Our recent travel photographer discovery is Akasha Rabut, from New Orleans. She works in the photography department at the Historic New Orleans Collection and does freelance photography on the side. Originally from Kauai, Hawaii she traveled a lot through North America and took some really amazing shots on the road. She fascinates with an extraordinary eye for beautiful landscapes and stunning portraits, all shot on film, and has a lot to tell about travel photography.

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How is traveling part of your life?

My family took a family vacation to New Zealand when I was 9, and I’m pretty sure that’s when I fell in love with traveling. I’ve also spent most of my life traveling in between California and Hawaii, going from my mom’s house to my dad’s. I’ve always felt like a nomad and really enjoy spending extended amounts of time in different places. I haven’t left North America in over 5 years, but in the past 2 years I’ve lived in San Francisco, Chicago and New Orleans, and have traveled to Wyoming, Wisconsin, Colorado, Michigan, New York, Kentucky, New Jersey, Tennessee, Indiana, Mississippi, Utah, and North Carolina. I don’t know if I could ever settle down and stay in one place. I too much enjoy exploring the unfamiliar and meeting new people.

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Which cameras and techniques do you use?

I love 35mm film and spent a long time shooting with a Nikon F-100.  A couple years ago I had an accident involving me landing on my camera. A couple of buttons broke off of it and since digital has taken over, it’s nearly impossible to get the camera repaired. At the time of this accident I was terrible at shooting in the square format, but since my F-100 was only partly working I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to focus on getting better with my Hasselblad. For the past two years I’ve been shooting with a Hasselblad and an Sx-70 polaroid land camera. I own a Nikon D-700 but rarely use it. Analog photography is very exciting. I enjoy the process of shooting with film. There is a lovely quality that I find in film, a quality that I just can’t find in digital photography.

What got you into photography?

When I was 15 I moved back to California from Hawaii to live with my mom. I started spending a lot of time looking at images in books and magazines. I remember looking at photographs and becoming consciously aware of the emotions that were being evoked. I became very interested in the idea of capturing moments in time and decided that I had to take a photography class. I became completely obsessed with taking pictures and would spend most of my time in the darkroom when I was in high school. I had a photography teacher who really encouraged me to enter my work in competitions, so I entered every photograph I took. I remember being really embarrassed when morning announcements were made on the loudspeaker at school because they would announce who won sports games and competitions. Whenever the art contest announcements were made they would usually say Akasha Rabut won 1st, 2nd and 3rd place this weekend in a photography competition—oftentimes because I was the only person who entered. That’s when I realized that all I wanted to do was make pictures for the rest of my life.

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What are your favorite places in the world to take photos at?

I love photographing outside in natural light. The Pacific Northwest coastline is probably one of my favorite places to take photos. I’ve also recently begun to explore Wyoming, which is becoming a favorite place to photograph. I feel like Wyoming is this forgotten place that beholds a lot of hidden beauty. Wyoming’s landscape is expansive. It has moving sand dunes, high deserts that receive annual snow fall, lush green mountains, geysers, mud pots, hot springs and a massive amount of thriving wildlife. Most of the economy relies on making money off of natural resources, so I’m very interested in capturing the human imprint that is left behind in the natural landscape.

What is important for you regarding travel photography?

I think it’s important to appreciate every single place that I travel through. Having a sense of respect and being able to relate to a subject is also significant. It’s really important for me to blend in and get a feel for what the local people are doing and understand how their lives fit into the space that I am exploring. Being aware of my surroundings and noticing people’s habits and relationships are what I pay attention to most. I find that the most beautiful images can be created by being captivated by things that are ordinary to others.

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What is your favourite (travel) picture and what is so special about it?

Several years ago I was traveling through Italy and we stopped in Rome to go to the Vatican. It was the middle of summer and about 95 degrees out so I was wearing shorts. Apparently women are not allowed to wear shorts inside the Vatican, there was an option to buy paper pants but I decided to wait outside while my friends went on a tour. I walked over to one of the walls that runs along the Vatican and decided to sit in the shade. When I got to the shady part of the wall there were three men in robes walking toward me with books. We exchanged a couple of words and then I asked them if I could take their photo. Each one of them looked in a different direction creating a really incredible imaginary triangle that draws you from one person to the next. There is something very serene about the image. The light is soft and all three of the men look very pensive yet peaceful.

I remember printing it in college and showing it to my professor Frank Espada. He asked me if I had ever looked at anyone’s work and thought to myself, “I wish I took that photo.” He explained that that’s the best compliment you can give another photographer. Then he turned to me and said, “I wish I took that photo.”

What photography-related advice would you give other girls who travel?

I find that casual observation is the best way to understand and blend in with an environment. Watching people and the way they move and interact with one another and their surroundings is a great way to become comfortable with a new setting. I think that getting a feel for an environment and understanding the people and culture that inhabit it is incredibly important as well.

The most beautiful images can happen when you least expect it and without having to travel very far, so always be alert and pay attention to detail. Most importantly, have fun.

Check out Akasha’s website and flickr for more of her adorable photos.


This post was written by Nina Hüpen-Bestendonk, who has a funny name even for Germans; she is a wicked go-getter and creative freelance designer, photographer and blogger.

She has an eye for beauty and even finds it in ugly apartment blogs. Her weekly photo chronicle “My week in pictures” has already become a classic among urban Berliners. Find out more at smaracuja.de.