We feature some of the brightest Instagram storytellers in the Passion Passport community through our Instagram Spotlight series. Today, Sruthi Ramesh (@sruthiramesh) shows us why she loves exploring her own backyard just as much as the far corners of the world.

San Francisco, USA

There are a lot of downsides to living in San Francisco ― tiny apartments, mediocre public transportation, and of course the exorbitant cost of living, to name a few — but the beauty of the city really does make up for it. Just half an hour outside the city will take you to Marin, where one can find everything from redwoods and mountains to ocean views and beaches. Even though I’ve lived here for a couple of years, I haven’t even gotten close to seeing everything San Francisco and the Bay Area have to offer.

This shot was taken at the end of the Tennessee Valley trail in the Marin headlands. One lazy Sunday evening, we decided to take a last-minute drive across the Golden Gate, hoping the sunset would wait for us. Luckily, we reached the trail’s end at the perfect time to witness the most surreal golden hour light shining across the waves. Truly unforgettable even without a photo, but I’m still glad I had my camera with me!

I’ve witnessed firsthand the huge increase in tourism in Marin over the past few years ― getting a parking spot to see the view of the Golden Gate from the headlands is now near impossible during weekends. Luckily, there are some lesser-known and much less crowded viewpoints at the Presidio, which offers unobstructed views and plenty of hiking trails. The hour before sunset is my favorite time to visit here, and there’s always parking.

This particular shot was taken in between two trees near the Presidio parking lot at golden hour. I was dying to try out a $50 vintage lens I had just gotten from eBay, and this was the perfect opportunity. It gave an unmistakable dream-like quality to this already stunning view.

Another lesser-known viewpoint is from Coit Tower on top of Telegraph Hill. $8 USD gets you to the top, where you can see 360° views of San Francisco on a clear day. The day I took this photo, I was particularly struck by the way the tower’s elegant windows happened to frame my view of the city.

If you’re looking for city views with a drink, then the View Lounge is the perfect place to go. When my coworkers suggested the View Lounge for after work drinks, I knew I had to bring my camera. My advice: Go early to grab the seats by the giant windows.

San Francisco is full of (mostly) hidden gems that don’t see as many tourists as other parts of the city ― I’ve learned that you just have to look around to take advantage of the constant inspiration this city provides.

Norway

If Iceland is too crowded for you these days, try Norway! Some amazing pictures on social media inspired me to book tickets, but nothing could have prepared me for the pristine beauty of this country. I took two separate trips over two years (and have a third one in the works!) ― once to the southern part of Norway and once to the Lofoten Islands.

Lofoten, Norway by Sruthi RameshGetting to the Lofoten Islands is a long trek ― we flew to Oslo, then took a domestic flight to Bodø, then rented a car and took the four-hour ferry over to the Islands. Despite the tedious journey, it was well worth the travel time. Picturesque fishing villages adorn the islands with their iconic red hues, and the air has a distinctive smell of salt and seafood. I was determined to get this picture of the village of Hamnøy, even in the pouring rain. I quickly jumped out of the car for just a quick snap , but it was so beautiful we ended up parking and spending some more time around the village, even in the inclement weather.

Of course, the best way to see the islands are to hike through them. We spent rest days at the village of Henningsvær, which boasts galleries full of work from local artists and small restaurants with lots of charm. We originally planned on a few overnight hikes, but suffered a setback after the island weather broke our tent. We decided to persevere and still managed to do three long hikes, during which the unpredictable weather was constant challenge, oscillating between sun and rain every few minutes. If you’re planning a trip of your own, regardless of when you decide to go, pack for the worst! Also, take the difficulty ratings with a grain of salt ― we found every hike to be a little more strenuous than reported online. Norwegians must just be in really good shape! This photo was taken on the Stornappstinden trail, which was supposed to be a moderate climb. I suppose having to stop to catch my breath was worth it for this image!

A house in Lofoten, NorwayYou can make all the plans you want, but chances are the weather will force you to change at least some of them. But even the stormiest days in Norway are beautiful, and a great alternative to hiking is a day spent road tripping in a car. Some of the best views and pictures that I got were spontaneous stops from unplanned road trips. Since there is never really any traffic, we were able to stop the car and get out pretty much wherever and whenever we wanted, which was ideal for snapping photos. I spotted this hut from far away because of its bright red windows that stood out on an otherwise dreary day, and thought it looked quite imposing against the thick fog behind it. We parked nearby and hiked up to get a closer view, and we were the only ones there to enjoy it. Definitely plan out your time, but keep it flexible ― sometimes the best memories are the ones you didn’t see coming.

White Sands, New Mexico

My friends and I had been wanting to go to White Sands National Monument since the first time we saw a picture of it, when finally we decided to go for my birthday weekend. We went to New Mexico in November, when it was starting to get cold. However, the sun reflecting off the white sand makes it quite warm at times, so wear layers if you go that time of year. We were only in New Mexico for a weekend, so we didn’t get to see a lot of the state, but White Sands was an experience I’ll never forget.

White Sands National Monument - Sruthi Ramesh Instagram Spotlight
A person in White Sands National Monument

Pictures really do not do this place any justice. I’ve seen sand dunes before in the Middle East, but the pure white sand of this national monument is so surreal and other-worldly, especially after the sun has just set. I remember feeling a little disappointed when I looked back at my photos; although they were pretty, nothing could really capture the feeling of being in the massive expanse of sand that looks like snow.

Scotland

Off-season tickets were less than $400 USD round-trip from San Francisco to Scotland, so we decided to brave the weather and go in early March. Although we got caught in a blizzard more than once, nothing could really mask the beauty of Scotland.

Glencoe, ScotlandAfter one of my friends had visited a couple of years prior, Glencoe shot right to the top of our list while in Scotland. At the top of our list of places to see was Glencoe after one of my friends had visited a couple of years prior. Despite the gloomy weather (as evidenced by the drops of water on my lens), Glencoe was vibrant and expansive, and we had a great time exploring its many trails in the freezing cold.

A person in Glencoe, Scotland for Sruthi Ramesh's Instagram Spotlight
A waterfall on Isle of Skye, Scotland

Scotland is so wild and beautiful, and it felt like every new place we saw was so unique. On Isle of Skye, we visited Kilt Rock, where you can get a great view of Mealt Falls. This photo always reminds me of an eerie yet beautiful sound we heard while taking pictures here ― after researching it later, we found that during periods of strong wind, the metal fence vibrates through the air. But if you ask the locals, they’ll tell you it comes from the faeries!

Thailand

Boats in Phuket Bay in ThailandWe spent most of our time in Thailand in Phuket, but managed to squeeze in a couple of days in Bangkok. Of all the many temples we visited, I was most drawn to the details of Wat Arun with their delicate and intricate tile work. I took many photos of the temple itself, but ended up loving the close-up shots of the details much more.

The vibrant, tropical colors of Phuket were unlike any I’d seen before, and they totally blew me away. We went island hopping to the most popular islands, all of which were picturesque and worth a visit, even with the crowds of tourists. I really enjoyed spending time on this quieter island, and thought the colorful boats were a great contrast to the imposing cliffs nearby.

Thailand was a feast for all the senses, from the delicious cuisine to the stunning landscapes. It can get a little touristy at times, but it’s definitely worth fighting the crowds.

Details in Bangkok shot by Sruthi Ramesh in Instagram SpotlightInterested in meeting a few more talented photographers? Check out their work in our Instagram Spotlight series!

Share this:
Sruthi Ramesh
Sruthi Ramesh is a designer and photographer whose time outside work has been spent experiencing almost fifty countries. Although originally from California, she currently resides in London with her husband and cat, and is constantly planning her next weekend trip. To see more of her work, visit her on Instagram at @sruthiramesh.