Travel Photography

Travel photography is a genre of photography that involves the documentation of landscapes, architecture, culture, people, customs and history.

Travel photography is about bringing the world, customs and cultures to people and exposing what else is out there; what’s more, it’s fun and rewarding, especially if you’re a stock photographer.

Travel photography educates people about the customs of other cultures and religions, showing them how they differ from their own.

Travel photography originated in 1839 when Louis Jacques Daguerre created the daguerreotype, a type of photographic process that made travelling and taking images more feasible.

The invention of the daguerreotype allowed early travel photographers to bring their travel photography equipment with them but had the downside of long exposure times and a lack of negatives, which made it less attractive to commercial travel photographers. 

Fortunately, camera technology has advanced since the early Victorian period, in which travellers can now roam the world, its oceans and rivers with lightweight camera equipment, making this genre more attractive to commercial and amateur photographers.

Below are five of my favourite travel destinations that every travel photographer must explore.

  1. The Norfolk Broads, Norfolk, England.

The Norfolk Broads is a region with a rich and diverse culture, and it’s Great Britain’s largest protected wetland and the third-largest inland waterway; furthermore, it’s situated right on my doorstep and is considered one of the five wonders of the world by locals because of its wildlife, alluring scenic landscapes and gorgeous sunsets and sunrises.

Wroxham – Norfolk Broads | Credit J. J. Williamson

Apart from its unique scenery, the Norfolk Broads is home to some of the country’s finest stately homes that date back to the Tudor period; in addition, travel photographers have access to wild birds and flowers covering 303 square kilometres (117 sq mi), an abundance of thatched cottages, watermills, windmills and wind-pumps.

The Norfolk Broads is also home to Roman fortresses, medieval peat diggings, thriving abbeys and more. One of the defining features of the Broads is the many windmills you’ll see dotted around the landscape. Once used to grind corn or flour or to provide drainage, many of these have been restored to become popular visitor attractions.

Thurne – Norfolk Broads | Credit J. J. Williamson

As a local to the Norfolk Broads, even I’ve not covered the entirety of the inland loch-free waterways, much of which has to be explored by boat or on foot. St Benet’s Abbey and Somerleyton Hall are also unique and great astrophotography locations.

The tranquillity and beauty of the Broads have also inspired many writers over the years – from the classic children’s books of Arthur Ransome to the crime novels of P.D. James. Norwich’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature reflects how the written word has been woven into the area’s fabric. The many literary festivals held throughout the year, in the city and elsewhere, offer a great chance to hear a range of authors reading from their work.

2. Changthang Valley, Tibet.

The Changthang Valley is considered among the most alluring mountain ranges. They are a must-visit for travel photographers looking to photograph evolving pastures, unique cultures, ancient civilised tribes, wildlife spread over a colossal territory of roughly 1,600 square kilometres, and rich biodiversity.

Changpa Nomads herding cattle | Credit: Darter

The highlands of Changthang, Ladakh, are situated in the Tibetan Plateau in western and northern Tibet at a range of ten thousand feet. The Changthang Valley is considered the world’s highest and largest plateau. It is popularly known as the roof of the world. It starts in beautiful Rumtse village below Taglang La and leads quite fast up to an average walking altitude of more than 4500 meters.

This high-altitude wonderland of the Changthang within Ladakh is home to the Changpa tribe – Ladakhi and Tibetan nomads who wander the plateau with their animals, such as yaks, sheep and goats who produce the expensive and famed quality of wool known as Pashmina.

Lake Tso Moriri | Credit: GO2 Ladakh

The walk is relatively flat than other parts of Ladakh but passes through deep gorges, canyons and steep vertical passes. The area is also home to many peaks above 6000 m with attractive summits, besides being home to some rare and endangered mammals and birds. The turquoise blue colour Lake Tso Moriri, embedded between the snowy mountains, is where this strenuous trek ends, which is a Ramsar Wetland Site home to the elusive migratory black-necked cranes.

Changthang Valley is not for the fainthearted and is challenging to reach, but it is well worth visiting. In addition, it’s rarely frequented by modest photographers due to its rugged, challenging terrain and summit.

3. Bhutan, southern Asia between Tibet and India.

Bhutan is a landlocked country located in southern Asia between Tibet and India. The country’s topography can be divided into regions from north to south based on altitude: the Great Himalayas, the Inner Himalayans and the Southern Foothills.

The local Bhutanese people are fiercely independent, loyal, physically strong, and are said to be open-minded with a sense of humour. Bhutan is one of few countries on the planet that take environmentalism seriously hence why Bhutan is considered one of the most beautiful countries on Earth.

Bhutan locals | Credit: Pema Wangchuk

Mahayana Buddhism is Bhutan’s official religion, and around 75% of the population are Buddhists. The remaining 25% are Hindus. Up until 1999, Bhutan remained isolated from the rest of the world. Televisions, satellite T.V. radios, cell phones, the internet, etc., were banned to protect Bhutan’s national culture.

That segregation helped to preserve its deep Buddhist traditions, the importance of the family and pristine landscapes. Bhutan is the first country in the world with specific constitutional obligations on its people to protect the environment. Among its requirements: At least 60 per cent of the nation must always remain under forest cover.

“Bhutan” translates to “Land of the Thunder Dragon.” It earned the nickname because of the fierce storms that often roll in from the Himalayas. At 24,840 feet, Gangkhar Puensum is the highest point in Bhutan—and the highest unclimbed mountain in the world.

Thunder Dragon | Bhutan

Bhutan is open to tourism, though you must apply for a visa to enter the country on arrival. Bhutan is a photographer’s paradise, but there are some spiritual and government buildings where getting those holiday snaps is a no-go, including the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Therefore you must always ask for permission.

Failure to obey Bhutan’s national laws could lead to prosecution and a life sentence in prison.

4. Zakopane, Poland.

Zakopane is a town in the deep south of Poland, in the southern part of the Podhale region at the foot of the Tatra Mountains. Zakopane’s location in the Tatra Mountains has created a culture known as the “Polish Highlander” culture. The Polish Highlanders, commonly known as the “Górale”, are an ethnically diverse group of mountain people inhabiting an area stretching west to east from the Ostrawica Valley in today’s Czech Republic to Poland’s Biały Czeremosz Valley.

Zakopane | Credit:

600,000 Górale, whose origins can be traced back to wandering 15th-century Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, Slovak and Vlach shepherds, and who in Poland is divided into two main ethnic groups living in the Małopolska and Silesia regions.

The most well-known Górale are the so-called Podhale Górale, who inhabit the highland area south of Kraków between the Western Beskid Mountains in the north and the Tatra Mountains in the south. The two principal towns in this region are Nowy Targ and Zakopane, of which the latter is considered the unofficial Podhale Górale capital. Ethnically distinct from the Poles in several ways, including linguistically.

Zakopane, High Tatras | Credit: Gooral Zakolove/Instagram

In a world before television and where winters dragged on forever, the Górale used their creativity well. Still practised throughout the region, folk art can be found everywhere and is typified by crude wooden sculptures, usually carved from local pine and generally depicting religious themes. With its origins in the mid-14th century in the area that’s now the Czech Republic, painting on glass reached its height in the 19th century and was used to brighten up homes throughout the Podhale region.

Apart from the local culture and traditions, travel photography is a must in this region of Poland because once you reach the summit of the Tatra mountains, you’ll be awarded pristine landscape views, blue lakes, waterfalls and trails that meander from Poland into Slovakia.

The best time to visit Zakopane is from June to October, during which you’ll need approximately 5-10 days to explore the region.

5. Dallol, Ethiopia, Africa.

Dallol, commonly known as (Ghost Town) is a locality in the Dallol woreda of northern Ethiopia. Located in Kilbet Rasu, Afar Region, in the Afar Depression. The climate in this region of Africa is “extreme” from January to December, with temperatures averaging between 39-49oc. As the name goes, Dallol is a ghost town; in other words, no people live there full-time.

Dallol Volcano | Credit: Red Bull

Dallol is a unique terrestrial hydrothermal system around a cinder cone volcano. It is known for its unearthly colours, mineral patterns, and the acidic fluids that discharge from its hydrothermal springs. Furthermore, this region of Ethiopia is not frequented regularly by tourists or modest photographers, making it a fantastic place for travel photographers to explore and document, though it comes with risks.

Dallol is considered one of the most toxic regions on Earth. In the Dallol crater, the geothermal activity increases the temperature even further, so the brine water reaching the surface is about 100C. As well as the sweltering heat, the scientists that study the region have to cope with toxic hydrogen sulphide gas, not to mention chlorine vapour burning their airways and choking their lungs.

Visitors can choose to spend 1-2 days in the region. Furthermore, you can hike up to the crater of Erta Ale, a volcano home to one of the world’s only persistent lava lakes. It’s important to note that regardless of how you access Dallol, you should always stay with your guide, and absent that, use common sense.

Dallol | Credit: Sometimes Interesting

It’s not very difficult to die in a climate like this! Also, those pools of blue and green liquid you see aren’t water but sulfuric acid that’s concentrated enough to dissolve the sole of your shoe.


Earth is home to 195 countries, in which 5% of the planet on land remains unexplored hence why travel photography is essential in bringing the world, customs and cultures to people and exposing what else is out there.

Travel photography is the broadest genre in terms of all the subjects it covers. It encompasses numerous other areas of photography, such as street, landscape, or architecture photography. This is why it takes much more than mere photographic knowledge to excel as a travel photographer.

A good travel photographer must be flexible, well-organised and outgoing. Flexible to adapt to time-related challenges (e.g. waking up early, staying up late). Well-organised to plan photographic trips to the last detail. Outgoing because you can go a long way with a smile if you plan to take portraits of total strangers in faraway lands. Learning a foreign language or three wouldn’t hurt either.

However, there’s something unique about travel photography that makes it stand out from all other photography genres. The purpose of travel photography goes beyond just shooting a spectacular image. Travel photography is a means to tell a story, to inspire, and, above all, to educate people about the diversity of our beautiful world.

J. J. Williamson | The Norfolk Photographer

My name is Jon Williamson; I’m an ethical photographer and writer with fifteen years of experience in the industry. I shoot landscapes, seascapes, riverscapes, fine art, and portraits. I also run workshops, run tours, and offer one-on-one photography feedback.

Published by J. J. Williamson

Prints, frames, stock images and portrait services.

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