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“People might look at distortions in a bad way, but it’s all about perspective, isn’t it?” questions Ahad Halari when I ask him about his love for using fisheye lenses. Based in India, he travels often as a photographer for entertainers and celebrities. For his personal travel photography though, he adopts a perspective most of us reserve for unique subjects. Many of us use ultrawide lenses on our travels, but when was the last time you saw someone use a fisheye for travel photos?
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I doubt I’d use a fisheye lens more than once a year if I had one in my arsenal. But then, I’ve never owned one to understand how much fun it could be. Ahad clearly does and maximizes its usage when he’s traveling around India and the world. For those who haven’t yet dived into the ultrawide world of fisheye lenses, there are essentially two types of these, and each produces unique results. Circular fisheye lenses create a spherical image in the center of the frame: as image that is usually extremely and exaggeratedly distorted. The second type is full-frame fisheye lenses (nothing to do with full-frame sensor cameras). The images produced by this type, while distorted, cover the entire frame. Ahad uses the latter type and creates some distinct and appealing travel photos. I always advocate carrying a 70-200 lens while going on travels. Maybe next time, I’ll borrow a fisheye lens too to see what I can capture.
The Essential Photo Gear of Ahad Halari
Ahad told us:
I’m a huge fan of Canon. It’s super easy to switch from photo to video and vice versa. My kit includes Canon 5dS, 24-105mm, 50mm, Tamron 70-200mm & Sigma 15mm. 24-105mm I’ve used for literally everything, anytime and everywhere
The Phoblographer: Hi Ahad. Tell us about your background and how you got into photography.
Ahad Halari: I’m 25, and honestly, I never thought of myself as a guy behind the camera. I always cherished speed. Back in 2013 January, I was pressured to prove myself. Tried BPO for a week, but I just could not sit there for hours and not see something new and adventurous. Ali (my elder brother) reminded me that I had done a little phone photography from my dad’s NOKIA 3500 Classic. That’s when he offered to buy me a beginner camera on EMI, so I worked hard to pay it off. I was 16 years old and had a lot to learn (still learning); I had a lot to achieve.
Travel photographers love wide angles and even ultra wide ones. What developed your fascination with fisheye lenses for travel?
I was never a travel photographer. I was made (into one). Traveling across 30-35 cities around the globe, domestic and international, made me want to seize into a memory. Though I had my 24-105mm lens to shoot landscapes, it wasn’t wide enough, and I honestly didn’t have that kind of money to buy a wide-angle lens, so I shot with fisheye and changed the perspective in post-production. My fascination came out by using what I have to the fullest. I did crib about not having XYZ gear but Allah always showed me a way I can achieve it without XYZ gears.
What is it about the extreme distortions that you love the most. What keeps bringing you back to shoot with this lens more than others?
It’s the last thing I actually look at. My subject has always been in the spotlight. For example, if you look at some of my shots behind the deck with the DJs, you’ll have an idea. People might look at distortions in a bad way, but it’s all about perspective, isn’t it?
Since 2015 I’ve been shooting events with India’s topmost artists. DJs mostly required a wide behind-the-deck shot, so a wide-angle would be the best option, but with a fisheye lens, it looked blissful. Knowing something is great, but mastering it is untroubled.
Is it just about trying to capture as much as possible inside a single frame? What emotions or feelings are you portraying with these images?
Yes, it is. To some extent, I will stand uncomfortably at a place just to get the shot I had a vision of. Even though a single frame has 1500 shots. The vision is perfect and satisfactory. I have a way of connecting to an artist I’m shooting with. It could be them as a person or the energy they curate on stage, or the rapport they build with me. It’s always unknown what I’m trying to portray with these images, the feeling changes from time to time, and I think it’s for the best; change is constant.
Are you more attracted to circles for using this lens or do you seek out subjects with lines more?
It’s likely to be a point of view for me. It’s great to show someone’s perspective and a great way to explain the shot without actually explaining it. Photographers including me, don’t notice Xs & Ys on the grid; they just shoot because they like what they see and I’ll always want to be that person.
Your editing style seems to draw inspiration from classic film emulations. Which are your favourite and why do you prefer these?
Yes, it does; the subtleness of colors they put subconsciously in your mind is amazing. I am still trying to make it look like one, and I shall have it soon, InshaAllah. I always wanted to see how x type of edit would look on my content. It didn’t always look good. I always had to tweak it here and there, but it’s always worth finding something new in an inspirational way. My personal favorites were teal and orange, gray and yellow/orange, cyberpunk, under or overexposed and filmy grain for the cinema look
Tell us your most memorable incident while using a fisheye lens on your travels.
It always feels so good to shoot inside an airbus. 90% of my flight photographs and snaps were about the window seat and passing through the clouds. Baadal important hai (clouds are important). Every time I travel, my requirement would be a window seat, [I] don’t care if it’s nighttime. Even when shooting a DJ, I could be in front of him and as close as the decks but far from the subject to fit it in. I’ve used fisheye lenses for small places like these a lot. So near yet so far.
This is one of the best pictures I’ve clicked with the fisheye. This was an amazing experience. Climbing on the top of the NSCI Dome to get this shot. The iron palette which I was standing on was rusted and I already thought I’d save my camera if I fall. I’ve never felt alive as much as I felt [in] that moment.
Do all kinds of travel subjects photograph well with a fisheye lens?
Honestly, it depends on what you want to show and how you want to show it. The challenging moment I had with one of these was getting in the crowd and having no time to change lenses but to keep shooting with this and making the best out of it.
Are there any other types of special-use lenses that you enjoy using? If not, which ones would you like to use someday (tilt shift, macro etc)?
I’ve never come across a special kind of lens. But I’d really like to shoot with super-telephoto for wildlife, tilt-shift to showcase subjects as miniatures. I’d choose a probe lens over macro. The probe lens is a vibe.
What would you say is the best way to creatively use a fisheye lens in travel photography?
There is no single best way to use a fisheye lens in travel photography. It’s always going to be different, and someone is always going to do something out of the box with what they have.
What are some travel photography tips that you’d like to share with our readers? Like how do you keep your gear safe and in pristine working condition while on the go?
Never forget a self-timer remote with a tripod if you’re travelling alone. ND filters are a must. If you’re into making a travel vlog, definitely keep a boom mic to record the surreal surroundings. I’m not sure how exactly you can keep your gear safe, don’t drop it.