At first sight travel photography might seem an ideal occupation. It offers the chance to travel the world and earn a living while visiting exotic locations about which others can only dream. Consequently, when returning from an exhausting journey through Tibet or Peru, there is little sympathy on offer.
Dream destinations do exist of course. They achieve elevated status in the mind because they promise perfection or the fulfilment of an ambition. We imagine a personalized paradise where everything is to our liking. So, where are these places? The answer, of course, is that they exist all over the world but are inevitably regarded quite differently by individual travellers. Beauty exists to a large extent in the eye of the beholder, and is measured relative to past experience.
Every continent, with the exception of Antarctica, has a little of almost everything. Every country also has the best of something although, in a few cases, it may be difficult to find. Dream destinations are therefore identified in the light of specific objectives, personal opinions and priorities. If you want to photograph people of the Padaung tribe wearing brass neck rings you will have to travel to Myanmar (Burma). If lemurs or kangaroos are your thing you must travel to Madagascar or Australia. Lots people would undoubtedly welcome an opportunity to visit the sun-drenched islands of the South Pacific, but the dreams of others lie elsewhere. Committed travellers generally prefer a new and different destination on the far side of the globe, and photographers thrive on good subjects bathed in beautiful light.
People who have travelled in most parts of the world generally have their own lists of preferred destinations, and these usually include some common ground. This evidence suggests that there are, despite personal tastes, some top destinations for travel photographers. Countries such as India, Peru, the USA, Tanzania, South Africa, Tibet, Nepal, Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand, to name just a few, cannot be ignored. Similarly, islands such as Aitutaki, Bora Bora and Moorea may relegate memories of others to a lower photographic division. In addition there are thousands of other very rewarding and photogenic travel photography destinations, such as Greenland and Antarctica, which offer less varied but equally spectacular opportunities. We live on an extraordinarily colourful planet.
Some types of image are obtainable in numerous parts of the globe, while others may be achievable only in a single location. Much depends upon your personal ambitions and the extent of your budget. Beautiful landscapes can be obtained in almost any country but if you have well-defined objectives, and a clear view of the realities of the world, it may be possible quickly to whittle the possibilities down to just a few. European landscape work might, for example, take you to Tuscany, Provence, Switzerland or Scotland, but US-based photographers might choose one of their own national parks. South America, Asia, Africa and Australia also have their own unique landscape styles. Spectacular mountain scenery is found in the Himalayas, the Rocky Mountains and the Andes, but also in smaller mountain ranges such as the easily-accessible European and Southern Alps. The Sahara and Namibia are good destinations for desert work and enormous sand dunes, and the Serengeti has amazing big game. Western Australia and South Africa are good for wild flowers, and wonderful waterfalls are to be found in the USA, Zimbabwe, Brazil and Venezuela. Human subjects are of course everywhere, but the tribal areas and festivals of Papua New Guinea, East Africa, Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, and the countries of south-east Asia, offer special opportunities.