What makes a destination truly sensational for photographers? Beautiful scenery with friendly people helps, some charming accommodation to recharge your bones after a hard day of walking and shooting, and ideally some sumptuous local cuisine that looks as good as it tastes. Often it's a lack of other travellers getting in your way that makes the biggest impact for a photographer, or just the right amount of locals to make a market look enticing. Who wants a photo of the Great Wall of China if it's hidden behind 10,000 sightseers? Our planet is truly incredible and inspiring and the camera is great way to embrace the beauty around us.
Stunning scenery and lovely people make this my No.1 destination. Often overlooked because of the reputation it has for tough hikes and high altitude, you can explore lots of beautiful scenery without having to be the next Sir Edmund Hillary. Short flights connect Kathmandu to the rarefied air of the Annapurnas and Lower Mustang, not too high that you need oxygen and not too remote that you can't hire a jeep to get up a hill instead of walking. The higher you go, the colder the nights, which is less than ideal for staying warm, but they offer clear skies in early spring or autumn and unimpeded views of snow-capped mountains.
The isolation and grandeur of Antarctica is truly powerful. That feeling of being so far from the rest of the world is both peaceful and inspiring. Ice is the big show, massive and ever changing, but the wildlife also makes Antarctica an essential experience for any photographer. Most animals are terrified of humans and their cameras, but in Antarctica the penguins literally walk right up to you. Your best shots won't be with a 600-millimetre telephoto from half a mile away, they'll be the wide-angle shots while you step backwards from a curious Gentoo.
Sunrise in Bagan is blanketed with cool air in the winter and usually graced by clear skies. The first rays of sun catch the low-lying haze, hiding the landscape a little and highlighting the dramatic temples that edge above the mist. Unlike many ancient capitals, the Bagan temples are not hidden by jungles, making them superbly photogenic at both ends of the daylight. The rest of Myanmar is a treasure as well, still emerging from decades of cultural isolation, but a country filled with warm spirits and generous people.
Paris in winter
Summer in Paris can be steamy and crowded, but in winter the streets are charmingly chic. Winter light also stays lower on the horizon and adds angle for most of the day. The city is filled with inspiration from the era of black and white photography, so it's worth shooting in that style yourself to evoke a sense of Paris and its history. Beautiful girls, cobbled streets and architecture built along the Seine will fill your days and your memory cards.
The Lofoten Islands are the jewel of Norway's Arctic landscape. These island rise sharply out of the Norwegian Sea, covered in snow through winter and bristling with flowers in summer. The locals are friendly outdoors types who offer warmth and hospitality. Graceful fjords are frequently dusted with snow in the winter and spring, with spectacular aurora borealis activity on show at nights. If you like tripods and long exposures, then winter in Lofoten is amazing. Summertime is the season for hiking to the top of mountains for unrestricted vistas of the coastline.
The Australian outback offers amazing diversity of inspiration but none match the power of Uluru and surrounds. From the air or on land the curves and folds of Uluru are compelling. Capturing the rock is not easy, with restrictions on many aspects due to sacred sites plus logistical challenges from park management. You're not allowed to park the car just anywhere and shoot, but there are plenty of great shots on offer regardless. The formations at Kata Tjuta are also inspiring at dawn and dusk, plus you can spend a day just chasing the wildflowers and red sands.
Peru's Sacred Valley
Cusco is the staging point for the Peruvian Andes with easy access to amazing journeys, such as the Inca Trail or the Lares Trek. Llamas and locals add some cultural interest along the trails, or you can focus on the ancient ruins at places like Ollantaytambo. The market at Pisco is the perfect place to load up on colours and characters. No visit to Peru should leave out a train ride to Aguas Calientes and an early morning bus trip to the ruins at Machu Picchu. It's a good idea to allow two days to visit the ancient temples, to double your chances of good light and clear skies.
India is rich in photographic inspirations but Rajasthan holds a diversity of colour and culture that is incomparable. The blue city of Jodhpur, the yellow fort of Jaisalmer and the Pink City of Jaipur hint at the hues of Rajasthan. In truth, every street of every city can boast a wealth of brightness. Women dressed in saris, trucks painted with pride and markets flowing with produce. Generous smiles and eager children make portrait shooting especially rewarding.
Kingdom of Bhutan
Culture meets karma. Few places in the world have escaped the influence of globalisation quite like Bhutan. It's a comfortable country to travel in with a good standard of living and an egalitarian society. Happiness is the national objective and travellers can share in the bounty. Magnificent temples, gompas and dzongs are scattered through the mountains of Bhutan and each offer moments to sit quietly with monks and their prayer wheels. Annual festivals turn these peaceful havens into a sea of colour once a year as the monks perform sacred dances, inviting good fortune to their community.
The Pacific is filled with gorgeous islands and gorgeous beaches and gorgeous resorts, so picking a favourite is never easy. Aitutaki is the stuff of dreams, a modest land mass in the Cook Islands skirted by a shallow lagoon the size of Melbourne. Tiny islands and tidal sand bars line the edge of the reef, home to coconuts and terns. In the course of a single day you can photograph every shade of aqua, azure and teal that you ever imagined. A couple of standout resorts provide suitably luxurious settings to complement the lagoon, and Tapanu's restaurant in the middle of the island cooks up chili crab that tastes as good as it shoots.
Explore the world's most photogenic destinations in the photo gallery above.
Ewen Bell is an award-winning travel photographer and writer. See ewenbell.com