With the Olympic Games coming to Rio in 2016, many travel buffs and sports enthusiasts will be flocking to Brazil to experience a global event in a country of rich culture. If the numbers in our recent Olympic Sports Infographic are any indication, the buzz and excitement around the competition and the host country is enormous.
For professional and amateur photographers that are planning to attend, there will be ample opportunity to snap away during the games and capture exhilarating action shots and photo finishes. Away from the event, however, lies the equally alluring promise of documenting the breathtaking country of Brazil. With this in mind, we put together a collection of some of the best places to visit and take pictures in Brazil — a mix of well-known and out-of-the-way destinations that will inspire you to create your next masterpiece.
Rio — Christ the Redeemer
Yes, it’s the most expected entry on this list, but there’s nothing ordinary about Christ the Redeemer. It’s a 98 foot tall soapstone behemoth perched atop a mountain peak, its arms outstretched to all of Rio. The size alone is enough to warrant a trip to Corcovado mountain, but the monument’s precisely-chiseled art deco stonework is another reason to bring your camera along.
Don’t shell out a month’s rent to take a helicopter ride for an aerial shot – during dawn and dusk you can capture splendid, multicolored shots of the Statue from many neighborhoods around the city. You can also get up close at the peak of Corvocado mountain to play with perspective and camera angles. Be sure to stick around for a nighttime shot – Christ the Redeemer is fully illuminated at night, creating opportunity for a truly dynamic photo.
Rio — Copacabana
At the world famous Copacabana Beach you can soak up the sun, enjoy majestic beachfront views, and snap some colorful images. The view from Copacabana Beach is one of the most recognizable of all Rio locales. The dazzling high-rise cityscape flanking the beach creates a layered and active image.
You can venture into town once you’ve collected all the beach snapshots you need. The nightlife in the Copacabana neighborhood is practically mythical, and the sleek architecture of the surrounding area can serve as the backdrop of some lively photos.
Rio — Niterói Contemporary Art Museum
Nestled in Niterói, a town across the Guanabara Bay, this art museum is a photographer’s dream. Established by modern architecture icon Oscar Niemeyer, it’s a welcome reprieve from the intense sun and heat of the Olympic games, with the bonus of incredible visual contrast for keen photographers. The sharp lines and surreal curves of the building, which many relate to a UFO (or a villain’s hideout), lend themselves to iconic images, even for first-time shutterbugs. Travel down the road about one-tenth of a mile and snap the museum surrounded by breathtaking oceans and stunning mountainsides.
Rio — Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain)
Located in the Urca neighborhood of Rio, this popular destination gives photographers a terrific aerial view of the entire city and surrounding ocean. When Olympic athletes and attendees bring the city to life, this is a great lookout point to capture memorable photos of opening and closing day. Accessible by glass paneled cable cars (that offer great views themselves), the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain also provides opportunistic photographers with the chance to snap color-drenched photos of the mountainside and the natural topography of Brazil.
When you bring your equipment, plan on arriving an hour or two before you plan to snap any photos so you can scope out the best spot and stake your claim. Sunset images taken at Sugarloaf Mountain are a sight to behold – the reliably clear skies of Brazil typically allow stunning blues, purples, oranges, and pinks to saturate the landscape.
Rio — Lapa & Santa Teresa
These two neighborhoods don’t just share a border – they’re both history, art, and culture hotspots in Rio. Lapa and Santa Teresa were the nesting spots for artists and bohemians in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and these artistic vibes have remained. Plan to bring your camera to both neighborhoods, where history lives opposite incredible street art. Lapa is dotted with restaurants and bars that fuel a spirited nightlife, while Santa Teresa is famous for winding cobblestone streets and old mansions, converted into restaurants, shops, and artists’ studios.
There are plenty of sights to photograph, but two attractions in particular are worth a dedicated trip: The Parque das Ruínas in Santa Teresa houses the remains of Brazilian heiress Laurinda Santos Lobo’s mansion, which was used as a meetinghouse for artists in the 20s and 30s, and a viewing platform offers panoramic view of Guanabara Bay; In Lapa, capture the Arcos da Lapa, a colossal aqueduct built in the 1800s.
Paraná — Iguazu Falls
During your stay you may want to get out of the city once in awhile. The panoramic views and sprawling landscape shots possible at Iguazu Falls can’t be beat. Accessible both from Brazil and Argentina, this destination for the adventurous can be viewed from the walkways in Brazil’s Iguazu National Park. Those with climbing prowess can situate themselves at the base or summit of the falls for mesmerizing views all day long.
For the color conscious, the lush greens and blues of Iguazu Falls are best captured during the day. Unlike other photo hotspots, which really come to life in the sun streaked hours of dawn and dusk, Iguazu Falls is best lit in the middle of a clear, bright day. It will take at least an hour to journey up to a proper lookout point, but once you’re there the possibilities for photos are never-ending. But protect your gear! Few spots around the falls are truly splash free.
Rio — Santa Marta
While touring a favela might sound like a dangerous, if not exploitative pursuit, these urban areas are just as important to Brazil’s culture as its beaches, waterfalls, and high-rises. Rio’s favelas are bursting with life and color, making them a worthy destination for photographers looking to capture a holistic view of Brazil. There are several tours that will guide you safely through the winding streets, allowing you to capture the dynamic street art, gravity-defying architecture, and, in the community of Santa Teresa, a burst of vibrant rainbow. Here, a painting project by Dutch artists Haas & Hahn coated 34 houses in the town square with astonishingly bright colors, making it an unforgettable photo opportunity.
Brazil is a fusion of nature and urban landscapes, making it the perfect place to exhaust your travel photography dreams. If you’re visiting Brazil for the 2016 Olympics, head to these destinations for stunning images, but don’t forget to put your camera down once in a while to truly experience the lively culture surrounding you.
If you want to learn more about travel photography, check out “How to Bring Home Great Images from Your Next Vacation” and “5 Tips for Capturing and Creating Great Travel Portraiture” for more tips.