Born and raised in the southeast of France, Lyes Kachaou found inspiration in the natural beauty of his surroundings. Now a professional outdoor photographer, Lyes travels the world to explore remote places and live real adventures.
Having recently worked with international brands such as Canon, Atlantic Airways, Sony Mobile, and Philips to help him tell a compelling story through his photos, Lyes also works through commissioned photography projects to create content and social media promotion as he continues to find unique and spectacular angles of the land and sea. Through his lens, every wave and snow-dusted mountain peak crests and rolls with an impalpable magic.
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Sasha Frate: You take a “moody tones” and evocative approach with your photography. Why do you like/prefer this perspective for your photos?
Lyes Kachaou: I always say that “I don’t like blue skies”, but it’s not entirely true. I don’t like shooting at noon when it’s a sunny day because there is too much contrast. When it’s cloudy, everything becomes dramatic and the textures of the landscape pop out. I find it way more beautiful and peaceful because no one is out when it’s not sunny.
SF: Where is home for you, and has spending more time there made you appreciate your home more, or has it only instilled a greater sense of wanderlust?
LK: I’m from France, and I was based on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea since last November. My wife and I moved to Reunion Island—it’s in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Moving to a tropical island 6000 miles from friends and our families was a huge change. My last trip was last March in Morocco and it doesn’t seem like so long ago. The adaptation to a new lifestyle is definitely the reason. Now, I can’t wait to travel again when it is possible.
SF: You’ve captured some amazing waterfalls in Ile de la Reunion. Can you share a bit about this particular trip? And, besides this location, where is another favorite spot for the “most epic” or “fun” waterfalls that you’ve visited?
LK: Reunion is such a unique place and also has so many similarities with Hawaii. Both are volcanic islands separated by 10,000 miles, but the magma that erupted to create them has the same composition. This is one of the main reasons why we moved here; we feel like we live in Hawaii. There are thousands of different waterfalls here—some of them are ephemeral and they only last a day after a rainstorm. It’s incredible to discover secret waterfalls that only locals know, and my favorite is located in the Takamaka Valley. It’s only visible by helicopter and accessible by canyoning. Another epic waterfall with a viewpoint accessible for everyone is Langevin waterfall.
SF: The cliffs and ridges of Hawaii’s islands never get old. They look like something “out of this world”; untouched and so wild in form and beauty. Aerial shots seem to capture this terrain the best, and you have a great series from the islands. What type of aerial adventures did you take to capture the visual story, and what were some of the “behind the scenes” adventures of your story as you experienced it all first-hand?
LK: It’s so beautiful there that my wife almost cried when she first saw the Napali Coast. The day before our helicopter flight, we went on a catamaran trip and we saw these huge cliffs and sharp ridges. I immediately knew that the pictures would be incredible, and I was so excited by the flight that I couldn’t get some sleep. I chose to wait for the sunset and have the plane doors off so as not to have the reflection of the windows. The main risk of doing it late during the day is that the clouds can block the view, but no risk no reward, right? It was by far one of the best moments of my life.
SF: You had an amazing opportunity to swim with dolphins in Hawaii’s oceans. Do you often do underwater photography, and how did the dolphins respond to your interaction and the camera?
LK: It felt really peaceful to swim with the dolphins. We were guided by a certified marine biologist and she explained to us that when the dolphins rest during the morning, half of their brain is sleeping and the other half is focused on following the leader who is in charge of being aware of potential predators. She told us not to swim towards them but wait for them to come close to us if they felt comfortable. They went back and forth close to us, and it’s really incredible to spend time watching another magnificent species.
That was my first time doing underwater photography with a real camera in an underwater housing, and it went really well. This is something that I want to do more in the future, for sure.
SF: A couple of years ago, you shared that your top four “bucket list” locations were Iceland, Lofoten, Dolomites, and Kauai. How did visiting these places help to shape/inform your next bucket list, and what places are on that list?
LK: I mostly traveled for photography assignments on the west side of the world. I love the cold weather and the high mountains, and I went multiple times to Iceland, Lofoten, and the Dolomites; these places feels like home.
I was not attracted to warm weather in the past, but Kauai made me change my mind. I would not have imagined living on a tropical island in shorts all year.
If I had to pick three new places for the next trips, I would choose Thailand, Indonesia, and New Zealand. And I’m definitely going back to Namibia to explore the desert!
SF: You’ve visited a lot of Insta-famous destinations around the world, yet you’ve managed to capture some beautiful and unique takes on these heavily photographed spots! Do you have any specific personal guidelines, techniques, or “tricks” for creating something new out of the otherwise “overdone”?
LK: The insta-famous destinations are well-known for a reason—they are beautiful! The big trap in photography is to be influenced too much by what you see. We all have a different way of seeing the world and all this incoming information is leading us to the same way of taking pictures.“Try to find your style” is the best advice that I can give to an upcoming artist. For me, I like to bring a human touch to my photography to get a visual scale of the landscape and share the freedom I feel when I’m outside on an adventure.
If I gave a camera to five people in a spot that they had never seen before on social media, they will bring to the table five amazing different pictures. What I’m trying to explain here is that I’m trying to keep my perspective and my way to watch things. Sometimes a zoomed detail in the landscape is more powerful than the overdone perspective that you have seen millions of times.
SF: Some of your adventures look like they’re not exactly for the faint of heart. Arriving to some of these incredible sites often requires a lot of prep and extensive trekking. Yet others appear less remote and challenging, and are rather accessible. Can you share your most challenging-to-access and surprisingly accessible favorite spots you’ve traveled to?
LK: There are so many places that are gifted by the beauty of the landscape and you can be amazed just by driving on the road. The west side of the U.S., Norway, and Iceland are incredible for people who don’t enjoy trekking with heavy backpacks. Some spots in the Alps are relatively accessible and also feel remote. With one hour of hiking, you will be in the wild.
The most challenging activity that I have done was when I went to a remote frozen waterfall in the Alps for a mountain gear company campaign. It took us two hours of hiking in deep snow and five hours of taking pictures on a rope forty-five feet from the ground. Of course, it was another two hours back to the parking lot in the dark. It was such a unique experience; the only noise was the sound of the crampons and the ice axes.
SF: In a “Covid world”, what would you say are your top three to five places to “get lost”, wander, and explore in nature? And in a world where Covid has subsided, what are your top three places to connect, meet, and learn about local cultures from/with the locals?
LK: In a “Covid world” where we can travel, I would go back to Norway, Iceland, and Canada to get lost in the wild. It’s easy to be alone there. Going back to Namibia to see the wildlife would be incredible, too.
If Covid disappears, I would go back to Morocco to enjoy a homemade mint tea and a tajine (typical meal) with locals. I’d also make my way to Portugal—everyone is friendly and you can easily share the local culture.