Photographer’s Paradise: Capturing the Beauty of Cape Cod

Provincetown has been at the forefront of Cape Cod photography for over a century – surrounded by pristine landscapes, harbor views, untouched nature, and endless places to capture an artfully framed shot. The deep lineage of photographers on the Cape stretches back to people like Walker Evans, who took over 60 gelatin silver photos in Provincetown and Wellfleet in the early 1930s, now preserved at MoMA, and continues today with Gabriel’s owner Elizabeth G. Brooke, her work proudly displayed at our Provincetown bed and breakfast. In addition to capturing village life and mountain gorillas in Uganda, leopards and zebra in Kenya, and vibrant street scenes in Havana, Brooke’s prints include seascapes in nearby Truro, dune shacks along the outer Cape, and stunning birds right in our backyard. When you visit, you’ll have these majestic landscapes and locations just minutes away, where you can photograph Cape Cod, one memorable shutter click at a time.
seagull cape cod photography

Exploring the Dunes and Forest

Where Birds Gather, Wildlife Thrives, Whales Frolic in the Distance, and the Sands Never Seem To End

With over 40 miles of rolling dunes and beachy landscapes accessible within minutes from Provincetown, heading out into the Cape Cod National Seashore is the ideal place to start your photography adventure on the outer Cape. Begin at Beech Forest, a favorite destination for photo enthusiasts due to its gorgeous and varied terrain along a well-maintained 1-mile loop, with dense old-growth forests and tranquil ponds. From the blossoms of spring through the brilliant foliage of fall, you’ll get fantastic photos around every turn in the trail. It’s also a prime place for Cape Cod birdwatching and photographing birds who love stopping in the protected forest during their seasonal migration. Among dozens of species, look out for black-throated blue warblers with their distinctive blue, white, and black coloring, plump and broad-tailed wild turkeys, and hermit thrushes with their brown coat and reddish tails, all of which will visually jump out in photos. In Beech Forest and along the Old Colony Nature Pathway, look out for other wildlife, like red foxes and turtles, a delight to stumble upon for any nature photographer.

For the ultimate dunes experience, head nearby to Race Point Beach, where you can walk in either direction and find miles of sandy panoramas. Photographers have always flocked to this area of the outer Cape, drawn to its natural beauty, soft light, sloping sands, and picturesque seascapes. With every passing dune, you’ll get a new perspective and photo opportunity as the sea breeze makes the tall grasses sway gently and the waves crash on the shore. You’ll also have more chances for nature photography, such as birds like common loons, herons, and piping plovers (which have roped-off breeding areas but are photographable from a distance). Bring your camera with the best zoom, as you can often spot humpback and right whales from the shoreline at Race Point in the springtime. Make your dune adventure even more exciting by joining the sunset outing offered by Art’s Dune Tours, where you’ll head out for an hour-long cruise along the seashore as the sun sets, with plentiful photo-worthy views and cheerful camaraderie from their expert guides.

Lighthouses and Dune Shacks

Inspiring Generations of Cape Cod Photography

Although beachscapes and nature often get top billing for photographers, don’t miss the chance to capture the quintessential structures within Cape Cod National Seashore: lighthouses and dune shacks. Heading west from Race Point Beach, you’ll reach Race Point Light after two miles, the 45-foot-high lighthouse nestled at the very tip of Cape Cod for over 200 years. Plan to visit on the first or third Sunday in June, July, and August, when you can do a guided tour and climb up to the “lamp room,” with striking ocean views and the makings of epic photos. On a different day, take a 30-minute drive to the southern portion of the Seashore to visit Nauset Light, often called the most photographed lighthouse in the world. Painted red and white in the 1940s, Nauset Light is famously the Cape Cod Potato Chips logo, made even more iconic when seen and photographed up close. Join one of their guided tours on Sundays and Wednesdays during the summer, offered between 4:30 and 7:30 pm, when you can take advantage of the “golden hour” just before sunset, cherished by photographers.

Heading in the opposite direction from Race Point Light, you’ll come upon the historic dune shacks, long treasured by photographers for their aged beauty and rustic seaside charm. Among the 19 shacks spread over nearly 2,000 acres, the C-Scape – named after the painter Jean Cohen, who once lived and painted here – is just a half-hour stroll away from the Province Lands Visitor Center. The desolate and gorgeous area surrounding these dune shacks has been a haven for artists, photographers, and writers for over a century, sure to inspire your creative side, too.

bike on the beach cape cod photography

Photo Spots All Around Provincetown

Shooting At the Pier, From High Above at the Pilgrim Monument, and Along Commercial Street

Given the outer Cape’s storied fishing legacy, the MacMillan Pier has always been the focal point of Provincetown, with boats in constant action. Any time of day, you’ll be privy to seafaring scenes that make for excellent photos, whether it’s schooners with outstretched sails, flocks of herring gulls getting their daily catch, or lobster boats returning with their haul. Notable photographers like John Margolies – who traveled across the country taking photos for his decades-long “Roadside America” collection, now preserved in the Library of Congress – have aimed their camera lenses at our pier, drawn to the quaint waterfront. The harbor is particularly memorable photo-wise during the three-day Portuguese Festival from June 28-30, 2024, when local fishing families colorfully decorate their boats for the annual “Blessing of the Fleet.”

The Pilgrim Monument, directly neighboring our property and opening for the summer season on May 10th, 2024, is a must-visit for any photographer. At over 250 feet high, the towering platform’s panoramic views extend for miles, encompassing Provincetown proper, the vast harbor, and the curved tip of land where Cape Cod ends. While you’re there, check out the exhibits in the museum, which include photography of Cape Cod’s past.

During your stay, stroll up and down Commercial St and have your camera ready. It’s an excellent avenue for shooting pics of classic Cape-style storefronts and architecture, lively people walking along the main thoroughfare, and unique places like the eccentric street art at the Bob Gasoi Art Alleyway. Browse in Provincetown galleries like Julie Tremblay’s, which is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the summer and features her diverse photos ranging from Cape scenery to still-life shots of fruit and autumn leaves.

Stay with us, bring your camera, and discover the allure of Cape Cod photography! Elizabeth loves to chat with fellow photographers and can give tips on places of interest that are off the beaten path.

Book Now