Akela.World, Travelling Photographers | Adventure-gram

This awesome Austrian family are doing things differently

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All photos by Akela.World

“I think everybody dreams of making a world trip, or something like this,” says Leander Nardin, his face slightly pixelated on my phone screen as he dials in from Eastern Siberia. Lots of people dream of making a world trip, sure. But not everyone finds themselves driving a converted 1977 Mercedes truck halfway across the world.

Yet this is exactly what Austrian photographer Leander, his girlfriend Maria and their six-year-old son Lennox have been doing for that past year and a bit. “I think it started five years ago,” says Leander, explaining the genesis of this crazy journey. “We went to Thailand when Lennox was one year old. We just went with backpacks for a few weeks but you know when you’re traveling with children, you have lots of stuff. It was way too exhausting and complicated.”

“He was just laughing, he said: ‘No mechanic is coming into the desert.’”

“Our dream destination was always New Zealand,” he explains, but after the Thailand experience they realised that it would be difficult enough as a couple, let alone with a young kid. “Flights only and the campervan for two or three months in New Zealand is about 10 or 15 thousand euros.

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Maria, Lennox, Leander and Akela.

“So I came up with the idea to buy a small bus and drive all the way down to New Zealand. Maria was like ‘man that’s a crazy idea, it’s bullshit’. But somehow it worked out.” So far this ‘bullshit’ idea has taken them almost 40,000km, and through some of the most incredible landscapes on earth. “My favourite has definitely been Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia,” says Maria. “Kyrgyzstan felt a little bit like home, like Austria – all the beautiful lakes and mountains”.

Follow the family on Instagram and you can see instantly why they have no regrets about their decision to pack up and go. Leander is a talented snapper, whose photos include portraits of interesting locals (“the eagle hunters in Kyrgyzstan were people I always wanted to shoot”, he says), and incredible landscapes. In fact, he says, “the only thing I regret is that we travelled through Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan way too fast.”

Certainly on the surface, their life looks pretty perfect. Leander’s shots include plenty of Lennox, who’s an almost unbelievably photogenic kid with a cheeky smile and a mop of blonde hair. As we speak, he occasionally chips in in impressively fluent English.

There are also a lot of photos of what they refer to as “the fourth member of our family,” the truck itself. “The truck is named Akela because he’s our leading wolf,” explains Maria. Like the leader of the pack from the Jungle Book, “he protects us when it’s hot outside, when it’s raining, when it’s cold outside”.

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Tajikistan, home to the highest peaks in former-Soviet Central Asia.

However, Akela is not always the infallible guiding force the guys might have hoped for. “When he doesn’t work,” says Maria, “it’s pretty shitty.” But this is the great thing about Leander, Maria and the Akela.World Instagram account and blog they run, and what makes them really worth following.

They don’t try to project the always-perfect #VanLife cliché, they’re more real than that. Neither of them are about to pretend that life on the road doesn’t come with problems, and their account is full of pictures of the truck breaking down at inopportune moments. “Engine overheated with outside temperatures of -10 degree Celsius!! Really?? In the middle of nowhere in Siberia – on a Sunday!” reads one post.

Leander tells another story of a breakdown in rural Iran, “300 kilometres from the last big city. There are not many people on this road so we just waited and stopped a truck driver. Truck drivers actually know about other trucks. But my Farsi is pretty shitty so it was quite difficult. We figured out it’s a big problem, and he couldn’t help us. I asked him if he could call a mechanic. He was just laughing, he said: ‘No mechanic is coming into the desert.’”

As well as the truck the couple also worry about Lennox’s wellbeing. He’s homeschooled, and life on the road has been great for his English, which far outstrips the level you’d expect from a regular 6-year-old Austrian kid. But at the same time, Maria says, “meeting other children on the road is not the same like having friends at home. It’s only for a very short time and language is always a problem.

“He’s missing all his friends. We are two adults so we can speak on the same level, but Lennox is alone, and he misses his friends.”

But for all that life on the road can be tough, overall the experience has been a massively positive one according to Leander. “It’s more intense, for sure,” he says when I ask if it’s brought them closer together. “But more so in positive than in negative ways I think.”

Leander and Lennox take a spin on the motorbike.

Even back in Austria, the family was adventurous. And having brought a motorbike, snowboards, and even Leander’s wingsuit with them, they get out into the mountains at every available opportunity. But for every shot they post of skiing in Japan, or hiking up hills in Mongolia, there’s something self-deprecating to bring things their Instagram account back to earth.

“Let’s start with a kistchy sunset at one of Borneo’s beautiful beaches,” reads one post – which sums up exactly why we love Akela.World and why you should follow them. In an environment characterised by ‘hashtag influencers’ on ‘hashtag adventures’, these guys are the real deal.

They’re going all the places we wish we could get to, and taking better photos than we ever could. But they’re not taking any of it – or themselves – too seriously.

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A shot from the Siberian leg of the journey.

Follow Akela.World on Instagram here, check out their Akela.World blog here and their profile on Stocksy here.

To read the rest of Mpora’s Remote Issue head here

To read the rest of the Adventure-gram series go here

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My Life In Pictures | Josh Cunningham, Adventure Photographer

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My Life In Pictures | Adventure Photographer Josh Cunningham’s Favourite Shots

In 2015, writer and photographer Josh spent 11 months cycling 22,000km across 26 countries

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Photography by Josh Cunningham

If you’re browsing the internet one day and you stumble across an epic shot of someone riding their bicycle across big landscapes underneath big skies, check the credit as there’s a chance it will have been taken by one Joshua Cunningham. Formerly a full-time editorial member of Cyclist Magazine and Bikes Etc, in 2015 Josh spent 11 months cycling 22,000km across 26 countries; starting in London and ending up in Hong Kong. His massive, stuff dreams are made of, adventure is documented in his book ‘Escape By Bike’.

Prior to starting his career in media, where he’s worked as a writer, a photographer, and a marketing consultant, Josh lived in Belgium as a full-time athlete. Originally hailing from the seaside town of Eastbourne, he now resides in that big old smog known as London.

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Pictured: Josh Cunningham, taking a break from riding his bike.

I studied A-Level photography, but after college I barely picked up a camera for five years. Working as a writer, and as such spending a lot of time working alongside photographers, it was then that I my rediscovered my appreciation of it. When I decided to ride to Hong Kong, it felt like the perfect opportunity to start shooting again, and so I bought an entry level setup just a week before leaving; a Canon 550d with 17-85mm and 50mm lenses.

I shoot where my interests take me. The outdoors, people on bikes, landscapes, and general travel stuff. Living in a major city like London, I’m always looking for special moments that appear amid the chaos  and so always have a little Sony RX100 ii at the ready. Generally speaking, I love looking for contrasts – be it in context, scale, light, texture, colour, emotion – and you see contrasts everywhere, regardless of the subject matter.

“Being somewhere new forces you to look at your surroundings in a different, more observant way”

When I was at school, a friend and I did a month-long cycle tour through Europe during our summer holidays. The trip shed a light upon the richness of experience that bike travel offers. Life then ran its course for a bit, but I always knew I would one day embark on a long-haul cycling adventure, and Eurasia – with the variety of human and physical geography within it – was the perfect location.

Being somewhere new forces you to look at your surroundings in a different, more observant way. This is obviously really beneficial as a photographer. I feel like this ‘enlightenment’ can follow you back home sometimes too, and can help refresh the way you look at your own street, workplace, commute, or whatever. I take a lot of inspiration from travelling.

My heroes’ work leaves me wondering “How on earth did they see that?” I look looking at the work of people like Harry Gruyaert, the painter Edward Hopper, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Steve McCurry, William Egglestone and Martin Parr.

There’s a collection of images shot by the explorer Wilfred Thesiger from his time in the Hindu Kush, documenting the mountains and its people during the mid 20th century, that I wish I’d taken. They provide a portal into a part of the world that is very much off-limit these days, but which has such history and natural beauty. I’d have loved to have been a member of those exploring parties – and shot some of the photos.

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Shot on the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan.

Location: Pamir Highway, Tajikistan. The approaching storm and desolate nature of the landscape are quite intimidating, but the light is incredible, and both the cyclist in the road and fence to the right – the Chinese border – provide a real sense of scale. I had dreamed of visiting the Pamirs for years, and scenes like this made the wait worthwhile.

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Shot on a 1,000km long stretch of road in southern China, a journey that had it all; from the urban chaos of megacities to the rain forested mountains of Yunnan with rural scenes like this one scattered in between.

I followed this road through southern China for over 1,000km; a journey that took me from the rain forested slopes of the mountainous Yunnan province, towards the sky scrapers and urban chaos of China’s megacities. I like the way this image merges both rural and urban elements, as it is indicative of the spectrum of experience that this portion of the journey offered.

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Young monks play on the steps of a monastery in Kaza, India.

Young monks playing on the steps of a monastery in Kaza, India. I just love the playfulness and dynamism of the children’s body shapes, contrasted against the sharp lines and maturity of the monastery. Both are equally colourful though, which is an apt description of this culturally Tibetan valley in the far reaches of Himachal Pradesh.

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A young boy comes over to investigate during a puncture repair stop in the Wakhan valley of Tajikistan.

A young boy offering to help with puncture repairs in the Wakhan valley, Tajikistan. The contact with local people that bike travel offers is without doubt one of its biggest draws; not a day goes by without some sort of interaction, and most days contain many. The way he’s crouched between us inquisitively, as we fix our bikes, epitomises the intimacy of such interactions.

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Beautifully coloured skies over the Kyzylkum desert in Uzbekistan.

Riding through the steppes and deserts of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan was an incredible experience. The unchanging, infinitely flat landscape actually made for quite an introspective journey, but I like this image because looking at it just makes me wish I was there, about to set up my sent underneath that incredible sky, with nobody around for miles.

You can follow Josh on Instagram @coshjunningham, and learn more about him on his website joshuacunningham.info. His book, ‘Escape by Bike: Adventure Cycling, Bikepacking, and Touring Off-Road’, is available at Waterstones, WHSmiths, Stanfords, various independents, and Amazon.

Check out the rest of the My Life In Pictures series here. 

You can read the rest of this month’s Remote issue here.

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#JobyPhoto | Your Best Photos So Far

The standard of entries to this competition is seriously impressive. Here are some highlights

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A few weeks back we teamed up with our sister sites (including Dirt, Sidewalk, Cooler and Surf Europe) to set a challenge to our readers: Submit your best photos using the hashtag #JobyPhoto and the best one would win a goody bag of Joby mobile tripod accessories and £500 in cold, hard cash.

“Turns out our readers are a seriously talented bunch. The standard is ridiculously high.”

Turns out our readers are a seriously talented bunch. There have been over 1,200 entries so far and the standard is ridiculously high. Here are a few highlights, chosen by the editorial team here at Mpora and photo editors from across the Factory Media network.

This isn’t a shortlist of finalists because there’s still time to enter – the competition doesn’t close until next Monday (23rd October). And remember, you don’t have to go out and take a new photo, you can just tag an old one with #JobyPhoto to get your entry in. This is just a bit of inspiration to get your creative juices flowing…

1) This Great Mountain Biking Shot from @TristanTinn

A post shared by Tristan Tinn (@tristantinn) on

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2) This Classy BMX Photo by @anthonypearson63

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3) This Moody Surfing Lifestyle Shot by @ewanthackerphoto

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4) This Nighttime Shot by @fodmtb

A post shared by Forest of Dean MTB (@fodmtb) on

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5) This Sketchy-Looking Scrambling Shot @_kanderson_

A post shared by Katy Anderson (@_kanderson_) on

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Sarah Meurle’s Best Photographs | My Life In Pictures

The Swedish skater and photographer talks us through her five favourite pictures

Sarah Meurle is a Swedish skateboarder; her other great passion is photography. She shoots skateboarding from time to time but her photographic work bends in a far more original and experimental direction. Here, she talks us through her five favourite pictures, and tells us why she believes coming from a Nordic nation, with long dark bleak winters, has not hindered her creativity. If anything the opposite is true.

Sarah Meurle Credit: Arto Saari for Nike

Sarah Meurle Credit: Arto Saari for Nike

The first camera I ever had was a gift from my dad’s friend. It was this blue plastic camera from Camel, (yes, the cigarette brand). But around the age of twelve or so I remember I had one that was a Kodak which shot APS film. At 16 when I was at the Bryggeriet high school I studied photography and I bought a digital camera, a Nikon d80. I used that for two years and then my friend Alana Paterson gave me her old Nikon f100 which brought me back to analogue.

I am more interested in the overall feeling of a bigger portion of photographs than the subject itself. I enjoy abstractions and the perception of light, sometimes transformed by the camera, and sometimes I take it a step further and use other techniques in the darkroom in order to leave room for “mistakes”, I do a lot of works that are cameraless as well.

“I enjoy abstractions and the perception of light…”

I’ve been studying photography for three years now. And there’s really nothing more inspiring than looking at your friends’ works, talking about it and helping each other evolve. I get waves of inspiration where I get a lot of ideas, and sometimes none.

Travelling and spending some days alone can help to gather thoughts sometimes and be very inspiring for taking pictures. I spend a lot of time going to exhibitions and looking at books as well.

Sarah Meurle Credit: Arto Saari for Nike

Sarah Meurle Credit: Arto Saari for Nike

I saw an artist talk with Rinko Kawauchi a couple of years ago, since then I’ve been a big fan of her work. Her book “Illuminance” is amazing. I really enjoy some of Wolfgang Tillmann’s work, and Walead Beshty has some great ideas when it comes to thinking in new ways around photography.

A photo I wish I’d taken? The first photo that pops up into my mind is one made by Rinko Kawauchi that’s a picture of a tree in front of a cloud. The two forms fits perfectly together, as if she stumbled upon this beautiful coincidence and captured it. So simple but so good.

“Having less options or possibilities can also help your creativity.”


Shooting skateboarding it can be a challenge to live in a Nordic country. You have less time, and darker and colder seasons where it’s harder to shoot outside. But in general I’ve never thought of it as a problem, having less options or possibilities can also help your creativity. Sweden is also quite good in terms of supporting artists with scholarships for projects, I think that’s an advantage and eventually I hope that can be something I can take part of.

“The unexpected and the camera’s ability to make the invisible visible is very interesting to me. Credit: Sarah Meurle

I was wandering around, just observing and saw a shade appearing that made this roadblock look even more three-dimensional. What I like the most about the photo is that once I processed it I noticed there was more in the picture than what my eye could see when I took it. The somewhat unexpected and the camera’s ability to make the invisible visible is very interesting to me. Shot with my Yashica T5. Natural light.

"This is a photo taken around the corner from where I live in Gothenburg." Credit: Sarah Meurle

“This is a photo taken around the corner from where I live in Gothenburg.” Credit: Sarah Meurle

This is a photo taken around the corner from where I live in Gothenburg. I’ve passed by this light reflection many times without a camera, without a friend, and just enjoyed the vision. On this particular day Alexis Sablone was staying at my house and we passed it once again, with a little stop and I took the shot with the Yashica T5, natural light.

"This is a cameraless photograph." Credit: Sarah Meurle

“This is a cameraless photograph.” Credit: Sarah Meurle

This is a cameraless photograph. An abstraction of light I created with the use of 120mm film that is manipulated by me in a dark room. I made a series of these printed in a large format, if you look at the negatives themselves it looks like there is nothing on there, but once they are scanned you realise there is a whole world of colours and shapes hiding in there.

“Here’s a recent skate photo that I shot during a day of skating in Malmö with Poetic Collective.” Credit: Sarah Meurle

Here’s a recent skate photo that I shot during a day of skating in Malmö with Poetic Collective. We had a mission to shoot as much as we could from morning til evening, I was the assigned photographer, this is Samuel Norgren doing a b/s Wallride on the new Tony Cragg sculptures at the plaza. I shot this whole story both analogue and digital to be able to get a mix of both in there. The fisheye picture in the foreground is shot with a Panasonic gh4, and the background is shot with my Nikon f100, that tends to give a bit of light leaks every now and then. (50 mm lens).

"This one is taken during a skate trip in Berlin with Poetic Collective." Credit: Sarah Meurle

“This one is taken during a skate trip in Berlin with Poetic Collective.” Credit: Sarah Meurle

This one is taken during a skate trip in Berlin with Poetic Collective. We were staying in an apartment that had this great view over the street beneath us. Me on the balcony, Klas Andersson doing a b/s powerslide aligning nicely with the lines of the streets asphalt patches. Nikon f100, 50 mm, natural light.

You can see more of Sarah Meurle’s work at her website sarahmeurle.com

While her Instagram is more focused on skateboarding; @smeurle_

Her next exhibition is with her class in April 2018, at Röda Sten, Gothenburg and she has a new graphic coming out within the next few days for Poetic Collective, which is based on a photogram she made.

Thanks to Nike SB

To read the rest of the Dark Issue head here

To read the rest of the My Life In Pictures series head here

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Thomas Windisch, Photographer of Abandoned Places | Adventure-gram

Finding beauty amid decay and darkness

There’s something captivating about abandoned places. Ruined spots that were once spaces of work or play, that were once filled with voices and laughter, now eerily quiet and fallen into decay and disrepair.

Perhaps it’s because they remind us that nothing lasts forever, how impermanent our time on earth really is, and how fleeting even this twenty first century iteration of modern human civilisation is. Or maybe we just like to see mucked up stuff? Or nature fighting back after all we’ve put her through.

“I rediscover places mankind has forgotten and abandoned. In our hectic world, they’re places with great mood and serenity…”

From leisure parks and spinning mills to shipyards, asylums, and hotels, Thomas Windisch likes taking pictures of abandoned places as his instagram feed testifies. We asked him why? “I slid into it somehow. I started photography like most people did, flowers, animals and so on…then you buy a new 50mm lens and ask a friend if she would model for your first portrait shoot. When you got some knowledge you realise where your interests are and you focus on that.”

Capture the flag Chernobyl-style. Credit: Thomas Windisch

Capture the flag Chernobyl-style. Credit: Thomas Windisch

“I just didn’t want to take the 17 millionth photograph of a naked woman or do fashion/beauty shoots all my life. There are many photographers out there doing a far better job than me in those genres. And I always wanted to travel around the world and experience some adventures; so urban exploration was the perfect genre for me.”

“I just didn’t want to take the 17 millionth photograph of a naked woman or do fashion/beauty shoots all my life.”

“I always loved to explore the world around me but nowadays is not the easiest time for discoverers – unless you’re a particle physicist, deep sea researcher or something like that. So what I do is a great opportunity to rediscover places mankind has forgotten and abandoned. In our hectic world, they’re places with great mood and serenity and that’s what I try to conserve in my pictures, like little time capsules.”

Nature reclaiming the bar stools

Nature reclaiming the bar stools. Credit: Thomas Windisch

And what does he think the people that like looking at his pictures get out of it? “For my viewers I think it’s about seeing scenery they don’t see in everyday life. They can imagine their own stories, feelings and sometimes memories projected onto them. If 20 people tell me their thoughts on the same picture, they would say 20 different things. And that’s just great.”

Is there beauty in ruins or is it mostly dark? “It’s what we call beauty in decay – every location, especially the ones with great architecture where nature is taking over are really beautiful and possess a great mood of light. There are of course also creepy and/or dark ones…

An abandoned ballroom

Plants on the dancefloor. Credit: Thomas Windisch

A decaying military blast door. Credit: Thomas Windisch

And why does he think fairgrounds and amusement parks particularly captivate us so much? “I assume when people think of amusement parks they remember them as places of great joy, where children laugh and everyone is happy. Abandoned amusement parks are somewhat creepy, like in horror movies. You’re not sure if a horror clown is about to jump out at you out of nowhere, or if power is about to return to a merry-go-round as if by magic. And there is this absolute silence which is the exact opposite from a “normal” amusement park. So not the cosiest place to spend the night alone for sure.”

To see more of Thomas’ work head to his instagram

To read the rest of Mpora’s Dark Issue head here

And to read the rest of the Adventure-gram series head here

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