Top travel photographers reveal their favorite destinations.
Reader photo by Giovanni Micheletto (Flickr Stream).
Travel photographers love Italy for the same reason tourists do: “It has it all,” Charles Harris says. And the hands-down favorite region is Tuscany for its mix of landscapes, architecture (cities and villages), and, not least, food.
Says Ron Rosenstock, who leads photo tours there, “Not only can you walk down the same streets as DaVinci and Michelangelo, but you can see almost the same scenes.”
In Florence, he recommends getting up before dawn and hitting the streets at around 5 a.m.: “Early morning provides unusual and dramatic lighting effects. The streetlights are still on and sidewalks are pedestrian-free. Photographing in Florence’s predawn silence is like a meditation.”
He advises a similar strategy in the Tuscan countryside. “In the vineyards, I’m generally out with my camera just as dawn begins to break. It’s a very soft light that reveals texture and color that will disappear as soon as the sun burns through the softening mists.”
• Must-get shots: The rolling hills, historic villas, and Italian cypress trees of the Orcia Valley.
• For info: discovertuscany.com.
Reader Photo by Silvio Pereira Costa (Flickr Stream).
Machu Picchu, Peru
This ancient Incan city, nestled in the creases of the Andes, is a familiar favorite—for good reason. “It’s magnificent,” says Gail Mooney. “I spent most of my first morning watching as clouds and mist enveloped the mountain peaks, and shafts of light streaming through holes in the fog, struck the walls, making it suddenly appear spotlit. I felt like I was discovering it for the first time. I visited for three days, and the mood of the landscape changed daily.”
• Must-get shots: The citadel in the early-morning mists.
• For info: www.machupicchu.org.
Reader Photo by Irene Suchocki (Flickr Stream).
“The island belongs to another era—it’s what I imagine the old Hawaii was like before becoming a major travel destination,” says Jonathan Kingston. “The pace of life is slow, the people are friendly, development is minimal, and it has a variety of climates and landscapes, with some of the most pristine tropical scenery in Hawaii.” Molokai’s sea cliffs are the world’s tallest. Rent a four-wheel drive vehicle—much of the island is accessible only by dirt roads. Also try a mule train tour (muleride.com) along those towering cliffs.
• Must-get shots: Seascapes at Kalaupapa National Historic Park.
• For info: molokai-hawaii.com.
Montana: Flathead Reservation
A few miles northeast of Missoula, this Native American reservation is a favorite destination of Montanan Pam Voth. Its diverse photo opportunities include annual pow-wows and rodeos, wildlife in the National Bison Range and Ninepipe Wildlife Refuge, the historic St. Ignatius Mission, and breathtaking mountain views.
“At Ninepipe, look for the wildlife area off Highway 93 for shots of waterfowl,” she advises. At the National Bison Range, on any one of the driving loops, “look for elk, deer, coyotes, black bears, big horn sheep, pronghorn and, of course, bison. Be prepared to photograph from the car as visitors are not allowed to leave their vehicles in most areas,” though you can generally step out to set up a tripod.
• Must-get shots: Landscapes along Red Sleep Mountain Drive.
• For info: www.visitmt.com.
Reader photo by Daniel Bosma (Flickr Stream).
This North African country is such a favorite that we couldn’t get a consensus about exactly where to go—our experts insisted that you leave plenty of time to see the whole country. A colorful explosion of influences, architecture, and peoples, “it’s a land of intense contrasts and can provide nonstop sensory experience,” says Ron Rosenstock.
“You can photograph in the sand dunes of the Sahara in the morning, and in the snow-capped Atlas Mountains in the afternoon. And it feels like Biblical times. It’s exotic and picturesque, yet comfortable for Western travelers.”
He suggests concentrating on the details of architecture, daily life, and nature. “The way goods are displayed in the market, the way light falls on archways, and the texture and color of plants in a garden or oasis form powerful inspirations for great photography.”
• Must-get shot: The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca.
• For info: www.visitmorocco.com.
While it can serve as a base for exploring Sweden’s natural wonders, the capital is a very compelling subject itself. “My favorite part is Gamla Stan, the old town,” Jason Lindsey says. “I love the ancient buildings, the brick paths and stairs, the narrow and intimate streets, the great food, and the people. Around every corner, the old city provides inspiration.”
• Must-get shot: The parliament reflected in the harbor at night.
• For info: www.visitsweden.com.
Washington’s Olympic Peninsula
For Seattle-based Rob Casey, getting there is part of the fun: “Take any of Seattle’s peninsula-bound ferries, which feel like an immediate escape from the ordinary.”
You’ll find the mountain peaks of Olympic National Park, wilderness rivers and coastline, and small logging towns. “Expect more cloudy or rainy days than sunny,” says Casey. “Bring rain gear for yourself and your camera, plus a warm coat and hat.” Look for subjects at your feet: wet, colorfully saturated beach rocks and driftwood, or water droplets resting on glacier lilies.
• Must-get shots: Tide pools, deserted beaches, rock formations.
• For info: olympicpeninsula.org.
Wyoming: Grand Teton Park
This national park is a gold mine for photographers: Snowcapped mountains, winding rivers, mirror lakes, and meadows of wildflowers that sometimes backdrop outdoor sports. Says Pam Voth, “There’s beauty everywhere.”
Moose, bear, and elk come close enough to roads that you can get satisfying shots with a 200mm or 400mm lens. “You’ll often find photographers lined up at the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River, with a great reflection of the mountains in the water,” she says.
• Must-get shots: Action such as skiing, snowboarding, fly-fishing, rafting, and rodeos.
• For info: www.nps.gov/grte.