Choose Your Next Photographic Adventure: 3 Less Obvious But Utterly Photogenic Cities | Can you guess the five most photographed cities in the world? How about London, Paris, New York City, Dubai and Istanbul?
Back in 2019, before the pandemic grounded most of us, these were the most frequently Instagrammed destinations, as measured by hashtags.
These five cities are incredibly mesmerizing. Who wouldn’t want to capture on film Dubai’s skyline, New York’s vibrancy, the rich historical tapestry to be found in Istanbul, the iconic Eiffel Tower, or the cultural treasure trove that is London?
However, how about falling a little more off the beaten path? In the words of Saint Augustine, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Consider exploring a little farther from the familiar.
The following three cities offer an equally eye-catching alternative adventure to the world’s big metropolises. Visit these gems and you’ll soon realize that the world is a startlingly and beautifully varied place. Plus, you’ll be able to create some beautiful framed travel art as a permanent memento.
Colmar is a delightful, historic town in Eastern France, fairly close to the German border. It’s the central town in a region famous for its wine, the Alsace, and thus draws many visitors each year.
What to photograph
Start in the Old Town which holds an abundance of historic buildings, largely a blend of German and French timber-framed houses that make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The highlight for most photographers is, however, Petit Venise. This canal-side stretch is particularly kaleidoscopic, the houses being painted in almost every color of the rainbow. The floral displays make the area even more picturesque.
What to enjoy
When you eventually tire of taking photographs and are in need of refreshments, Colmar will delight. The town is full of excellent restaurants showcasing the local wines and the cuisine, which is also a blend of French and German.
If you wish to extend your trip, the picturesque city of Strasbourg is nearby. Or take a vineyard tour out in the countryside. The tiny village of Eguisheim is unmissable for both its wine and its photo opportunities.
India is a dream destination for many photographers. It’s so vibrant, so colorful and so interesting. If you’re lucky enough to be heading to India, add Varanasi to your itinerary. It’s a holy city north of the country and can be visited in a couple of day’s excursion from Delhi.
There’s plenty of historical and photogenic Mughal architecture, just as you’d find in Delhi or in Agra’s Taj Mahal. Yet Varanasi also sits on the side of a particularly wide stretch of the Ganges. The holy river brings in hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year.
What to photograph
Waterside at sunset is the place to be. The light is mesmerizing, working in perfect unison with the city’s multicolored riverside buildings. However, it’s also the time that the area comes to life. Candlelit rituals and ceremonies known as “aarti” go on to provide the most beautiful time of day.
At this time, the atmosphere is captivating. The air is thick with the perfume of incense and ceremonial flowers. The many boats moored closely together form a huge platform for the huge crowds of people who gather to watch dancers on the riverbank. Fire is a dramatic addition to their performance. Meanwhile, on the river, hundreds of floating candles begin their journey downriver. These candles, placed in a flower-lined cup, are a sign of devotion to the Goddess Ganga.
What to enjoy
Take a boat tour, wander the labyrinth of alleyways and markets, and visit the many holy sites. Varanasi is known as the Indian capital of Hinduism, but it’s also significant to Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
If you don’t mind the cold, Iceland’s small and manageable capital city makes a unique destination where you can capture the incredible beauty of the Northern Lights.
What to photograph
What makes Reyjavik so visually striking is its bright and bold buildings set in stark contrast to the surrounding icy blue waters and grey, snow-capped mountains. Head up one the city’s many vantage points at as many different times of day as you can manage to capture the city in various lights.
The Sun Voyager is an iconic sculpture, a dream boat and ode to the sun. It makes a fascinating subject against the backdrop of vast Icelandic skies.
What to enjoy (and when to enjoy it)
Be aware when you plan your trip that Iceland only gets three hours of darkness in midsummer and five hours of daylight in midwinter. Therefore, spring and autumn are better times to visit for capturing the city.
You can see the spectacular Northern Lights between September and April. That said, if you want to see the Northern Lights at their very best, December to March is ideal.
If you’ve got time to see more of Iceland, why not take a whale watching tour to hone your wildlife photography skills, or visit some of the country’s breathtaking fjords, lagoons and geysers?
How to choose your next destination
These three cities offer amazing opportunities for photographers, but they represent the tiniest tip of the iceberg. There are so many more options out there. So how can you build an itinerary? Here are some tips for seeking out lesser-traveled destinations.
- Make a list of wants. For example, are you wanting to photograph ancient ruins or modern architecture, or something in between? Are you looking for somewhere very bustling or more sedate?
- Set a budget and consider how long a journey you are willing to make.
- Spend some time reading travel photography blogs for inspiration and ask photographer friends for recommendations.
- Once you have a shortlist of countries, consider how you might link up several interesting looking destinations to make the trip particularly worthwhile.
- Be open-minded and consider traveling (and taking photos) outside of your usual comfort zone.
- Be sure to check visitor safety guidance through your embassy and to make yourself aware of any pandemic-related restrictions before you travel.
We hope this article has sparked a few exciting new ideas. What destinations would you recommend to other photographers? Where would you like to travel to next?
American artist Shea Winter Roggio is the CEO of Winter Museo. A documentary and fine art photographer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as well as a University of the Arts graduate and an Eddie Adams Workshop and Center for Emerging Visual Artists alumni, Shea aims to reinvent the gallery shop. Winter Museo offers everything art, from posters, canvas, gifts, souvenirs and stationary to limited edition fine art prints, hand signed by the artist.