When Immanuel Abraham Mathew travels through a valley in India or a desert in Dubai, there is no Wi-Fi but he finds a different type of connection. A connection with nature. The landscape and wildlife photographer has dedicated his career to discovering the Earth’s hidden locations while exploring nature and himself.
One of Mathew’s natural darlings is the desert. To an untrained eye, deserts are dunes of sand, but to Mathew the barren land represents alluring patterns. In fact, the photographer’s best photo to date is shot in Abu Dhabi featuring sand dunes and the star-studded night sky.
Mathew also shoots cityscapes preferably from rooftops capturing unique perspectives of skyscrapers. Although a futuristic city like Dubai offers captivating light trails, Mathew finds it tranquilizing to escape the city crowd. “Being out in nature far away from the hustle and bustle of the city gives me an opportunity to appreciate life. There is nothing better than setting out on small hikes and discovering a vantage point.”
My Personal World – Milky Way image along with shadow of human element - Nikon D810, ISO3200, f/2.8, 30 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 14–24mm f/2.8G ED at 21mm
Futuristic Dubai - Rooftop image taken from Shangri-La Hotel - Nikon D810, ISO64, f/10, 15 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 14–24mm f/2.8G ED at 19mm
My Divine Journey - Mosque image along with light trails taken from Cayan Tower in Dubai - Nikon D810, ISO3200, f/11, 5 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II at 135mm
Composition is the base foundation of any photo according to Mathew. “No matter what or where I shoot, composition is my first priority. Having an element in the foreground, e.g. an animal or a rock formation, creates balance in the photo. I also tend to follow the “leading line” technique as this will engage the viewer.”
Another one of his tricks for eye-catching compositions is to use the “rule of thirds” to break an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically).
When it comes to light, Mathew strives to capture as much natural light as possible. “When I started out as a photographer, I would only snap one single exposure and then post-process it. Today, I take at least two to three exposures capturing both highlights and shadows to make sure that I have covered the whole dynamic range of a scene.”
Another important aspect of photography is the gear. Especially on wildlife tours, it is crucial to bring equipment that will not let you down because encounters with fierce animals often only happen once. Mathew recalls a trip to Kabini in India where he brought the AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR lens. “I was truly amazed about the results I got with this lens. The sharpness and the image quality of the lens was top notch, which allowed me to photograph a picture of a shivering tiger.”
Endless Journey - Black and white landscape in Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh, India - Nikon D810, ISO100, f/10, 110 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 14–24mm f/2.8G ED at 24mm with ND 10 Stop Filter
When working with nature, there can be many unforeseen circumstances. Therefore, Mathew has made it a habit to plan his shoots before he heads out. Usually, he searches for images of the specific location on Google in order to get an idea of what to expect. “I try to pre-visualise my photos and consider potential compositions. It comes with constant practice and effort, but these warm-up exercises help me get a better end result.”
Mathews’ usual kit for his excursions includes his favourite Nikon D810, a tripod that is a must and two different lenses, the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II for tighter frames and the AF-S NIKKOR 14–24mm f/2.8G ED for wide-angle shots. In the event of a sunrise or sunset, Mathew makes sure to carry filters that help him capture the long exposures. Coming back from an excursion, he always sorts through images on the same day and picks the best ones. Once sorted, Mathews tends to use Lightroom and Photoshop for editing. One of his distinguished style is that Mathews likes to dodge and burn certain parts of the photos. This can be done in Photoshop and is a great way to give pictures a final touch.
One of Mathew’s wildest memories is from an incident that happened during a nine-day long adventure through Spiti Valley in India. As Mathew and his crew were returning to the base camp in Manali, they ran into a severe landslide with huge rocks blocking the road. Without proper network in the area, it was not possible to contact government officials.
“Literally, we had to take the matter into our own hands. It seemed hopeless! With help from the locals, we started to move the rocks. After almost six hours of hard work we cleared the path, and thankfully, we reached our end destination later that evening.” Looking back, this was the toughest experience Mathew has encountered as a photographer, yet one of the most rewarding experiences too, as he ended up with some unique photos.
A small waterfall where the landslide happened in Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh, India - Nikon D810, ISO200, f/10, 1/500 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II at 70mm
Endless Journey II - A leading line to the mountains - Nikon D810, ISO200, f/11, 1/600 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II at 70mm
Currently based in Dubai, Immanuel Abraham Mathew was originally raised in Thiruvalla in South India. During his time at Karunya University in Tamil Nadu, India, Mathew picked up photography as pleasurable pastime. Today, photography is his livelihood taking him to places afar presenting the world’s natural beauty to his audience.