My Five Favorite Places to Take Photos

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The Best Places to Take Photos

I’ve been blessed over my years of travel with some truly remarkable places to take photos. From the Grand Canyon in 2009 to the beauty of the Hainan province in China, there’s certainly been no shortage of opportunities to get out my camera and try to do justice to the beauty that the world has to offer.

I was recently contacted by my friend Steve from PhotoFly Travel Club about a bit of cross promotion. PhotoFly Travel Club is a social travel club that takes its members out to places that offer stunning photo opportunities, so it made sense that I finally get around to sharing some of my own favorite places to take photos.

Without further ado, here’s my list!

#5 – Multnomah Falls, Oregon, USA

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Multnomah Falls in Oregon twice now – once in 2009 and again when I was in the United States recently. To say that it is a breath-taking waterfall does it an injustice. It’s just beautiful every single time I see it.

There’s something almost fantastical about the way the bridge cuts in front of the falls that puts me in mind of Peter Jackson’s envisioning of the Lord of the Rings books, and the bright greens that surround the falls just ‘pop’ in a way that my camera never quite does justice to.

Multnomah Falls bridge
Does this not just scream Aragon and Arwen kissing on a bridge to you?

As if the towering falls weren’t impressive enough, the entire Colombia River Gorge offers a number of wonderful photo opportunities. The river itself cuts its way through bald hills sometimes adorned with the almost intimidating frames of wind turbines, but the real beauty is to be found along the old highway that leads to Multnomah Falls. A number of other waterfalls are hidden back in the dense greenery and there’s a few choice scenic spots along the way as well.

Colombia River Gorge
The Colombia River Gorge by morning is absolutely beautiful.

While I was awed by the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, there’s just something about the green and the wet of Multnomah Falls that always calls me back. It’s as if it were put there solely to be photographed.

#4 – Daewonsa, Jeollanamdo, South Korea

South Korea is perhaps not a country that leaps to mind when you think of beautiful scenery. The heavily urbanized and industrialized nation was not blessed with the depth of landscape that other countries might have been.

That’s not to say there isn’t a stark beauty to be found in the many mountain parks of South Korea or the often cold and windswept coastlines, but I always found photos of South Korea were a dour lot more often than not.

Of course, there are some great places to take photos. Jejudo is an island province that does boast some picturesque locales such as Sunrise Peak, Hala San, and its volcanic black sand beaches. In fact, it was originally going to occupy #4 on my list – but then I remembered Daewonsa.

I’ve spoken briefly about my visit to the Tibetan Buddhist temple outside of Gwangju briefly in the past, but I feel like words won’t ever really do it justice. With its ponds and bubbling brooks and simple decoration, the temple managed to escape the adage that ‘all temples look the same’. Even three years on from my visit there on a sweaty summer afternoon in 2009, I still feel a sense of calm when I look over my photos from that visit.

Daewonsa
The entrance to Daewonsa. I love the contrast of the greens and the colored fabric.

You’ll again notice that vibrant greens are something that really draws my eye, but I hope the tranquility of the place is carried across too. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen during my travels.

#3 – Big Sur, California, USA

Route 1 up the United States’ west coast is not just a brilliant road trip, but it also hosts #3 on my list of favorite photo opportunities. The stretch of road that leads up to Monterey (or out of Monterey, if you’re heading south) is among some of the most visually spectacular road I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving. Well, being driven on…

The highway hugs the cliffs that overhang the vast grey of the Pacific Ocean while often ominous skies hang overhead and make for some perfect shots. The churning of the sea against the rocks, the brilliant vistas one can find along the way, and the rolling green hills are complemented by the bridges along the way.

Bixby Bridge
Bixby Bridge doesn’t take away from the natural beauty. If anything, it complements it.

Chief among these is Bixby Bridge, which I visited during my visit to California in late July. Far from diminishing the natural beauty of the coastline, Bixby Bridge seems to enhance it. I could have spent far more than the 30 or 40 minutes I spent out there just snapping photos and feeling the wind in my beard hair. Even the traffic zooming by couldn’t take away from the serenity of it.

#2 – Fjordlands National Park, New Zealand

New Zealand could very well have taken up every spot on this list. If any country was formed by God with an eye towards giving photographers the world around a thousand places to take photos, New Zealand is surely the place. There is such a tremendous breadth to the variety of terrain in New Zealand that it’s entirely possible to photograph glaciers, towering fjords, dense forests, vast plains, and stormy coastlines in a few days. Where else in the world is that possible?

But my pick of the lot would have to be the Fjordlands, home to the world famous Milford Sound. The towering cliffs, carved out by glaciers, are ominous as they oversee all that occurs below. Stubborn plants cling to their craggy faces while below seals and dolphins play in the icy waters of the Tasman Sea. Mists cling to the low ground and snow dusts the high even at the height of summer – and that’s just the drive to and from Milford Sound!

Fjordlands National Park
The mists cling to the hills in the Fjordlands National Park. Photo by Fallon Fehringer.

It’s a daydream of mine to someday explore the width and breadth of the mountainous national park on New Zealand’s south island. I feel like I saw only the smallest sample of its beauty when I visited in 2010.

#1 – Xinjiang, China

Where? Is that near Beijing?

Xinjiang is probably China’s best kept secret – a vast province of scorching deserts, seemingly unending grass plains, crystal clear mountain lakes, and towering snow-capped peaks – Xinjiang is about as far from how society pictures China as a place can get.

I was lucky enough to spend a week in Xinjiang earlier this year and the entire place just begs to be photographed. The dusty ghettos of Kashgar were a launching pad for our visually over-awing two day drive along the Karakorum Highway to the Pakistan border.

Yurt Xinjiang
A yurt in the mountains of Xinjiang

Along the way we saw mountains of red, mountains of sand, and the more ‘traditional’ snow capped giants. We paused to fight off hypothermia by the shores of Lake Karakul, saw a Kyrgyzstan festival outside of Tashgorkan, threw snowballs in the mountain passes, ate still sizzling lamb from skewers in the market town of Opal, and wandered a boardwalk over land reclaimed from ancient nomadic peoples.

Water wheel
A water wheel turns lazily upon the Golden Grasslands in Xinjiang.

I came back from the week long trip with well in excess of 500 photos and it could have been so many more if I’d thought to bring extra batteries for my Canon. The place just begs to be photographed, and I’m determined to go back sometime and oblige it.

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Your Say

Where are your most photogenic places in the world? It was a hard task for me to narrow it down to just five. The Great Barrier Reef, Tea Gardens in NSW, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, Jejudo, Hainan, and the Australian Outback were all unlucky omissions.

What are your most photogenic places in the world?

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