Travel photographers Along Dusty Roads
Tips from the road.
For many, the idea to packing up our lives and buying a one-way ticket to the other side of the world to fulfil your dream is exactly that, a dream. But this is precisely what Andrew and Emily did.
One rainy evening in East London, they decided to combine their shared passion of photography and travel, and Along Dusty Roads was born.
We chatted to them about travelling the world and their inspirations to help independent travellers like themselves.
Could you please tell us a little bit about you, your blog and your story?
We met in London, via online dating and we discovered travel and photography was our mutual love. It’s probably because of this that neither of us said ‘no’ to leaving London to travel for a few years, so it became a realistic ambition.
Along Dusty Roads was something which began as a platform for our writing and photography, back in 2014. We stepped on the plane to Mexico with a one-way ticket, socks stuffed with cash, a rough itinerary, a healthy dose of wanderlust and far too much camera gear. And on a beaten-up bus in Belize, the name was born.
We started it to be something practical and inspirational for other travellers making their own way through Latin America. Since then, it’s grown to become our full-time business and passion - somewhere for travellers of all styles to find inspiration, learn how to travel better or simply dream about their next adventure during their lunch break.
What comes first, the story or the photo??
It really depends on the location, how much research we put in and how we choose to experience it.
For example, when travelling in Bolivia, we became fascinated with the various indigenous groups and their remarkable clothing. In conversations, we found out about a market just outside of Sucre where dozens of different groups, all with fabulous hats, gathered each weekend; we went with a clear intention to tell this story. And in Essaouira (Morocco), we had no idea that we would become so enamoured with the fishermen that worked in the harbour, and yet this is where we were drawn back to time and time again, always seeking just one more photo. In the majority of cases, we let a place guide us; our impression is often shaped by the scenes appearing before us and the people along the way.
When you moved from the streets of London to the vast openness of Latin America, how did you adjust your photography technique to your new surroundings?
As odd as it may sound, neither of us really took photos in the UK before our Latin American adventure. When travelling abroad, we created a catalogue of travel images, now all stored on dusty hard drives. We rarely ventured out into London with our cameras as our home country rarely sparked any interest.
Thankfully, this has now changed, and we have realised that an individual, a street corner or a scene doesn’t have to be entirely foreign to be of interest. Considerable interest can be found in the perfectly mundane, and a wonderful image can exist almost anywhere.
©Along Dusty Roads
Do you have any tips for photographers starting out?
Learn the basics on light, aperture, framing and editing; get out of auto mode and shoot on raw. Don’t think that travel photography is all you see on your Instagram feed. It’s so important to take the time to try different approaches and styles to see what stokes your passions and what you’re good at. Don’t keep your photos solely on the digital screen; get some of them printed out to give a different perspective and let you ‘feel’ your work.
How do you go about searching for the soul of a place, capturing what best represents the places you visit?
We wander. We wander a lot. We get lost in cities and villages and amongst the hills, capturing life as we come across it. Sometimes at the time of photographing a new destination we don’t notice a theme, it’s only once we’re home, detach ourselves, and look at the images a few weeks or months later, we see it.
It’s important to let the place show you its story, rather than seeking it out with a preconceived idea.
Travel photography seems easy, but is difficult to get right – how do you ensure yours stand out?
In the world of Instagram, travel photography is becoming more closely associated with women in flowing dresses and fabulous hats than the people and places that exist. In Marrakech for example, everyone seems to stay at the same riad, visit the same spa and take the same posed images in popular sites. And whilst necessity means that our own feed and blog incorporates some of these ‘like-bait’ images, we made the decision several months ago to stay true to ourselves and the type of photography we love.
Could you give us some tips for photographing people when travelling?
We’re always asked how we capture images of people, do we get permission first or after? Honestly, we rarely ask. That’s the difference between a beautiful portraiture and great street photography. A person’s entire body language changes when they know they are being photographed, and the image that was, ceases to exist.
Of course, it’s really important to photograph in this way with purpose, respect and sense of your surroundings - we always judge the situation and ‘shoot from the hip’ 90% of the time.
Is time of day important in your photos?
It’s vital. The difference between a nice photo and a great one is often the time of day it was taken. Shooting in the golden hour is one of the easiest ways to improve your final shot, but when you’re travelling (especially if you only have a short amount of time or the weather’s dreadful) it isn’t always possible.
But as photographers try to chase the golden hour, it’s equally important to us as travel bloggers to recognise that travel photography shouldn’t only give the impression of permanently sunny days and experiences; sometimes the weather is poor and sometimes you won’t manage to go somewhere and photograph it how you had hoped.
But getting the perfect shot isn’t the only reason to venture somewhere beautiful.
Getting paid to travel has become an aspirational dream for many – what advice would you have for anyone looking to make travel a career?
The first piece of advice would be to not believe the hype. There are 101 different courses and articles out there claiming that if you just do X, Y and Z, then you can become a successful travel blogger - it simply isn’t true. What they often fail to mention is the huge amount of hard work and handful of lucky breaks that are required to make it in this industry.
If you really are passionate about making this a career, learn how to write and improve your photography. Make sure that you do actually like travel in all its forms. It’s not just about 5 star resorts and infinity pools. Be curious, be passionate and be as happy about writing an article that 1 person will be read, as you would if 10,000 read it.
©Along Dusty Roads
Your travel philosophy is twelve ideas relating to enjoyment, acceptance and pushing yourself to the limit – can you tell us a little more?
Our little travel philosophy ensures that, even if nobody else cares what we did or wants to hear about the amazing stuff we saw, we will always have the knowledge that we experienced a little part of the world like nobody else has. That moment, that place, that time - that was ours.
Fundamentally, to travel is a privilege and we should never forget that.
Could you tell us one of your favourite stories, that you’ve caught on camera?
Undoubtedly, it takes place in Ecuador. We were on the last day of a five day hike in the Andes - the Quilotoa Loop. Emily was riddled with cold and our feet were blistered. There was supposed to be a truck to take us over the last few miles to catch the bus back to Latacunga, but were told it wasn’t leaving for another four hours. We decided to walk. An hour later, a football bounced in the middle of the road, followed by a couple of young children, no more than 5 or 6 years old - we’d stumbled upon the village school.
Over the next few hours, we spent a lovely afternoon with these kids and their teachers. We played football, spoke Spanish, shared stories and showed them how to take photos with our cameras. We're pretty sure it was the first time most of them had held one, and they were so happy taking photos of us and each other, giggling at the results. It’s one of our favourite stories from Latin America, and one of our favourite travel memories.
What’s the one bit of kit you can’t live without whilst travelling?
Hands down, our Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 lens. The image quality is superb. We often have to take photos in a split-second and having a prime lens means we are constantly aware of where we need to stand to capture the scene we see. Especially when shooting from the hip, a technique we often employ.
©Along Dusty Roads
In the spirit of moving forward, what’s next on the horizon for Along Dusty Roads?
Our overall ethos is to promote independent, considerate and curious travel. However, to develop as travel photographers and storytellers, we want to make 2018 a little bit different.
As well as our usual articles, we want to go a little deeper. We want to weave the stories of the people we meet along the way - the people who make our travel experiences possible. This’ll improve our portraiture and documentary style, whilst as travel influencers, it will support us in making people consider the positive impact of travel on a place.
As for destinations: Latvia, Brazil, the Caribbean, the Netherlands, the Faroe Islands and Spain are all on the agenda. We’d also want to explore the UK a little deeper.
If you'd like to follow Along Dusty Roads story, here's a link to their blog.
Along Dusty Roads Kit Bag
Tripod & Canon RC-6 Wireless Remote Control
Answers edited for clarity and pacing.
Interview credit: Written by Dan Castle