Light & Land
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10 of the world’s greatest landscapes
26th April 2019
What are the world’s greatest landscapes? Which places call out to be photographed? Landscape photographers, from Charlie Waite to Michael Kenna, as well as bloggers and Instagrammers The Planet D, FollowMeTo, Nomadic Revelations and more select their favourite locations around the world (and they’re not all the obvious ones…). What’s your favourite landscape?
Debra Corbeil (The Planet D)
Our favourite landscape in the world is in Cappadocia, Turkey. Taking a hot air balloon flight through the Göreme Valley feels like you are soaring over another planet.
The photographic potential in Cappadocia is just incredible. The lunar landscape is filled with stone pillars reaching 40 metres in the air. High white cliffs surround an endless stream of cone-shaped formations sculpted over thousands of years by wind and rain. Fittingly known as fairy chimneys, these columns create a storybook setting that is truly one of the most magical and unique landscapes we have ever encountered.
Jarryd Salem (NOMADasaurus)
No other place in the world has taken our breath away as dramatically as Antarctica. Ancient glaciers tumble into a glistening sea, reflecting brightly against an unpolluted sky. Enormous icebergs float by majestically, glowing intense hues of blue underneath the water. Black rock mountains rise above the landscape in jagged shards.
Most remarkable of all is the wildlife that inhabits Antarctica, the most undisturbed of any creatures on the planet. Antarctica is a phenomenal location for unique wildlife encounters. The isolation and harsh conditions of the polar continent has kept it free from permanent human inhabitation, and that has allowed the marine and bird life to flourish unlike anywhere else. Humpback whales, orcas, penguins, sea lions and an abundance of birds roam freely across the white continent.
In terms of adventure it is unrivalled, with the opportunity to go camping, trekking, skiing, diving and even sea kayaking, all great ways to explore and photograph the unique landscapes.
Copper Canyon, Mexico
I could pick Scotland's Isle of Harris and Lewis, the salt flats of Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni or Japan's northernmost island Hokkaido, all personal favourites. But Copper Canyon, and Mexico as a whole, doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Up in the far north of the country, the ‘Barrancas del Cobre’, or Copper Canyon, is deeper than the Grand Canyon and at least four times larger, a network of 11 canyons sprawling across 60,000 square miles of rugged red rock landscapes.
Getting there is a pleasure. The Chihuahua al Pacifico (or ‘El Chepe’) is one of the world’s greatest train journeys, running 405 miles between Chihuahua and Los Mochis. The train rumbles through the foothills of the Sierra Madre, climbing into pine forests, crossing rivers on high bridges and disappearing through long tunnels. At points along the way, deep gorges drop away on either side of the rails to rushing rivers below.
Copper Canyon itself is vast and timeless. You could spend months exploring the canyons, photographing rugged copper rock landscapes, 30-foot-high cacti, small villages and local people. Batopilas, in particular, is worth heading to, deep in the remote canyons, to enjoy local life in the small town and explore the old silver mines up in the surrounding hills.
There is something mysterious and wonderfully alluring in Japan. It is a country where the land is alive, where the elements are strong and powerful.
I’ve found Hokkaido, the most northerly island in Japan, to be a particularly intriguing place: gently seductive, dangerously wild and hopelessly romantic. It’s the place in Japan where I have spent the most time and have had the best photographic results. Visually, it’s been a paradise on Earth for me, a veritable winter wonderland. Surrounded by water and home to exquisite lakes, graceful mountains and countless majestic trees, photographic subject matter is ubiquitous.
I have fun memories of my time there. My guide in Hokkaido taught me karaoke songs by Yujiro Ishihara, a well-known Japanese singer. I’d practice in the car on our road trips. Later, in karaoke bars, it was surprising to me how warm and friendly people became once I sang one of these songs. I could have free drinks all night as long as I sang either Yujiro or Beatles duets with everybody. It’s a very useful skill to have in Japan.
The Lot, France
France is the most undiscovered country in Europe for landscape photography. I know a lot of people go to the Dordogne, but I prefer a department called The Lot. It’s an unusual one. What’s good about that is that it’s relatively empty. I never see any tourists there and I like that part of France enormously. As a landscape photographer, you pretty much know that you could walk down the middle of any road and you’d probably not meet a car for maybe up to 10 or 15 minutes. That matters a lot because, when you’re doing landscape photography, one of the things that drives you mad is not being able to pause. There’s no possibility of being able to slow down to drink in and absorb the landscape because there’s always somebody in this country trying to blast you from behind. That’s a technical, practical thing: having time to pause.
The other thing that’s lovely is it’s full of little cameos. There isn’t a lot of the ‘big, grand scene’, which I’m not really very good at photographing, those classic, iconic images that you see all over the place. I find lots of little minor pieces, if you like, perhaps not more than a couple of hundred metres wide, that you can just build a little landscape study out of. I love that.
I’m convinced I get smiled at in France more than in any other country, too.
Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
Juno Kim (Runaway Juno)
It took me years to realize why I’m drawn to glaciers and deserts: I’m in awe of the accumulated time in those areas. Franz Josef Glacier was the first place I actually saw this up-close. My world got so much bigger when I first stepped on the soaring glacier mountains. Wearing heavy-duty hiking books and crampons, I headed out for a full-day of glacier hiking. The smooth and sometimes ridged surface of this ancient ice had the purest colour of blue I’ve ever seen. This is the source of magical coloured glacial lakes in the South Island of New Zealand.
The scenery changed with every step. In fact, the landscape changes daily since the glacier moves. Through ice caves, over crevasses and between glacial walls, we explored this surreal landscape of the Southern Alps.
It rains 240 days a year here, though, so do check the weather before you go.
The Quiraing, Scotland
I love the Isle of Skye, especially The Quiraing and all that area around it. The Quirang is quite magical. The light is ever-changing. Skye is one of the locations I first went to very early on when I started taking photography very seriously, when I first started paying to go on photography workshops. I met some great people on that workshop who I stayed friends with. It’s a great happy time, so maybe’s there’s a little bit of romance and nostalgia for that time.
But it’s a stunning place. It looks so prehistoric. The landscape is so unique there. You could imagine it’s not changed for thousands of years. The birds are flying around you but a million years ago it could have been pterodactyls or something. It feels prehistoric, and it has a really special feel about it. I could go out with my camera and a bit of lunch, and explore that area for hours.
Namib Desert, Namibia
Chanel Cartell (How Far From Home)
Namibia is one of those sensational gems that really could use some more attention from adventure travelers, landscape photographers and anyone who loves natural beauty.
When you find yourself strolling through the hot desert sand dunes, surrounded by 700-year old trees and native Oryx antelope, you’ll feel like you’re on a different planet. If you can withstand the 45 degree C heat (113 F), you’ll experience something few travellers have ever had the pleasure of witnessing: magical sunsets where wind and sand come together and dance. For us, that is Namibia.
Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)
Murad Osmann (Follow Me To)
Bagan's archaeological zone has one of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth. It’s easy to see why so many travellers love it here, especially admiring the view of famous Shwegugyi Pagoda.
All your problems fly away, together with the air balloons, which give you unforgettable sunrises or sunsets in this magical area.
Bagan's sky is always colourful and authentic, like stories in children's books. You can see the rainbow-coloured clouds, starting from orange before purple with a soft pink touch.
Such a calm and clear atmosphere is ideal to relax your mind and create new ‘crazy’ travel dreams to realize in the future.
Cocora Valley, Colombia
Joao Leitao (Nomad Revelations)
The Cocora Valley occupies part of Los Nevados National Park, located in the Andean subtropical highlands. With its temperate weather, it is also the principal location of the national symbol of Colombia: the protected Quindío palm.
It’s an incredible popular destination for seekers of extensive camping and hiking adventures, other outstanding opportunities here include mountain biking, horse riding, rafting, bird watching, scenic flights and river swimming. Of course, with landscapes like this, it’s also a fantastic place for photography.
After days spent exploring and photographing, I recommend that people savour the diverse preparations offered by Cocora’s restaurants specializing in local freshwater trout.
Photos in descending order: (Top) Kussharo Lake Tree, Study 9, Kotan, Hokkaido, Japan by Michael Kenna; Balloons over Cappadocia, Turkey by Dave Bouskill (The Planet D); Massive iceberg in Antarctica by Alesha Bradford; Silver miner walking through Copper Canyon, Mexico by Graeme Green; Taushubetsu Bridge, Nukabira, Hokkaido, Japan by Michael Kenna; The Lot, France by Charlie Waite; The Quiraing by Terry Gibbins; Skeleton tree on Deadvlei salt pan, Namibia by Graeme Green; Sunset over Bagan, Myanmar by Murad Osmann (Follow Me To), Cocora Valley, Colombia by Joao Leitao (Nomad Revelations)