Searching for Unique Landscape Photography Spots? Use the Terrain View

What’s on your bucket list? It’s not too difficult to tour cultural icons that have shaped history, but what if you want to discover unique landscape locations that aren’t well known?

It’s hard to find a great spot that isn’t already immortalized on everyone’s Instagram account. Sadly, many of these locations are swamped with hundreds of other tourists. The world is still full of remote, isolated vistas waiting to be photographed, but often, you don’t have to go too far from well-known regions to find lonely beauty.

So, how do you find these nearby vistas? It’s a bit of a chicken or the egg dilemma: easy-to-find destinations are likely to be overrun, but a quick Google search won’t yield unique locations that aren’t already well known in the first place.

That’s where the Terrain View in Google Maps comes in. If you love mountainscape and coastal photography, a diverse topography is a strong indication of the region’s natural beauty and potential through a lens.

It may go without saying, but if you aren’t planning to rent a car, don’t expect to find many unique locations. If you can reach a point of interest with public transit, so can all the other tourists. Plan to rent a car; it’s cheaper (and easier) than you might think.

How do you find unique landscape photography spots? Share a technique and location you discovered in the comments!

Jonathan Lee Martin's picture

Jonathan Lee Martin is a fine art landscape photographer, educator and globetrotting digital nomad. He’s traveling the world for a year to discover unique landscapes and help fellow landscape photographers lighten their load to go further.

Log in or register to post comments

Or better yet, in Google Maps in a desktop browser, use the satellite layer and rotate it in 3D using Ctrl+mouse drag (left-click and drag). That's Cmd+mouse drag on a Mac. Use the scroll wheel to zoom. Zoom in to Street View (where available) and take a look around. In many places (cities), Google has generated 3D with photogrammetry to provide an even more realistic view of buildings, monuments, trees, and parks.

For the ultimate virtual experience, use Google Earth to scope vantage points for shots, setting the time of day and the location of the sun (or moon, stars and Milky Way) with accurate shadows. You can even try different lens focal lengths and fields of view to simulate what you'll see through your viewfinder. See how:

Or simply download Google Earth Pro (now it is free) and see every part of the world in 3D. It also gives you the ability to see the 3D world illuminated by the sunlight at any moment of the day, giving you an idea of where the sunlight would hit a peak at sunrise or sunset.

That's pretty cool, I had no idea Google Earth was still going strong!

Thank you both Lauren and Andrea. I just installed GEP and it's mind-blowing. I literally walked around my back yard.

Also in Google Earth, in the options set the terrain exaggeration to 2 or 3 and it helps you see the contours of the terrain with an exaggerated view, really helpful for finding unique vantage points :)

I'll definitely try the terrain view, thanks for the tip! Also, if you're looking for the places normal tourists can't really go, look for the Forest Service roads ( You'll find some beautiful views and very few people, since your typical "daily driver" vehicle won't fare well here.... 4WD is highly recommended because of rocks, gravel, ruts, mud, etc., that you may encounter along the way.