Have you ever looked at the work of great landscape photographers and wondered how they manage to find such amazing locations? Or are you simply looking to do landscape photography in a new area but aren’t quite sure how to identify the best areas to shoot?
Either way, you’re not alone. Finding the best landscape photography locations is a challenge, and I’m not going to lie: It takes real work. There’s no magical shortcut that’ll help you determine an array of amazing locations in seconds; instead, you’ll need to spend time doing research and narrowing down your options.
That said, I do have a handful of tips to help you pick the perfect areas to shoot. In this article, I explain how you can identify new locations, and I also discuss the importance of approaching each location from your own original perspective.
Let’s dive right in!
1. Look at the work of other photographers
The first step to finding great places to take landscape photos is to explore images by other photographers. There are so many great shooters on sites like 500px, Instagram, and Flickr that it should be relatively easy to find folks who have already captured images in the areas that you have in mind.
Now, viewing work on photo-sharing sites helps you in two ways:
- It allows you to identify the most iconic, popular, and spectacular places to take photos.
- It gives you an idea of the potential of each landscape photography location. For instance, if you’re looking for a place to do long-exposure landscape shooting, you can use other photographers’ images to identify suitable areas.
Simply head to your favorite photo-sharing website, then type in the broad area that you plan to photograph. This could be a national park, a city, a beach, a small town, or an area of the countryside. Assuming the area (and the website) is popular enough, you should see hundreds of images captured by previous photographers – so go through these files and identify areas that seem worth shooting.
One thing to bear in mind is that the quality of the images you’re viewing isn’t necessarily important. Just because a previous photographer failed to get a good photo doesn’t mean that you will, so don’t reject a location or subject simply because you can’t find any relevant top-notch shots. (In fact, if you can’t find other good images of a location, you can even take it as a challenge!)
Don’t just look at the images, though. Spend some time exploring the portfolios of the photographers who take them. If you can find a local shooter who has captured dozens (or hundreds) of shots in your chosen area, it can be hugely helpful.
You see, 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 nearby for years and built up a substantial body of work, likely containing photos taken at different times of the year. Such a portfolio will help build a picture in your mind of the location and its landscape photo potential.
I went through this process when I traveled to northern Spain last year. It was only by looking at the work of local photographers that I found locations like this one:
2. Make a spreadsheet of great locations
As you research locations to shoot, don’t just commit them to memory. You’re bound to come across dozens of potential spots, so it’s important that you make a list so you can reference them as needed.
My suggestion is to set up a spreadsheet or text document that contains a list of all the locations that you want to visit within a single area. Then, as you identify areas to shoot, you can add them to the list (along with links to images of the locations you find online). Try to add comments, too, based on what you read about the area. If a beach is only accessible at low tide or a cliff really only works for sunset shooting, add it to the document.
It’s helpful to take this approach on a local level – by creating a spreadsheet for the broad area you plan to photograph – but you might also consider creating a more comprehensive document. The world is a big place, and you probably have plenty of locations you’d like to explore. If you don’t make a note when you come across 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. If you have the city of Venice on your bucket list, for instance, whenever you find an interesting photo or a good article about photography in Venice, you can add it to your file. Then, when the time comes for a Venice trip, you’ll have already done most of the required research!
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. What about you?
The Picos de Europa in northern Spain were also on my list, but I visited and took this photo:
3. Go out and explore
Online research makes a huge difference when you’re photographing a new location, but it can only get you so far. Sure, if you’ve done your research, you’ll already know the most iconic and popular locations when you arrive – but what about other locations? What about the quiet forest clearings, the hidden beaches, and the backcountry waterfalls?
While you can identify some of these areas by looking at shots taken by locals, it’s often helpful to simply explore. Here, curiosity is the key to finding interesting things and places to photograph. Indulge your desire to see what lies around the next corner. See what you encounter!
One approach here is to start in a popular location, then head off in a new direction. Another option is to find a park or a coast, leave your car, and just walk randomly. (Of course, always bring a map, and make sure that you inform someone where you plan to travel – roughly speaking – in advance.)
I made this next landscape photo while walking along footpaths near my parents’ house. It’s not a well-known area, and it’s a struggle to find other images taken nearby. But it has a lot of potential, and I was able to make a moody countryside image:
4. Talk to the locals
I’ve already mentioned the value of looking at photos taken by local photographers. However, I encourage you to take this a step further: Identify folks who live in the area, then see if you can get in contact!
It’s generally best to find fellow photographers – they’re more likely to understand what you’re looking for – but tour guides can also be helpful. You can wait until you arrive, but it can also be a good idea to give them a call or send over an email a few weeks or months before your trip.
If you do get in contact with local photographers, you might even ask if they want to shoot with you. Their knowledge will undoubtedly be invaluable, plus you might even make a friend along the way!
Of course, be sure to graciously thank anyone who helps you out, and make an effort to stay in touch. Maybe you’ll come back someday and will need help once again. Who knows?
5. Find your personal vision
One of the dangers of looking at the work of other photographers? It creates a desire to capture images that have already been taken.
There’s nothing wrong with photographing iconic locations, and sometimes it’s just an itch that has to be scratched before you explore lesser-known places. But the danger is that you only capture the conventional shots, and you never end up creating photos that are completely your own.
Therefore, I have a few recommendations:
First, try creating a schedule for yourself. Devote a short block of time to shooting at the iconic locations, but spend the rest of your time working in less-popular areas.
Second, do photograph the iconic subjects, but make sure you do it in a new way. Capture the location from a new angle, using a unique type of light, or with an unusual focal length. Here, it’s important that you carefully research what’s already been done – otherwise, you risk creating the same photos taken by hundreds of others.
Third, deliberately ignore all the popular areas and only shoot in lesser-known places. This approach will require more effort as you won’t be able to rely on photo-sharing sites to identify locations, but it can also be very rewarding.
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 landscapes of the local area.
But I stayed away from those places and walked around the area my family lived. This wasn’t intentional at first, but as I continued, I realized I was building a body of work photographing the elements of the landscape that were personal to me. I was ignoring the iconic locations and photographing the landscape in a much more personal and interpretive way. I was ultimately able to capture photos like this:
Finding the best landscape photography locations: final words
Hopefully, you now feel better equipped to identify prime areas for landscape photography. Remember that every location is different, and you’ll generally want to do a mix of online and in-person research.
Of course, the tips I shared above certainly aren’t exhaustive; try them, see what works for you, and develop new approaches along the way!
Now over to you:
Do you have any additional methods for finding good landscape locations? Where do you plan to photograph next? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Table of contents
- How to Find the Best Locations for Landscape Photography
- 5 Tips for Setting the Focus in Your Landscape Photography
- ADVANCED GUIDES
- CREATIVE TECHNIQUES