In the ‘West’, we suffer from a little problem of imagination. One particular image dominates our visions of places and, even when confronted by the reality, this image doesn’t budge an inch.
So, when we think of China, we don’t think much beyond the Great Wall. An inspiring landscape, sure, but a bit like imagining the UK as only Hadrian’s Wall. When we think of Latin America, we stop at Machu Picchu. And when we think of, say, Russia, we think mainly of vodka and snow.
Maybe this is natural. Yet, it remains a little ridiculous. And there’s nothing more ridiculous than the way we imagine Africa.
We’re willing to bet that ‘Africa’, for most people, signifies one thing. That’s the savanna – a beautiful landscape – with its acacia trees, its giraffes and elephants, wildebeest and vultures. But that’s pretty much it.
However, it’s worth remembering in all this, that Africa is, in fact, a continent. A continent three times the size of Europe. And if we think that Europe is a geographically diverse place, we should probably recognise that of our southern neighbours.
And it shouldn’t be a surprise – although it may well be – that Africa has some of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth. From the famous coastlines of South Africa and Mozambique to the deserts of Morocco and Chad, from the mountains of Uganda to the canyons of Namibia – Africa has it all. And yes, there’s always the Serengeti at sunset to be taking photos of too.
But let’s open our eyes – and camera lens – to the beauty and diversity of the African continent. And let’s learn a little about its geography whilst we search for the best locations for landscape photography.
Check out the best spots for landscape photography in the rest of the world.
The Sahara is, apparently, the size of China.
But first, let’s start with thinking about what landscape photography actually is and about what a landscape photographer might actually do. Because whilst we might consider this to be one of the most self-explanatory types of photography – you just take pictures of landscapes – it isn’t, really.
And the difficulty of all this starts with the definition of landscape – a term that has come to mean mountain peaks and remote locations, areas of the world that remain untouched, or at least undirtied, by any man-made element.
Landscape, to us, is this – it is usually a natural landscape, and we want it to be an amazing landscape. We want it to take our breath away with its relief or beauty, and we want to feel as though we are the only people there.
And this is the thing with landscape as an idea. It is detached and frozen in time – available to be looked at but not engaged with.
This is what we like doing with images of Africa in particular. ‘Oh, a giraffe!’, we say, looking at a picture of the Serengeti. We appreciate the beauty of the giraffe in the landscape, but forget about Africa as a continent with people in it.
It’s a danger of landscape photography that this happens. But this is an unfortunate historical development – rather than the way that this needs to be.
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Landscape, as a word, has actually engaged with the integration of a human element with nature from the very beginning. Land and scape are the two roots of this English term – and both pay heed to this mixture.
Land is not just a place – but originally it meant where someone belongs, as France is the land of the French. Scape, meanwhile, means to shape – to transform, work on, and sculpt the land.
Thought of like this, landscape no longer refers to this nice distant a-human space. Rather, it pays heed to the messiness of landscape – and suggests that landscape can be all sorts of different environments.
Just as an image of Kilimanjaro inspires so many landscape photos, so should a cityscape or seascape. Street photography, with its depiction of urban landscape, is also a landscape photography – as much as nature photography, wildlife photography, and travel photography.
The streets of Cape Town or Nairobi are as much a landscape image as the deserts of Morocco – and it is important to remember this for your own art.
Drive in one of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth
But if landscape images can be of anything from streets to mountain valleys, what makes a good landscape photograph?
This, in some way, is in the photographic eye of the beholder. However, it is also a question of photography techniques and photography skills. How come one person can take great photos of the Nile, say, but my landscape shot is just average?
For great pictures – truly beautiful images – point and shoot is not enough. And as you work on your own craft, you’ll need to learn a few things. We’re talking shutter speed, depth of field, and white balance. You’ll need to figure out if you want a long exposure or a wide angle lens.
And you’ll need to work on your photography composition, get familiar with your camera gear, and practice scouting and waiting in the right places.
Good photography really is all about the patience to find the best image you can get.
But ultimately, the best way to learn how to shoot is to get out into the world and do it.
And to get you inspired, here are some of the best places in Africa to find inspiring and awesome landscapes to photograph.
We can’t cover them all – because it’s a continent after all. Yet, you’ll find some tips here to get you started. Just remember though, the world has plenty of shots of the savanna.
Say something interesting – and make something beautiful and new.
The Rwenzori Range in Uganda is one of the largest mountain ranges on the continent. And to remind you that Africa isn’t all heat and dryness, in the Rwenzori there are plenty of glaciers.
Alongside this, it is a gorgeous – and largely unvisited – landscape. And it will give you some of the most beautiful landscape photos you have.
Ah, here it is. The famous Serengeti. This is where you’ll find your acacia trees and wildebeest.
It goes without saying that this is one of the most distinctive and wonderful places on Earth – as you’ll know from all of your photos of Africa.
Check out the Olduvai Gorge whilst your there – both a beautiful place and perhaps where humanity was born.
Where do you go to get some of the most gorgeous pictures of the Sahara? Given that this desert is the size of China, there are plenty of options.
A decent place to start would be the Ergs of southern Morocco. Whilst these aren’t technically in the Sahara, they are massive hills of sand that comes from the desert nearby.
Imagine that red, rocky landscape of Arizona or Utah. And then remember that you are in Namibia.
The Fish River here has cut a massive trench through the Earth. And whilst the gorge itself is mesmerising, the landscape around is really quite special too.
In the Maghreb, through Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, you’ll find a range of mountains stretching for two and a half thousand miles – and dividing the coastal areas of north Africa from the Sahara.
Here you’ll find snow, lush green valleys, and unique wildlife. It’s a great place to come if you’re looking for a part of the old often overlooked.
At the southern tip of Africa, you’ll find, funnily enough, South Africa. And on its south-western tip, you’ll find the Garden Route, a stretch of coast known for its verdant greenness.
Here, the Tsitsikamma Mountains fall down into the sea, making for a breath-taking landscape. Treat your camera to something beautiful.
In amongst the greenness of Ethiopia, you’ll find the towering Simien Mountains. With rugged and ambling peaks alongside jagged spikes of rock, this range makes for wonderful views.
For the wildlife hunters among you, there are also the gelada – a species of monkey unique to this area.
It’s currently recovering from one of the worst cyclones it experienced in decades. Yet, this tragedy has shone a light on the beauty of Mozambique.
With its lagoons, dispersed islands, and gorgeous beaches, it is a unique and paradisiacal place. Try, for example, Bazaruto Island.
The beaches of Mozambique are famously gorgeous.
Chad is one of the poorest countries in the world, landlocked, as it is, in the middle of the Sahara.
Yet, whilst it is devastatingly poor, it is also an exceptionally beautiful place. Travel from the Tibesti Mountains in the north to the Manda National Park in the south, and you’ll see some of the most amazing landscapes you’ll ever see.
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