Have you ever looked at the work of a good landscape photographer and wondered how they found such beautiful places to shoot? Or would you like to travel to a new place to do landscape photography but are unsure how to find the best locations?
You are not alone. It takes work to find the best locations and most landscape photographers go through this process. The tips in this article will help you.
1. Look at the work of other photographers
The first step to finding great places to take landscape photos is to look at the work of other photographers. There are so many great photographers on 500px, Instagram, and Flickr that it should be relatively easy to find some who have worked in the areas that you have in mind.
Looking at the work of other photographers helps you in two ways:
- It helps you find the most iconic, popular, and spectacular places to take photos.
- It gives you an idea of the potential of a place for the type of landscape photography you have in mind (for example, perhaps you are looking for somewhere to do long exposure photography, or perhaps you like to work in black and white).
It’s a good idea to look for the work of a local photographer. Locals have a huge advantage over visitors. They know the area better and are familiar with photogenic but relatively unknown locations. They may have lived there for years and built up a substantial body of work. Their portfolios contain photos taken at different times of the year. All these things help build a picture in your mind of the location and its potential for landscape photography.
I went through this process when I traveled to northern Spain last year. Looking at the work of local photographers helped me find locations like this.
2. Go out and explore
Once you’re on location, curiosity is the key to finding interesting things and places to photograph. If you’ve done your research you already know the most iconic and popular locations – they are probably what attracted you in the first place.
But what about other locations? The not so well known ones? You can only find those by exploring. It’s only the desire to see what lies around the next corner, or where a lonely road takes you that allows you to find these places.
I made this landscape photo while walking along footpaths near my parent’s house. This is not a well-known area and you’ll struggle to find other photos taken here. Yet it has a lot of potential and I was able to make photos like this.
3. Make a bucket list of great locations
As you look at other photographer’s work and read about landscape photography on websites like Digital Photography School you are bound to come across interesting places and locations.
My suggestion is that you set up a spreadsheet or word processing file that contains a list of all the places you might like to visit one day. The world’s a big place and there are a lot of photos to look at online. If you don’t make a note when you find something interesting you may forget it and never find it again.
As time goes by you can go back to your list and research the places that seem most interesting to you. For example, let’s say you have the city of Venice on your bucket list. Whenever you find an interesting photo or a good article about photography in Venice, add it to your file. Then, when the time comes that you finally get to go, you’ve already done most of the research required and have a good idea of what you’d like to achieve.
Make your list
Another approach is to write down a list of the places you’d like to visit. Don’t censor the list – they are ideas, not certainties. Then you can research them and make notes as you find out more information. This gives you time to think about how much time you need on location, and how to fit that into your schedule. You can think about time and money and gradually build your plans.
Places on my bucket list include the mountains of Torre del Paines National Park in Patagonia, the Italian Dolomites, and the desert landscapes in the southwestern United States. How about you?
The Picos de Europa in northern Spain, where this photo was taken, were also on my list.
4. Find your personal vision
One of the dangers of looking at the work of other photographers is that it creates a desire to take photos of the same places as other photographers. There’s nothing wrong with capturing photos of iconic locations, and sometimes it’s just an itch that has to be scratched before going on and finding the lesser known places. But the danger is that you forget to look elsewhere for good places to take photos.
Photographer Cole Thompson has an interesting idea he calls photographic abstinence. He never looks at the work of other photographers as he wants to find his own locations and his own way of seeing the landscape. There’s a lot of merit to this idea and it’s something you might like to try for yourself. It’s the opposite approach to the advice given at the beginning of this article, and it may work well for you.
Last year I visited my family in Norfolk, England. Look up the work of local photographers and you’ll find lots of photos of sand dunes, wide beaches, and beach huts – the typical landscape of the local area.
I stayed away from those places and walked around with my camera through the landscapes around the village where my family left. It wasn’t intentional to start, but as I did so I found that I was building a body of work photographing the elements of the landscape that were personal to me. I was ignoring the iconic locations, the ones you see photos of for sale in local galleries, and photographing the landscape in a much more personal and interpretive way.
I ended up taking photos like the one above, and this one.
Wherever you go to take landscape photos, and no matter how well known and iconic some of the locations there are, I encourage you to look for and find your own personal vision.
These ideas are just some of the ways that you can find interesting landscapes to photograph. Do you have any more? I’d love to hear them – please let me know in the comments.
Andrew is the author of the ebook The Black & White Landscape.