Special thanks for the great interview by Mrs. Manjula & her golden pen.
Under the microscope
When you have seen Yousef Al Habshi armed with his photography paraphernalia, you have seen a celebrity photographer who has been felicitated with his work being on the cover of leading magazines! But there is a slight difference in that Yousef is a macro photographer, hence walking the path less trodden. His immense passion for his craft and his many-legged subjects — insects of various shapes and sizes — is amply evident in his animated conversation with Panorama.
What is macro photography all about and how did this specialized area become your passion in life?
Macro photography is a type of photography where you do extreme close ups of small and tiny subjects such as flowers and insects. My stepping into this fascinating realm was actually unplanned and was aroused due to my curiosity to see the hidden and microscopic areas of my chosen subjects. Soon this interest became honed in on insects, for each species has its own unique character to it. In no time, I found myself delving deeper into its macro recesses.
Can you elaborate on the National Geographic Al Arabiya cover that had your photographs on it… surely a matter of tremendous pride!
It was one of my biggest achievements for the year, getting one of my macro shots as the cover for the hugely famous and credible National Geographic Al Arabiya. The cherry atop the proverbial pie was being the first Emirati to win this tremendous honor. This added to my national pride and was proof that our country is replete with local talents and immense potential.
What is your unique technique with regard to macro photography?
If I had to choose one, I would say lighting. Each macro photographer has his or her own macro equipment and setup. The difference lies in the choice of angles, lighting and processing the final image. Out of all this, controlling the lighting is the most challenging part.
What are the preferred photography tools that you use for best results?
Each subject and background requires different equipment and totally different setting up. There is a difference in the meticulous and most minute arrangement to do with photographing close subjects and high magnification, where I use a camera body, long focal length macro lens, macro rail, tripod and wired remote. The second kind of setting up is a combination of camera body, macro lens with capability to go from 1X to 5X, single or twin flashes and flash diffusers.
Tell us more about the two studios that you have in your home?
The first studio is a portrait studio for personal use; the second one is my macro studio, which I use to get special shots for different studies or as per client requests and bespoke requirements.
What are your current projects?
One is my book on macro photography. I am still working on the final layout, trying to work out the number of images that I would like to have in it, number of pages, information resources and similar. Another is a new macro artistic concept which will hopefully be displayed in one of the upcoming exhibitions in the near future. There is also a new project in collaboration with National Geographic Al Arabiya magazine, which should assume more definite shape in early 2017.
What is the general content of the workshops that you hold to inspire other aspiring photographers?
I usually start with a theoretical presentation, listing all the macro categories. I then focus on the importance of macro in our life; go on to describe all the macro equipment and accessories that can be used for some brilliant results. Finally we do macro shooting practice and even after the workshop I am available to mentor whoever needs further hand-holding and guidance.
What are your other hobbies and interests?
I collect rare old coins and stamps; I am a voracious reader; I try to diversify my craft with other photography categories such as portraits, landscapes, wildlife and architecture. As for my interests, I love watching movies and documentaries. Travelling and discovering places of natural beauty is a passion. I also like to stay current with all contemporary electronic technology.
The UAE National Day is one of great reverence, not just to nationals, but also expatriates living in this country. What are your primary thoughts?
It is a day that always reminds me of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s biggest dream and aspirations for this country and how it all came true. Every Emirati son and daughter feels the same way towards this amazing nation: a sense of great pride. The National Day each year is one that connects our rich past, our glorious present and an exciting future that is in store for all of us.