Few people have been bold – or daft – enough to say sincerely that Europe is ugly. In fact, most people would say that it is pretty damn beautiful really – as soon as you get out of the cities at least. From the awesome mountains – from the Alps to the Caucasus to the Carpathians – to some of the most breath-taking coastal, agricultural, and urban landscapes you’ll ever see, the continent is fairly well endowed with wonder.
But this is no surprise. Because, honestly, given how Eurocentric this world has been for the last four hundred years, it’s really been the Europeans who have defined what we mean by an inspiring landscape, or even an interesting landscape.
The very categories of beauty and sublimity were developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when the first tourists started to explore the wonder of the world.
And, luckily enough, most of this has survived relatively unbesmirched until today. Some of the most beautiful landscapes exist in Europe, such as Scotland’s Highlands (just ask the Lonely Planet), the Dolomites, or Norway’s far north. For any landscape photographer, nature photographer, or travel photographer, these are going to be some of the places you’ll want to come back to again and again and again.
But there are more. And here we want to give you some photography tips regarding the best locations in Europe to take landscape photographs. So, here are some superb photography locations. All you have to do now is hone your photography skills, pick up your photography magazine and your digital camera, and head out into the landscapes of the world.
Defining Landscape Photography
Landscape photography – and the industry of nature photography in general – has had a massive boom in recent years. This is mainly thanks to new technologies: photo sharing platforms like Instagram, camera gear that is affordable and transportable, and a whole new set of wide angle lenses etc that heighten the effect of the photo composition.
But all this stuff doesn’t change the things that landscape photographers are taking photos of. And that, obviously, is strange, gorgeous, interesting, awe-inspiring, moving, or surprising landscapes. Landscapes with a human element or pure nature photography. An urban landscape or a seascape. A mountainous panorama or a street at sunset.
The beauty of a landscape isn’t essential – but it surely helps. And we shouldn’t be thinking necessarily of wide rolling hills and horizons. Landscape photographers take great pictures of the landscape of an ocean wave, or the startling microscopic landscapes on skin. They take landscape pictures of man-made structures or of animal communities.
In fact, there is little that can’t in some way be classed as landscape image.
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What Makes a Great Landscape Photograph?
A beautiful landscape is not enough to make great photos. We amateurs know well enough – surely – that pointing a camera at a landscape is not going to produce something wonderful. Something memorable – and something good to remember by – but not a photograph in the sense of art.
Professional landscape photography is something else. And the idea of good photography, to dip into some aesthetic theory, is to make the photo – the image itself – more important than the natural landscape represented. The photo itself needs to be special, rather than just the image.
To make this happen, there are all sorts of things a professional photographer would need to think about. The depth of field, the shutter speed, short or long exposure, the levels of natural light – and then the image editing that follows. And these are just the photography techniques that you would need to get to grips with.
Then, there is a little thing called patience. Timing is the most important thing about photography in general – and landscape photographers like Colin Prior have spoken at length about the endless hours waiting for the perfect light levels, the perfect position of the clouds. And if you want to be taking photos of wildlife, this is something you will have to accommodate for even further.
Because timing turns a good photo into a great one. And, if you are anything other than a holidayer or tourist (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this), this is what you should be aiming for.
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Europe’s Best Locations for Landscape Photography.
And at this point, we need to think about where exactly you can go to get some beautiful pictures. Here are ten of the best spots from across Europe. But, yes, you are going to find some more yourself.
The Scottish Highlands.
Scotland is famed for its bad weather and its terrible cuisine. Yet, these things aside, it also has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. From the rolling greenness of its lowlands to the rugged barrenness of its north, it has a range of fascinating and jaw-dropping landforms that are a gift to any landscape photographer.
Check out Colin Prior’s work – mentioned above – and remember what the Scots say: if it wasn’t for the weather, and for the midges, Scotland would have the best beaches in the world too.
Take your camera on holiday there. Outside of the main cities, you’ll hardly see a soul.
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The Italian Dolomites.
Italy’s eastern Alps are literally the place the word sublime was first used for. They are an astonishing place.
The Dolomites, as they are known, are recognised for the weird, incongruous rock formations that jut out abruptly from rolling green farmland – and they are an incredibly popular spot for hikers, climbers, and – in the winter – skiers. (And geologists too.)
Yet, their beauty comes from a mix of the strange stone (dolomite – from which the mountains get their name), the tempestuous summer weather, and the vivid variations in light. The mountains appear to change colour throughout the day – so pick a spot, and use up the length of your film.
Norway’s Fjords and Glaciers.
Norway has a bit of a reputation for being drop-dead gorgeous. Known for its seawater lakes – the fjords – and its crumpled, vertiginous terrain, it has inspired and attracted landscape photographers since the invention of landscape photography.
Explore the area around Bergen for the patchwork of water and greenness. Or head up north for snow, snow, and more snow. Maybe take some gloves.
Oh, to live in Provence. France’s south-eastern most region boasts cliffs and sea, the Calanques, the Camargue – Europe’s largest river delta, bristling with wildlife – rivers galore, and the Maritime Alps.
It’s a starkly varied area, with opportunities for you to hone your photography skills on all sorts of different landscapes.
The most famous images you’ll find of Provence are probably the heavily saturated photos of lavender. If you want to snap your own, head to L’Abbey de Senanque.
Andalusia, or Andalucía is the southern-most area of Spain, an area known for its heat, its heavily Arab-inflected culture, and its lush landscapes.
Check out the mind-boggling aerial photography of Emmet Gowin, who travelled to the area in 2012. Or, otherwise, take yourself to the Sierra Nevada, the Parque Nacional de Doñana, or the coasts around Cadiz.
Not strictly in Europe – but as close as you can get – Anatolia makes up the massive area of Turkey just east of the Bosporus. Exploring all of it might be a rather longwinded experience, yet you’ll see some of the most bizarre and astounding landforms you’ll ever see in your life.
Just have a quick google of Pamukkale, for example, or the world-famous weirdness of Cappadocia. Alongside these, you have the biblical, imposing Mount Ararat, and the stupendousness of the North Anatolian Mountains.
South Moravia, Czechia
South Moravia is known, strangely enough, for its fields. This usually not super interesting landform, here, in Czech takes on a transcendental form. You’ve never seen fields like it.
Greenness is the name of the game here – greenness and swirling, undulating relief. It’s spectacular. Just a really really special place.
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A little off the beaten track, perhaps, but that’s exactly where you are going to find the best photographic subjects. Svaneti, in Georgia’s Greater Caucasus mountains, is an insane mountain spot, with ancient architecture, green pastures, and striking mountain views.
Iceland is the sort of place that you go if you just want to walk around in shock the whole time. Or, at least, it would be, if the weather was a little better. And, honestly, if the weather is bad, you’re probably going to be more awe-struck just by the prices of living.
Anyway, with volcanos, geysers, glaciers, and rugged, rocky scenes – not forgetting, of course, the Northern Lights – Iceland is simply the landscape lovers dream.
Find Your Own Landscape Photography Location.
It was alluded to above. However, it’s worth stressing. Landscape photography can happen anywhere, at any time. And the important thing is to show the world places, scenes, and situations that have rarely been seen.
So, don’t worry too much about jet-setting to Georgia. Hone your craft at home. Spot the beauty in your walk to work or school. Landscape is everywhere – and, in this discipline, the photo itself counts for more.