British photographer Ben Lateu-Smith is a wild camping lover who chases stunning scenery, wherever it may be – from north of the Arctic Circle to the remote mountains of Canada. Ben’s trusty tent always goes with him on his travels, as he feels there is no better way to immerse yourself in the landscape than to live in it.
At the age of 14, Ben bought his first DSLR camera in the form of a Panasonic G5, so that he could go out photographing with his dad, who is also a keen photographer. By the age of 16 he was taking off to the wilds of the UK with like-minded friends and had really started to enjoy camping and photography together. Currently, he is planning a six-month trip to Mozambique for his next adventure and is very excited about the country’s opportunities for photography.
In this article, Ben shares some of his favourite stories and photos from his wild camping adventures around the world.
The Lofoten Islands in Norway is one of the most stunning locations I have ever visited. The mountains literally meet the sea, and their grand scale is the perfect back drop to the picturesque, traditional fishing villages, which are full of life and character. Just beyond the village in the photograph below (left), I had the magical experience of seeing dolphins swimming just a few metres from the bank.
My trip to Lofoten encompassed a five-day hike and wild camping on the beautiful beaches. The calm was broken one night by a ferocious storm. I had a perilous mountain descent to escape the weather and took refuge in my tent, which did not survive. The photo above (right) captures the stunning vista the following morning when I awoke.
The Alps hold a special place in my heart. Trekking and camping in some of Europe’s most mesmerising scenery has given me memories which will stay with me for life.
This shot, taken in the French Alps, shows a single peak jutting above the mist of a valley shrouded in cloud. Standing in 20 inches of snow, I was just quick enough to grab my camera to capture the image, seconds before it too disappeared.
British Columbia, Canada
I felt considerable trepidation planning my wild camping trip to Canada due to the sheer scale of the area, and the prospect of encountering mountain lions and bears.
However, the amazing scenery of west British Columbia allayed my fears when I started my trek, and I experienced a blissful feeling of tranquility, despite the blood trails and paw prints encountered along the way. Ultimately, these just made the camping more exciting and the photography more interesting.
Romania appealed to me because of the vast areas of untouched forest and the famous Carpathian Mountain range. I was hiking in the region with two friends, who I left at our camp to chase this elusive sunset shot, stumbling repeatedly while desperately seeking a suitable clearing for the view.
By the time I had re-joined my friends, I discovered that they had constructed an igloo for us to spend the night in. The howl of a wolf nearby, however, caused us to retreat to our original camp.
The Dolomites, sometimes known as the Pale Alps, offer breathtaking views of peaks that are shaped in incredibly unique ways. They were my final destination on a five-week-long train journey through central Europe. Both shots below were taken on the same evening; one of only a few times I have been able to photograph an equally special sunset and a night sky, one after the other. The sunset illuminated the whole valley, and it was possible to see each individual tree. I sat and shared the moment with another hiker before capturing some more shots of the light in its final moments.
After sunset I retired to my tent, waking later to witness an astonishingly clear Milky Way, which had me grabbing my camera and tripod once again. The Milky Way was perched just above Tre Cime, the three massive rocks that the hike had led to. I felt privileged to be able to photograph such stunning scenery.
In 2019, my father and I travelled to Snowdonia for our annual wild camping trip. This photo was taken on top of Glyder Fach, where we pitched our tents four days into the trip.
As the sky began to break up, it created many fascinating patterns, as though inky oils were spreading across a canvas. That night, a storm broke and we had to pack up and retreat to lower ground to avoid losing another couple of tents.
Triglav National Park in Slovenia was a destination of beauty and adventure for my friend and I. Poor planning resulted in our food supplies being exhausted within two days, and the situation was exacerbated when we became lost in the mountains for a further four. But the stunning surroundings strengthened our spirits and kept us going. The black-and-white photograph below was taken on our descent from the mountains, shortly before a sizeable meal.
The national park contained many waterfalls and rivers with crystal-clear water, providing ample opportunities for both swimming and photography.
Heavy rainfall in September 2018 created miserable conditions for camping in Glencoe, Scotland. We often awoke partially submerged in water, which required bailing out of the tent.
But the wind and rain also provided exciting prospects for photography, as the low clouds scattered the light in a fast-evolving presentation of mountain scenery, where each variation of light was only fleeting.