If you’re an aspiring landscape or travel photographer, your social media feeds are probably reminding you by the day that you must book a trip to Iceland immediately. Trek across the Himalayas on a donkey next week. Tour New Zealand in a camper van by Christmas, and spend New Year’s Eve in the Galapagos Islands. Each of these places has truly epic scenery worthy of its placing on the photography bucket list of any ‘real’ shutterbug, and don’t get me wrong – most of them are right there on my own must-explore list (sorry donkey).
But here’s the thing. Maybe there’s a place much more accessible to the aspiring photographer that is home to equally inspiring scenery. An affordable and accessible place where ‘the rest of us’ can merge a holiday in our time off work with a trip that yields amazing shots. I’ve discovered one, and I’ll let you into the secret.
A far-flung, exotic and expensive location? Actually, no…sometimes amazing scenes are more accessible than you might think.
The Canary Islands, an archipelago of 7 islands comprising an autonomous Spanish territory just off the coast of Morocco are volcanic, just like Iceland. They have epic coastlines, where rugged volcanic cliff faces plunge aggressively into the Atlantic Ocean. Granted, they may lack the plethora of waterfalls Iceland is well known for, or the lush greenery of the New Zealand sounds, but they make up for it in the number of volcanoes that form an eerie backdrop to whichever of the seven islands you find yourself on, and the equally unique landscapes these islands offer.
Lanzarote is the fourth largest Canary Island. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a significant chunk of my time on Lanzarote over the last 30 years, and in doing so I’ve learnt to see and recognise it’s worth as a stunning photography destination worthy of a place on your own must-explore list. Often on the receiving end of a bad reputation (from the British press at least), I’m convinced that Lanzarote is under-sold, and I wanted to prove that if you look a little deeper, the island has a lot to offer Travel and Landscape photographers like us. From wild coastal scenes, to quaint fishing villages with their white single story houses carefully arranged around a harbour side, to the surreal lunar-like landscape of the Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote hosts a broad range of inspiration for your photographic muse.
Los Hervideros on the El Golfo Coast is a perfect place to see the power of the Atlantic meet the stoic volcanic cliffs of Lanzarote.
This gem of an island is worth exploring, camera gear in tow. But planning any such trip comes with it’s challenges…and one may definitely sound familiar…
I bet there are thousands of us. Keen photographers itching to get out and explore, camera bag at the ready crammed full with the latest toys and trinkets to help us get the best images possible. Decisive, we opt to book a trip to the latest location on our must-explore list, yet like thick clouds slowly moving into the path of an epic sunset, a wave of guilt appears; ‘But what will I do…?’ voices your husband/wife/partner/goldfish/child/etc.. Sound familiar? Here it is – the constant challenge of an aspiring or semi-pro photographer – the negotiation between photography and ‘normal’ life.
There is, without doubt, a peer pressure view that you can’t be doing ‘proper travel/landscape photography’ unless it involves a degree of heavy physical endurance and personal sacrifice (like standing atop a snow covered mountain shivering in sideways rain ‘waiting for the light’!). The reality is, it doesn’t need to be difficult to be rewarding. My suggestion is to let the die hard guys in artic clothing take the pain, whilst me and you capture equally amazing shots on a much less grueling adventure. And here, Lanzarote offers us the perfect answer, because in addition to it’s epic landscapes, it’s also super-accessible, has a subtropical climate all year round, and is an established holiday destination with enough appeal to win over your goldfish.
Captured steps away from the tourist hub of Puerto del Carmen in Lanzarote. Seeking out amazing locations doesn’t have to be difficult – just don’t tell anyone!
Arrecife airport is the main inlet to Lanzarote from outside the Canary Islands (from inside, it’s easy to hop between islands using local ferries, or the Binter air service). Easily accessible on low cost carriers from most European hubs including the vast majority of UK airports. Run a search for return flights and I think your budget will be pleasantly surprised (check out Ryanair and EasyJet for examples).
So, if Lanzarote is an un-sung hero coming to the rescue of ‘Photographers like us’, what is to be done to right this wrong and give it the credit and exposure it needs? I thought hard about this – I wanted to produce some sort of guide for photographers discovering Lanzarote for the first time, but focusing on information that’s useful specifically for photography as opposed to the wealth of tourist information already available. A simple and concise way to give photographers the insider’s guide to the best locations to shoot. The kind of thing we might chat about whilst setup for a shot next to each other waiting for sunset. The idea of a printed book or guide seems positively archaic in the age of smart phones and tablets, but a website would require an internet connection – something mobile operators still charge a premium for when roaming.
The Photographing Lanzarote eBook is my attempt at a solution to this quandary. It’s a digital guide created for the Apple iBooks platform, which allows authors to produce eBooks containing a rich set of media like image galleries, maps, video and much more, all contained in a single download. Unlike the some competitor platforms such as the Kindle which can only handle images and text, iBooks opens a world of possibilities for highly visual arts like Photography, and it looks beautiful on your iPad, iPhone or Mac.
Once I’d decided on the medium, I then set out to capture the contents – armed with my Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Tripod, a Canon 6D and a DJI Phantom Pro as my creative weapons of choice, packed up in my trusty Advanced Backpack and DJI/Manfrotto drone backpack, I set out to create. Not for a six month sabbatical grudgingly negotiated with my boss, but in 10 days – little more than a working week out of the office, followed by some early mornings and late nights working on post production at home.
Sunset on paradise?
The fruits of 30 years background and one dedicated trip to Lanzarote resulted in the first version of the Photographing Lanzarote eBook, which is available on the iBooks Store now.
The first edition features some of the most beautiful locations on Lanzarote, with helpful route suggestions and background info to give an inquisitive photographer the insider’s guide to the best locations to shoot. Producing the first version of the book has been to some degree a labour of love, but there were of course some challenges along the way. I’ll be writing more about the making of Photographing Lanzarote in the coming months, including how I used Manfrotto products to bring it together, and my processing workflows, both on-location and in post-processing.
Step off the tourist trail and Lanzarote rewards you with truly stunning scenes. Sunset casts golden light on the cliffs of Famara in the north.
Much like an app on your smart phone, the iBooks platform allows me to deliver a constantly updating and improving product over time, for free, and so I’m constantly working on updates to add new locations and content. Just like me, many readers are finding that once you look at Lanzarote in a new light, you’ll want to return time and time again, and I’m thrilled to hear from readers who have been inspired to explore.
If I can leave you with one thought, it’s to urge any photographer interested in Travel and Landscapes to check out Lanzarote – it’s a wonderfully easy place to merge a relaxing holiday with your photographic passion. If you need a little inspiration, check out the Photographing Lanzarote Instagram Feed for a selection of some of the locations the book covers, or a short trailer on YouTube. For the best research to kick start your trip right off the plane, check out Photographing Lanzarote eBook and share your work with the reader community when you get back. The next free update to the book is already in the works.
Jon Barker is a digital producer based in the United Kingdom. He is a keen Travel and Landscape photographer, and specializes in using digital tools to inspire people to visit amazing locations.
Find out more about Jon and the Photographing Lanzarote eBook here: