South Carolina is filled with smiling faces and beautiful places, as the saying goes, but some places are downright picturesque and are great places to, you guessed it, take some snaps. While we think the whole state is beautiful, there are a few extra special spots we have selected for you to break out the camera and take home more than a memory.
Its name might be a bit of an understatement as this spot on Standing Stone Mountain is breathtaking. You approach the vista from the back of an open-air church that is often the site of weddings, engagements and soul-inspiring moments. The best shots are from the back of the church and include the large cross at the front with a stunning backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a bit of a drive but it is well worth it. Sunset provides the most stunning views.
Your challenge here is try to capture the peace and serenity of this hauntingly beautiful place. Long ago abandoned, the bones of this church tell the story of war as the church was burned during the Revolutionary and Civil wars. But today, it is about as peaceful a place as you will find. Just off US 17 on Old Sheldon Church Road, the location has no signs or guest services. It just stands as a sentinel to the folks who once prayed here, studied their Bible lessons here, got married and died here. Early morning or late afternoon provides the best light.
While we're speaking of the surreal, the ancient Angel Oak on Johns Island will transport you back to prehistory. Thought to be the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi, the 65-foot-tall live oak casts a shadow over 17,000 square feet of land, providing the perfect canopy for exploring light as its filters through the leaves. The tree has withstood countless hurricanes, wars and at least one earthquake to create its otherworldly look. Branches dive into the sandy soil only to rise back up anew, creating so many different points of interest. It is almost impossible to get it all in one frame. Because of the interesting play of light through the leaves, any daylight hours are good for shooting.
Caesars Head State Park, Cleveland
If you want a spectacular sunset shot, you must trek up to Caesars Head State Park. From this vantage point, a gneiss outcropping on the Blue Ridge Escarpment, you can see soaring hawks during the fall when the surrounding hardwood forests are ablaze with the reds and yellows of the season. Your perch is more than 3,200 feet above sea level, and that gives you a glimpse into four states: South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. From here, you can take a quick hike (2.2 miles) to the suspension bridge at Raven Cliff Falls, where the dramatic 420-foot waterfall-the tallest in South Carolina-just loves having its picture taken anytime.
Landsford Canal State Park, Catawba
Landsford Canal State Park is home to the world's largest population of rare rocky shoals spider lilies. The flowers bloom in the Catawba River every May and June. You can hike the 1.5-mile Canal Trail to an overlook for a great view, but if you can safely carry your camera in a boat, that is the best way to get up-close and personal with the beautiful flowers. Early morning is best for light.
Congaree National Park, Hopkins
South Carolina's Congaree National Park is home to the largest tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the US. You will find ancient trees, wildlife and unique blooms. You can see the park by boat or by foot with 20 miles of backcountry hiking trails and a 2-mile boardwalk trail. There are guided tours on land and boat throughout the year. The park is also a popular birding spot. Come early in the day for best light.
Hopelands Gardens, Aiken
Located on the former winter estate of Hope Goddard Iselin and her industrialist husband C.O. Iselin, the gardens are home to coy, turtles, wood ducks and some interestingly shaped live oaks. Best time of year is spring when the azaleas are in bloom and early morning for the best light.
Atalaya Castle, Murrells Inlet
This beautiful Moorish-style castle at Huntington Beach State Park is the perfect spot to take one-of-a-kind photos along the South Carolina coast. Just south of Myrtle Beach, this summer home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington is on the National Register of Historic Places. At Brookgreen Gardens just across US 17 from the park, you will many of Anna Hyatt Huntington's beautiful sculptures displayed among the flora and fauna. It is another one of our favorite places to take stunning photos. Any time of day is great for photos at the castle, but don't miss the sunrise.
Skywheel, Myrtle Beach
Come during the day to catch all the activity on the water and the beach or come at night to see the city light up. There really is not a bad time to see South Carolina's crown jewel from 200 feet up. We also love taking photos of the Skywheel while we are waiting to get on board, particularly at night when the wheel is lit up.
Issaqueena Falls, Walhalla
As you walk up to the falls, you will notice a small meandering stream that you can easily walk through. From this angle, it is hard to appreciate the 200-foot drop of the Issaqueena Falls. Follow the dirt and gravel path down to the splash zone for a great view of the falls. The view is really stunning all times of year. In the spring, you get the new foliage and in the fall, brilliant colors. But the winter may offer the best view of the water as it cascades down the mountain.
Rainbow Row, Charleston
This 14-home stretch of East Bay Street is probably the most photographed section of the historic Holy City. Whether you are looking to create a gallery of interesting doors or you want to capture the whole row, you will not be disappointed if you stop here. To get blooms in the window boxes, come in spring. And remember to keep one eye on traffic as you seek out your perfect shooting location.