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Britain’s best landscape photography locations (part one)

With so many stunning vistas to capture in the UK, we speak to some leading landscape professionals to find out their top recommendations.

Scotland


Your guide: Phil Malpas
Phil is a freelance photographer based in Wiltshire. He leads photographic tours around the world for Light & Land. During the next 12 months Phil will be leading tours to all three locations pictured here. Visit Light and Land for more information.

A stunning place that’s easy to access and great to shoot all year round Nikon D850, Nikon 24-70mm, 30 sec at f/11, ISO 160, Polariser, LEE 0.3 ND Grad (Very Hard), LEE Little Stopper

Traigh Rosamol, Isle of Harris
Traigh Rosamol looks out over the Sound of Taransay and is situated on the north-western coast of South Harris in the Outer Hebrides. Access is easy from the car park just behind the beach. This view is from the north-eastern end of the beach just before dusk and I chose to exclude most of the sand as it was a mass of footprints from the day’s dog walkers. I wanted to create a peaceful image with a serene, blue feel so elected to use a LEE Little Stopper, which allowed me to extend my shutter speed to 30 seconds. This has removed all texture from the water and added a soft appearance to the clouds above the North Harris mountains. This is truly one of the most beautiful places on the planet and will offer amazing images at any time of year.

The best time to photograph is early or late in the day and I recommend taking a selection of filters with you Nikon D850, 24-70mm, 0.4 sec at f/11, ISO 64. Polariser, LEE 0.9 ND Grad (Hard) and LEE 0.6 ND Grad (Very hard – inverted)

Ben Loyal from Lochan Hakel, Scottish Highlands
Situated on the north coast of Scotland near the village of Tongue, Ben Loyal is one of my favourite mountains to photograph. From this viewpoint you are facing almost due south so timing is critical. In the middle of the day at any time of year the sun will be above the mountain creating a silhouette, so early and late in the day are best. This image was made just after dawn and the clouds have helped with the contrast. Even so I needed multiple graduated filters to allow me to capture detail in the mountain. To get to Lochan Hakel take the minor road south from the village of Tongue for a couple of miles and you will discover the Lochan on your left. I would advise a daylight recce before arriving in the dark for your first dawn shoot!

This is a great location to visit during the winter months Nikon D850, 24-70mm, 1/5 sec at f/8, ISO 31, Polariser, LEE 0.3 ND Grad (Very Hard)

Rannoch Moor and Lochan Na h’Achlaise, Scottish West Highlands
After travelling north through Bridge of Orchy, the main A82 rises up via a series of sharp bends onto Rannoch Moor. The first Lochan you see on your left is Lochan Na h’Achlaise and the best views of the Black Mount complex are from the south-eastern shore about 100m from the road. For me this is always a winter location. At dawn the sun rises behind you and at dusk (as in this image) it drops in front and to the left with the last light of the day catching the mountaintops. Many people make the mistake of photographing from the road, but a short walk to the water’s edge will reward you with multiple potential foregrounds. It can be a bit boggy though, so make sure you have your wellies!

Other locations worth visiting

Balnakeil Bay near Durness is a wild and remote location with an extensive dune system and miles of perfect sand and turquoise blue sea.

Duncansby Head near John O’Groats in the far north-east offers amazing sea stacks and precipitous cliffs. A great dawn location in winter.

Glen Affric near Inverness is considered by many people
to be the most beautiful Glen in Scotland. It has to be visited in autumn for the spectacular colour.

Stac Pollaidh, in Assynt near Ullapool is another of my favourite mountains. Great views from the north-east shore of Loch Lurgainn.

Glen Etive and the River Etive. Access from Glen Coe. Fantastic rock details particularly on a wet, miserable day!

Northern England


Your guide: Martin Lawrence
Martin is a landscape photographer specialising in images of the Lake District and Scotland and offers photography workshops. He also writes photographic tutorials for magazines and websites. See here for more.

Wastwater is one of the most photographed lakes and this view down to Wasdale Head was voted as Britain’s Favourite View a few years ago Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 16-35mm, 1/60 sec at f/11, ISO 200

Wastwater, Lake District
Wastwater is best reached from the A595 driving through Gosforth and continuing on this road for a few miles signed ‘to the Lake shore’, where there is plenty of parking. It’s the perfect late afternoon location owing to its position and great for that colourful sunset. Autumn is the best time of year as the sun sets due west of the lake lighting up the whole image. Composition is important and this location delivers. You have Yewbarrow on the left, Wastwater Screes on the right and Great Gable and the Scafell range as the perfect backdrop. A wideangle lens will be required. I took this rainbow with a 16-35mm lens on a full-frame camera, which perfectly delivered.

Blackpool North Pier is a fantastic sunset location in late autumn and early winter Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-105mm, 1/500 sec at f/11, ISO 1600

Blackpool North Pier
Blackpool North Pier doesn’t sound like a must ‘go-to’ location but you can get some spectacular results at the right time of day and in the right season. There’s street parking just north of North Pier. It is a great structure for photography so couple this with a west coast sunset and you’re on to a winner. The other photogenic aspect of the pier is that it’s home to thousands of starlings that roost here in late autumn and early winter. Position yourself so the setting sun is shining through the uprights, which will cast lovely shadows on the rippled sand. A sunburst will give an extra dimension too. Increase your ISO to enable you to shoot faster shutter speeds to avoid blurred starlings.

Blea Tarn is a hidden gem with a stunning backdrop of the Langdale Pikes Canon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm, 1/15 sec, f/11, ISO 100

Moonrise over Blea Tarn and the Langdales, Lake District
From Little Langdale drive along Side Gates until you come to the Wrynose Pass junction. Keep right here for about a mile until you come to the National Trust parking at Blea Tarn. The tarn is a perfect early morning location with the impressive Langdale Pikes as your backdrop. Early morning starts are best here as you want to get the Langdale Pikes showing some sunrise colour as well as some perfect reflections. Hopefully you can get some mist dancing above the water, which is very common at this elevated location. Bring a medium focal length lens – typically 24-105mm as there are many items of foreground interest such as fences, stones, beautiful Larch trees and of course The Langdale Pikes.

Other locations worth visiting

An atmospheric shot of Bamburgh Castle sunrise through the mist

Bamburgh Castle is located on the Northumberland coast. It’s worth a visit any time of year but I recommend early morning to get the sunrise and fog/mist. Time your visit for an outgoing tide, as you want those rocks to be wet, to add colour and drama. Look for compositions with slabs of rock that point to the castle for great lead-in lines. It’s the perfect destination to use a set of Graduated Neutral Density filters.

The timeless, picturesque village of Staithes in North Yorkshire has higgledy-piggledy cottages and winding streets that lead down to
the harbour. 

Tewet Tarn in the Lake District is a hidden gem. Located
near St. John’s in the Vale, it offers stunning views across to Blencathra and Skiddaw. It is a great location for taking panoramic images.

Dubs Hut and Warnscale Head Bothy are two very photogenic slate huts high above Buttermere in the Lake District. Great Gable and Haystacks offer superb backdrops.

Mary’s Shell, a beautiful sculpture on Cleveleys Beach in Lancashire, is a perfect location at sunset and to try out your 10-stop Neutral Density Filter.

Lindisfarne is a 16th-century castle situated on Holy Island, Northumberland. This location has numerous foreground interest objects to create perfect compositions.

Midlands and Wales


Your guide: Verity Milligan
Verity is a professional urban/landscape photographer based in Birmingham. She has worked on campaigns for international organisations, leads workshops for Light & Land and is an ambassador for Zeiss. See here.

Padley Gorge is a popular spot located near Grindleford in Derbyshire Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 17mm, 8 sec at f/11, ISO 100, Lee Polariser

Padley Gorge, Peak District
Padley Gorge is somewhat of a mecca for photographers and suits both wide and telephoto lenses depending on your focus. There are several points of access: parking on the side of the B6521 (this can get very busy if you don’t arrive early), the car park at Grindleford, or the pay-and-display car park at Surprise View that involves walking down to the gorge through Bolehill Quarry (also very photogenic). The gorge is at its most beautiful when autumn sets in and the rusty, warm colours prevail. The best time to visit is early morning, especially during autumn and winter when there is always the possibility of frosty and misty conditions. There are plenty of compositional opportunities all along the gorge so make sure you explore. It’s worth packing a circular polariser and an ND filter to create some long exposures of the water.

Visible from the M40, this little windmill situated in Warwickshire is an attractive proposition for any photographer Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-70mm, 1/20 sec at f/16, ISO 100

Chesterton Windmill, Warwickshire
As a photographer based in the Midlands, Chesterton Windmill has been on my radar for some time. It’s architecturally appealing with its unique circular design and archways. The windmill is accessible from the side of the road but the field in which it resides is in constant use so it’s worth paying attention to where you’re standing and be mindful of the crops. The windmill itself stands on the top of the hill, which provides the opportunity to capture some vistas of the surrounding countryside. There’s no perfect time of day to capture the windmill, but I prefer it at sunset, or during stormy weather, which provides a dramatic backdrop. It’s worth bearing in mind that the crop is on rotation and this can make a more interesting tableau if you manage to catch the crop during a colourful year.

Three Cliffs Bay, South Wales Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, 16-35mm, 30 sec at f/16, ISO 100, Lee Circular Polariser and Big Stopper

Three Cliffs Bay, The Gower
Access to Three Cliffs Bay involves some scrabbling over sand dunes, but it’s worth it to get down onto the shoreline. You can park at the Gower Heritage Centre and walk down to the beach, but your return to the carpark will be uphill. I recommend visiting when the tide is going out, which will open up access to some of the adjacent bays such as Pobbles, Tor and Oxwich. As the tide recedes it provides some interesting wideangle compositional opportunities including the cliffs themselves, especially when the light is low. Visiting at sunrise or sunset provides the best chance of getting some interesting conditions especially during autumn and winter when the cliffs catch light from both the sunset and the sunrise. Use an ND filter of 6 or 10 stops to create some attractive long exposures.

Other locations worth visiting


The Tree on Llyn Padarn has become one of the great photography clichés of Snowdonia. Access is via Padarn Country Park, and the tree itself is visible from the car park. The tree is most attractive during autumn and spring. For the best conditions in the surrounding scenery, shoot during the golden hour. During sunrise there’s more chance of the lake being still and the possibility of ethereal conditions, but sunset can create some gorgeous light on surrounding mountains and in the sky. Using a wideangle lens and a circular polariser will help bring out reflections.

Penmon Point (Trwyn Du in Welsh) is an attractive lighthouse that sits on the north-eastern corner of Anglesey in north Wales. From the shoreline there is a view
of both the lighthouse and Puffin Island in the distance, with views back across the Menai Straits.

The Vale of Glamorgan harbours an intriguing coastline. Nash Point, with its epic rock formations, makes for a captivating composition, whatever the weather. 

The relative flat of the Midlands is thankfully interrupted by the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire, which provides plentiful vistas of the surrounding countryside. This area is at its best in autumn, especially at sunrise.

East Anglia


Your guide: Justin Minns
Justin is a landscape photographer known for his atmospheric images of East Anglia. As well as running workshops in the region he is also the author of Photographing East Anglia, a photographers’ guidebook to the area. See here for more. 

St Benet’s mill reflected in the River Thurne on a calm, frosty morning, taken from the southern side of Thurne Dyke Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm, 1/8 sec at f/16, ISO 100, LEE Polariser, ND Grad (0.6)

Thurne, Norfolk
Thurne is a classic Broads location with lazy rivers, whispering reedbeds and two windmills (or wind pumps to be precise), the gleaming white painted Thurne Windpump and the red brick St Benet’s. There are a handful of parking spaces beside Thurne Dyke (NR29 3BU) from where a path runs around the dyke and along the river. Use a wideangle or standard zoom lens and look for groups of reeds, boats or old jetties to use as foreground interest for shots of the windmills. A polariser will help to make the most of any reflections. There are opportunities in golden hour light at either end of the day here but Thurne is at its best early on a calm morning with crystal-clear reflections and mist swirling up from the river and marshes or a coating of frost on the reedbeds. Usually late autumn to early spring has the best conditions and less boat traffic.

Looking south towards Hunstanton cliffs Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm, 1/8sec at f/16, ISO 100, LEE Polariser, ND Grad (0.6)

Old Hunstanton, Norfolk
This beach is a vast swathe of golden sand beneath distinctive red and white striped cliffs. The unusual rock formations, which stretch out in lines below the cliffs, are fantastic for long exposures, so don’t forget your Big Stopper 10-stop filter. Big wideangle views can be found in all directions… looking out to sea at sunset, along the line of cliffs with the shipwreck in the foreground or back towards the cliffs, which look especially good when lit by low sidelight or reflected in one of the shallow pools left at low tide. Check the tide before you visit – a receding tide is safest and best for a footprint-free beach. There is a car park on the cliff top (PE36 6EL) and a footpath down to the beach. Turn left at the bottom for the cliffs; there are also dunes worth exploring to the right.

Looking north along the shoreline to the cottages on the beach Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, 16-35mm, 114sec at f/11, ISO 100, LEE Big Stopper, Hard ND Grad (0.6)

Shingle Street
At first glance, this remote shingle beach on the Suffolk coast looks an unlikely place for landscape photography and it can be challenging to find the shot here but once you get ‘your eye in’ it can be amazing. The shoreline is constantly being re-moulded by the sea into sweeping curves and lagoons – and these shapes make fantastic leading lines while a couple of white cottages provide much-needed focal points. Long exposures are very effective, the smoothed water simplifying the shapes of the shoreline. Monochrome also helps to contrast the tones and textures of the water and bright cottages against the dark shingle. Dramatic weather suits this beach but it’s not all doom and gloom: in spring the beach is alive with colourful wildflowers. There is a small car park on the left just before the houses (IP12 3BG), and from there it is a short trudge across the shingle to the shore.

Other locations worth visiting
Happisburgh lighthouse is a beautiful red and white lighthouse set back from the clifftops. The beach below is littered with interesting old sea defences as well.

Southwold has plenty of photographic spots on offer, from the quirky pier, colourful beach huts in the dunes, to the ramshackle old harbour.

Dovercourt lighthouse is a Victorian lighthouse resembling a moon landing craft that has landed in the sea off the Essex coast, fabulous for long exposures and sunrises alike.

The stretch of the River Stour that meanders its way through the meadows between Flatford and Dedham in the heart of Constable Country is wonderful.

Southeast England


Your guide: Benjamin Graham
Benjamin was the winner of LPOTY in 2017. He runs tours with Light & Land and teaches photography privately and at West Dean College. See his website for more. Twitter @_BenjaminGraham and Instagram: _BenjaminGraham

The flat, calm waters here act as great mirrors with colourful skies Nikon D810, 14-24mm, 1/6 sec at f/11, ISO 64

Church Norton, West Sussex
Best at very high tides at dawn, this discreet, spit-protected RSPB wetland location typically brims with flat, calm waters at the highest tides providing fabulous opportunities to use nature’s mirror to great effect. This area often catches coastal mists too so that’s a real bonus. The little local church is very picturesque, nestling in its own well-kept space with no other buildings around it. You can also access a typically deserted shingle beach from here that delivers great low-tide dawn ops. Park up in St Wilfred’s Church parking lot (PO20 9DT) and follow the signs to the RSPB nature reserve.

Perfect for minimal seascapes with gentle, pastel-coloured skies. Nikon D810, 14-24mm, 0.4 sec at f/8, ISO 64

West Wittering, West Sussex
The location for my winning LPOTY image is best at low tides during sunset or dawn. An expansive sand shelf of a beach adjacent to Chichester Channel with big tidal movements, this immersive location has spacious, uninterrupted westerly views. Perfect for both subtle, minimal shots and expansive, dramatic sunset scenes. Avoid busy times, there’s nothing worse than hordes of people and packs of dogs leaving footprints gouged into your unblemished sandy foregrounds. Use a Tide Times app (and the Photographer’s Ephemeris) to plan your trip. Often the parking lot here (PO20 8AJ) will be shut when you want to shoot, so park up outside and head down the long entrance driveway. You may have to park some distance away so allow 20-30 minutes for the walk to the water’s edge, especially if the tide is way out.

Aldwick Rocks are only revealed at low tide. Nikon D810, 50mm, 5 sec at f/11, ISO 64

Aldwick Rocks, West Sussex
These primeval-looking humps of stone provide foreground to midground visual punctuation and make great silhouettes when light levels are low, at sunset or dawn during low tide. There’s a beached decomposing wreck of a section of the WWII D-Day Mulberry Harbour nearby at this location, and that can make for an interesting subject when it’s semi-submerged at low tide. There’s nothing to compare with having the beach all to yourself at 4am, for example, under steadily evolving pre-dawn skies, with freshly laundered, brand new sand-forms, varied tide pools after each turn of the waters and beautiful twilight colours bouncing off reflective expanses of damp beach and rock formations. The most important thing with the coast is getting to know when the most favourable moments are for your visits. For this location I recommend parking on Marine Parade (PO21 2QA) opposite Marine Park Gardens near the boat pound at the west end.

Other locations worth visiting
Pagham Harbour/RSPB Pagham is one to visit at high tide during dawn or sunset. This location is great for both bird and landscaper photographers. Extended walks on pathways around the reserve provide views of the dynamic shapes in the reserve’s wetland mudflats and grasses. Park at the end of Church Lane (PO21 4NR) where the road stops and then follow the signs to the nature reserve. 

Littlehampton is best to shoot at low tide during dawn or sunset. It’s a big sandy beach with interesting rockpools; it also has a wonderful skeletal timber pier formation at the estuary of the River Arun that makes for interesting long exposures. Go right down to the end of Rope Walk and park up in the pay and display area (BN17 5DL) The beach is over the ridge.

Further reading: 
Best UK locations for a weekend break
Hidden Britain for landscape photographers
Top Autumn photography locations

 

Source
Amateur Photographer

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