Photography on two wheels (Part 1) - Why a bike is the perfect means of transport for a photographer


In the last decade there has been a steady and increasing number of people traveling by bicycle. At the same time, it is needless to say that there has been a massive growing number of aspiring photographers. However, there are not many people who are both, professional photographers and cycle travelers. For different reasons, mainly pragmatic ones, serious photography does not seem to be popular among cycle travelers; after all, not every one is willing to put the extra energy it takes to produce fine images, when what you are already doing all day is draining every single bit of energy you have. On the other hand, a bicycle does not seem to have much appeal as means of transportation to serious photographers loaded with heavy and expensive geat. However, over the years I have been able to make this combination of passions not only absolutely possible but totally worthwhile. In this article, I will go about explaining how it all comes together and most importantly, why both, in fact, complement each other perfectly.

Why cycling?

When you travel the world using public transport, you generally move from one point of interest to the next. You travel from place A to B to C and so on, over a relatively short period of time, each letter usually representing a landmark within the places you are visiting where you are most likely rubbing shoulders with thousands of other tourists/photographers. During the transition, you see the world outside out of a window happening at a pace that is faster than what your brain is actually able to absorb. If you travel during day, you are lucky enough to get at least a quick overall idea of how everything looks in that world that does not involve landmarks; if you travel by night, then you miss it altogether.

Having your own transportation helps a lot. It makes you independent, and that gives you the ability to stop whenever you want along the way, for as long as you want. However, the vehicle you have will condition significantly your behavior and with any motored vehicle you will most likely still end up repeating a slight variation (even if much better than being dependent) of the 'A to B to C ... ' pattern. This, with the very noticeable added costs of fuel and the mechanical complexities that comes with them. That is where the bicycle comes into place to offer its unique qualities.

The bicycle’s slow pace gives you the time you need to appreciate the roads you travel on a different and deeper level. The very nature of it allows you to fully immerse yourself in your journey. While your traveling experience might still be going from 'A to B...' the magic does not lie in 'A and/or B' alone anymore but in the new long transition between them. This has several implications.

The first one is that you get to develop a true understanding of the culture you are in, because now, not only you spend several days or even months experiencing daily life in it, but you also start to see parts of it that you wouldn’t if you limited yourself to its mere tourist attractions. You start coming across the authentic, the traditional, the originally local customs that have not been altered or distorted by the effects of other interests, like mass tourism. The second one, is that during all those days you spend cycling from place to place, your body necessarily make you stop several times along the way to take breaks to recover. You stop in small towns, villages unmarked in maps, service stations, remote settlements, as well as in nature itself. Therefore, you start developing a very intimate relationship with the local people you find on your way. Suddenly, you are now dealing with the authentic part of a culture and the environment surrounding it, rather than facing touts all the time approaching you out of interest in emptying your pockets.

But here's the most important: when local people see you passing by on your fully loaded bicycle, you trigger a myriad of feelings in them that range from innocent curiosity and amusement to surprise and perplexity or even pity and compassion. Whatever the case is, you get the genuine empathy and the added treatment that somebody passing by on a super Toyota Landcruiser or a BMW motorbike certainly wouldn’t get, at least not as easily. Most of the time, people will be willing to give you shelter, food, protection and care. They will also be willing to share stories, ask you things and open their hearts to you. On the other hand, when you are far from people, out in the wild, you have all the nature to yourself. You get to explore around as much as you wish at your own pace. You camp in unimaginable places where you can fully grasp the intensity and beauty of the natural world.

Finally, the last but no less important details: It is good for you! You’ll be fitter and stronger, both physically and mentally, than you have ever imagined. Plus, feeling healthy as a real athlete feels damn good even if that was not your original purpose, just as it was never for me. Also, the bicycle, opposite to say, a motorbike, 97% of the time can be fixed by yourself on the spot when something breaks without the need for towing or expensive parts or qualified repairs. It also allows you to get to places virtually unreachable by any other motored vehicle. And on top of it all, you’ll like this last one: it is cheap, as in dirt cheap. You use your body to move, your tent or the hospitality of others to sleep, you self-cater for food or eat somewhere when you are invited. If money is an issue, you can spend so little that you can go on and on for ages.


At this point in time where there are millions of potential photographers out there, traveling like you all over the world, the chances of photographing something unique become harder and harder. Famous places have been, and are being photographed billions of times under pretty much every conceivable atmospheric and/or social condition. While visiting the renowned landmarks of the world may be beautiful enough to make it worthwhile, your chances as a photographer to convey something original about them and provoke any impact are ever so limited, let alone avoiding clichés. After all, what are the odds of getting a unique shot of something like the Taj Mahal these days? As a photographer of this day and age, the need to stay out of the mainstream is the key to rediscover the world and to start finding original beauty in places away from the shot-to-exhaustion tourist attractions. Even remote, hard-to-get-to tribes, like those in the Omo Valley, have already been photographed ad-nauseam (while being awfully corrupted by its influence) and made an attraction themselves; by now, even these have become tourist attractions in their own way.

Given this irreversible state of affairs that will only grow worse, makes it even more relevant, now more than ever, to find beauty and interest somewhere else, in those places that very few people find interesting. It is along those long and neglected stretches between landmarks that you slowly transit with your bicycle, where the magic still remains pretty much untouched and ignored, offering unlimited photographic opportunities. On your slow-paced bicycle you have them all for yourself, right there waiting for you.


If there is anything that could be called a drawback about cycling as a photographer, it would be time. You need time to do this, the pace of the bicycle is slow, it takes time to get anywhere. In addition, the more you cycle, the more you will love to go slow, therefore, your 15 days holiday break from work will not really take you very far. As a photographer, many times you will reach a spectacular place, at the worst possible time of the day when the high sun will kill the beauty of an otherwise spectacular scenery or cast horrendous shadows on that face of the interesting characters you meet. So many times you will want to stay longer in that incredible village where you were invited to stay and that has captivated you so much but you have to leave if you expect to cycle to the border before your visa expires.

Another drawback which in my mind is subjective, is that cycle-traveling is not for anyone. At times, it can be a physically and mainly mentally exhausting experience, it sometimes drains every bit of energy and it takes a lot of physical and mental strength to get over the adversity you face. You are constantly put to test. Sometimes it gets so cruel that even in the most spectacular places you will not even fathom the idea of pulling out the camera and you will end up giving up photography in situations that if you were not so exhausted, you wouldn’t. However, the good news is that the body and the mind never stop growing stronger so the chances of that happening become fewer and farther apart.


Traveling the world by bicycle is possibly one of the most intense ways of traveling the world, for anyone looking to go deeper in the knowledge of a foreign land and dig deep below the surface of a new culture. It allows you to travel independently and at your own pace, without the hassles and huge costs of motored vehicles, while allowing yourself to fully immerse in the culture you are visiting. The very nature of traveling this way puts you in a very unique and intimate situation with the world around you, both the natural and the cultural one. You are exposed and vulnerable but it is this vulnerability what pushes you to connect with everything and everyone around you. This is priceless as a photographer, for you will find yourself in a plethora of truly unique situations that wouldn't be possible any other way. The people you photograph will not be simply subjects anymore but the people who will most likely be your family and friends away from your loved ones. Most important, the greatest reward of all this will hopefully be, becoming a better human being before becoming a better photographer. This is where both activities converge to complement each other to make it the ultimate travel photography experience.

To be continued. Read part 2 to find out why the right camera equipment is so important when travelling by bike.


Originally from Argentina, the architect and photographer travels the most remote regions of the world by bicycle. The portraiture of people in their environment and the dignified portrayal of human existence is one of his photographic focuses.

Take a look at the complete portfolio of Nicolas Marino.


ns · 21.07.2020