Photography Interviews: Hammad Iqbal
This is NullMag’s first interview into the “Photography Interview” series, where we interview photographers from around the world and share their art.
The person to begin with is Mr. Hammad Iqbal. A muslim photographer who now resides in Qatar.
His photography includes a blend of astrology and landscapes, a combination none of us have seen before and is unique to his work of art. I presented Mr. Hammad with a series of question to which he responded.
Interview With Hammad Iqbal
1) A brief introduction about yourself
Thank you very much for giving me a chance to share with your audience a little something about my passion, and I hope to see them getting inspired by it In-Sha-Allah. So, about myself…. it’s always an interesting question and for some reason I actually find it difficult to answer in a line or two but let me try. Professionally, I am a Graphic Designer from Lahore, Pakistan who has been brought up in Doha, Qatar. I love arts and specifically design, photography, cinematography, visual effects and animation. Alhamdulillah I have worked in a professional capacity in all these areas, some more than the others.
2) Which picture of yours do you consider a masterpiece? Kindly share a little insight on the picture
- It’s hard to say because I have a few favorites for different reasons. One of my most recognized and unique shots is in fact one of my very first ones titled “Under the Heavens”.
The reason why I consider it one of my favorites is because this was the shot that took off like a rocket and became viral in Qatar, and that lead the people to my page, gaining my work the exposure it needed. Eventually one of the most popular news blog, ie. Doha News contacted me for an interview and published an article about my photography titled “This is Qatar”, here is the link to it http://dohanews.co/photos-this-is-qatar-by-hammad-iqbal. Another reason why I consider it a favorite is because this image holds an important place in my photography due to its creative and conceptual nature. With this experimental image, I got an idea to combine wide-field astro-photography with the iconic city landmarks in Qatar and this idea was new and never been done before.
- Another favorite is my most dynamic and energetic cityscape shot of Doha business district till date, titled “Pulsating City”.
This image is loved by people all over the world and it recently got the editor’s choice award on 500px. I consider it very special because this image posed a challenge to me at the time of processing. I knew I had captured a unique angle that was dynamic but the shot itself was rather dull due to low contrast. As a result it did not justify the dynamism of the POV captured. So I was pushed to walk the extra mile and add finesse to bring out the energy and momentum that this image deserved. Alhamdulillah I’m glad that all the hours I put into this image were totally worth it and made all the difference in the world.
- I’m sure the list of favorites will grow in the coming years but here is another image that I’m very happy to share with you. A panorama of ‘Bashker Gol’ lake titled “The Magic Lake” at blue hour.
This particualr image is dear to me because of the effort I had to go through in reaching this place during my trip to Chitral in June 2014. This lake is located at about 22 kms, if I’m not mistaken, from the village of Sor Laspur. The only way to get to it is about 11-15 hours of trekking through all sorts of terrain including crossing rivers, jumping through boulders the size of a room, slippery sands on extremely narrow ways on the mountains and trees and bushes. It was my first trekking experience, and without a doubt, a back-breaking one as I was carrying heavy lenses and a camera. By the time I reached the lake with my friends, I was totally exhausted and had no energy to even think about photography. But Alhamdulillah, after an hour of relaxation, I picked up the camera and got ready to capture this wonderful shot of this amazing lake. This trip changed my mind about Pakistan and for the first time in my life, I realized how beautiful and blessed is the land of Pakistan. Unfortunately people take it for granted all the time.
3) What is your most used camera gear?
At the moment I only own one camera body, that is the Nikon D800 so I’ve got no other options. Since I almost always shoot cityscapes, architecture and landscapes, my most used lens has become the Nikon 14-24mm f2.8. There are times when I feel the need for a better reach and that’s when I use my trustworthy Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 Di VC.
4) Your recent work on Qatar is inspiring … could you share some techniques and tips with newbies
[NOTE] Visit Hammad’s facebook page for more pictures in full resolution.
I urge all newcomers to observe other people’s work and pay attention to develop their creative eye. The ability to see, frame and capture is the absolute essential in photography and one of the best ways to develop this aesthetic sense is to constantly look at top-notch work and ask questions. There is no end to learning the art of looking and shooting like a photographer and it’s an life-long process but you have to start at some point and be persistent if you seriously aim for getting better. I also advise newbies to shoot in raw format and make an effort to learn to post-process the images at a higher standard. YouTube has opened up unlimited opportunities for those who really crave to learn and excel, so there is absolutely NO EXCUSE for not doing it. Finally I would advise youngsters to stop blaming the camera. I see this trend growing and most people think that only an expensive camera can capture amazing images, but that’s not the case in most instances. To be able to reach a point where you can no longer improvise and find workarounds to cover up for the camera’s limitation, you need to first know your camera inside out, learn to use it to its potential and that could take months if not years. I understand that higher quality is always desirable but what’s the point of having the best image quality without a solid understanding of composition, shooting techniques and post-processing. Remember that a camera only takes a picture, but it’s the artist who makes it.
As far as technique is concerned, since I shoot cityscapes most of the time, I have to deal with bright light sources which are usually rendered overexposed in a single shot. Therefore my most used technique is Digital Blending which helps in recovering important details in highlights and shadows by combining bracketed exposures of the same scene.
5) When did you realize your passion for photography?
During the years of my matriculation back in the year 1996, I got interested in design and began exploring. I didn’t know how all those wonderful posters of movies and music albums were made and I wanted to learn to do it. So I stumbled upon some computer magazines and that’s when I first came to know about Photoshop. With some luck, I got someone to arrange a copy of Photoshop for me on a CD and it was Photoshop 4.0 back then. Without any delays, I began playing around with it, bought a book titled “The Photoshop Wow book” by Jack Davis and followed it to the last page. There was no such thing as broadband internet or YouTube back then so the only resources to learn something was either through a book or by attending classes. So books were my best friends and I used to practice a minimum of 3 hours in Photoshop and by the time I finished my FSc, I was a lot better than people who were working professionally in the advertising industry here in Qatar. Believe me, I’m not joking.
After finishing my FSc final exams in 1998, I had a few months of waiting before getting the results so I thought about enrolling in MCSE (Microsoft Certified System Engineer) which was quite a new thing back then. Did you notice that I was a Science (pre-engineering) student and later wanted to enroll in MCSE? What does that tell you? Basically, I had no idea of what I should do and a lack of career counseling throughout my student years had me wandering for a direction. Luckily, when I called a training center to get information on MCSE, I spoke to a person who asked me what I do and I told him about my hobbies that were, designing things in Photoshop. So he asked me to come to his office and bring some samples of my work for him to see. So I went to meet him and showed him the samples and he was amazed. So he went straight to the General Manager and got me to meet up with him immediately. And guess what, the GM offered me a job instantly as a designer. That’s how my journey began, miraculously. All my student life, I always thought about becoming an engineer since my father is an engineer but I had a gift which was much more valuable and rewarding and Alhamdulillah even though I studied science, I eventually got an opportunity to get into the creative field through my personal work and not because I had any arts qualification. It was in the later years that I studied photography through distance learning in the year 2000 while working alongside, and also pursued a formal design study in 2002.
6) Your verdict on photography
Photography has expanded into new territories and with the digital technology available to us today, the line between traditional photography and visual arts keeps getting blurry. Gone are the days, when an emulsion alone was considered photography. Now photographers can express their ideas by combining a variety of highly advanced techniques including retouching, manipulation and compositing. The game has changed and it is especially true in developed countries, particularly the West. Pakistan, though still has a lot to cover and the niche market can be exploited. So it’s up to the unresting and relentless youth of Pakistan to attempt to do things outside the comfort zone, beyond the norms and introduce something new by leading. On the other hand, in a constantly saturating world of digital photography, it’s no longer the technique or style that are enough to set one apart, but rather, it’s the vision that you need to have to create your own unique signature among the crowds and create a consistent body of work that follows your vision as a photographer and artist.
Another interesting thing is that, all modern cameras come with high-quality video features which gives photographers a new medium to express their vision by extending their skills into cinematography and storytelling. As I mentioned before, technology is at our disposal and the only limit now is your own imagination.