If you want to take beautiful photographs, location certainly helps. Emily Nathan, photographer and founder of travel-lust journal Tiny Atlas Quarterly certainly knows a thing or two about incredible locations, and she gives us her picks on the best places to go to score stunning imagery. Our bags are already packed…
We traveled to Tahiti on our partnership project with Adobe Stock. There’s a thriving local culture there, deeply connected to the land (“mana”), and the people are very warm and open. When you head to a surf break by boat – necessary since Tahiti is surrounded by reef – each surfer in the line-up will greet newcomers with a mixture of a shaka and the local welcome of “La Orana.” The islands are a tropical paradise of velvet green mountains and electric blue waters (of every shade of blue and all bathtub warm). The pace is super mellow and even large hotel brands have relatively small properties nestled into gorgeous quiet coves with most featuring over-water bungalows.
Our first Tiny Atlas trip was to Tofino, on the far West Coast of Vancouver Island. Tofino is a nature and wildlife-filled paradise, with black bears, orcas, whales and salmon running in cold water. You can explore the quaint town full of wonders like the coffee shop Rhino and the book store Mermaid’s Tale, and or head out in a small boat to pristine, uninhabited timber covered forests to hike to the hot springs.
Whitefish is an adventure lover’s town with a laid-back, hippie vibe. The town is surprisingly accessible – a quick plane ride from San Francisco – and a short drive gets you to some of the most unspoiled wilderness in America. Whitefish sits on massive Flathead Lake that feels amazing to swim in on muggy summer afternoons. You can venture out to Polebridge, a tiny town of approximately 3 buildings that is right at the entrance to the western entrance to Glacier National Park, try your hand at fly fishing, or take a scenic trip on horseback through the majestic forests.
Banff is a winter wonderland in Alberta, Canada. Tiny Atlas shot a snowy feature there and we were blown away by the sheer beauty of the nature. It is truly sublime, the stuff winter fairy tales are made of. Frozen lakes covered with (nice!) Canadians playing ice hockey surrounded by pristine forests. Massive, rocky mountains create jagged lines set against blue skies. Deep, lightweight snow blankets it all. We visited two of the big resorts in the area which are charmingly out-of-time places with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the majestic views and hot chocolate at the top of every menu.
White Sands National Monument is a photo mecca. The fine gypsum hills are really just a blip in the landscape when you are flying past on the freeway (as you do in New Mexico), but when you venture into the park the layers of subtle color and childish joy of getting to run around in the dunes is incredible. Just be sure to get a permit beforehand – be prepared as that may take longer than you expected – and mind the very delicate and slow growing natural plant life as you amble around the dunes. An un-expected highlight of the trip was the old Mesilla town, which borders the not so interesting town (albeit with a very sweet and friendly and excellent airport) of Las Cruces. The Mesilla is tiny, but filled with history. The Double Eagle bar there is a true wild west icon that still exists and doubles (ha ha) as a restaurant with an epic courtyard surrounded by oil painting filled rooms where you dine while waiters tell you haunted stories of star crossed lovers in the paintings above you.
Porto is another destination with a rich history and a city that bears some interesting geological and cultural similarities to San Francisco. We loved the hills and colorful old streets overlooking the bays and delicious food in old palaces (with really reasonably priced, gorgeous hotels), but the surprise there was how welcoming the locals were. Close by is the wine region of the Alto Minho, famous for its cool and light young wine, Vinho Verde, and ancient sites that you can have completely to yourself and photograph to your heart’s content.
Buyer beware, if you go to Scotland, be prepared to drink scotch whisky! The town of Edinburgh is a gorgeous old European city with a remarkably high cliff right in the center on which stands a massive castle. An emerging food scene focused on the Scottish larder made for tons of delicious meals and our visits to the highlands left me with a true longing to go back and explore the heather filled wild landscape and outer islands.
Tiny Atlas is headquartered in the Bay Area’s Oakland, and while we love far-flung locations, we’ll often feature some of the epic locations close to home in the magazine, as well. California is a massive state with vast, protected lands – a big reason why so many of us choose to call this place home. Point Reyes’ natural beauty is a perfect example. A peninsula that juts out into the Pacific Ocean just north of San Francisco in Marin County, the headlands are a protected national seashore. Its landscape is often covered in fog and though it can get cold and windy, it’s an incredibly pristine wildlife refuge and birder’s paradise. It is crisscrossed by trails, features some of the most stunning beaches and waterfalls in the area and a massive white lighthouse (well known for attracting photographers).