The Below Article more or less summarize everything about me, how it all started and what are my believes and what I have to offer in the world of photography. Thanks to Hi-Magazine (Local Omani News Paper that comes out every Friday and as well online presence), thank you for making my day.
He stumbled upon his lifetime passion just four years ago during a visit to the picturesque country of Turkey. Thousands from across Oman and abroad are now keen to follow Salim Al Harthy, the self taught photographer, on his website and social network sites. “It’s never the camera, but the person behind the lens that matters more,” he tells Salim Joseph
Holding a point and shoot camera, he just wondered what he could do with it to capture the beauty that lay before him: the lush carpets, the snow-capped mountains, creeks, flowers, steppes and rolling hills of Turkey; a heaven on Earth. There was Istanbul, the capital city featuring the confluence of the Bosphorus strait and the Sea of Marmara with mosques and palaces along their shores, the buildings that reflected the Byzantine and Ottoman architecture…alas, the small automatic camera wouldn’t suffice to conquer it all, or the way he wanted it captured.
He had never been a photographer and had never cared to become one all these years…until that moment when he felt the urge from within. There was so much beauty around which had to be clicked in the right way and at the right time, he thought. That was four years ago, when he had no clue about cameras or photography. Now he is the one and only Salim Al Harthy, in whom thousands from across Oman or even from abroad find a great professional photographer who could inspire generations to come.
The future can wait. Four years after that memorable visit to Turkey, Salim, a senior manager with a drilling company, has more than a 10000 following on his website and other social network sites, hundreds of people in and around Muscat have already attended his classes and workshops on photography and he deals with big companies including National Bank of Oman and Diners Club International for major photography assignments.
“I had started from scratch, with zero knowledge in photography, which now has turned out to be my life time passion,” Salim Says. Even though, he started it as a hobby, money came knocking the door, without him looking for it. “This is the message I am trying to impart. If you are passionate about something and you love it, you will become good at it. Do not worry about recognition. It will come by itself,” he asserts.
He never attended any photography class and had to go through a painful process of self teaching, spending thousands of riyals on new cameras thinking better or more expensive cameras will give him better results. “Only later I realised it wasn’t the camera but the person behind the lens that mattered most. All one may need would be a standard entry level DSLR camera. Whether the camera costs 4000 riyals or 200 riyals, for a good photographer, it doesn’t matter,” he points out.
A photograph could reflect the photographer himself, how he looks at things, his creativity and his timing, which all come into play while taking a photograph. This is what Salim tells his students. “They have to hone their photographic skills instead of raising complaints about cameras, which also means they can save their money,” he says.
It’s more than two years since he started giving classes in photography at his place in Al Ansab and so far 500-700 people have attended. “I do once or twice a month with maximum of 10 students in each class. I believe that photography is a personal thing. My students can feel comfortable in a home environment and it’s like an informal gathering,” he points out. Salim is fully booked, usually a month in advance and the increasing response has forced him to conduct classes twice a month. The students are a mix of nationalities – Omanis, Indians, Filipinos, Latvians, Croatians and Russians and so on and they are aged between 16-50 years.
The classes are from 8 am till 5 pm in two sessions. “One has to learn how to take a good photo and how to take a great photo. The morning session (how to take a good photo) deals with technical aspects of the camera like the shutter speed, aperture, ISO and so on. In the afternoon session I discuss about the composition, creativity and the art behind it. It’s about choosing the right time, the person and his imagination and to me these aspects represent the bigger percentage of the final photograph,” he says.
The website www.salimphoto.com was created a year after he took to photography, when he had enough photos to showcase, and when he started winning awards and prizes in international competitions. “It made sense and I incorporated my blog www.salimblog.com later on at the request from people to provide tips and techniques and latest information about photography,” he says.
The travel photographer
Salim wants to consider himself as a travel and landscape photographer. “I travel a lot and have visited Prague in Czechoslovakia, Salzburg in Austria, most of the Gulf countries, Italy, Egypt, Jordan, Thailand, Malaysia and China and I try my best to make these trips once or twice a year. And there are still places I would love to go, especially to the US with some of the best national parks in the world,” he says. But it may require more planning and should at least be a month’s trip. Usually he tries to find areas near to Oman, which could be visited in a week’s time and next month he is planning a week’s trip to Sri Lanka.
“I tell my students if they want to take good photos, they have to look for it. The best photographers around the world travel in search of their masterpiece,” Salim says. He has a full support from his family and his wife loves it a lot as they are travelling. “She’s been very sportive. Wherever I go she follows and helps me with cameras and gears and like me she enjoys camping, walking the mountains and travelling to different villages,” he adds.
Besides, travelling as a photographer makes big difference. “You look with a different eye and you end up going to areas a normal visitor wouldn’t be going, beyond the main tourist spots and landmarks. And a photographer might plan ahead of time, do research about the country, see what other photographers have done before, what areas they have covered and the time they have been there. You will go by yourself and see the country from a different angle,” he says.
Salim has travelled a lot in Oman and has captured different landmarks. One photo of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque he took a couple of years ago now adorns the cover page of the Religious Studies book of standard XI. “Oman, in terms of variety is the best place a photographer can come to. There are mountains, sea, wadis, culture, villages and underwater life. Getting to those places, you may have to time it right, at the sunrise or sunset and so most of the time you may have to camp and be there at the golden hour or the magic hour,” he points out.
Favourite Leica M9
Though he has to use different cameras and lenses depending on the type of the job as a professional photographer, his favourite one is the German-made Leica M9. “It’s a totally manual camera. Only those who understand photography deeply can appreciate these sorts of cameras. But photographs will eventually be good as you are forced to do a better composition. It makes you think and forces you to be a good photographer,” he says.
This is exactly what he tries to say through the photo challenges he organises for those who follow his blog. It’s more or less a monthly challenge and each has a different topic. “The response has been great. I have a farm in Barka and the winners get a free stay with family and friends as a prize. They have to come out with something special and they have a chance to win,” he says.
Salim who no longer take part in competitions cautions people against competitions which will take money out of them. “One needs to be careful and find the right competitions which are sincere in recognising talents. But at the end of the day, it’s all very subjective and a decision depends on how a judge looks at it. I tell my students not to worry about not winning in spite of submitting a good photo. You can tell a good photographer regardless of winning competitions,” he asserts.
In Oman, he says, there are many good photographers and ‘some of them have won prestigious international awards’. “But what we lack here are people who can take risk, who can believe that photography could be their main vocation, their main income. You cannot blame them as photography is relatively a new business here. But like in any other businesses you need to take the risk and money could come knocking on your door. For me I didn’t even thought about it but it came,” he adds.
For latest Photo Tips, Classes, Competition, updates subscribe your email below