We’ve all fallen victim to seeing (or if you’re like me, being) ‘that person’ traveling with a camera who feels the need to stop at every site and get the perfect tourist shot. Sometimes the lighting works out spectacularly and a winning shot is captured in these golden moments of travel, but other times we capture busy, bustling, busted moments of scurrying along with travel groups in a hurry. The best solution to this problem? Plan a photogenic location vacation and ensure plenty of time and scenery to help your camera live up to its name.
The United States is home to a myriad of different landscapes ranging from colorful deserts to tropical beach fronts, luscious forests to hidden caves, sultry swamps to majestic mountains, and everything (and everyone) in between. Here are the locations within the United States that are well known for the photographic and educational opportunities, whether it be the land surrounding the city, a specific landmark, or just the people of the area themselves.
- San Francisco - California
Immensely famous in the photo world for its iconic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco also provides ample opportunities to visit and photograph almost anything you or your camera is in the mood for. Within a convenient 7 by 7 square mile radius near downtown, one can get great views of various micro-neighborhoods, colorful missions with even more colorful people, sleek downtown buildings, and even gorgeous national park scenery. This gem of a city in California also offers photographically stunning elements such as Alcatraz, still-running cable cars, and Presidio National Park.
Must Shot: Golden Gate Bridge at dusk
- New Orleans - Louisiana
Not even Katrina can stop this city from shining for the camera, even during the night. Known mostly for its French Quarter and Mardi Gras themed nightlife, this busy city provides multiple other facets of photography everywhere you look. The classic southern architecture lends way to smokey old jazz clubs and the lighting can’t seem to be better than here in “N’awlins”! If you’re in the mood for a more sobering but still magical photography experience be sure to visit the Low Ninth district ward and capture shots of what still lies in Katrina's wake today.
- Lower Antelope Canyon - Arizona
Known as the “spiral rock mountains” in native Navajo, this specific area in one of Arizona’s many national parks is unique in the perspective and angles it offers. Sculpted by thousands of years of wind and water, the sandstone stands in multiple shapes and figures and allows photographers to be in awe at nature in a completely new way. Affected directly by the sun’s position in the sky, taking photos in this park presents new and interesting lighting, color, and shadow factors. Closeby one can also visit local historic barrios, Native American reserves, or even the Saguaro National Park, all of which a camera seems to love.
Pro Tip: Be sure to get a photo inside a canyon when the sun is at it’s highest.
- Waipio Valley - Hawaii
Everyone knows that Hawaii is a photographer's paradise, with ample surf, sand, and water anywhere you look to keep your clicker occupied. Finding the right location within Hawaii is harder to do, but in Waipio Valley, you get it all. Meaning literally “curved water,” this location holds a particularly photogenic waterfall as well as unbelievably green fields and blue rivers. Volcanoes can be seen in the backdrop along with many clubs and eating establishments that lend more to the culture of the area.
Pro Tip: While the general scenery is gorgeous enough, be sure to book a hike or horseback ride down into the valley to get great up close and personal photos.
- Big Cypress National Preserve - Florida
The swamps of Florida can be magical through a camera, even with heavy fog and mist creeping around the landscape. This freshwater preserve on the Southwest Florida Coast provides ample opportunities to snap pictures of rich estuaries and elusive wildlife such as the endangered Florida panther. With this landscape, nature lovers can easily get great pictures of the everglades, marshes, trees, and ocean life. The lighting in the everglades can be highly used to a photographer's advantage when capturing the mist above the swamps early in the morning.
- Great Smoky Mountains - North Carolina / Tennessee
Home to one of the only deciduous forests of its kind, the Smoky Mountains on Tennessee, North Carolina border is a photographer's dream. This majestic mountain filled forest allows visitors to be close to nature and get almost any photo they can imagine. With grand waterfalls, clear streams, colorful wildflower fields, and magnificent mountains, this area offers it all. The autumn colors this forest acquires also attract visitors far and wide ready to capture the season through the lens.
Pro Tip: Avoid taking the Cades Cove driving tour during the fall, the wait will take hours. Instead, take your camera for an up-close and personal hike in this area.
- Skagway - Alaska
Known as the gateway to the Klondike, this historical Alaskan city can offer visitors an educational visit as well as a productive photography tour. Located on the Alaskan panhandle and straddling the border to British Columbia, this snowy city provides any view of a snow-capped mountain your camera desires. This unique city also lets visitors explore the beginning of the Klondike Gold Rush, as it is mainly known for. Whether you want to snap some photos of historical buildings, grandiose railroad from our past, or the scenic mountain backdrop, be sure to stop in Skagway.
- Glacier National Park - Montana
Rugged mountains, alpine meadows, sensational lakes, and breathtaking forests all play a huge role in this location vacation. Located near the border of Montana and Alberta, almost any direction you point your camera will get you a winning shot. Known as being a hiker's paradise, this city invites you to take a stroll through the wilderness and learn a few things along the way as you can tour the old Native American grounds, lodges, and transportation routes. Being a personal favorite of many photographers, you really can’t go wrong with a place considered to be “Mother Nature’s best work.”
Pro Tip: Take a drive in the early morning down Going-to-Sun road. The sunrise you catch with your camera will be worth it.
- Badlands - South Dakota
Owning the best attributes of many different landscapes, the Badlands of South Dakota can provide visitors with some of the best photos a camera can take. The abundant prairies are filled with bison, pronghorn, mule, deer, and coyote ready for their glamour shot. The exotic land lends new angles as you can explore and learn about the way the spires, gullies, buttes, and pinnacles were formed and how to best capture them through the lens. Specific places within the Badlands such as Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park are most well known for photographic opportunities. If you are more into the historical side of things in the Badlands be sure to head up north to visit the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and see where it all started.
Must Shot: Vampire Peak - Twilight