Photoholic couple goes for camper van life

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Photos by Dennis Murillo

Somewhere along a provincial road in Bicol, a non-descript van can be seen running along its path. In the driver’s seat, former office worker Dennis Murrillo is set on beating the first light of the day to capture a picture-perfect moment of the sun casting its light onto a majestic mountain ridge. His wife, Celine, sits on the passenger seat and is similarly hoping to get a snapshot of a bird or two before these elusive, winged creatures fly to their next destination.

Lately, this has become the routine of the millennial couple. Instead of rushing to work and trying to beat the bundy clock at the start of the day and labor through a grueling eight-hour job in one of the cramped buildings in Mandaluyong, an electrical engineer turned serious nature/landscape photographer Dennis has found himself living an idyllic life in the province of Sorsogon during the pandemic.

Married couple Dennis and Celine Murillo enjoys the great outdoors in pursuit of their passion for photography and caring for the environment. Nature photographer Dennis Murillo composes his shot of Vera Falls in Malinao, Albay.

It was Celine’s convincing that finally made him give in to his dream of living the camper van life. While he was tied to a corporate job, Celine worked in her own time as most of her work is internet-based.

It was in 2016 when he started to dream of owning a camper van. The following year, he started photography and that led him to many familiar tourist destinations in the country, mostly in Luzon.

Taking the right shot

Dennis’ love for the mountains took him to their peaks. The abundant flora, forest beds, and gigantic trees provided the perfect foreground and background to his photos.

His style is evocative. In one of his vlogs on his YouTube channel, Dennis shares his preference for taking more than just a snapshot of an already breathtaking landscape. He wants his viewers to feel a certain kind of emotion whenever they see his work.

With the use of his camera and filters, a hidden falls somewhere in Sorsogon looks otherwordly. The surrounding wall of dark rock that esconces the waterfall is set off by a white, cloudlike formation at the bottom of the falls. This resembles the hazy smoke or mist, only this one is denser and fluffier. At one point, the viewer could not help but think of a mystical entity lurking around if only the naked eye could see.

If it had not been for his camera’s settings and with the aid of filters, the shot would have looked like another picture-perfect frame of a waterfall with lush surroundings and its water cascading down the stream.

Dennis uses a full-frame mirrorless camera, a telephoto/long lens, a wide lens, an ND Filter set, and a carbon fiber tripod for his photography. He has also invested in a mini drone, a small vlogging camera, and a small tripod, all of which fit in his sturdy, all-weather hiking bag.

This nature photographer always emphasizes composition in his vlogs. “A good composition for me consists of balanced compositional elements. Good lighting can also make or break a composition but it’ll still depend on what the photographer tries to express in his/her photographs,” he shared.

“I really like the adventures that landscape photography can bring to someone. It’s the thrill, excitement, and sometimes disappointment, every time I look for a composition or wait for the right light to come. That fuels my passion for landscape photography,” Dennis mused.

Eli and the pandemic

His traveling days suddenly came to a halt. The pandemic happened in 2020, and the lockdown is not known to be generally kind to most people. The wanderlust in Dennis undoubtedly had been affected by the then seemingly never-ending cycle of lockdowns. It was not uncommon to feel dissatisfied.

“I was earning more than enough but wasn’t able to do what I love, (which is) photography. So, when the opportunity to choose whether to stay on my eight-hour office job or relocate to the province and be able to do landscape photography again but with just enough money to live, I found it easy to choose the latter,” Dennis shared to Tony&Nick.

With this realization, he started to build their camper van in 2021. Eli, the camper van, is born. Within Eli’s confines are the basic requirements of a modern nomadic lifestyle. A wooden slab serves as a working and eating table. Their cooking essentials and equipment are neatly stashed in one of the compartments. At night, the sofa turns into a bed.

This year, Dennis and Celine finally hit the road in their trusty Eli. It has been a conversation starter for a lot of people whose curiosities were aroused once they take a peek into their van.

“It’s easy because I’m now doing what I love more often. It’s difficult because, I don’t have the same money in my pocket when I was in an office job,” Dennis shared.

This lifestyle is not without its inconveniences. Unlimited potable water, Dennis said, is one thing that they had to give up. Initially, they had trouble with access to the toilet until they bought a portable unit.

In March, they again had to adjust to rising fuel prices due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. Diesel prices have gone up by as much as P80 per liter. It is a luxury they cannot afford. Most Filipinos, in fact, cannot afford it.

Dennis and Celine, however, found another way to quench their wanderlust and their love for nature and wildlife. There is also a bigger reason why they lead their current lifestyle and why they document their adventures.

“I’d like my viewers to be inspired to go out and shoot landscape photography, to explore nature and fall in love with its beauty. By doing so, I believe that they will unconsciously start caring more about the environment. That’s also one of the reasons why I went into landscape photography. I find the natural world so beautiful and want others to experience this through my photos,” shared Dennis.

These days, Dennis and Celine travel light with the most basic of their shooting equipment and foldable bikes. On certain days, they leave Eli on their backyard back in Sorsogon.

“Our next major step, once fuel prices normalize, will be crossing to Visayas down to Mindanao and wander around on a camper van. But for now, we just plan to go to beautiful places here in Bicol, either in our camper van or in our folding bicycles,” Dennis said.

Like many creatives and free spirits, Dennis and Celine are living life undeterred.

Please go to https://www.youtube.com/c/DennisMurillo for more of their photos, videos, and adventures.

Image credits: Dennis Murrillo