Top 2023 Landscape Photographs
February 19, 2024| Updated on
2023 was a whirlwind year for me. From releasing my first ever book, Kansas is Beautiful, to an amazing road trip through Europe, my photography business grew in exciting and new ways. 2024 is shaping up to be a pretty phenomenal year as well, but before jumping into the next year, I wanted to take a look at ten of my favorite photographs of the year 2023. Not surprisingly, this list is dominated by photography from my Europe trip. This list was actually difficult to produce. I had so many memorable moments, especially in Europe, that it was hard to decide which photograph was better or worse than the next.
1. Under the Tuscan Sunset
It’s hard to beat this epic location in Tuscany! After driving down from Cinque Terre, I arrived at the farmhouse I would be staying at in the famed val d’Orcia region of Tuscany and was trying to decide where the best place to photograph sunset would be. Spring storm clouds were rolling across the Tuscan countryside and reminded me a great deal of my home in Kansas. I gambled with going up to Crete Senesi for sunset, stopping at a few other locations along the way. At first, it felt like the sunset was going to be covered by clouds. When I arrived at the cypress tree lined drive, I found the hillsides covered in beautiful poppies, an added bonus of photographing in the spring. I setup shop as the light began to show promise. Within 10 minutes, the sun popped out and a rainbow formed behind me. As beautiful as a rainbow in Tuscany is, the sunset and scene before me was even more magnificent. The smell of rain from a breaking storm, while lighting crashes in the not so distant hills reminded me of the Flint Hills of my home. Only this was Tuscany, one of the world’s great treasures! I stayed until well after the light had faded, photographing every angle possible. This was the perfect evening for my first ever visit to Tuscany! I photographed the scene in both panoramic and standard landscape format. This scene was winner of a Bronze Award in the 2023 Epson International Pano Awards, along with placing in the top 100 images of the Built Environment category.
2. Daybreak at Alpe di Siusi
One of my favorite moments in Italy was hiking in the stunning Alpe di Siusi. Considered Europe’s highest alpine meadow, this area features rolling green hills in the spring, with dramatic jagged peaks of the Dolomites all around. At first, I felt like the sunrise was a bit of a dude, but as the morning went on, it showed a stark beauty in the skies around the mountains. A light fog developed in the valleys of the rolling meadows, while historic cabins and houses dotted the landscape below.
3. Pearl of the Adriatic
While I usually gravitate towards countrysides and natural scenery, Dubrovnik was always high on my list to visit in Croatia. This stunning coastal town with rich history and traditions was beautiful not only for it’s amazing natural scenery, but it’s man-made architecture and walled old city that jutted out into the Adriatic. I waited for the sun to crest the mountainside to capture a remarkable sunrise above the stoned walls of Dubrovnik and the deep blue waters of the Adriatic Sea below.
4. Dreaming of Tuscany
If Under the Tuscany Sunset above was the perfect first sunset in Tuscany, this image, Dreaming of Tuscany, was the perfect first sunrise and morning in Italy’s most famous wine region. I awoke extremely early and picked my spot for sunrise. I had heard this location could get a lot of traffic at sunrise with photographers, and was amazed to find I was only sharing it with two others, a couple of friendly German’s who also had a passion for landscape photographer. The rain from the previous night and the lack of wind combined for some of the most impressive fog you could imagine! And in Tuscany, low lying fog makes for some fantastic photography! I spent almost three hours driving around the val d’Orcia the morning this was taken, but this moment was by far my favorite! Capturing that classic Tuscan scenery near Podere Belvedere with all of this warm fog at sunrise was just stunning. I photographed this scene from many angles, finally releasing it both panoramic and standard landscape formats. The panoramic version, Dreaming of Tuscany, was winner of a Gold Award in the 2023 Epson International Pano Awards, placing 12th in the Built Environment category.
5. Magical Neuschwanstein Castle
Germany’s famous Disney castle did not disappoint. The legend behind how it was built is a story in itself that I will tell in a future article, but suffice to say, it was built in one of the most dramatic locations of any castle in all of Europe. With the beautiful Bavarian Alps behind, cliffs from the mountains shade the castle in the morning, trees in the forests that surround it and set in a stunning location, Neuschwanstein Castle made for some great photography! I chose this vantage point, as it gave me the Alps behind the castle and the warmth of the early June sunset light cast a glow on the castle and surrounding cliffs. It was a magical evening, for sure!
6. Lake Bled Sunset Panorama
Lake Bled might have been my favorite spot in all of my Europe travels. The turquoise waters of this stunning Slovenian mountain lake were just amazing. For a place known for it’s fairytales and scenery, I was still blown away by the magic of the place. From hiking above to the viewpoints that look down on the famous island church to the cliffside castle above, Lake Bled is just amazing. But my favorite thing to do here is actually just taking a stroll around the lake. On the first night here, I spent my time just exploring, walking around the lake, and was rewarded with this beautiful sunset over the blue waters. There is something so calming about just enjoying the beauty on an easy walk around the lake at sunrise or sunset. I photographed this shoreline sunset in both a panoramic format and in a standard landscape format.
7. Bellagio Bellezza
Italy’s famous Lake Como region is full of beautiful scenery at every turn. Possibly it’s most famous location, Bellagio, is one of the best! I explored the cobbled stoned paths on the evening I arrived at Lake Como, but found way too many people to get a good photograph. Returning early in the morning, drizzle had saturated all of the ancient stone paths and spring plants lining many of the doors and windows of the streets of Bellagio. I loved the color, and framed the lamp post between the buildings that lined the pathway down to the lake.
8. Morning at the Dark Hedges
Being that my last name is Shannon, it was always destined that I would visit Ireland someday. Even though this trip was a highlights trip through mainland Europe, I found a good deal on stopping over for a night in Dublin. I decided to use that time to drive up into Northern Ireland and photograph some of the beautiful scenery there. The Dark Hedges are some of the most visited trees in the world, being centuries old and made famous by TV shows like Game of Thrones. Like many iconic places, the location was crawling with tourists during the day and into the good sunset light. I returned on the final morning of my Europe trip to have the entire place to myself at sunrise! I created both a standard landscape format shot of the scene and a vertical version to fit any kind of decor as a fine art print. I can’t wait to return and do a proper trip of Ireland and Northern Ireland someday soon!
9.Road to the Bluebonnet House
The lone survivor of photos in this top 10 list that wasn’t from Europe, I took a trip down to Texas in early April this year to photograph the bluebonnets. This classic Texas Hill Country scene, the bluebonnet house, was having a banner year of blooms. I decided to try and photograph it from a different angle than most, framing it under a tree with this pathway leading towards the house and the sunset directly below it. I felt it worked well! Texas in the spring is a magical place! A panoramic version of this photo was winner of a Bronze Award in the 2023 Epson International Pano Awards.
10. Pirates Nest of Omis Croatia
This place was one of the coolest towns I visited in all of my Europe travels! Omis, Croatia is an ancient pirate town set in a stunning natural location. Set at the mouth of the Cetina River, which empties into the Adriatic from a dramatic canyon. The vantage points from the two pirate lookouts over the town are the stuff of legends. I climbed up to the lower pirates lookout, up ladders and extremely steep stone steps to take in this view. Waiting until after sunset, I photographed as the city lights came to life. This place has to be one of Europe’s most under-rated gems.
Pirates Nest of Omis was winner of a Bronze Award in the 2023 Epson International Pano Awards.
Honorable Mention: The Walled City of Pitigliano
Much like Omis above, Pitigliano was one of those under-rated locations. While I didn’t get to visit the city itself, my experiences of seeing it for the first time will forever be in my memory. Driving out from between the tree lined road, this scene opened up almost immediately and made me find a place to pull over as quickly as possible. To drive into this view, with this sunset light just drenching the cliffside town with warmth was jaw dropping. It’s a moment I will not forget.
Honorable Mention: Barn of Heritage
I usually have tons of Colorado photos in my top ten, but obviously Europe took over the list this year. But I have to give honorable mention to this awesome barn in north central Colorado near Steamboat Springs. It was a fantastic evening photographing this barn in the beautiful fall colors.
Honorable Mention: Plitvice Grande
I really debated replacing one of the photos in the top ten with this one, but ultimately didn’t. I’m still working through photos from my time at the stunning Plitvice National Park in Croatia, but man, was it a beautiful national park. I can’t wait to go back someday soon in the fall or winter to see it in another season!
Kansas is Beautiful: My New Book
While not a photo, I have to mention my new coffee table book, Kansas is Beautiful. It was such a huge part of my 2023. As of writing this article, the book is almost halfway sold out of it’s original 1,500 copy run.
2024 and Beyond
I’m just now starting to consider what’s to come for 2024. My first order of business is to finish all of the photos I still haven’t gotten to from 2023. There are still a number of images from Switzerland and Croatia that I’m trying to finish processing that will eventually be released. I’m also working on an upgraded website. And of course, I’m considering where I will go photograph next. I hope to see you at an art festival or some other event in 2024!