Cast a new, unexpected, and personal look over the environment. That’s what I hope to achieve every time I arrive someplace. For every destination, there are those images out there on the web that have been seen again and again. My technique to avoid falling into clichés: off the beaten path photography.
Go where others haven’t been before. Capture the people I meet along the way. Explore unknown countries. Visit neighborhoods where it would appear there’s nothing to see. Introduce unusual angles into my shots.
Since I have been immersed for quite some time in the world of travel, I know the tourist blockbusters. They are places with undeniable photogenic potential, but where the crowd of images they’ve inspired mean that anything you might do is immediately relegated to the categories of “already been done” and “pale imitation”.
Since there are always people out there who take better pictures, I prefer to photograph differently. By heading off the beaten path, I differentiate myself as a photographer. I get out and see what others haven’t seen. I come back with unique photos.
Deserts are a permanent source of inspiration. Their immensity makes it hard to take the same shot as someone else. At any hour of the day, the light changes and as a result, so does the landscape. Add in some detail, some human presence, and you’ll suggest the immensity and emptiness of the environment, like here in the Tagant region of Mauritania.
Deserts offer another advantage. These hostile spaces are somehow still often preferred to more comfortable, more accessible, less DESERTED countries!!! The flight lines that extend off into the distance of these surrealist worlds are often very photogenic. Such is the case with the roads that wind through the Karoo region of South Africa.
Taking off the beaten path photographs also offers a different type of contact with the local population. Wherever there are tourists rushing around in droves, photography often becomes synonymous with intrusion and voyeurism. But when visitors are rare, photography is a curiosity and a pretext for meeting people. That’s the case here in the Elbourz Mountains in Iran.
Travels off the beaten path are also a chance to discover places that don’t have much tourist appeal, but which are more than deserving from a photographic point of view. Coal mines in Inner Mongolia are a great example of this kind of surprise you kind find along routes like this.
Some events, overshadowed as they are by those considered more emblematic, remain out of the public eye. That’s the case with the Mindelo Carnival in the Cape Verde Islands. Nicknamed Little Rio, it’s a lot easier to get around than its Brazilian big brother, and it’s amazingly photogenic. “Small is beautiful”!
Sometimes, you have to let the pictures come to you. Stop and wait instead of running around. Let the shot come to you instead of taking off to find it. Choose a street where there’s plenty of action and stay alert. Something is bound to happen. Taking photographs off the beaten path is a bit like going fishing. Sometimes you get back with great shots, and sometimes you come away empty-handed.
“If you don’t find anything, look for something else”. Run around the souvenir shops instead of the monuments or go hunting around artisan workshops or popular cafes… In Istanbul, culture shock is every bit as photogenic as the mosaics of St. Sophia. And especially, a lot more bizarre!
Get lost in the Segou medina, the ancient capital of the Bambara kingdom, and try street photography instead of indiscriminate photo-snapping around the mosque and the historic tombs…Sometimes, you just need to take a few steps to head off the beaten path. You just need to be wherever nobody expects you to be.
Mathieu Mouillet is a globetrotter. After a trip around the world by bicycle and many other travels, he decided to journey across France on foot, seeking out the least inhabited places. His travel diaries in France were the perfect opportunity to meet astonishing people and discover in slow-motion the most beautiful landscapes across the country.
Discover all of his travels on social media: