As our travel takes us increasingly to outdoor destinations, we thought it would be helpful to call out natural sites that make for some splendid photo ops. We’re not just talking IG here – though that works, too; we’re talking about DSLR nature photography magic, capturing sweeping waterfalls, towering mountain peaks, blankets of snow, lush forests, and countless other idyllic scenes. Looking for that perfect nature scene worthy of a living room print? Start here:
1: Kenai Fjords National Park (Alaska)
Fairly young by national park standards, Kenai Fjords National Park offers some stellar – and topographically diverse – nature photography opportunities. The glaciers here, most notably the stippled Exit Glacier, are unique features, photographed both from helicopters and close-up on the ground. The best composition for these photos usually involves a juxtaposition of a craggy glacier in the foreground and sloping hills/peaks in the background. You can even find spots where glaciers “empty” into bodies of water or flank verdant forests – either of which would make a stellar photo.
2: Big Sur (California)
Mist-logged and sheer; wound around by California State Route 1; and staring off into the wild blue of the Pacific Ocean, Big Sur is undoubtedly a captivating stretch of natural coastline. In fact, it has been called the longest and most untamed coastline in the world. For the best shots, head for Bixby Creek Bridge (just south of Monterrey) where you can set up a tripod on either side and capture the chasm-spanning bridge itself; the green-blanketed, rocky outcroppings of the coast; the winsome waves; and the mists brought in from the ocean.
3: Wormsloe Historic Site (Georgia)
Have you ever seen pictures of gnarled old trees, reaching up to intertwine their branches in a beautiful natural canopy? The most famous one arguably comes from Wormsloe Historic Park in Savannah, Georgia. The avenue capped by this mammoth natural arc is perhaps the most iconic spot for a photoshoot in the area, but you can also veer off course and snap the waving green expanse of Salt Marsh Trail – complete with gentle, forested hills rolling in the distance – or combine a nature shoot with a front-row seat to a Revolutionary War battle reenactment, hosted onsite.
4: Antelope Canyon (Arizona)
Everyone’s taken a shot of the Grand Canyon, right? Fewer have had the opportunity to document a trip to Antelope Canyon in Arizona, however. This Navajo-owned site is a beautiful showcase of water-eroded sandstone. What makes the site visually stunning is the way the sunlight peers through crags and openings above and ricochets off the curves of the canyon walls. In some places, it seems like a dizzying hall of mirrors, with various shades of red, orange, and white bouncing all over the canyon.
5: Yosemite Falls (California)
Eager to capture movement in your nature photography? Start with water – specifically, Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park. Flowing from a breathless 2,425 feet, cutting the rock as it crashes down into Merced River, this dwarfing waterfall allows you to capture the rush of water at one of three points: Upper Yosemite Falls, perhaps the most dramatic and noisy of the three; Middle Cascades, often unseen due to the bifurcation of the falls, but captivating if you can find a safe spot from which to photograph them; and Lower Yosemite Falls, the most viewed of the waterfall segments and the part most evenly balanced with rock walls, towering trees, and trails.
6: White Sands National Monument (New Mexico)
On the other side of the natural spectrum, deserts make a fascinating subject for nature photography – not least of all because they do such dramatic things with sunlight. White Sands is especially unique as it looks like snow, gently molded into curvaceous ebbs and flows by the wind. The gypsum sand is best captured at sunrise or sunset when sunlight refractions create the most dramatic scenes – ones usually blending early morning purple and orange hues cast against the pristine white of the dunes.
7: North Cascades (Washington)
With its immense diversity of natural life, rolling elevation, and seasonal weather shifts, the Cascades are a beautiful place to capture nature in many states. We recommend heading there during the winter; higher elevations will provide you with a light blanket of snow across distant mountains, lush evergreen forests, and partially-frozen lakes. That said, this is a joy to photograph any time of year – the pervasive green is enthralling, the shapes of the undulating mountains always give you pause, and the interwoven streams and rivers provide intense glassy reflections of their surroundings. Beautiful.
Do you have some favorite nature photography spots? Send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll share them with our readers!