Photographing Your Way Around the World

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Written by: Pete Churchill

A Photography Themed Gap Year

Have a guess where the most photographed spot in the world is. Go on. Have a think.

The Eiffel Tower? The Taj Mahal? The Statue of Liberty?

Nope. According to Sightsmap’s map of the most photographed places in the world it’s the Guggenheim Museum in New York. This place:

The Guggenheim Museum

Snapping the Big Apple

Where better, then, to start the ultimate photographic trip round the world than this most iconic city? Photographers have been drawn here for as long as cameras have existed and with good reason. From the obscure corners of the Bronx to Times Square in the heart of Manhattan the scenes of New York have played host to some of the most famous frames in photography. Ever.

While the Vivan Maiers, Diane Arbuses, Bill Cunninghams and Elliott Erwitts of the world had years to explore New York, your gap year might leave you with only a few days or weeks. So, make the most of it. Don’t hold back. Take those shots of the amazing busker on the subway, that incredible sunset from the top of the Empire State Building or that abstract photo of the Guggenheim, and add yours to the photographic tableaux that captures every moment of life in New York.

Although hard to top for cityscapes, street photography and diversity, there is a lot more to America beyond New York, regardless of what kind of photographer you are. Whether you want to fly straight to the likes of Chicago, San Francisco or Las Vegas, to shoot more iconic urban scenes, or travel overland and follow in the footsteps of photographers like Ansel Adams and Stephen Shore, there’s an unbelievable amount to see and shoot.

The Grand Canyon

Get trigger happy in South America

While North America is practically synonymous with photography, South America also has much to offer. From old coastal towns in Colombia’s tropical north, right down to the snow-capped mountains of the Torres del Paine, in the far south of Chile, it really is astonishingly beautiful and more varied than you could ever imagine.


Not only that, but it’s a dream to photograph, the light is fantastic and the people, scenery and climate are conducive to great photos. Mario Testino, one of the greatest living photographers, comes from Peru. It is easy to imagine how while growing up there these elements helped influence his style and formation as an artist. Maybe you’ll find the inspiration you’ve been waiting for there.

Travel and all the new sights it offers are the best inspiration for any kind of photographer. Your gap year is the perfect way for you to discover or hone your photographic style and try something completely new in completely new surroundings. Perhaps you’ll branch out from those beautiful landscapes and try some portraits of the locals, or maybe you’ll find yourself captivated by the colours in a local food market where normally you might focus on the lines of the local architecture.

Colombia street

While you’re travelling through South America in search of that perfect photo, whatever your style may be, you’re pretty much guaranteed to stop off at a few cities – Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Santiago to name just a few.

South America is well known for its beautiful landscapes, but it also has these vibrant, colourful and downright crazy cities. La Paz, surrounded by snow capped mountains, is the world’s highest capital city. Rio is possibly the most scenically located city in the world and is home to both the best beach on the planet – Copacabana – and the best party – Carnival. Santiago is the gateway from South America to the South Pacific so you never know who or what you might meet there!

La Paz cable car

Zoom in on New Zealand

From Santiago go west and cross the international dateline and end up in New Zealand. The Land of the Long White Cloud is where you can practice your wildlife photography – perhaps snap some whales from Kaikoura – and walk the Tongariro Crossing, maybe trying your hand at some winter photography before winding up in Christchurch to explore in search of some haunting urban shots.

Wakatipu Lake, New Zealand

Right next door to New Zealand is what is jokingly referred to as the ‘mainland’ – Australia. This mammoth island is more continent than country and its diversity reflects that. For photographers it’s got everything, from the opportunity to study the maze-like Sydney Opera House, to the beautiful Great Ocean Road with its famous rock formations. And then there’s the verdant beauty of tropical North Queensland, home to ancient rainforests and some of the best beaches in the world.

Australia road

Beyond the more obvious and well-trodden side of Australia, there’s also a wealth of diversity in people and settlements. Everywhere from the busy streets of Sydney to the remote Aboriginal settlements in the Outback, there are fascinating places and people with stories to be captured.

Lights, camera… Africa!

From Australia, head to South Africa, a brand new continent with awe-inspiring environments.

Maasai woman, portrait

There’s a good reason we associate images of Africa with pictures of lions, elephants and vast savannahs and that simply is the fact that it is home to some of the most amazing wildlife and their natural habitat is these primeval plains.

Wildebeest Migration

Regardless of whether you are planning to explore the backwaters of the Okavango Delta, the ancient Rift Valley or just simply the national parks that are dotted about Africa, there’s something that will catch the eye of any photographer.

These are the images that any explorer of Africa searches for. The ones that convey the scale of the place, the nature of life there and how everything else seems small by comparison. Africa will give you some perspective on your photography and teach you quickly what you are best at and how to put your photographic skills to best use.

Work your way overland through Africa snapping those elusive Big 5 and all the myriad other animals that dot the landscape, before winding up in one of Africa’s cities. Whether you stay in South Africa and head out along the Garden Route, before flying out of Johannesburg or Cape Town, or decide that you want a bigger adventure and make your way overland to Nairobi, the photos you will come away with are sure to be some of your best.


Frame the organised chaos of Asia

Taking a step back there’s a whole other route you could take from Australia – via Asia. Again, the options are pretty much unlimited, pack your kit up and head for Indonesia in the south of Asia or fly straight up to South East Asia’s crown jewel – Bangkok.

If you choose the former you’ll get to trek through jungles in search of the Old Man of the Forest (Orangutan) and climb active volcanoes through steam-shrouded rainforests. For almost all photographers these will be completely new environments to explore and work out how to shoot in, so not only will you come away with these amazing photos, but you’ll have a chance to really stretch yourself photographically too.


Or, if you head to South East Asia, on that classic backpacker route, you’re bound for the nightlife of the Thai islands, the gold-clad Buddhist culture that runs throughout the area and the intoxicating chaos of the cities. All of it just begging to be recorded forever in your photos.

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