Fishermen in Essaouira, Morocco, sit by the harbour. Photo by Along Dusty Roads.


Travel photographers Along Dusty Roads: Tips from the road

For many, the idea of packing up your life 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 their award-winning blog, 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 (a seaside town in 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."

People stand beside local market stalls in Marrakech, Morocco. Photo by Along Dusty Roads.

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."

Falling into the aisle, blocking the bride's big entrance, clicking the shutter at an emotional moment and spoiling the mood... wedding guests with cameras don't always get it right – but it doesn't have to be that way.

Guests can get shots just as powerful as the pros if they follow a few simple rules. Pro wedding photographer Markus Morawetz started out taking shots at friends' weddings. "I was going to leave my camera in the car, but the couple asked if I would take some snapshots on the side," he says. "It was important not to get in the way of the pro, but as a guest you have the advantage of being less stressed, and you can experiment with technique and style."

To help ensure you get it right on the big day, here are Markus' top five dos and don'ts – accompanied by shots taken by wedding guests.

"Learn the basics on light, aperture, framing and editing; get out of auto mode and shoot RAW images. 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 among 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."

A man in an ice cream van in Whitstable, UK. Photo by Along Dusty Roads.

Travel photography seems easy, but is difficult to get right – how do you ensure yours stand out?

Stellan Jara, a humanist wedding celebrant (someone who conducts non-religious wedding ceremonies) based in England, says that at most ceremonies he officiates at, it's usually made clear at the start that taking photos is not allowed during the ceremony. "The couple wants friends and family to enjoy the moment, leaving the professional to take the shots," he explains.

According to Markus, that's not enough to stop some people spoiling the occasion. "You'd be amazed how many guests get up during the ceremony to take pictures from the aisle. I've had my shots blocked at the moment the bride enters, during the exchanging of rings and when the couple kiss," he recalls.

Markus advises shooting from unusual angles. The large 7.5cm Vari-Angle touchscreen with Touch and Drag AF on the Canon EOS M50 makes it easy to shoot from almost any vantage point, and over or around crowds. "Use your surroundings to frame your picture and give you a good backdrop," advises Markus. "If you still don't have a good view of the bride and groom, concentrate on the guests' emotions."

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."

"It's important to let the place show you its story, rather than seeking it out with a preconceived idea."

Is time of day important in your photos?

"Too many cameras can be unsettling, often because the subject doesn't know where to look," says Markus. Leave formal group shots to the pro and focus on capturing relaxed shots of clusters of guests behaving naturally. "Couples love photos of genuine moments and emotions: laughter, tears, cheering – whatever the day brings. Be part of the party, soak up those emotions and you'll be better placed to capture them," he adds.

Stellan agrees: "People are happiest near the food and drink, so head that way to get some casual group shots of guests having a good time."

"The Canon EOS M50 has a great autofocus, as well as features such as Face Detection," says Markus. It can also quickly connect to smart devices and social media, so you can view, share and post your shots instantly.

Andrew and Emily of Along Dusty Roads.

Don't follow the photographer. Do take intimate candid shots.

"If you know the couple well enough, you can get away with capturing any less than flattering – but memorable – moments and expressions, which the pro might refrain from shooting," says Stellan. Guests have a distinct advantage over pros when it comes to recognising unique mannerisms and quirks, which make for unforgettable candids and intimate portraits. A fast burst mode, such as the Canon EOS M50's 10fps, is perfect for these fleeting opportunities: you can capture a succession of frames and select the best later.

"Be mindful of the background and find the most beautiful angle of light, then use light and shadow to make your photo even more spectacular," says Markus. "If you stay relatively close to the couple, there will be plenty of great moments to capture."


Your travel philosophy is 12 ideas relating to enjoyment, acceptance and pushing yourself to the limit – can you tell us a little more?

Don't bother the happy couple. Do use a zoom or telephoto lens.

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 five or six 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 while 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."

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, 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 will 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."

Written by Dan Castle

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