December 1, 2010 in Tips and Tricks

No Camping for landscape photographers

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One important rule for taking great landscape photos is:

Be in the right spot at the right time.

Easier said than done! There are great problems if you want to follow this rule in Europe.

When I am on the road or in the right spot I spend a lot of time waiting:

  • for the right light,
  • the right clouds,
  • the right tide.

Sometimes the best picture is to be made in a fraction of a second when everything fits the best. It happens that I wait up to three days for the perfect photo.

Most of the time the right spot doesn’t imply that there is a comfortable hotel, a camping place or a public toilette.

So free camping is essential for the kind of landscape photos I am taking. But free camping is only allowed in Scotland and tolerated in Scandinavia. The other European countries are more or less trying to prevent people from staying in the right spot for obvious reasons.

In my early days I travelled with my motorcycle and a small sleeping bag. Most of the time there were no problems with free camping. But the times and my travel habits have changed. These days I  travel in a VW Van.

There is hardly a beautiful spot, where I couldn’t find something like this:

If I would take this seriously I had to give up working as a landscape photographer. And the world has to live without beautiful photos of great places.

I didn’t want to be responsible that people won’t see the beauty of the world!

So I am always risking trouble with local policemen, wildlife guards and farmers.

There are some rules that I am following.  They are helping to stay comfortable with free and illegal camping:

  • I try to stay cloaked. Nobody should see me staying overnight.
  • I keep my campsite clean. And when I say clean I mean clean in every possibility to produce pollution and dirt as a human being.
  • I talk to locals and ask them friendly, if it is possible to take some photos over night. Especially when I show locals some of my photos they allow me, doing my work. I always carry some  photos with me as giveaways. They are always door opener.
  • I try to travel out of the season. This makes camping more comfortable and silent.

How do you solve the problem with being in the right spot at the right time?


  1. October 19, 2012 at 02:24

    Mr. Me


    That must suck. Are you just saying that your not allowed to camp out in the wild, or are there no organized campsites at all in the European countries. I live by some nice big mountains here in the U.S. that give rise to some spectacular scenery. It doesn’t take long to reach the majestic beauties that lie here so I never need to camp out to get a good photo, although I love camping. People will often camp out in fields on the mountainside and no one cares.

    1. October 19, 2012 at 05:25

      Olaf Bathke


      Mr.Me: Scotland is the only land thats allows camping in the wild. In scandinavia people will probably tolerate camping in the wild. It is the campsites that have an interest not letting you camp in the wild. Germany for example has lots of those campsites. I guess it should be a human right to camp outside where ever you like. Thanks for the comment…

  2. December 11, 2010 at 23:53



    In Denmark there are an increasing amount of spots allowing for one-nigths stays. These spots are all usably placed in the forests nearby the shorelines. There you can have a fire, make your meals, and there will be a trashcan/bin to put in your waste.

    I have used it a couple of times combining fishing with my dusk and dawn photographing.

    Hope this info was useful to anyone 🙂


  3. December 5, 2010 at 12:59



    There are many countries in Africa and Asia with spectacular landscapes, where free camping is no problem. For example it’s only a 6 hrs. flight to Oman on the Arabian peninsula (starting a 350 EUR). Stunning coasts, mountains, deserts and wadis.

  4. December 2, 2010 at 15:38

    Bernd Limbach


    @Henning Wüst:
    Sadly only possible in Scandinavia, but a great opportunity where at least the last 3 points of Olaf are valid.

    Asking the landlord for permission to walk/visit his land and staying overnight is mandatory and polite practice, which always should be done. I do not see any other points to be added to Olaf’s four.


  5. December 1, 2010 at 23:49

    Henning Wüst


    Give Lapland a chance. We have something called “The Right of Public Access (Allemansrätten)” which is quite is unique in the worls. It is the most important base for recreation in Sweden, providing the possibility for each and everyone to visit somebody else’s land, to take a bath in and to travel by boat on somebody else’s waters, and to pick the wild flowers, mushrooms, berries. It includes also the right to put up a tent, or park your caravan, or trailer, for twenty-four hours.

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