Southern California boasts a variety of landscapes to choose from, ranging from desert, to coast, to lush forest, you are really spoiled for choice. Here are my top picks for photoshoot locations in SoCal.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Located about an hour out of San Diego and three hours from Los Angeles, Anza-Borrego is home to some 35 giant iron sculptures all nestled in a rock-locked valley of the Borrego dark community. This makes it a choice spot for many reasons. For starters, a dark community means prime star-gazing and awe-capturing at night (be sure to check the cloud forecast before heading out at night though). Imagine looming dinosaur and sea dragon figures on a backdrop of a million stars, and it’s pretty tempting to not drop everything and head out right now. These sculptures are just a impressive during the day, against the desert shrubbery and white sand. The surrounding motels are also resort-themed, so you can be sure of some interesting Flintstone-type buildings to explore with your lens. Be sure to have a four-wheel drive for this spot, as the terrain is rough and the sculptures require some off-roading.
La Jolla Beach
This may seem like an obvious choice, but I am not sure how common the knowledge is that fires are allowed in certain spots of the beach during the evening. If you are inclined, gather up some fire supplies, a s’mores kit and some picnic blankets and catch the sun setting on the beach over your flames, then play with the shadows on the cliffs. Fire’s need to be out by midnight, so make sure to wrap it up by then or risk a policeman dropping by to say hello.
Limestone Canyon Regional Park
This park offers beautiful limestone views, albeit a bit small. It’s no Grand Canyon, but the colors are striking. The open face rocks show yellow with veins of red, sprinkled with cacti and sage scrub. The canyon is easy to hike, if a little steep, and the views are panoramic.
Red Rock Canyon
A mini hike that is only known to the locals of Lake Forest, this little canyon is perfectly red rock, as the name implies. The trail is less than 4 miles, and littered with succulents. Because it is such secret, there is a very slim chance of actually bumping into anyone, and the canyon actually forms it’s own little hidey hole, so while you may hear traffic you don’t actually see civilization from the trail or between the rocks. Pack sturdy shoes as you can actually climb the face rock if you want to get some birds-eye shots of the canyon.
Corona Del Mar, Newport Beach
Find this rock at high tide with waves crashing over it on the white sands of Newport Beach and snap away at the blue, foamy waters. Catch a few yachts lazily making their way across the water, and keep an eye out for sand castle sculptures that pop up every now and then at the base of the rock. Best at sunrise (as it gets a little busier at sunset), this is a gorgeous and somewhat iconic local spot.
Santa Monica Pier
Day or night, you can’t go wrong with beaches and a ferris wheel, not to mention rows and rows of palm trees. For first-timers in Los Angeles, this is a must. While touristy and usually busy, it offers stunning views of the water, and the carnival atmosphere at night makes for bright, dazzling pictures of the amusement park on the pier. If you want to get away from the crowds a bit, walk toward Ocean Drive and take in the views of the cove.
Another obvious one, but this park is unparalleled when it comes to desert shots. Look for Skull Rock, take a night drive and shoot the stars at night, or just pick a route and see where it takes you. Either way, you are guaranteed beautiful pictures of the famous desert landscape. I suggest checking the official website for a route based on how long you have if you are under time constraints. Also be sure to check the club forecast before scheduling a night time shoot here.
SoCal has a lot to offer in the ways of interesting landscapes. While a few may seem obvious, it is always worth it to check them out if it is you first time shooting here. Head to Topanga for beach views and scenic routes (on the right day, if you drive high enough you can actually take a picture in the clouds), or even LACMA for classic shots in the renowned gallery. The Anaheim train station is an architectural wonder of lights and symmetry, especially if you catch it at night when the multicoloured lights are on. Even downtown L.A. offers stark city shots if you can’t make it out to the desert, so keep your camera ready and let the state show you why everyone loves California.