Iowa, the “Hawkeye State” or the “Cornfield State,” has many hidden gems and is known from border to border for its small-town charm. Although the state may not be well known as a travel destination, it is a great place for a beginner travel blogger to visit. It has a relatively low cost of living and can be an inexpensive place to travel. Exploring and photographing what Iowa has to offer, especially at sunrise or sunset, will help you to make a name for yourself as a travel photographer and blogger.
Have you ever heard of the film “Bridges of Madison County”? Filmed right here in the heart of Iowa, the county is known for its stunning covered bridges surrounded by lush greenery. This is a great stop for any traveling photographer to gain experience capturing sunsets over flowing water. If you can get your timing just right, you will capture the beauty of an evening sky changing colors behind one of the infamous covered bridges to add to your portfolio.
For those western movie lovers, you will love to know that Madison County was the birthplace of John Wayne. You will have plenty of opportunities to blog and photograph pieces of his life history in the heartland of Iowa. Don’t miss the chance to take a shameless selfie with the bronze John Wayne statue outside the museum dedicated to the baritone actor.
Lastly, no photography trip to Madison County would be complete without snapping a few shots of the Clark Tower located in Winterset City Park. It is a limestone tower reminiscent of an old English castle. It only stands about 25 feet tall but is a striking contrast to its surrounding city park landscape.
Downtown Des Moines
The capital city of Iowa, Des Moines has numerous pedestrian walkways that lead you around to the 24 different art pieces that have been donated to the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. As a photographer, artist, or blogger, you could easily spend an entire day there covering each of the works. Some of them are best seen at the peak of the day to note every intricate detail while others are best on display at night when the lights inside of them illuminate their special qualities.
While exploring this area at night, take the time to see the Grays Lake Bridge at night from behind the lens of your camera. Completed in 2001, the outdoor bridge was equipped with colored lighting that illuminates the bridge as you walk across the water. The lighting is a contrast of varying colors in diamond shapes that are reflected onto the ground from the handrail that runs along the entire length of the bridge. The shapes on the arch of the bridge are a treat for the eyes of the pedestrian.
The town’s motto is “A touch of Holland,” and you will immediately recognize why when you see the blades of windmills as you enter town. The interesting juxtaposition of old-timey windmills and updated architecture adds for an interesting piece of Iowa to digitally record. If you are interested in starting your own blog to accompany your photos, take the opportunity to interview some of the longtime residents who can tell you stories of the preserved windmills that are still found throughout town.
During the month of May, Pella celebrates Tulip Time, a celebration of the Dutch residents who once settled in the area. The community members dress up in Dutch costumes to provide demonstrations, performances, and run a local craft and vendor fair. There is a flower showcase and, of course, tulip garden tours. This Dutch-inspired spring weekend provides a delightful opportunity to contribute eclectic images into your portfolio that many traveling photographers won’t get elsewhere.
To fill out the outdoor section of your photography portfolio, travel to Okoboji to get some scenic landscapes. This small town of 1.86 square miles lies along the shore of West Okoboji Lake. It is a popular summer destination and may be best to visit during the off-season to get the best views. The possibility for capturing colorful sunrise images are likely in your favor. With a little luck, you will have been visited by some of the larger birds that inhabit the nearby wildlife sanctuary that are looking for an early breakfast.
When trying to develop your artistic eye as a travel blogger or photographer, you have to think outside the box. Why try to compete with others in large cities like New York City or Los Angeles when you could be exploring all the beautiful offerings of the state of Iowa?
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tabor-roeder/6215519815/