to be over prepared, so I carry a range of lenses. My favorite three, however, are the Nikkor 18-55mm, Nikkor 70-300mm and Sigma 150-500mm. As a wildlife cameraman, one has to always expect the unexpected.
What’s in your camera bag for a standard shoot?
I’m guilty of carrying way too much gear, a three-day wildlife photography safari can very easily turn into seven days!
What is your favorite place in Kenya to take pictures?
There are a number of exceptionally beautiful places for wildlife photographers in Kenya, and all of these locations have their own unique qualities. However, since I have to choose, I would have to say my favorite places to take wildlife photos are Tsavo East National Park and Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park.
What is the most challenging shoot you’ve been on to date and how did you get the shot?
Underwater photography and filmmaking is challenging but always an exciting assignment. There is a lot of risk involved as we are working in an environment in which we cannot survive without the help of scuba. You must be extremely knowledgeable and confident about your dive skills and essentially become one single unit with your diving and camera equipment to get great shots.
What’s the story behind your favorite image?
Here’s a great story about a photograph that was published in National Geographic Magazine. It is of a large bull elephant surrounded by a flock red billed queleas, which took me about three days to accomplish. The red billed queleas and red elephants are synonymous with Tsavo and obviously I had to try and get them both in one frame. The tricky part was that I could not direct an elephant or flock of birds to come together for a photoshoot, as one easily could with human models. I had to scout a number of waterholes that were miles apart, and determine which one the birds loved to drink from that was also close to an elephant migratory route. For two days I would get one or the other, but not both. Finally, at around midday on day three, I managed to get the shot.
What do you love about being a professional photographer?
There’s a lot of talent out there and some wildlife photographers are experts in their particular wildlife areas. Networking with pros is always great as we get to share ideas and mingle with like-minded people before heading out for the next assignment.
How do you set yourself apart from competitors?
Besides stills, I do location scouting and consultancy for wildlife documentary filmmakers. I also shoot, edit and present short wildlife films. My photographs and films have been on National Geographic, network television, wildlife documentaries, wildlife magazines, web channels and newspapers. I am also an Honorary Game Warden at the Kenya Wildlife Service and quite active in wildlife conservation. As a Kenyan wildlife cameraman, protecting and preserving the natural world as a warden is a way for me to give something back.
What are your top tips for photographers looking to develop skills in your specialty(ies)?
Patience – Be sure to come with plenty of it and your images will begin to evolve and stand out.
Research – Try to do some homework on the location and the wildlife you are expecting to photograph. Developing skills to understand animal behavior is also a plus.
Ethics – Trying to get too close to wildlife by off-roading or making noise to grab their attention is not only unethical but it also makes the animal behave unnaturally. To be a pro, you must respect your client: the subject. Experienced wildlife photographers and judges in competitions can easily tell if an animal was disturbed by looking at the photos, and consequently disqualify or ban a participant. The best photographers respect the wildlife’s home and space, and in return get rewarded with some fantastic natural shots.
Gear – The best camera is the one that you already have.
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