From choosing equipment to navigating extreme conditions: All you need to know about wildlife photography

Kuwaiti wildlife photographer and Canon Ambassador Mohammad Murad decodes how photography enables compelling storytelling


A Staff Reporter

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Published: Thu 6 Jun 2024, 7:42 PM

Mohammad Murad, an award-winning Kuwaiti wildlife photographer and Canon Ambassador for EMEA, has made significant strides in his chosen profession. Transitioning from a career in communication engineering to photography in 2014, Murad has captured stunning wildlife images across diverse landscapes, from the deserts of Kuwait to the steppes of Mongolia. His work showcases his deep passion for bird photography and his mastery of slow shutter techniques, which have earned him multiple awards since 2016. In this interview, Murad shares insights on his remarkable journey and the art of storytelling through photography.

What sparked your interest in photography? How did you embark on this journey to become a prolific wildlife photographer?

I believe it's a cumulative process that began in childhood. My mother is an artist — a painter — and a former school art teacher. My father is equally creative and used to take photographs of my siblings and me throughout our childhood, documenting everything. My parents appreciated art and cultural history, and we would explore museums and art galleries during our travels in Europe. I must have always had this spark that went undetected for years.

Mohammad Murad
Mohammad Murad

In 2014, after receiving overwhelming encouragement and support from my family and friends, I took a leap of faith and purchased my first camera. I began my journey by learning from books and watching videos on YouTube. Later that year, I realised my true passion lay in bird photography. An accomplished photographer in Kuwait became my mentor and started training me in wildlife photography. I believe this art form is the perfect representation of who I am.

What are your thoughts on photography as a storytelling tool?

A well-composed photograph can narrate a story, provoke introspection, and stir emotions. Devotion to detail, an eye for light, patience, technical skill, a bit of luck, and a deep respect for nature can help wildlife photographers transform ordinary moments into unforgettable moments that challenge how we understand and appreciate the world around us.

Your work is known for its distinctive slow shutter style. How would you describe your photography style?

I love photographing with slow shutter speeds. While a still photo with an excellent composition is wonderful, a touch of motion in the image brings a sense of life and action to the photograph. Slow shutter speed can be an art form of abstract photography, where the viewer’s usual frames of reference are absent, making it both exciting and challenging to recognise the image. In abstract photography, motion is captured through longer exposures, recording movement, a moment, or an emotion expressed through abstraction. I try to embrace the serendipity that reveals itself in my work. Every part of an abstract photograph is ambiguous and open to interpretation. While I never waste an opportunity to explain a photo, I also allow viewers the space to understand, interpret, and investigate it on their own terms.

Arabian Red Fox Cub looking straight at the camera with the street lights giving this beautiful bokeh
Arabian Red Fox Cub looking straight at the camera with the street lights giving this beautiful bokeh

Does your approach vary depending on what you capture? How does it differ when photographing a bird versus a fox?

Absolutely. My approach depends on what I aim to express in a particular shot at a given moment. It is influenced by various factors, such as the story I'm trying to tell, the environment, the lighting, conditions, and the subject's behaviour.

Wildlife photography involves patience and requires persistence. Can you take us through your thought process while preparing for a wildlife shoot?

I choose my equipment carefully based on what I plan to photograph. For instance, if I’m using a vehicle or staying hidden, like in Africa or here in Kuwait, I bring three camera bodies attached with different lenses — a wide-angle lens, a zoom or prime lens, and a macro lens. It's best to be prepared, as you never know what nature will present. A walk or hike is, however, a different story. In this situation, I carry less equipment and opt for what I call my ‘beast combination’ — the Canon R3 with the RF 100-500mm lens, which is easier to carry.

What are some common challenges you foresee while shooting in nature?

Wildlife photography is inherently challenging, as we have no control over the environment, the animals, the lighting, or the weather conditions. I can’t speak to animals like Dr Dolittle and tell them where to stay, although I wish I could. Patience is a necessity under such circumstances.

Some locations are hard to reach, requiring high fitness and endurance levels. During my last expedition in Mongolia, I had to climb steep mountains and prepare for low oxygen levels at great heights. Taking photos in extreme weather conditions, like -40°C in Mongolia or 55°C in Kuwait, is extremely uncomfortable and challenging. Also, my work as a wildlife photographer often finds me close to dangerous animals and their habitats. In such situations, I must always be ready and prepared for every challenge.

What message would you like to share with the world through your work?

As a photographer, focus on your craft, and you will achieve your dream eventually. If you are constantly concerned with reaching your end goal, like becoming an award winner, a master in photography, or even an ambassador to a vendor, your journey won’t be as enjoyable. Take pleasure in the details involved in your work; to do that, you must follow your passion. Choose a career that excites you, as this will help you handle the setbacks, the monotony, the practice, and the dull periods. Great photographers are not born that way; developing your skills and finding your unique style takes a lot of time and practice.

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