The United States of America is huge. One of the top five biggest countries by land area in the world, in fact. It’s so big, actually, that it’s almost as big as all of Europe put together.
Given this, the country boasts an awful lot of varied landscapes, views, and terrains. Again, it pretty much has all the different geographical landforms that you could imagine – from mountains to lakes, deserts to glaciers, dense forest to dry plateaus. Plus, a selection of the weirdest craters, canyons, and rock formations known to man.
All of this makes the country an incredible place for landscape photography. Because the variety of the landscapes of America is what makes the country unique. Yes, Russia and Canada are bigger – and almost universally beautiful – but you know that you’re getting snow, mountains, lakes, and then some more.
And so, for the landscape photographer, the USA is the perfect place. It has incredibly beautiful landscapes, yes, but it will also test your photography skills. Yes, you’ll take some spectacular landscape pictures – but then you have the opportunity to engage with a completely different beautiful landscape.
So, let’s take a look at what some of the best subjects would be for your photographic explorations. We’ve listed some of the best spots in the US to learn how to photograph.
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Explaining Landscape Photography
What do we think of when we think of landscape photography? Otherworldly places, spectacular views, a mountain range at sunset.
Landscape photography is all of these things, for sure. But it is a whole lot of other things too. Think nature photography, street photography, a cityscape or seascape. Think about night photography or photos of the urban landscape. Think travel photography.
All of these types of photography – and many more – can come under the notion of landscape photography, a field which is so broad that might not even be that useful as a term.
Because landscapes are the most varied things around. And even if they have a human element, if they overlap somewhat with great photos from wildlife photography, if they are not even immediately pictures of landscapes, landscape will still make up much of the compositional element of the image.
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What is a Landscape?
A more pertinent question here would be, what precisely is a landscape? And, interestingly enough, this is one of the most long-explored questions in the history of art.
Landscape is not actually that thing that we immediately think of it as. The word ‘landscape’ conjures up images of a pure, unblemished nature – like a wilderness, with little man-made dimension.
Yet, these notions of authenticity and purity are a bit dishonest. Because whilst landscape photography is not so posed as, say, portrait photography, it is not completely detached from the human.
Landscape comes from the two words, land and scape, the latter meaning to shape. Before this word was used for paintings and photos, it was used to refer to the process by which land was shaped or cultivated, or made useful, by humans.
In this respect, landscape, historically speaking, always plays out through the interaction of human and ‘nature’ – something which, outside of studio photography, pretty much always happens.
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What Makes Good Landscape Photography?
But landscape photography does not even rely on the presence of beautiful scenery that can be photographed. Some of the most beautiful images are of some of the most banal things.
Rather, what makes landscape photographs good is much more about the work of the landscape photographers themselves than the landscape they photograph. For a photograph to be appealing and interesting, the photograph needs to take precedence over the thing represented.
A professional photographer has a million and one photography techniques to make this happen. The shutter speed, the depth of field, the white balance, the width of angle and the length of exposure – and the natural light. All of this camera gear, and the subsequent photo editing software, contributes to make amazing photos.
Finding an interesting landscape or an inspiring landscape is only half the battle of taking photos. The rest comes with knowing how to shoot.
Note: You can take photography courses on Superprof.
Grab Your Digital Camera: America’s Most Amazing Landscapes.
As we said above, the beauty of the United States is in its infinite variety of landforms, landscapes, and sceneries. From endless plains to snow-covered peaks, from gorgeous coastlines to arid deserts, the range of geographical features is astounding.
We’ve put together some of the best here – yet, ‘best’, necessarily, is a relative term.
Ultimately, if you want to be a landscape photographer, you’ll have to leave behind the crowds and follow your eye. This is what makes photographers great: an ability to see the things others miss, a commitment to beauty and strangeness in all their visual forms.
So, best of luck! We hope you find this a good starting point.
New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
New England is famous probably for one thing more than anything else – amongst travellers at least. That thing is its trees in autumn – which, amongst regional symbols, is one of the loveliest around.
Considering that New England is essentially just forests, the changing of the leaves during fall is all-encompassing – and literally unmissable.
Yet, if you are a budding landscape photographer interested in colour, light, and shade, there is no better place to hone your skills.
Try New Hampshire’s White Mountains – one of the most famous places for autumn colours. The Kancamagus Highway is perhaps the most spectacular.
Alaska’s Kenai Fjords.
As Europeans flock to Norway to see the fjords, Americans head to Alaska. Quite simply, this might be one of the most beautiful places in the world, with glaciers, icy lakes, and snow-covered mountains.
It’s not only that though. You should as much for the array of curious wildlife as much as for the scenery.
Obviously, it’s cold as hell. But that’s a good thing if you are wanting your wilderness pics: that’s the only reason there are so few people. Remember to take some gloves and be prepared to do a bit of hiking.
The Palouse, Washington.
Now, of all the wonderful things that Washington state offers, the Palouse might be the most magical, dreamy, and unexpected.
This isn’t spectacular peaks or jaw-dropping cliffs. Rather, the Palouse homes a range of hills, gently rolling and grass-covered. This might sound like the most boring of English landscapes, yet, honestly, the effect is quite different.
These rippling shapes seem to shimmer in the light, resembling more the crumpled surface of an ocean.
For pure serene beauty – and a totally unique landscape – this is the place to come.
The Colorado River – in Arizona.
The Colorado River is a sight to behold – and to snap – at any point of its fifteen hundred mile length. Yet, perhaps, it is at its most famous – and most beautiful – as it passes through Arizona.
Horseshoe Bend, a dramatic meander in the Colorado, may now be the most photographed river scene ever. However, there is much more to this river than this.
Check out parts of the San Juan River – one of the Colorado’s tributaries – for one of America’s most dramatic landscapes.
Antelope Valley, California.
California is a beautiful state. But maybe one of the most special places in the state is Antelope Valley.
Known for its crop of poppies, the Valley blooms into a bright orange for miles and miles on end.
Respected for its long and important native American history – and now a little swamped with tourists – do your research before you go. Because landscape photography is not the same when its dominated by Californian school kids.
Utah: Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon, Arches National Park.
Having tried to choose just one nameable site in Utah, we had to give up. Because this state is breath-taking at almost every turn.
Monument Valley is one of the most iconic sights of the American West, whilst the Arches National Park is home to some really remarkable, gravity-defying rock formations.
Perhaps the most spectacular place in the state is Bryce Canyon, the geologist’s wet dream. Here, the landscape is dominated by strange towers of orange rock. These, seen together, make something unforgettable.
Acadia National Park, Maine.
For a mix of richly dense forest, sudden seascapes, and huge and gorgeous skies, head to Acadia National Park in Maine. Whether in winter’s snow, autumn’s glorious colour, or the brightness of summer, you’ll find some spots away from the crowd to treat your camera to something lovely.
The Great Plains, Wyoming.
Stretching through the middle of the United States are the Great Plains. As its name suggests, this area is flat, seemingly endless, and totally haunting.
And if you’re brave enough, you can catch glimpses of some of the most extreme weather phenomena in the world.
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