I have no doubt that a great photographer can take striking pictures anywhere. This year, I have tried, some might say obsessively, to take beautiful photos everywhere I went, in a bid to convince myself that any good shots were down to my developing skills and not the natural beauty of a place. But even with this aim, it is impossible to deny that some places are just downright gorgeous. I have been so lucky to spend time this year exploring snow-capped mountains, diving thirty metres under the sea, wandering around foreign cities, discovering London more deeply, driving around the plains of the savanna and shivering north of the Arctic Circle. It has been amazing – and I’ve had my camera with me for every minute.
As I looked over my photos from this past year, ahead of compiling my best photographs of 2019 for this year’s blog post, certain places stuck out to me as being almost unbearably photogenic. I can’t advise visiting somewhere solely for the photographic potential, but I can understand the desire to capture beautiful places for yourself, with your perspective, from your own lens. If you’re looking for inspiration, here are the most photogenic places I visited in 2019:
Ivalo is part of Finnish Lapland, past the Arctic Circle, and is home to miles of unblemished snow, towering trees and breathtaking skyscapes – in the winter, that is. For some weeks of the year, Ivalo does not the see the sun, and for a few others in the summer, it does not see the dark. We visited in January, which meant that we were treated to a few hours of light each day. However, the sun barely made it over the horizon, so those few hours of light were almost entirely sunset and sunrise, bathing the sky with endless pink streaks. That alone was worth freezing my fingers off for. But aside from the beautiful skies, there were fields of snow-capped trees, amazing light and views that it’s hard to get anywhere aside from the poles.
The Pirin Mountains, Bansko, Bulgaria
The two towns I visited in Bulgaria, Bansko and Sofia, didn’t wow me photographically. Fortunately, the mountains were a different story. I got so many beautiful pictures from the top of the ski runs, looking out over the snowy peaks, with the sun high in the sky. I tried to master the art of taking quick pictures from the ski lifts, catching the trees, blue sky and snow in one image. I can still feel the majesty of these mountains as I look back over my photos, a clear sign that something about them came across well through my camera. I especially like the close-ups of the unbroken snow and the day when the light faded from blue to yellow above the peaks. Gorgeous!
Bruges stunned me. Even though I have travelled a lot in Europe, I can’t remember the last time I visited somewhere this quaint, colourful and clean. When much of Bruges was being built many centuries ago, it was one of the world’s richest nations, and that shows in the original architecture. The city is full of bright, crenellated houses, small details, towering spires and gold adornments. I particularly loved the roofscapes, when you could see the various towers and churches looming over the rest of the city’s buildings. I appreciate that everywhere looks more photogenic on a clear, sunny day, but I was blessed with beautiful weather in Bruges and it has allowed this picturesque little place to worm its way into my heart.
Ugh, Edinburgh is gorgeous. I could photograph the sandy brickwork, winding streets and colourful houses for hours – and I have done, more than once. I was pleasantly surprised when I compared my 2018 and 2019 Edinburgh photos, taken across matching July weekends. We will hopefully be spending a lot more time in Edinburgh next summer – fingers crossed! – so I can only hope that the 2020 versions will be even better. Edinburgh must be the most photogenic city that I’ve visited in the past few years; it is one of the best places to wander around with a camera.
Tsavo East, Kenya
While everywhere we visited in Kenya provided amazing photographic opportunities, Tsavo East stood out to me for its red dust. Evolution has meant that most animals blend in well with typical savanna flora, so animals tend to be well camouflaged with yellowish grass, mud and trees. In Tsavo, these same animals pop beautifully against the red, which is often also contrasted with the blue sky and green plants. The monochrome zebras contrast very well against these colourful backdrops; these are by far my favourite wildlife photos of the trip. The Tsavo East National Park is also home to one of my favourite 2019 discoveries: the blue trees. That alone would make a photography trip worth it.
One of the biggest challenges for underwater photography is getting enough light, which is a hot commodity underwater. Snorkelling in the Vipingo ‘lagoon’ dealt with this issue, as all the wildlife was crammed in with the coral due to low tide. At high tide, the protected marine area fills with water, kicking up the sand and spreading the fish far and wide across the stretch of water. There are only a few hours each day when the visibility is crystal clear and the fish are naturally concentrated in a smaller part of the marine park, which makes for perfect underwater photography conditions. I was thrilled by the vibrant colours, beautiful light patterns and easy close-ups, all of which can be difficult to find when snapping underwater.
Tower Bridge, London
I didn’t visit Tower Bridge, as such, because I live nearby and come here frequently. But this riverfront spot is one of my favourite places in the world to take photos, and I felt like it would be disingenuous not to include it on any list of favourites. I’ll admit that I’ve taken fewer Tower Bridge pictures since I moved in October, because it’s no longer in walking distance, but the bulk of this year was punctuated by regular walks along this stretch of the Thames, almost always with a camera, hoping to find another angle through which to see this imposing monument. I have had so many lovely moments this year photographing this bridge, stopping there on my cycle home from work to catch the last of the evening light or getting up early to snap the sunrise. I feel so lucky to live so close to so many amazing landmarks.
Komodo National Park, Indonesia
As far as I’m concerned, the whole of Indonesia was a photographic highlight. From tiny islands with sandy beaches to gritty port towns with stunning diving to the rugged, black sand coastline in Amed, I was never without something gorgeous to photograph. That being said, I was blown away by the diving in Komodo, and it was also where I felt like I hit my underwater groove the best. I could have spent a thousand more hours taking pictures of the reefs, fish and bigger wildlife – I could not recommend Komodo more highly if you are looking for incredible diving and underwater photography inspiration. Our trip to see the dragons and pink beach also yielded some good photos. Komodo was definitely a photographic highlight.
I will posting my best photos of the year in the next few days, which will include more than just travel photos. I just wanted to showcase a few of the places I was lucky enough to visit, and photograph, this year, for anyone looking for travel or photography inspiration. Happy snapping! I hope 2020 is a good year for you and your lenses.