Engagement & portrait LOCATIONS
Many of my clients already know exactly where they want to shoot before even booking me. For everyone else, I thought I would put together a little list of locations I am already familiar with. Allow me to preface this list with a few notes. In order to facilitate an easy experience for everyone I tend to lean away from locations that require a permit to photograph. I also prefer to find quiet places to shoot as crowds can often be overwhelming if one is not comfortable in front of a camera already. That being said, I have noted a few locations below that are generally crowded as it can often lend a certain aesthetic to the right client.
THOMAS F. RILEY WILDERNESS PARK
Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park is a beautiful area of rolling hills scattered with California Live Oak trees which lend to a very calm, natural session. The light there is absolutely wonderful. As dusk draws near, the sun peeks through the tress and casts a golden light on the hills surrounding the winding trails. This is a very popular location for local family photographers who prefer to stay close to the parking lot. I generally like to walk out into the hills where it's a little more private before starting to shoot. All trails are dirt so please plan accordingly. Parking is generally plentiful here during the week. There is a $3 parking fee payable via a machine that accepts Visa/MasterCard. Park hours are 7:00am to sunset. The address is 30952 Oso Pkwy, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679. Past sessions - Sonia & Connor, Natalie & Jamie
RONALD W. CASPERS WILDERNESS PARK
Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park is a little gem of a park just off California State Route 74. This park is really unique because there are beautiful locations to shoot at close to the mountains and also further out from the mountains, allowing us to catch a sunset twice if we're lucky. California Live Oak trees cluster more heavily here and the trails that lead off from the various day-use areas are winding, long and many. Caspers is gorgeous and I absolutely love shooting there because each time I get something new and different. There are just so many places to shoot and explore we will most likely end up on an adventure. Once inside the gate, continue straight along the main road until you come to a T, turn right and continue until the paved road ends at a gravel parking lot where we will begin our session. All trails are dirt so please plan accordingly. There is a day-use fee of $3 Monday through Friday and $5 Saturday and Sunday. Park hours are 7:00am to sunset. The address is 33401 Ortega Hwy, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675. Past sessions - Nikki & Marshal, Lauren & Seth
NORTHWEST OPEN SPACE
San Juan Capistrano's Northwest Open Space is located off the I5 freeway at Junipero Serra Road. As the name implies, the area is fairly open with scattered trees throughout. Due to the space being so close to a large hill on the west side, this location is best about 1 to 2 hours before sunset. The light here is breathtaking when the sun hits it right. Please note that this location is all dirt so please dress accordingly. Parking is generally plentiful and is free. The address is 29943 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675.
Badlands Park is great for families of 3 to 4. The street we park on opens up to a trail that leads down to a sandy patch of shrubs and pathways that all lead to a gorgeous view of Dana Point, Laguna Niguel and the Pacific Ocean. Please note that this location is all dirt and sand trails so please dress accordingly. Due to the location overlooking the ocean, the best time to start is 30 minutes before sunset. Street parking is generally plentiful and is free. The address is 31671 Isle Vista, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677.
James Dilley Preserve
James Dilley Preserve is located in the heart of Laguna Canyon. This is an area of rolling hills scattered with California Live Oak trees. The light there is absolutely wonderful. I generally like to walk out the trail and stop at little spots along the way to shoot. All trails are dirt so please plan accordingly. Paid parking. This location doesn’t have an address that I am aware of, you’ll want to map it out before you leave. The parking lot is located at the crossroads of the 73 Toll Road and Laguna Canyon Rd (133). Sessions can be scheduled for this location beginning November 5th as the gates promptly close at 5pm.
LOS RIOS HISTORIC DISTRICT
Los Rios is the oldest street in San Juan Capistrano and is home to many historic homes and buildings. Los Rios Historic District is a special place. The light here is very unique to this location and lends to a great place for portraits. Gorgeous overhanging trees line the historic street and provide ample shade to shoot in and around. This is a popular location for tourists so please be aware that crowds are not uncommon. Parking is free and generally plentiful between the two large dirt parking lots that parallel Los Rios street. Most of the area is paved, however, there is a dirt trail close by that is a great place for portraits away from the crowds so please dress accordingly. The address is 31831 Los Rios St, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675. Past sessions - Meaghan & Rob
old town tustin
Old Town Tustin is a great option for those looking for a location a bit more in the heart of town than on the beach or off a back country trail.
MISSION SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO
The historic Mission San Juan Capistrano is located just off Ortega Hwy in San Juan Capistrano. The Mission provides a lot of variety with adobe walls to hanging bougainvillea and brick walkways. Light here seems to be amazing all the time, however the ideal time to begin shooting here is 1-2 hours before sunset. The Mission requires a photography permit and can be purchased ahead of time or at the entrance for $75/hr. The Mission grounds are mainly dirt and grass so please dress accordingly. Street parking is available just outside the entrance but can be sparse so please arrive early. Mission hours are 9:00am to 5:00pm. The address is 26801 Ortega Hwy, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675. Past sessions - Devon & Michael, Heather & Jake
DANA POINT NATURE INTERPRETIVE CENTER & STRANDS BEACH
The Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center & Strands Beach are great locations to choose back to back. The Nature Interpretive Trail actually ends at one of the entrances to Strands Beach making it ideal to end the session on the beach during sunset. Conditions vary dramatically throughout the year, however, the best time to shoot here is at low tide as more beach will be visible and usable. Be prepared to walk quite a bit as the trail is about a mile long with various locations to stop at shoot at along the way. Once reaching the entrance to Strands, there are four switchbacks standing between us and a beautiful sunset on the beach. The Nature Interpretive Trail closes at 5:30pm Monday through Thursday, 4:30pm Friday, and is closed on Saturday and Sunday. Parking is free and available on the street at 34385 Dana Strand Rd, Dana Point, CA 92629.
The Dana Point Ocean Institute is located at the end of the Dana Point Harbor. The building itself is contemporary architecture featuring organic accents. Not only is it a great place to bring the kids for a learning experience, but the outside of the building is beautiful to shoot around. Just behind the Ocean Institute is a secluded beach cove and jetty. We can only access the beach at this location when it is low tide, thus, please let me know well ahead of time that you are interested in shooting here so that we can find a date and time suitable to safely get down to the sand. High surf is common at this location as well as moderate winds on the jetty. Parking is generally plentiful and is free. The address is 24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr, Dana Point, CA 92629.
San Clemente Pier
Lost Winds Beach
Lost Winds Beach is a local spot with access to the beach trail that follows the San Clemente coastline. The beach is open to the north and south providing a lot of light to work with.I generally like to stay here past sunset in order to take advantage of the softer light and open beach. Street parking is plentiful most of the year. It can get crowded during summer months and weekends. Past sessions - Devon & Michael
San CLEMENTe State Beach
San Clemente State Beach is a great location if you want to shoot at the beach but also want a little greenery as well. There is a small open area close to the beach with large trees and a winding trail giving us access to shade before heading down to the beach. The beach is open to the north and south providing a lot of light to work with. I generally like to stay here past sunset in order to take advantage of the softer light and open beach. Paid parking is plentiful most of the year. It can get crowded during summer months and weekends. Past sessions - Jennifer & Nick, Kelli & Rob
Thousand Steps Beach
Thousand Steps Beach is located at the southern tip of Laguna Beach. This cove is sheltered by a large cliff on the north side of the beach, providing ample shade in the afternoons. This location is great alone or as a second location to Los Rios or The Northwest Open Space. Parking can be difficult here on the weekends or during the summer as there is only street parking available. Past sessions - Scott & Kari, Meaghan & Rob
San Juan Creek
San Juan Creek is a dry creek that runs through San Juan Capistrano. The sand at this location brings a lot of light to the images with soft reflection everywhere. It's best to start shooting here a few hours prior to sunset as it's low and loses sunlight earlier than other locations. This location is great for couples and families. Street parking is free and plentiful. The address is 31372 Via Parra, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675. Past sessions - Tricia & Ryan
San Elijo Lagoon
San Elijo Lagoon is located just across from Cardiff State Beach. It is perfect for a private session surrounded by nature everywhere you look. The main trail winds along the perimiter of the lagoon allowing for some breathtaking views of sunset and secluded little moments along the way. This is an ideal location to pair with Cardiff State Beach for sunset photos. Parking is generally plentiful and free along the street at 845 N Rios Ave, Solana Beach, CA 92075. Past sessions - Josh & Carris, Garrett & Katey
Cardiff State Beach
Cardiff State Beach is simply stunning. At low tide, the sunset seems to go on for ever and view down the beach is quintessential California. It's best to start shooting here closer to sunset since there isn't a ton of shade. The State Beach parking lot is the best place to park since it's so close to the sand. There is a fee to park in the State Beach lot. Past sessions - Garrett & Katey
KOREAN FRIENDSHIP BELL
The Korean Friendship Bell is located at Angel's Gate Park in San Pedro. Although the bell seems to be the focus, there is also a gorgeous, unobstructed view of the coast and can be spectacular during sunset. This location can get very windy with little to no structure to hide behind when it does, which can be very fun, or frustrating depending on your expectations. Parking is limited, but free at this location. I recommend arriving early to ensure you find a spot. Hours are 6:00am - 6:00pm. The address is 3601 S Gaffey St, San Pedro, CA 90731. Past sessions - Drew & Rebecca
Griffith Observatory is located in Los Angeles' Griffith Park. This location offers a variety of backgrounds ranging from wooded trails to urban skyline. Due to the high foot traffic the observatory sees on a day to day basis, please expect lots of people. During sunset, this location can often look like an amusement park on a holiday. That being said, I think the people lend a certain aesthetic and gives a little city vibe to the images. When shooting here, please anticipate passers by in the backgrounds of your finished images. Parking can be difficult due to the sheer volume of people that come to watch the sunset. Hours are 12:00pm - 10:00pm Tuesday through Friday, 10:00am - 10:00pm Saturday and Sunday, Closed Mondays. The address is 2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Past sessions - Cory & Nikki
Vista Hermosa Natural Park
Vista Hermosa Natural Park is located in Los Angeles. This park offers stunning landscapes of the city as well as beautiful corners of light and greenery everywhere we go. Parking can be difficult so please plan accordingly. The address is 100 N Toluca St, Los Angeles, CA 90026. Past sessions - Brea & Justin