One of the UK’s most admired landscape photographers, Charlie Waite is famous for his contemplative, colorful work. A fan of American original Ansel Adams, Waite has trained his lens on countries from Myanmar to Namibia—but it’s the landscapes of the UK and Europe, especially France, that are his first love. We caught up with the photographer to talk about his favorite destinations and hotels, and how to shoot your next vacation like a pro.
What advice do you have for amateur photographers?
Don’t let a photograph just be a record. Try to put some soul into it. Will what you feel have parity with the image you make? That’s what you should be striving for.
Don’t think “If I point my $5,000 camera at this beautiful thing, that’s it, and therefore I’ll produce a beautiful image.” It doesn’t work like that.
And patience is crucial. Haste and pressure are barriers to creativity. Take your time.
Your company, Light and Land, offers photography trips, and you personally guide workshops and tours. Can you really teach someone how to be a good photographer?
I think you can, especially people who have an understanding of design and can understand good lighting—not just to see a scene and say “isn’t that beautiful?” It can be a hugely enjoyable process to get someone to understand the meaning of perception, and define the objectives of landscape photography.
What’s the most important element to master?
Recognition. Being able to recognize a combination of shapes, a configuration of lighting, and an orchestration of colors—and identifying whether what you’re looking at merits having a photograph made of it. One of Ansel Adam’s great lines was “recognition and pre-visualisation blended together in a single moment of awareness.”
What’s your favorite country to photograph?
France is the most undiscovered country in Europe for landscape photography. When you’re going through the process of landscape photography, you often need to be alone. In some countries, it’s harder to slow down and observe. But you can do that in France.
Where do you like to stay in France?
La Bastide de Capelongue. It’s a Relais & Châteaux hotel, and it has an absolutely staggering natural view over the valley near Bonnieux. From a landscape photographer’s perspective, when you open a window, you have to see beauty. If you don’t, you feel short-changed. Ideally, I want to see a view that makes me want to take photographs straight out of the window.
What other hotels have had memorable views?
Wolwedans Dune Lodge in Namibia, out in the desert. It has very classy chalets. There’s nothing else there. There’s nothing like having extraordinary luxury and at the same time being utterly remote. I’ve taken some photos in Namibia that I’m very proud of.
Where else have you traveled that surprised you?
Jordan was fantastic to photograph, an unknown territory to me. I went to Petra and Wadi Rum. I stayed at the Kempinski Hotel Amman, a hotel that was reminiscent of a palace. They had a clever way of conveying a sense of nature, with wonderful lines of palm trees and a canal within the grounds.
Do you always carry a camera when you travel?
I definitely do. In a funny way, it’s a curse being a landscape photographer. I find myself judging everything I’m looking at on whether it may or may not have to be photographed. It’s difficult to disengage. But what I love is that it heightens my sense of awareness by a million times. I bore people crazy by saying, “Look at that sky, look at the light on that leaf.” I can’t go from A to B without noticing something.