When Backpacker Magazine asked Rachid Dahnoun to be the photographer for a cross-country trail in the island of Dominica, he grabbed his boots and got ready to rough it. They asked that he walk the trail with reporter Kelly Bastone, who would be writing about the 115-mile hiking experience. It took a face-to-face encounter with a boa constrictor, a narrow escape from a collapsing waterfall, and a few too many sips of the native wine, but in the end, Rachid got the photos that tell the story of Waitukubuli National Trail.
The Waitukubuli National Trail stretches from the north tip of the island to the south, weaving through villages and untouched landscape. The government of Dominica created it as a way to draw in tourists of a different sort. While so many of the Caribbean Islands boast white sand beaches to bring in tourists, Dominica wanted to attract more of the “crunchy outdoor crowd,” says Rachid. Before traveling to Dominica, Rachid read everything he could about the island and the trail so he would know what shots to look for and what challenges to expect.
Being a landscape and adventure photographer, Rachid was really excited about this shoot. It fell right in line with his photographic, and personal, interests. “I get hired for telling the story of the environment,” says Rachid. “Not just the landscape, but how people interact with the landscape.” With these images, he wanted to capture the beauty of the trail, but also the way people were interacting with that. This was especially important as the trail itself was about drawing people to the land.
You get to enjoy the landscape, but the human element is also just as important. And putting those two together in a cohesive way is a really fun and challenging thing to do.
Though Rachid did his research before the trip, nothing could have prepared him for the challenges he encountered on the trail. The team stayed in village residencies as well tents along the trail, and it rained for every day of the journey. Rachid, his gang, and his camera equipment were soaked 24/7, he says; the weather seals on his Nikon D800 became the hero of the trip. At one of the Falls he had wanted to shoot, there was so much extra rainfall that the waterfall area flooded, and the waterfall actually came cascading down onto the trail.
Another big challenge Rachid faced was the density of the landscape. Consisting of mostly rain forest, the trail lacked any major look-out views or wide-open spaces, so Rachid was forced to rethink his bigger, dramatic shots.
I had to get creative with what the light was doing and the textures of the forest.
Rachid is grateful to the people on his journey and the people of Dominica he met along the way, and he’s excited to share these photos of a place that really hasn’t been exposed before.
It’s a story that hasn’t been told before, which is hard in this day in age.
To view more of Rachid’s work, visit rachidphoto.com.