Top 10 Favourite Photography Spots in Southern California

Having just returned from Southern California I thought I would list my “Ten Favourite” places I photographed on the trip. These are in no particular order although they came to my mind in this order so maybe there is something here. The list is a little eclectic, something for everybody.

Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego – This park is your classic Southern California beach area with beautiful sandy beaches and soaring cliffs. Adding even more attraction to this area are the paragliders sweeping through the sky, stunning wildflowers and the aforementioned Torrey Pine, found in only a few locations in California.
Joshua Tree National Park – Lost Horse Mine Trail – This trail has it all. Awesome views, beautiful cactus and a good look at the largest gold producing mine in Joshua Tree National Park. Get up early for the best light and to leave the desert before the heat sets in.
Indian Canyons (Palm Springs area) – Palm Canyon Trail – Lush desert oasis with California Fan Palms and cool breezes make this a truly spectacular hike. The Indian Canyons area of the desert seems lusher than the Eastern areas, perhaps a result of 10,000 foot peaks towering above the area providing snow runoff during the spring.
College of the Desert Street Fair, Palm Desert – This market reminds me a lot of the markets in Asia with hundreds of vendors selling everything from t-shirts to fresh produce. Lots of tacky hats, both good and bad artwork, jewelry, thousands of shoes and perhaps the best people watching in the desert!
Wind Energy Farm, Palm Springs – The north end of the Coachella Valley has a surreal collection of over 3,100 windmills. While you can’t walk right up to these massive structures due to security fencing, you can get close enough to really have a feel for the size and engineering behind wind generators. The sound is very eerie, sort of a white noise you can almost feel.
An unnamed Air Force Base near Santa Barbara. I had the opportunity to photograph the stunning coastline in this area, virtually untouched by humans and full of rare plants and animals. No photographs of missiles however, I don’t think that would be allowed!
Coachella Valley Preserve – Located on a section of the San Andreas Fault, this large nature preserve has numerous palm oasis and very cool desert iguanas. One could spend hours wandering through the groves of trees and flash flood cut canyons. The wildflowers and views are stunning.
Birch Aquarium, San Diego – The Birch Aquarium at Scripps in San Diego has an amazing assortment of fishes, sharks and little goodies like anemones and scallops. Spanning settings from local waters to the tropics there is something for everyone, especially the kids. Check out all the sharks!
Joshua Tree National Park – Covington Flats – Take a long dirt road into the northern end of Joshua Tree National Park and the weird Joshua tree gets larger and more plentiful, producing what must be considered a real forest. This area is worth the dusty and car bashing trip, just take it easy if you have a small 2 wheel drive car, you don’t want to spend days out there.
San Diego Air & Space Museum – For the hardcore aviation junkie, this museum is a must. Aircraft of all sorts from WW1 to the present are beautifully presented. Vintage War birds, commercial and stunt aircraft, even flight simulators. An Apollo space capsule greets you when you arrive; a mock up of the Space Shuttle sends you out the exit.

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26 Responses to “Top 10 Favourite Photography Spots in Southern California”

  1. […] US « Keywording and DAM or is it DAM Keywording Top 10 Favourite Photography Spots in Southern California […]

  2. Julie Plevak says:

    Great choices Kevin! I will have to take a drive and to check out the College of the Desert Street Fair! Sounds fun!

  3. Jazzy says:

    Great list, I bet you had a fabulous trip, there are some spectacular places to get good shots by the look of it, I do envy you.

  4. KKH Photos says:

    Great list Kevin! Awesome pics to go with it too. I’ve never been to California but now I know who to go to for advice if I ever get the chance.

    Good luck with the 31 days challenge!

  5. Matt Lacey says:

    Hey Kevin,

    Thanks for the comment on PSD Essential.

    Nice list, some great great shots there.

    Im going to be doing a photography showcase of as many countries as possible and you’ve been to a few! I’ve bookmarked your site so I’ll showcase some of your work in the future if that’s ok? Obviously you’ll be linked back ect.



  6. Dawn @ My Home Sweet Home says:

    Neat list. The windmill place sounds fascinating!

  7. Michael Nielsen says:

    Hi Kevin,

    Great list, if I ever come by California I’ll use your list to guide me.

    Tip for an update – Post individual galleries or link to larger images. Or create your own Google Map with the locations as pinpoints.

    Best regards,

  8. LisaNewton says:

    LOL…………….I was just at Torrey Pines today. It’s one of the best places I’ve been yet. I loved taking pictures there, and I’m sure I’ll be doing a blog post about it within the next week or two. I look forward to your comments…………….:)

    Great list. I’ll definitely be adding these places to my to-do list.

  9. kevin says:

    Thanks for all the supportive comments. It sounds like everyone is really motivated.


  10. Brian says:

    Kevin, these locations look incredible. You are blessed to live near such a beautiful area! I especially love the Coachella Valley Preserve photo you have (I have a pet lizard myself) as well as the Wind Farm ones. I was actually contemplating starting up an environmental blog of sorts. I should really get on that. Nice work!


  11. Brad says:

    Hi Kevin, came here via ProBlogger and your entry on my light blog. I am sorry to have seen this list so late — was just in San Diego last Fall. I’ve family there, and have bookmarked the page for my return visit. Thanks! Brad

  12. Kricia Morris says:

    These are great! I would love to have the opportunity to travel around and get some fantastic shots like those. Some of the backdrops that you have available to you are just absolutely stunning! I really love the wind farm location, I can just see a beautiful bride as a fantastic contrast to the industrial backdrop. Great post!

    kevin Reply:

    Thanks Kricia,

    I hadn’t really thought of what portraiture would be like using the wind farm as a backdrop but I imagine you could do a great job. It’s certainly a very interesting place. I had planned on photographing it a number of times but somehow it just didn’t come together.

    I spent some time on your web site, beautiful work.

  13. kevin says:

    Thanks all for the wonderful comments.

    One thing I’ve noticed about the photographers that have commented (that’s most of you) is that you all have fantastic blogs covering an amazing range of topics. Portrait photography, photo theory, camera equipment, travel, nature and lots more.

    There’s so much we can learn from each other in this amazing age of digital cameras and the internet. It only gets better.

  14. […] gave us was to write a list post, something along the lines of what I did on this site ”Top 10 Favourite Photography Spots in Southern California” and on my Cowichan Valley Blog “Top Ten Events in the Cowichan […]

  15. Paul says:

    Those are some great shots and look like terrific locations. I got some great photos on my trip to the US 2 years ago. I wish I had more time for photography these days.

  16. Jason says:

    Great post Kevin. It’s amazing how little we see when we zoom by on the interstate.

    I’ve driven by a number of those locations and didn’t bother to stop and snap some shots, but you have inspired me.

  17. kevin says:

    Hi Paul and Jason,

    Thanks for the positive comments on my work.

    We do tend to zoom by beautiful areas all the time (In fact I just spent 60 minutes driving quickly through a beautiful part of Vancouver Island) and really miss much of what the world has to offer. When I was in the desert last month a number of people were making comments about how little life and colour were in the desert. I, at the same time was wandering around at sunrise or sunset with macro lenses, poking around and discovering all sorts of goodies that most of the population missed as they were hurtling down Interstate 10.

    I think one positive thing about this form of human behavior is that it leaves the more wild places for the ones of us that like a little adventure and slowing down. The rest just hurtle around the countryside on highways in pursuit of whatever.

    Photography and the arts are a good training ground for living slowly and appreciating what’s around us.

  18. Dave Blackey says:

    Hey Kevin, really like the windmills and the aquarium shots in particular. I’m assuming you had your lens as close to the glass in the aquarium as possible; did you use a flash, and if so, was it off camera? Thanks, Dave

  19. kevin says:

    Hi Dave,

    The windmills seem really popular, they sure were amazing to view as I was travelling through the area. More shots next year!

    You’re right, for the aquarium shots I just put my lens up against the glass and hoped for the best. The worst part is the colour balance which was very inconsistant but these were shot in RAW so at least I can recover bslance a little. There isn’t much colour when light is filtered through water. No flash, it would have worked well off camera but the aquarium folks and visitors would likely have killed me when they got blinded for 10 minutes or so inside the dark cave!

  20. Lisa says:

    I agree with your about Torres, and was fascinated by the windfarm shot. Can you recommend anywhere near Santa Barbara?

  21. kevin says:


    The windfarms are fascinating aren’t they! I just wish I had been more motivated to get up early and shoot but I was thinking that I’m taking a little break from photography so became a little lazy.

    Santa Barbara is one of my favourite areas and I lived there for a period of time when I went to Brooks Institute of Photography. I haven’t done any photography there recently but one area I always really enjoyed was Figueroa Mountain. Amazing place for wildflowers. Another area I enjoyed was Montana de Oro State Park near Morro Bay, a little north. What a wonderful place to camp and Morro Bay itself is so picturesque.

    I’m hoping to spend some time in these areas next spring, can’t wait!

  22. Jenna Lee says:

    I love your photography, and I was wondering is you know of any good locations around Pasadena, CA to take pictures this time of year?

  23. kevin says:

    Hi Jenna,

    A few locations I used to frequent were the Huntington Garden in San Marino and the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden in nearby Arcadia.

    Take a look at Lisa Newton’s site Travelin’ Local. She has been spending soime time in Pasadena the past few weeks and has excellent articles and photographs of the area.

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  25. Ryan Griffiths says:

    Love Torrey Pines and all those places (the picture for torrey pines is especially cool)! Love to write about them too.
    .-= Ryan Griffiths´s last blog ..Blood Line =-.

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