Gran Canaria Was so Much Better for Landscape Photography Than I Expected

Gran Canaria is known for parties, booze, and family resort vacations, but this island in the Canary Islands archipelago has some amazing nature worth visiting for any landscape and travel photographer. Not to mention, it is easier to combine this with a family vacation than Iceland, The Faroes, or Norway is.

In this article I will reflect back on my one-week visit to Gran Canaria and share my thoughts on landscape photography.

Gran Canaria is the third largest island in the Spanish Canary Islands archipelago located in the Atlantic Ocean just outside Morocco. The individual islands each offer unique landscapes and the reason I chose Gran Canaria was an offer of cheap flight tickets. With a fast search on the landscapes, I figured I could probably come away with some interesting photos.

A name-less arch with Roque Nublo in the background.

Preparation

To prepare for this vacation my best friend were Google with the search term “landscape photography Gran Canaria”. I very fast found an area with big sand dunes, a seascape location a couple of characteristic rocks in the mountains, and a sand stone arch, which were all very well documented and photographed.

In my research, I also came by some different viewpoints, options for Milky Way photography and a fascinating slot canyon. The slot canyon was well documented in different travel blogs, so locating it and adding it to the map was not too hard.

I also learned you could divide Gran Canaria into the mountain region in the middle of the island and the lowlands along the edges next to the sea.

Roque Bentayga lit by the sunset

Accommodation and Transportation

I figured we would spend a good amount of time in the dune area for both golden hour photography and astrophotography, so I decided on a hotel resort in the town of Maspalomas next to the dune nature reserve. In that way, we would be close to our hotel during the night and did not have to spend too much time driving. Honestly, the pool at the resort was a big attraction.

Looking back at it, we would have been better off getting accommodation in the mountain region. We spent more time for photography up here than in the lowlands. From the mountains, you could then do day excursions to the sea or water parks with the family or husband/wife. I also had to move the astrophotography session to the mountains as to get above the worst haze and light pollution.

The question you have to ask yourself is what the balance of your vacation will be. Does it make sense to stay in the mountains or along the coast? The roads into the mountains makes many turns and motion sickness could actually be a problem. Driving from Maspalomas to the locations in the mountains takes about 75 – 90 minutes.

I would also highly recommend getting a rental car. Rentals are fairly cheap relative to Iceland, Norway, and the Faroes (everything is cheap compared to those destinations) and it is by far the easiest way to get around.

The hardest part of photographing the dunes was to avoid footprints.

Landscape Photography

Having and sticking to a plan is all good, but be sure to put in some buffer time for improvising. That is what I did on the first evening. Here I found many different small viewpoints along one of the mountain roads I had not planned from home. We had the most beautiful sunset and finding foregrounds was not too hard. My first experience and reminder was how fast the sun set. You only have a few minutes with the most optimal light, so better be ready with your composition.

Amazing colors during the sunset on our first evening. The neighboring Island Tenerife in the background.

Because of the fast sunsets I recommend doing some scouting during the daytime and then return to your photography location half an hour before sunset. That is what I did when I wanted to photograph the iconic rock Roque Nublo. A 90m tall rock on top of a mountain. I scouted the area and found my compositions before sunset. At sunset, I could go from one place to the other and get my photos.

The 90 meters tall rock Roque Nublo.

I got some of my favorite photos from the tour in the slot canyon. The canyon in itself is not big, but you do have plenty of options for different compositions. This canyon is open in the top so you ought to have enough light to shoot with a closed down aperture to get everything in focus. I used my girlfriend for scale and as a focal point.

The slot canyon has so many leading lines!

Check out my videos for even more beautiful locations where I share my thoughts on my photos too.

Gear to Bring

As I also went to do some astrophotography, I decided to bring my two astro lenses. The Sigma 20mm f/1.4 and Laowa 15mm f/2. Since I had these two lenses I decided to leave my 12-24mm f/4 back home and only bring my 24-105 f/4 and 70-200 f/4 (both Sony). I could have used the ultra-wide angle zoom both a Roque Nublo, in the slot canyons and in the dunes, but the 15mm did a fine job covering those compositions.

I found that I used my long lens quite a lot in the mountain area. Both photographing the other rock (Roque Bentayga) from the different viewpoints and the sand stone arch.

The tripod came in handy whenever I needed to bracket, use the long lens, do seascape photography or any kind of low-light photography.

It is possible to get the full arch of the Milky Way. Try to avoid hazy nights.

Summing Up

Gran Canaria is a fantastic destination if you want to combine a family or couples vacation with some landscape photography. For landscape photography alone, there are plenty of locations to photograph and explore for at least ten days, which is more than I expected, as Gran Canaria is not a well-photographed location in the landscape photography community. This also delivered some photos that I am very happy about and they are much better than what I expected to capture. I did not even go to the big double arch, which requires a longer hike than what I was willing to put in because of the tight schedule or the blue holes along the coast. There are so much more when you start to explore and research the destination!

If you want to see, even more from Gran Canaria be sure to check out my two videos. Here I also share some thoughts on my photos concerning composition and atmosphere.

Would Gran Canaria be a location you would visit for landscape photography? Let me know down below.

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15 Comments

Logan Cressler's picture

Stem cell therapy and robotics to the rescue. You could be the first android photographer

Mads Peter Iversen's picture

That's what I'm aiming for! :D

Mads Peter Iversen's picture

Just wait until I explore Tenerife xD

Rob Mitchell's picture

Wow, didn't have the island down as that diverse and beautiful. Growing up in the UK, the only association you have with it is the false, all-in holiday destination. Looks a lovely place and lovely images.

Mads Peter Iversen's picture

Thanks a lot, Rob! Yeah, it was kinda my thoughts too.

Kai Hornung's picture

Great read, Mads! And very helpful since I consider going to Gran Canaria, too. I have enjoyed photographing Tenerife and Madeira very much. Especially Madeira is a photographers playground and amazingly diverse. No wonder it has seen more and more photogs go there within the last year or so.

Mads Peter Iversen's picture

I'm very hooked on Madeira! Looks so beautiful. Maybe next years summer vacation!

What I heard, La Palma is even more amazing. I will be there in October and hopefully do some astrophotography.

Mads Peter Iversen's picture

For Astro La Palma is likely better and cleaner in regard to light pollution :)

Why not just keep it for yourself instead of pointing everybody to go to GC...

Mads Peter Iversen's picture

Let's point everyone to go everywhere and kinda spread people out ;)

Aritz Atela's picture

Tons of information with beautiful pictures. Glorious video once again Mads! ;)

Mads Peter Iversen's picture

Thanks a lot, Aritz! MEans a lot :)

Christian Comes's picture

been there a couple of times and while i was happy with my pics, yours really stand out! maybe time for going again...

Mads Peter Iversen's picture

Oh yes, returning is always a good idea - my next article ;)