The Thousand Words: Alexander J.E. Bradley

A picture tells a thousand words... and we are here to tell you a few more in our ongoing series 'The Thousand Words' where we dig through the vault of talented photographers at Aperture Tours and get them to open up a little about some of their favourite images. 

The Bedouin Camel Herder

Wahiba Sands, Oman, by Alexander J.E. Bradley

The Bedouin Camel Herder
PHOTOGRAPHY: Alexander J.E. Bradley • Nikon D500 • AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 FL ED VR @ 116MM • Ƒ/5.6 • 1/125 • ISO 200

Fellow photographer, Andy Yee and myself were bundled together in a 4x4 coasting over the rich red dunes of the Wahiba Sands, a desert in the centre of Oman. We had passed a herd of sheep that were taking shade in the only tree for a hundred kilometres, and I was amazed by our guides ability to know which way was up in this vast empty sector. The heat was scoring, but after a few days in the Arabian Peninsula, I had gotten used to it and enjoyed the slight breeze as we were greeted with coffee and dates by our hosts at the Bedouin Desert Camp.

The desert is a fantastic place to shoot, and it had long been a dream of mine to capture the beauty and atmosphere of the sands. A first, it is an enormous expanse of emptiness, but once you start looking you can see so much variety and difference all over the pace. Be that the footprints of beetles in the sand, the wild sticky vegetation that covers the hills, the array of shapes and geometry in the dunes, or the animals, this place is busting with photography opportunities.

I filled my memory card with so many images from my time in the Omani desert that trying to choose only one photo to represent it was a tough choice, but I think my absolute favourite shot was this one of the Bedouin with his three camels. He worked with the desert camp we were staying at, and we caught him as he was returning to camp, just on sunset. I had my 70-200mm telephoto lens on my Nikon D500 cropped-frame camera, which helped to compress the image and I was waiting for the animals to line up in the right position so that I could capture them all in a row. I shot this at 116mm (174mm 35mm equivalent), but in hindsight would have liked to be a little tighter. In post-production, I ended up cropping this image about 33% to let the action fill the frame.

I never thought my time on catwalks would help me out here in the desert, but I remembered to always shoot on the down footstep to make the movement of the header look natural. The soft evening light was perfect to give him a gentle side light; nothing too sharp, but it created definition not only on him but on the dunes behind. I was shooting at ƒ/5.6 to keep the subject sharp, but quickly blur out the dunes in the background. Shooting at 1/125 to maintain sharpness in the movement of the hearing meant that I was shooting at ISO 200, a reasonable ISO for this scene.

I was quite happy with this shot, and even though I spend most of the next day with my blower brush, trying to get all of the sand off my equipment (I swear that you only need to look at sand and it gets everywhere), it was all worth it. Not just for this shot but for all of the shots I got from the desert and my time in Oman in general. It was a wonderful excursion, and I am really looking forward to returning to Oman to experience the wonderful tradition, natural beauty and fresh water holes dotted across the country.


Photographer's Profile

NAME: Alexander James Edward Bradley
BORN: Melbourne, Australia
PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE: Conceptual art / Travel and tourism
INFLUENCES: Hokusai, Sally Mann, Helmut Newton, The Grimm Brothers, David Lachapelle, Brassai, Nadar.
FAVOURITE PLACE TO SHOOT: Paris under the snow, the catacombs of Paris and rooftops at sunset.
HIGH POINT: Shooting the Australian Outback on a 5,000 kms adventure with my father
LOW POINT: Diving into freezing cold water on a midnight shoot to salvage my assistant's camera as it fell into a lake in an abandoned amusement park.
TOP PHOTOGRAPHY TIP: Don't change lenses in the desert. Bring two camera bodies and keep the lenses on... or just shoot with one lens on one body. It is too risky to let the sand inside any of the moving parts of your camera.

INSTAGRAM: @alexanderjebradley
500PX: alexanderjebradley
FLICKR: alexanderjebradley


Alexander is the founder of Aperture Tours, and he will be hosting a nine-day intensive photography workshop to Oman 20 - 29 October 2019. Join him to visit the coast, desert and mountains of Oman conveniently and educationally filled with incredible opportunities for photographers of all levels. Details on our Oman Photography Workshop page.