Where In the World Do You Want to Go?

Every photographer has one special place -- the one destination that never fails to offer challenges and inspiration. Some are far away, and others are around the corner.

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For many photographers, travel has a way of blurring the distinctions between the personal and the professional. "It's always about the women," says William Abranowicz, explaining why he chooses the Greek islands as his favorite place to photograph. Case in point: his photograph of a sun-drenched beach on the island of Mykonos.

"This is a beach I went to on my first trip to Greece," says Abranowicz, who has been shooting for Condé Nast Traveler for many years. That was in 1984, when Abranowicz accompanied a girlfriend to the Mediterranean for a vacation. He and the girlfriend eventually parted, but in the meantime he fell for Greece.

Since then the New York-based photographer has thoroughly documented the Greek mainland and many of the 3,000 Greek islands, from the Cycladic chain (famous for its white architecture) to the Dodecanese chain in the south, influenced by the Italians who occupied them in World War II. He published his first book, The Greek File: Images of a Mythic Land (Rizzoli), in 2001 and is now completing his second volume on Greece.

These days Abranowicz navigates his way among some 11 million tourists who come to Greece each year, yet he still finds spots that he calls "absolutely authentic." The island of Aegina, just off the mainland near Athens, is one. In Crete, he photographed a World War II resistance fighter holding a picture of his own father, who once fought invading Turks. "I travel in part to experience history," says Abranowicz.

And beauty: In 2004 he returned to that beach on Mykonos, expecting it to be overrun by tourists. "It looked just as it had 20 years earlier," says Abranowicz. Once again, it was all about the women.
-- David Schonauer

Rome

© Martin Parr/Magnum Photos
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"When most travel photographers go to some destination, the last thing they want to see are tourists," says Martin Parr. "But that's usually the first thing I want to see."

To be sure, most photographers in general are not like Parr, whose eye for cultural detail is matched by his playful enjoyment of human behavior. While most travel photographers focus on seductive landscapes or colorful locals, Parr's photography is closer to documentary work -- or even anthropology. He chose Rome as one of the 10 great destinations for photographers because of "the quality of its tourists."

Is it possible to capture a city by photographing the people who visit it? In Parr's sense of the world, it is. "Here you have the Eternal City, which is fundamentally one of the most magical cities, exquisitely beautiful, and what you notice are all the people who have come to be part of it," he says. "To me, people are much more interesting than ruins. People move around and change. Ruins just sit there and do nothing."

Parr famously photographed tourists in his 1995 book Small World, and he decided to revisit the subject in 2006 when he was approached by the Rome Festival of Photography to work on a project about the city. He shot the project -- which later was published as a book called Tutta Roma -- with a 35mm SLR and a macro lens. "I'm looking for a sense of the place," he says, "but also to get a lot of detail into the foreground." Parr also uses a ring flash for much of his travel photography. "It has this sort of studio light -- no shadows, no emotion, just hard, clear, beautiful light," he explains. He usually combines the flash with ambient light. "To get the backgrounds I dial the flash in so they are exposed exactly the same as the foreground," he says.
-- D.S.

Nome, Alaska

© Alec Soth
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It's more of a town than a city, with one main street and, in the spring, a world of mud. To get there you fly into Anchorage, then you take a smaller plane, along with perhaps 20 other people, to a small airfield. Then you climb into a taxi, which is actually an old van used at night to pick up the town's drunks. "It's not an elegant ride," says photographer Alec Soth.

Nome may indeed be the kind of place that is best found through happenstance rather than planning. Soth found it in May 2006, when he traveled there from his home in Minneapolis on assignment for GQ magazine. "Being dropped into new places is why I take assignments," says the photographer, who mixes fine-art work with photojournalism. The story was about a local police officer involved in a murder case, and, says Soth, "it never panned out." Instead, he took in the wide landscapes, the rugged local characters, the clouds that seemed to hang ten feet overhead, and most of all the dull sunlight that shone until midnight. Standing behind his 8x10 camera, he knew he was a long way from the American heartland he photographed for his celebrated book Sleeping by the Mississippi (Steidl, 2004). He had arrived at the American frontier.

"I felt a weightiness that was unlike anything I'd experienced," Soth says. "Even though it was daylight all the time, it seemed like an oppressive light." The terminus of the annual Iditarod dogsled race, Nome is full of dogs -- and the sound of dogs, howling at the light. And it is populated with rugged characters, like the gold prospector (left) who Soth photographed at midnight, panning in the frigid cold without gloves. At the edge of the world, Soth found something truly American.
-- D.S.

© Brenda Tharp
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The very thing that makes Great Smoky Mountains National Park such a fruitful photographic destination, says Brenda Tharp, is also what makes it a photographic challenge. "It's easy to get to, and easy to get around in," she explains. "In the Western parks, you usually have to trek into the high country to really experience them. But in the Smokies you can park by the side of the road along a beautiful stream and spend the entire day photographing everything from salamanders to Dogwood blossoms. It's very accessible."

Yet the accessibility that draws people to the Smokies -- the park, which overlaps Tennessee and North Carolina, is America's most visited -- sometimes makes for uninspiring pictures. "You can end up with images that look the same as anyone else's," says the photographer, who cites the view of sunrise from the park's Klingman's Dome as one such easy shot.

California-based Tharp, who has led many workshops in the Smokies, asks her students to look more closely at the park's visual abundance. "Instead of going for the grand view, look for the movement of water through the rocks or reflections in a pool," she suggests. "And the park's famous fog creates beautiful atmospheric effects." For Tharp, a successful stock shooter whose expertise is collected in Creative Nature and Outdoor Photography (Amphoto, $26), such qualities distinguish the American East as a photo subject. "There's a lot of variety to choose from, from mountains to swamps," she says. "But the East is a more intimate experience than the West."
-- Russell Hart

Mongolia

© Luca Trovato
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Although he has shot commercial and editorial work throughout the cities and resorts of Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Australia, photographer Luca Trovato says his most vivid memories are of one of the world's least densely populated countries: Mongolia. "I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the place," says Trovato of the Asian country that borders Russia and China, which he visited on assignment for Travel + Leisure magazine in the summer of 1998.

Trovato traveled to Mongolia, which in recent years has become a coveted adventure destination, during the country's annual Naadam festival. "They have this incredible horse race where most of the jockeys are kids between the ages of 5 and 10," Trovato recalls of the scene at left. "Most of them are bareback, and they ride nonstop for 30 miles! There are hundreds of people waiting for the arrival of all these jockeys. It's amazing -- you feel like you're in a movie set."

Traveling with three guides and a reporter, Trovato explored Mongolia's arid, remote plains, surrounded by austere beauty and nomadic tribes. "We camped at night in a conventional tent," he says, "and nearby were nomads who stayed in one of those typical Mongolian tents called a ger, or yurt. They would invite us to their tents and offer something to eat or drink. Very hospitable, generous people. Most of them are herders of horses, yaks, camels, and sheep, and they move around with the green pastures."

In contrast to the Mongolian cities Trovato visited -- such as the capital, Ulan Bator -- the countryside showed few traces of modern life. "They don't have electricity or running water," he says. "They live pretty much how they lived a thousand years ago." That enamored Trovato. "I travel with an open mind," he explains. "I'm not looking for anything in particular except to find the true essence of where you are."
-- Jack Crager

Zambia

© Francesco Lagnese
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On November 17, 1855, a Presbyterian missionary and explorer became the first European to see the great sheet of falling water that local people called Mos i-oa-Tunya, or "The Smoke That Thunders." The missionary, David Livingstone, decided to rename the great waterfall, formed when the entire width of the Zambezi River plummets several hundred feet. He called it Victoria Falls, after England's Queen Victoria. Later the British occupied the area, which was claimed as a protectorate and named North Rhodesia. The country gained independence and adopted the name Zambia in 1964. Today some 300,000 people visit Victoria Falls each year, making it one of Africa's top tourist attractions.

Such popularity does not diminish the visual grandeur of the falls, says New York-based travel photographer Francesco Lagnese, who journeyed to Zambia in 2006 on assignment for the U.K. edition of Condé Nast Traveler. Lagnese has photographed great destinations around the world -- Thailand, Greece, Italy, the Maldives, and Morocco, to name a few -- but the raw beauty of landlocked Zambia holds a special meaning for him. "You are immersed in nature there," he says. "The focus is more on open nature than enclosed game preserves. You can stay at places that don't have doors or windows, with just curtains between you and the calling lioness or hippo. The sense that you are connecting with something wild is very strong."

Originally from Italy, Lagnese began his career after assisting a number of photographers, many specializing in fashion. He quickly decided he liked travel photography because it allowed him "to see something else" beside clothes. "I need to be able to shoot nature, portraits, and architecture," he says. "You never know where the next assignment will take you. You might be shooting the Italian royal family or hanging in an ultralight over Victoria Falls."
-- D.S.

© Corey Rich/Coreyography.com
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Corey Rich sounds like a tourist when he extols the virtues of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. He talks about the clean water, crisp air, and turquoise lakes, the skiing and hiking and rock climbing. But when Rich talks about the light in the Sierra, he sounds strictly like a photographer.

"I have been in the great mountain ranges all around the world, and there is a difference in the light in the Sierra," Rich says. "There is an alpine glow before dawn and after sunset that is phenomenal." He suspects it is caused by moist air from the Pacific Ocean meeting up with cold, dry air from the vast desert on the eastern escarpment of the mountain range. "It creates something magical," he says.

Rich certainly isn't the first person to notice the visual potential of the Sierras. These mountains have come to define photographers like Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell. For Rich, one of the country's finest sports/adventure photographers and an accomplished rock climber, the mountains are both playground and studio. "I like going up onto the spires and snowfields that Ansel photographed, diving in those lakes, and showing people what it looks like when you get up close and personal with the Sierras," he says.

The range is also Rich's backyard; he lives at its northern edge in South Lake Tahoe, California. Though he travels some 250 days a year on assignment for magazines and commercial clients like Patagonia and Anheuser-Busch, when he's looking for inspiration he drives down Highway 395 on the eastern Sierra slope, to the Owens Valley, and looks westward at the peaks that
once thrilled Adams. "It doesn't get much better than that," he says.
-- D.S.

Sicily & Tuscany

© Stephanie Pfriender Stylander
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Stephanie Pfriender Stylander does not think of herself as just one kind of photographer. In her eyes, she is equally a fashion, portrait, and travel photographer, trying to bring a narrative element to all her work."The best approach for travel is to build a story around the place," she says.

That was precisely what she did when shooting in Sicily and Tuscany, her favorite areas in Italy, a country with which she is deeply linked. Stylander is half Italian, and after college she moved to Milan, where she began her photography career.

Known for her European aesthetic, Stylander is frequently assigned to Italy specifically. This image, shot for Centurion, a specialty magazine by American Express, was made while she was traveling around Tuscany. Her guides were with two wine producers, whose families have been making Montepulciano for generations. When she asked them to lie down among the grapevines they obliged -- but for many images (such as this one) she observed them in their natural state.

"Sometimes you're just lucky that you have a particular person that represents the assignment and fits the look that you like," Stylander says."Portraiture is an important part of travel photography, at least for me... I tend to see landscape through people."

To capture Sicily's small towns, Stylander used a similar approach, though the region's gritty street life provided a contrast in subject matter. After finishing with the models, she wandered the streets by herself, searching for scenes that served as metaphors for the history and culture of the place. In one photo, five generations of olive producers stand around their warehouse. In another, a little boy points a toy gun at the camera.

"The best travel work for me is instinctual," Stylander says."I'm drawn to a person, and then that ties into the landscape."
-- Miki Johnson

The Galapagos Islands

© Frans Lanting
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Nature photographer Frans Lanting made the prehistoric-looking image at right in a place where reptiles still rule. "There are a lot of lizards on this planet," says Lanting, "but they don't get any better than in the Galapagos. Because these islands are so far offshore, they were never colonized by mammals. So it's an archipelago that is dominated by reptiles and birds -- birds are just reptiles with feathers -- and that's what makes it such an unusual place to go and experience wildlife and to photograph. Because these are oceanic creatures, they have very little fear of humans. So it's like an Alice in Wonderland experience -- you can wander among the animals. That's why I rank the Galapagos as a must-visit destination."

While researching his ambitious book and multimedia project called Life: A Journey Through Time, Lanting has frequently returned to the islands, located about 600 miles from Ecuador, where Charles Darwin made many of the discoveries that led to his theories of evolution. "The Galapagos are an archetypal example of evolution: animals colonizing barren land and changing themselves in response to selective pressures," Lanting says. "These are volcanic islands that only broke the surface of the ocean a couple of million years ago, which is nothing in terms of the bigger pattern of evolution. So animals accidentally made their way to the Galapagos and adapted to very harsh conditions. And between the different islands, conditions were slightly different, and that's what led to specializations. These days we all know what evolution is -- and in a general sense how it works -- but when you step on shore there and see these animals in front of you, you go, 'Oh my God!'"

Lanting warns, however, that the uniqueness of this location is threatened by its increasing popularity with tourists. "It's been discovered, and people are busy killing the goose that laid the golden egg," he says. "It can be a problem with people crowding animals out, and tourism needs to be channeled and better regulated by the Ecuadorian and the local governments. Having said that, I still contend that it's one of the world's great destinations for a photographer. At the core of the islands is this amazing primeval quality to the landscape and to the animals."
-- J.C.

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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The Greek Islands*
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The Greek Islands*© William Abranowicz
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The Greek Islands*© William Abranowicz
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The Greek Islands*© William Abranowicz
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The Greek Islands*© William Abranowicz
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Rome*© Martin Parr/magnum Photos
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Rome*© Martin Parr/magnum Photos
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Rome*© Martin Parr/magnum Photos
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Rome*© Martin Parr/magnum Photos
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Nome, Alaska*© Alec Soth
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Nome, Alaska*© Alec Soth
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Smoky Mountains*© Brenda Tharp
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Smoky Mountains*© Brenda Tharp
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Smoky Mountains*© Brenda Tharp
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Smoky Mountains*© Brenda Tharp
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Smoky Mountains*
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Mongolia*
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The Greek Islands*Luca Trovato
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The Greek Islands*Luca Trovato
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The Greek Islands*Luca Trovato
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The Greek Islands*Luca Trovato
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The Greek Islands*Luca Trovato
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Zambia*
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Zambia*Francesco Lagnese
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The High Sierra*
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The High Sierra*Corey Rich/coreyography.com
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The High Sierra*Corey Rich/coreyography.com
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The High Sierra*Corey Rich/coreyography.com
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The High Sierra*Corey Rich/coreyography.com
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Sicily & Tuscany*
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Sicily & Tuscany*Stephanie Pfriender Stylander
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Sicily & Tuscany*Stephanie Pfriender Stylander
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Sicily & Tuscany*Stephanie Pfriender Stylander
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*Sicily & Tuscany*Stephanie Pfriender Stylander
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The Galapagos Islands*
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The Galapagos Islands*Frans Lanting
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The Galapagos Islands*Frans Lanting
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The Galapagos Islands*Frans Lanting
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The Galapagos Islands*Frans Lanting
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Where In The World Do You Want To Go?*The Galapagos Islands*Frans Lanting
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