In The Field Photography Blogs: Charleston & Savannah Photography

April 19, 2024  |  South Carolina & Georgia

Exploring the South Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry region had been on my to-do list for a number of years now. I've always found the scenery, architecture and food to be an alluring prospect. I've talked to several people over the years who either live there or had visited, they all had great things to say especially the food. I had even started planning a two-week trip from South Carolina through the Florida Keys prior to the start of the pandemic, which included Charleston & Savannah. Finally, for my 10th anniversary which also coincided with my son's spring break I got to visit the Lowcountry.

What Does Lowcountry Mean?

Lowcountry refers to a region in the southeastern United States, primarily in the coastal plain of South Carolina and Georgia. The term typically encompasses areas near the coast that are characterized by marshes, swamps, and tidal estuaries. Lowcountry culture is influenced by its rich history, including African, Caribbean, and European traditions, and is known for its unique cuisine, architecture, and Gullah dialect.


For the first half of the trip we stayed in downtown Charleston right on the waterfront. This was a central location where we could explore the downtown historic district and enjoy the excellent coastal southern cuisine for dinner. We spent the days exploring and learning about the history of local plantations which were about a 25-minute drive away.

My wife and I absolutely loved exploring the Charleston area. The scenery was very beautiful, historic architecture and the food was excellent. I had been told numerous times over the years how good the food was, and it is true. Try fried chicken at Rudy Royale. I had never tried fried green tomatoes previously but enjoyed it, especially at Magnolia's which is a famous Charleston restaurant. She Crab soup is also excellent, sort of a regional twist on the ubiquitous clam chowder.

St. Michael's Church Towering Over Broad Street, Charleston, South Carolina

The Holy City

On our 2nd day of the trip, we spent the entire day at Magnolia Plantation & Gardens. If I were to plan another trip there, I'd avoid going there on the weekend. It was not busy in the morning but as the day progressed it got a bit overbearing especially with professional photographers doing portraiture photoshoots in all of the places that I wanted to photograph. One photographer was wheeling around a wardrobe rack for numerous young women almost the entire time I was there.

The Long White Bridge, Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, South Carolina

The Long White Bridge

White Azaleas at Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina, photo

White Azaleas

One of the highlights of the trip however was exploring the Audobon Swamp Garden on our way out. There we encountered numerous alligators in the water, a few times unexpectedly.

Alligator at Audobon Swamp Garden, South Carolina


Downtown Charleston was very charming with the historic architecture, and fairly clean streets for an urban environment. I felt safe at all hours of the day whereas I would not carry expensive cameras around any major city in California these days by comparison. Rainbow Row is arguably the most advertised attraction in the downtown Charleston so I explored this neighborhood before sunrise one morning since it was just a few blocks away from the Harbourview Inn where I was staying with my family.

Honestly, I don't buy the tourism marketing that Rainbow Row is "one of the most photographed spots in the country". I've been around photography for many years and am fairly well-traveled. It's a nice place but not at all easy to photograph nor something that most photographers would be interested in. Perhaps if you include people who do selfies and "social influencing" that might be a more accurate statement however.

Rainbow Row, Charleston, South Carolina

Rainbow Row

Boone Hall Plantation was another plantation that we visited. We did the house tour though my four-year-old daughter was not particularly enjoying this so my wife couldn't really enjoy the experience as much as she would have liked. We later spent time reading on the history at the slave cabins, where I tried to explain the significance to my seven-year-old son. On the way out, I went to photograph the famous Avenue of the Oaks driveway. My daughter again wasn't having a good time so I couldn't spend much time here. Between my daughter having issues and the numerous cars passing by, it's a miracle that I was able to even make a few photos. But wow, what a spectacular driveway it is with the canopy of live oak trees.

Avenue of the Oaks

Avenue of the Oaks

The highlight of the Lowcountry trip for everyone was probably canoeing at Cypress Gardens. This location is best known for the canoeing scenes from the movie, "The Notebook". We did the same canoeing which took about an hour to go around the swamp. While we didn't encounter any alligators here unfortunately, it was incredibly beautiful to explore via water. I highly recommend this experience. Apparently we had fortunate timing, as my wife was told that there were 2+ hour waits the week prior during Spring Break. We only had to wait about five minutes in the late afternoon when we visited.

Cypress Gardens, Moncks Corner, South Carolina

Cypress Gardens


After four nights in Charleston, we moved onto Savannah, Georgia. I thought Charleston was beautiful but Savannah was on another level in terms of atmosphere and overall beauty in the national historic district. We first stopped at Wormsloe Plantation for several hours. My wife and daughter decided to walk the entire 1.5 mile length of this driveway / road while my son and I stayed behind for some time to photograph the Oak Avenue. We eventually caught up then took the tram back to the entrance after exploring the historic sites.

Oak Avenue at Wormsloe Plantation, Savannah, Georgia

Wormsloe Plantation

As mentioned above, Savannah was unbelievably beautiful but I definitely liked Charleston more overall. Savannah had more of an urban gritty feel and didn't feel as safe to be perfectly honest. It's still every bit as charming as you would think but you also have to be aware of your surroundings. If I could compare Savannah to another city I think New Orleans would be the closest comparison. The architecture is reminiscent of the Garden District in New Orleans and both cities have a high violent crime rate. I don't want to focus too much on this but we took one of the trolley tours and our driver kept repeating how safe Savannah was with it's heavy police presence downtown. If a place really was that safe, you wouldn't have to say that much less multiple times. The fact is that amidst all of the money and beauty, there is a very high poverty rate here. The wealth discrepancy is one of the highest in the country based on what I've read. That's unfortunate but Savannah still is a really great place to visit overall.

Fountain at Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia

Forsyth Park

For the reasons mentioned above, I was very reluctant to go out and photograph Savannah with my professional camera gear. Maybe I've lived in the Bay Area too long where property crime runs rampant including numerous incidents involving photographers, or just in my head too much, but I was an idiot. I traveled all this way to see these sites and I'm worried about my camera equipment at 6 am in the morning? Anyway, I first encountered this iconic Savannah scene while on the trolley tour the day before. The entrance to Forsyth Park is one of those unmistakeable iconic must-see sites upon first glance. On a side note, my kids really loved the two playgrounds located just beyond the fountain. They spent some time there the afternoon before I made this photo. I'm not sure why the fountain never turned on even as I stayed around until about 7:20 am when there were already a number of people out and about. Still a beautiful scene nonetheless.

Mercer-Williams House, Savannah, Georgia

Mercer-Williams House

The city squares is where the heart of Savannah is. Monterey Square is arguably the most beautiful as it is surrounded by several stunning architectural masterpieces such as the Mercer-Williams House, which is featured prominently in the best-selling book and movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I could honestly sit on these benches all day listening to the birds and looking at oak trees.

Overall, visiting Charleston and Savannah was a great experience. I would like to photograph this area more in-depth someday perhaps when the kids are older when I'll have more freedom to travel again. I found the Lowcountry to be very alluring between the scenery, food and friendliness of the people. If the summer's weren't so hot in the south, I probably wouldn't mind living here for a time.

And to comment on the history of the region; I felt that while the history of slavery wasn't hidden, it wasn't exactly emphasized at some of these locations either. The narratives were generally more about the plantation owners than about the slaves which I don't entirely agree with but these are tourism attractions these days so it's not surprising that a sanitized history would be presented while the actual history was likely lost or revised over time. Boone Hall Plantation did a pretty good job however of sharing history at the slave cabins, which was sobering to say the least.

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Posted in travel guides and tagged trip reports.