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Interview with Walid Rashid: On Travel Photography & South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA | Tuesday, 26 June 2012 | Views [7108]


Walid Rashid, winner of our 2011 Travel Photography Scholarship, spent eight days on assignment in South Africa with G Adventures and National Geographic photographer Jason Edwards last year. Here, we sit down with him to talk about his experience.

1.) What was the highlight on your scholarship experience?

Well, not only did the World Nomads & National Geographic Channel scholarship offer me the chance to visit South Africa for the first time, but it also offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be mentored by National Geographic photographer Jason Edwards and benefit from the experience and knowledge of a professional team - both events were highlights on personal and professional levels.

If I am to pick from the great adventures and daily learning experiences, then the highlight must had been the ride in the South African Military Defense Oryx Helicopter above Kruger National Park to witness and document the aftermath of the cyclone that hit the area during our visit. The resulting floods and downpours that South Africa hasn’t witnessed in the last 30 years have made the assignment more exciting and challenging. However, the team was determined to track the scattered pockets of wildlife in the beautiful savannas and capture the beauty of South Africa under various circumstances.

2.) What was your greatest challenge on assignment? 

I had never envisioned living the daily life of a professional National Geographic Photographer on assignment until I joined Jason Edwards on this trip. It was a bit tiresomein the first few days to adapt to early wake-up calls after some 20 hours of intensive photo-shooting and tracking of wildlife in the African reserve parks. Yet, I was always excited about the adventures carried by each day; and learned how to cope with unforeseen challenging situations that came our way. Eventually, we were able to spot some of Africa Big Fives, document the aftermath of the floods, enjoy the beautiful stretches of landscapes and delve into the history and culture of Cape Town. I was thinking beyond the challenges how to get the best out of this learning opportunity and working with the team.

3.) What were you inspired by in South Africa? 

The most inspiring thing about South Africa was its natural beauty, coupled with what it offered from the exotic landscapes of cities, savannas, jungles, and islands, to the people, history and culture. It can easily be the wonderland for many aspiring and professional photographers for its vast terrain that is home for a diversity of wildlife animals and plants. The recipe resulted in one of the greatest trips of my life that featured unique experiences and adventures. I was fascinated by its sunsets, the abundance of wildlife and its beautiful stretches of beaches that it easily became one of my favorite travel destinations.  

4.) What was it like working with Jason Edwards? 

On the first day that I met Jason, I realized how fortunate I was to have the chance to work with him in South Africa. He is quite the talkative person, yet so open and incredibly informative- communicating his vast knowledge and advice- which rendered him a great mentor for me throughout the trip. His 25 years of experience as a wildlife and history photographer, and being an environmentalist and animal scientist coupled with his charismatic and lively character has made this learning experience fun and educational at the same time. Hearing about his travel and photography experiences throughout his career never seemed to bore me. I am inspired by his approach to photography as a way of life, the respect he paid to his subjects, and the attention he gave to the smallest details while composing his shots.

5.) Technically, what new skills and techniques did you learn from Jason? 



Plenty, from camera handling techniques to composition, clipping, manual focusing, exposure calculation, and many others… In short, Jason answered all the questions I had in mind about photography and shared with me his insights and personal preferences. I learned how to make use of exposure compensation to achieve the best light results, and resort to manual focusing for more accuracy and control. As far as post-processing is concerned, he taught me how minimal corrections made to color-balancing and adjustments to levels and curves can render the image sharper achieving the best results.

Apart from the technical aspects, while working with Jason, I was fascinated by his eagle-eye vision that helps him examine the scenes around him, and look for triggers in animal behavior, to get familiarized with their actions in order to anticipate the shot and capture it at the right moment. The more you shoot, the more your photos will make you better; yet as a photographer, I learned how to make sure to leave a good impact on the scene or environment and to sometimes enjoy the moment, rather than relentlessly trying to capture the perfect picture of it.

6.) What advice do you have for future applicants and aspiring photographers? 

My advice for aspiring photographers is to try shooting everything, from photojournalism, fashion, portraiture, to landscapes and macro, whatever. You won't know what kind of photographer you are to define your photography niche until you try it. I love photography because I love doing it, because the chief reward is the process of doing it, that’s why I still treat it as a passion, not a career. Photography is a multi-fold process for me, but also an adventure: with the right music, interesting people and a few friends by your side part of the way, it can become a life in its own right.

Fun is important. You should like the process and the subject. If you are bored or unhappy with your subject it will show up in the pictures. In the end, it’s the attitude you take towards photography and how you choose it as a way of life rather than a profession. If you love it, you can be shooting everyday and learning from every shot. It has been a learning experience for me since I bought my first camera, and it still is. I believe that a photographer needs to be constantly learning new tricks and experimenting with his camera. Ultimately you will realize that you can take a good shot and be confident enough to participate in this photography competition or many others.

7.) What's next for you? 

After quite some years of travelling and working abroad, I’m back to my home country Lebanon working on some personal projects and freelance photography assignments. In my free time, I write some editorials and photo-documentaries and share them on my blog. I’m also preparing for my first solo exhibition which will feature a collection of photos from my travels around the world.  

Check out Walid's full set of photos from his assignment.

Read Walid's journal of his experience in South Africa.

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And if you're lucky enough to be mentored by one of our industry professionals, it could kick start your career!

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