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The Best Travel Photography of 2023

By Hannah Towey

The Best Travel Photography of 2023

There's nothing quite like the power of a photograph to truly capture the heart of a place—and awaken the travel bug inside us all. But with social media inundated with images of far-flung destinations, the search for high-quality travel photography can often be a tougher pursuit. So, in place of scrolling, why not let an expert panel of judges filter out the best of the best for you?

This week, the international Travel Photographer of the Year (TPOTY) awards announced their 2023 winners, selected from more than 20,000 images taken by amateur and professional photographers from over 150 countries. The judging of the competition takes place over three rounds; all 16 judges are leading photographers or experts in the field and are not made aware of the identity or nationality of any entrants.

Ranging from ethereal landscapes of the Italian countryside to striking portraits in Pakistan and Russia , the winning shots—including the celebrated work of Travel Photographer of the Year AndreJa Ravnak—reflect a “subtle elegance," says TPOTY founder Chris Coe.

"This comes through in both of AndreJa’s winning portfolios; one takes us into simple landscapes, with delicate colors and a textural beauty, the other into the hop fields, out of season and undressed ready for the next planting," Coe says. “Neither are obvious subjects, neither photographed at an optimal time of year, and yet they are both engaging and rather beautiful.”

Ravnak's winning submissions consists of eight shots photographed in the farmlands of Italy , the Czech Republic , and Slovenia .

“From my personal experience, I know it's not easy to judge photography. Images are not measurable, so being a judge is a complex task and responsibility,” says Ravnak, a professional architect from Slovenia. "Congratulations to all the winners; together, we are enthusiastically documenting this wonderful world, and perhaps this is a small contribution, a reminder to preserve its wonder for future generations.”

Below, see the 2023 winners of the Travel Photographer of the Year (TPOTY) awards, featuring Japan's Lake Shirakawa , volcanic eruptions in Iceland , Shamanic rituals in Siberia , wildebeest migration in Kenya —and more.

Overall Winner—The Travel Photographer of the Year 2023  “Early in the spring the first rains allow wheat to grow in the...

Near Pienza, Tuscany, Italy

Overall Winner—The Travel Photographer of the Year 2023 (AndreJa Ravnak, Slovenia) : “Early in the spring, the first rains allow wheat to grow in the rolling fields. Due to the cold nights, the landscape is often shrouded in beautiful mists on clear mornings during this period. This agricultural landscape is sparsely populated, with land being used to its fullest potential. Farms are located on the top of individual hills.”

Overall Winner—The Travel Photographer of the Year 2023  “Early in the spring the first rains allow wheat to grow in the...

South Moravia, near Kyov, Czech Republic

Overall Winner—The Travel Photographer of the Year 2023 (AndreJa Ravnak, Slovenia) : “In early spring, the soil is still too cold for growth. An interesting pattern occured while a new orchard was planted on the slope of the hill, making the scene very abstract.”

Overall Winner—The Travel Photographer of the Year 2023  “In search of suitable land for cultivating fertile soil for...

Overall Winner—The Travel Photographer of the Year 2023 (AndreJa Ravnak, Slovenia) : “In search of suitable land for cultivating fertile soil for agricultural purposes, humans have sometimes covered entire hilly landscapes with fields. Hills without natural vegetation are very exposed to erosion, which creates unusual waves on the slopes. This agricultural landscape looks like a soft, undulating carpet, completely otherworldly, as if it had been created by AI. In addition to erosion, the problem with these intensively cultivated areas is also the increasing exhaustion of fertile soil.”

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Overall Winner—The Travel Photographer of the Year 2023  “A tractor driver maneuveres a high trailer with a crew of...

Savinjska valley, near Zalec, Slovenia

Overall Winner—The Travel Photographer of the Year 2023 (AndreJa Ravnak, Slovenia) : “A tractor driver maneuveres a high trailer with a crew of workers on top, manually tying strings to steel cables for hop growing. In the spring, the fields must be prepared for a new season and new strings must be strung. The process is done by hand, but there is not enough interest in this type of work in Slovenia, so hop growers hire workers from abroad every year. Seasonal workers from Romania are regular visitors to the Savinja Valley.”

Overall Winner—The Travel Photographer of the Year 2023  “When the hop strings are hung on the top steel cables an...

Overall Winner—The Travel Photographer of the Year 2023 (AndreJa Ravnak, Slovenia) : “When the hop strings are hung on the top steel cables, an unusual curtain of threads is created in the fields. The threads dance in the wind and sparkle in the sunlight. They look like some kind of unusual art installation.”

Overall Winner—The Travel Photographer of the Year 2023  “The freely hanging strings need to be stretched and anchored...

Overall Winner—The Travel Photographer of the Year 2023 (AndreJa Ravnak, Slovenia) : “The freely hanging strings need to be stretched and anchored in the ground. This is done by hand and is more often done by women. Here, Aurora, a woman from from Romania, is in a good mood, as the work team has a radio with them and they are playing Romanian music in the field.”

Overall Winner—The Travel Photographer of the Year 2023  “Once all the strings are manually stretched the workers ensure...

Savinjska valley, near Braslovce, Slovenia

Overall Winner—The Travel Photographer of the Year 2023 (AndreJa Ravnak, Slovenia) : “Once all the strings are manually stretched, the workers ensure that the small hop seedlings start climbing vertically. Once this is done, they leave the Savinja Valley for a few months and return in late summer, when the hops are ripe for harvesting.”

Winner Young Travel Photographer of the Year 2023  “The sheep are herded back to their pen at the entrance of the...

Chinle, Arizona, USA

Winner, Young Travel Photographer of the Year 2023 ( Caden Shepard Choi, USA, age 14) : “The sheep are herded back to their pen at the entrance of the canyon. They walk through a dust cloud formed by the steady kick of their hooves. The sheep are initially reluctant to enter the mouth of the canyon, but when returning home, they show no resistance. After a long day steering sheep, the two herding dogs now playfully trail behind.”

Winner Young Travel Photographer of the Year Age 1518  “The mist suspended on Marsh Creek lake's surface signature to...

Exton, Pennsylvania, USA

Winner, Young Travel Photographer of the Year Age 15-18 (Lilly Zhang, USA, age 17) : “The mist suspended on Marsh Creek lake's surface, signature to its early fall mornings, the quiet morning light illuminating the fall leaves, and the fishermen amidst the mist. Captivated by the quiet beauty of the scenery, I took this photo.”

Winner Young Travel Photographer of the Year Age 14 and Younger  “My father and I took a trip to Iceland to visit an...

Litli-Hrutur volcano, Iceland

Winner, Young Travel Photographer of the Year Age 14 and Younger (Zayan Durrani, USA, age 14) : “My father and I took a trip to Iceland to visit an ongoing volcanic eruption. I took this image on the first day through the window of a small plane. I love how the setting sun cast shadows through the hills onto the volcano.”

Winner Landscape and Environment Portfolio  “A lush mountain range covered of moss in the Highlands with a river snaking...

The Icelandic highlands

Winner, Landscape and Environment Portfolio (Armand Sarlangue, France) : “A lush mountain range covered of moss in the Highlands, with a river snaking between the reliefs from the above glaciers. It will carry precious sediments along the lands before joining a bigger river system, up to the coasts of Iceland where it will connect with the great ocean.”

Winner Best Single Image in a Landscape and Environment Portfolio  “For a period from the end of winter to early summer...

Lake Shirakawa, Japan

Winner, Best Single Image in a Landscape and Environment Portfolio (Kazuaki Koseki, Japan) : “For a period from the end of winter to early summer, Lake Shirakawa is filled with water from melting snow and a ‘submerged forest’ appears. The water in the lake changes colour between light blue and light green, and mist, combined with the reflections which look like a submeged forest create a fantastic landscape. In April, the season of sprouting had arrived in the submerged forest. In the soft light before sunrise, the submerged forest quietly welcomed the morning. I chose a bluish time before sunrise to erase the reality and emphasize the fantastic sight, and set the shutter speed to 30 seconds to flatten the water surface.”

Winner Nature Wildlife and Conservation portfolio  “A split shot of a Mobula ray fever cruising below the divers boat as...

La Ventana, Baja California, Mexico

Winner, Nature, Wildlife, and Conservation portfolio (Martin Broen, USA) : “A split shot of a Mobula ray fever cruising below the divers’ boat as part of their annual migration in the waters of Baja California.”

Winner Best Single Image in a Wildlife and Conservation Portfolio  “A yellow Gobby watches the ocean from the entrance...

Anilao, Philippines

Winner, Best Single Image in a Wildlife and Conservation Portfolio (Martin Broen, USA) : “A yellow Gobby watches the ocean from the entrance of his crystal palace, a glass bottle at the bottom of the sea of the worst ocean polluter on the planet.”

Winner People and Cultures Portfolio  “The Buryatian shaman Vitalli performs a ritual to connect with the spirits on...

Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia

Winner, People and Cultures Portfolio (Athanasios Maloukos, Greece) : “The Buryatian shaman Vitalli performs a ritual to connect with the spirits on frozen Lake Baikal, with the sacred Ogoi (Dragon) cape in the background. Siberia is considered the heartland of Shamanism, with Lake Baikal its most sacred place.”

Winner Best Single Image in a People and Cultures Portfolio  “Four members of The Special Eagles Nigeria's national...

Lagos, Nigeria

Winner, Best Single Image in a People and Cultures Portfolio (Jack Lawson, UK) : “Four members of The Special Eagles, Nigeria's national amputee football team, stand looking out into the ocean at a day on the beach.”

Winner Best Single Image in a Visual Stories Portfolio  “In Pakistan an Islamic Republic there is no coeducation in...

Kalash Valley, Chitral, Pakistan

Winner, Best Single Image in a Visual Stories Portfolio (F.Dilek Yurdakul, Turkey) : “In Pakistan, an Islamic Republic, there is no coeducation in public schools. Boys and girls receive Islamic education in separate classrooms and schools. The Kalash live within the borders of Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan, yet their schools are still co-educational. Gender diversity and unity are viewed as nothing to fear. Children are educated equally and together.”

Winner A Quieter Life category  “Walking on a white sand dune in La Puna Argentina.”

La Puna, Argentina

Winner, A Quieter Life category (Ignacio Palacios, Australia/Spain) : “Walking on a white sand dune in La Puna, Argentina.”

Winner Above Eye Level Below category  “Under the Highline 179 suspension bridge you get a completely different view...

Reutte, Austria

Winner, Above, Eye Level, Below category (Josien van Geffen, Netherlands) : “Under the Highline 179 suspension bridge, you get a completely different view when you look up. The bridge and the people on it now appear like a scene from an old video game.”

Winner Leisure and Adventure category  “As the last rays of the sun illuminate the iconic Treasury of Petra a Bedouin...

Petra, Jordan

Winner, Leisure and Adventure category (Andrea Peruzzi, Italy ): “As the last rays of the sun illuminate the iconic Treasury of Petra, a Bedouin enjoys jumping between the overhanging rocks. At sunset, it’s as if the once-lost city has two profoundly different souls, divided between day and night. When tourists leave this iconic destination, the Bedouins reawaken the ancient soul of Petra by repopulating the site, to eat around the bonfires and stay connected to the traditions handed down by their ancestors.”

Winner People's Choice Vote  “A young wildebeest lost in the Great Wildebeest Migration madness. He stands there...

Maasai Mara, Kenya

Winner, People's Choice Vote (Rohan Neel Shah, Kenya, age 16) : “A young wildebeest lost in the Great Wildebeest Migration madness. He stands there confused whilst other wildebeest rush to cross the river.”

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Level Up Your Travel Photos This Summer With These Pro Tips

These pro photography tips will help you score some amazing images on your summer travels.

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  • Shortlisted for British Photography Awards 2022, Commended in Landscape Photographer of the Year 2022

a hiker sits on a rock looking up at an outcrop and a dramatic sky

A sunbather takes in the glorious weather on the island of Sicily.

Your summer vacations are the perfect time to capture amazing photos you'll want to look at for years to come. And you don't have to be a professional photographer to preserve all the gorgeous sights and memorable experiences you'll encounter on your trip. Today's cameras make it easier than ever to take good-looking images. But simply pointing your camera at something and pressing the shutter button isn't necessarily going to score you the best results.

Taking photos that you'll want to print for your wall or put in a photo book takes more understanding, but with just a bit of effort you'll be able to turn your everyday vacation snaps into award-worthy pieces of travel photography. 

In the first part of my two-part travel photography guide , I took you through the kit you should consider taking with you, whether it's a great phone like the iPhone 15 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra or a dedicated camera like the Canon EOS R5. 

Read more: Best Camera to Buy in 2024

Now I'm going to take you through the tips I keep in mind as a professional photographer while traveling the globe. 

A photo of Scotland

By knowing how to quickly operate my camera I was able to capture the fleeting golden light of this sunset in Scotland.

Get to know your kit

Learning how to operate your camera will not only help you get better, more creative shots, but will help you snap those shots quicker, as you won't have to fiddle around with settings. Some of the most exciting travel shots can come and go in a split second, so whether you're capturing the running of the bulls in Pamplona or a snowboarder launching off a mogul in Switzerland, you'll need to learn to shoot quickly.

A photo of waterfalls

Learning how to use manual controls will allow you to get creative with slow shutter speeds.

Spend time with your camera in manual mode before you go away. Learn how to change shutter speed, aperture, ISO speeds and white balance and experiment with what happens to your images when you change these settings. A good camera will be able to capture some great shots in auto mode, but when you want to get more creative, you'll need to take control. 

A photo of a pretty harbor

Shooting in raw allows you to fine tune settings like white balance after you've taken the shot.

Shoot in raw

If your camera has it (and almost all cameras and even most phones do), shoot in raw format. Yes, it creates bigger files, but memory cards are so cheap now that it's worth carrying an extra couple of 64GB cards with you. Raw shooting allows you to change white balance after your shot and capture more details in the very bright and very dark areas, letting you tone down any blown-out skies or lighten some shadows in Photoshop.

Read more: Best Camera Phone of 2024

Although it's always best to get the shot right when you first take it, raw processing gives you much more flexibility to rescue a shot that's not quite right. 

A photo of swimmers in Italy

Local events can provide a wealth of photography opportunities, such as this sea-swimming competition in the Italian town of Vernazza.

Do your research

Search for your location on Google and visit travel websites to find out more about where you're going. Not only will that help you make the most of your trip, you may find out about local events or particularly photogenic locations you may otherwise have missed.

You might also find out about photography restrictions that may land you in hot water -- as a general rule anywhere, avoid photographing government buildings, and if you're unsure, ask permission.

Search for your destination on Instagram or on photography websites such as Flickr and 500px for inspiration on what to see. It's handy to get an idea of the shots other people have taken -- either to replicate them yourself or to avoid taking the same generic shot the internet has seen hundreds of times before.

Composition is key

Good composition will make or break a photo, and unlike white balance or color tone, poor composition can't be fixed in post processing. The morning light bouncing off that rustic church won't count for much if you've accidentally chopped off the spire in your hurry to take the shot.

A photo of Edinburgh

By finding a higher viewpoint, I was able to better capture the beautiful towers, spires -- and the castle -- on a stunning winter evening in Edinburgh.

A generic shot of a popular spot can be transformed into an unusual and creative artwork simply by changing your angle. Take a moment to look at the scene before you shoot and don't be afraid to move around to get the best angles. Struggling with a beach scene? Walk farther down the coast to find boats, nets or rocks that might add foreground interest. Shooting in the city? Get up a tall building for dramatic urban cityscapes. Even just kneeling down and shooting from below can make a difference.

A photo of pants

These jeans being dried over a balcony really caught my eye and certainly say a lot about city life in Barcelona.

Find the details that matter

Capturing a beautiful, wide view of the stunning European city you're visiting is great for a nice print to hang on your wall, but it's those smaller details that really tell the story of your trip. Maybe it's the food market you visited, a weather-worn old door, a vintage scooter or a shop sign that hasn't been repainted in years. 

All of these small elements will not only help capture the essence of the location you're visiting but also help bring back more memories for you when you look at them as each image will tell such a strong story. It's up to you to decide what those small details might be to look out for, but my advice is to always have your camera ready to shoot so when you see something that speaks to you -- a stack of lobster pots in a harbor, perhaps -- you're ready to take your shot. 

A photo of the Northern Lights

Amazing things can happen in the dark.

Don't be afraid of the dark

Just because the sun has gone down, it doesn't mean your photography needs to stop. It's a great time to get creative with slow shutter shots. Long exposures blur motion, turning regular car headlights on a city street into creative, abstract light trails, streaking through the darkness. Use a narrow aperture -- around f/12 -- and a long exposure to turn points of light into gorgeous starbursts.

You'll need to secure your camera firmly in place -- with a tripod -- and if you're playing with exposures longer than a few seconds, you'll need to be careful about the breeze or people walking by adding any vibrations. If you want to do long exposures in the daytime, you'll need a dark neutral density filter, such as the Big Stopper by Lee Filters, to let you take minute-long exposures in the middle of the day.

If you're shooting on a modern camera -- especially with a larger, full frame sensor -- then you can also likely increase your ISO speed above 3,200 without seeing too much degradation from image noise. Coupled with a wider aperture of f/2.8 or more, you may have more luck shooting handheld scenes in low light. If this is a priority for you, cameras that also offer in-body image stabilization (like the Canon EOS R5) should be on your list; this stabilization lets you use slower shutter speeds without needing a tripod.

A photo of La Rochelle

By visiting this busy Saturday morning market in the French town of La Rochelle, I was able to capture this street photo that packs in great elements including the flowers on the barrel, the man dipping his hat, the people having a conversation and a woman peering out from inside the building.

Be a people person

It's often the people you meet as much as the places you see that makes traveling and exploring so interesting. People make fantastic subjects to photograph, whether they're wandering the streets, relaxing or hard at work.

Naturally, not everybody will want to be photographed so, out of politeness if nothing else, it's a good idea to ask the person's permission beforehand if you're trying to take a portrait of someone. It'll help if you do your research and learn a few key phrases of the local language to not only ask permission, but be able to understand the response. If they say no, it's important to respect that.

Otherwise, heading to busy areas like local markets will allow you to take more street-style photographs with candid moments of people going about their day. Again, it's still important to respect peoples' space here and keep in mind that some countries may have laws against this type of photography.

A photo of a dog wearing goggles riding a human riding a bike

I loved capturing this moment on a trip to the Scottish seaside, and I think it really helps tell the story of the sort of community you'd find there.

Set your alarm

The middle of the day may be the nicest time to wander around Tuscan streets, grab a hot chocolate on the mountainside or order a third cocktail on the beach, but the midday sun doesn't usually offer the best light for dramatic photographs.

It's the early morning light, casting its long, golden shadows that will really make a place look its most beautiful. Setting your alarm for sunrise on holiday may seem like the worst thing in the world, but it's worth trying -- even just once -- to see what sort of shots you get. Scout out locations beforehand to make sure you don't waste the precious early hours trying to find somewhere to shoot.

A before and after photo of a tower

By coming back to this tower later in the day, I was able to catch the sunset in the background.

Revisit the scene

When you stumble upon a particularly picturesque scene, don't just visit it just the once. While a bay may look delightful in the daytime, it will look different again at night, with all the lights of nearby buildings stretching out across the water. If you know a great spot, do your best to come back to it to find out when it looks best.

A photo of mountains and clouds in black and white

Sometimes a punchy black and white edit can really add to the drama of a scene.

Play with processing

Although you should always try to get the best shot you can when you first take it, some well-placed post processing can turn a good photo into a great one. If you're shooting raw files, you'll need to process them anyway, so it's worth trying out a few of the sliders in Adobe Lightroom while you're at it.

With your raw files, the first thing you'll need to do is correct the white balance. Have a play with the color temperature slider and see what tone suits best. Summer evening shots will benefit from a warmer color tone, while chilly February city streets will look best with something a bit cooler.

Toning down the highlights can help keep a bright sky under control, while lifting the shadows will help make darker areas more visible, without affecting too much of the rest of the scene. It's important not to go overboard on this, as it can make your images look a little unnatural. From that point on, have a play with your editor of choice and see what you like. There's no one right way to edit your shots -- no matter what anybody says -- it's all about what you prefer. 

A photo of a London tube platform in black and white

A high contrast black and white edit makes this image from a London tube station really stand out.

Do your own thing

Sure, rules such as "take the lens cap off before shooting" should always be followed, but never be afraid to try an unusual angle, play with your settings or experiment with new editing techniques in Lightroom.

If everybody always followed the exact same format, everybody's photography would look the same. Use these rules as guidelines and play with angles, settings and editing as much as you want to find what works for you.

I'm Blown Away by These Photos I Took on the Xiaomi 14 Ultra

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Apart Hotel Yantar

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Apart Hotel Yantar - Reviews & Photos

Yantar Hotel

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