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The 9 Best Places for California Landscape Photography
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The 9 Best Places for California Landscape Photography

The Golden State is gorgeous, but when it comes to truly special views, here are the best places to photograph California landscapes.

Roubina Al Abashian

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5 min read

October 14, 2022

Disclaimer: California.com is not receiving any type of compensation for reviewing any of the products or services mentioned in this article.

California might owe its popularity among tourists to its sunny beaches and celebrities who call it home, but what keeps those tourists returning time and again are the state’s gorgeous landscapes. Very few other places in the country have so much diversity and beauty, and that’s what keeps California on every photographer's bucket list. All the rocky coasts and cliffs, desert wilderness, majestic mountain peaks, towering redwood trees, and pristine mountain lakes create a playground for professional photographers.

The California cities are so vast and breathtaking, that taking a bad shot is almost impossible, no matter how amateur the photographer is. Despite being photographed a million times, there will always be an angle that no one has captured before. Visit these oldest cities in California and try to snap your trophy shot, but most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy the experience.

Best Landscape Photography Locations in California

The blue and green of the Pacific as seen from Point Lobos is a sight to behold and capture.

1. Point lobos

Point Lobos is known as the “Crown Jewel” of the California State Park System. It’s also been called the “greatest meeting of land and sea”. The park’s astounding beauty, turquoise waters, jagged cliffs, and rich fauna and flora seem to enchant photographers. For some awesome California photography, follow the Cypress Tree Trail, where you’ll find gorgeous attractions at every corner. Most importantly, make your way to China Cove, where the real beauty of this can’t-miss state park lies. Capture the blue and green of the Pacific, the hidden cove, and then zoom your lens for a chance at spotting a whale or two passing by.

2. Yosemite national park

Every professional landscape photographer has at some point visited Yosemite National Park or plans to do so soon. Sitting in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, the enormous park has been photographed innumerable times, and chances of the numbers going down are nonexistent. Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and El Capitan are three of the most iconic attractions in the park, but there’s much more to see and photograph here. Once you’re done snapping shots of the iconic spots, try and find the hidden waterfalls in the park — you might have to hike an extra few miles to reach the gems.

The best part about Lake Tahoe is that the winters here are as beautiful as the summer.

3. lake tahoe

There’s a fair reason why Lake Tahoe is one of the most frequented California landscape photography locations; The lake and its surroundings are breathtaking throughout the year and attract all different types of landscape photographers. North America’s largest alpine lake offers beautiful water views, as well as gorgeous mountain sceneries. In the summer you can take beautiful photos of the lake and the forests surrounding it, while in the winter your camera will be directed toward the white slopes surrounding it. Once you’re done with the obvious, go on a few Lake Tahoe waterfall hikes — you’ll be surprised at how much beauty the forests hide. 

4. Redwood National Park

California’s giant redwood trees find a way to sneak into every photography-related list, and you can’t see us nagging about it. The towering trees make for unique California landscapes to photograph. Of course, the best of California’s coastal redwoods can be found at Redwood National Park, so make sure to include it in your must-visit list. Tour the grounds of the massive park, see how many of the trees you can fit into your lens, and then search for the Hyperion, the world’s largest tree located right here.

The abandoned wooden houses in the ghost town of Bodie have been attracting photographers for decades now.

5. Bodie State Historic Park

East of the Sierra Nevada, in the Bodie Hills, sits the ghost town of Bodie. What is now a State Historic Park was once a thriving town, with a population that reached 10,000 around the year 1879. The now-deserted town had a valuable amount of gold hidden in its hills, but as soon as the supply ran out, people rushed out of it. More than a decade has passed since the last humans walked out of town, but Bodie still remains untouched. The huts and the shops still stand and are filled with furniture and supplies. It’s easy to say that Bodie State Historic Park is not your average California landscape. 

6. McWay Falls

“Where can I find good outdoor photography locations near me?” is not a question you get to ask when visiting Big Sur. The region as a whole is a sight to behold, but one attraction stands out among the many others, McWay Falls. Situated in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, McWay Falls is considered to be one of the most breathtaking waterfalls in California. The striking waterfall drops 80 feet into the Pacific Ocean, creating a postcard-perfect vista to admire and photograph. Hike the McWay Falls Overlook Trail to get as close as possible to the waterfall — this is the spot where you’ll be capturing your best shots from.

The 576-feet tall Morro Bay Rock is a bird sanctuary and one of the most photographed rock formations in California.

7. Morro Bay State Park

San Luis Obispo County is where beauty meets adventure. One of the country's most visited spots is Morro Bay State Park. The park owes its popularity to its pristine natural landscapes, terrain, and, of course, the famous Morro Rock. It’s safe to say that more cameras have been directed toward the grand rock than at any celebrity. Here, the possibilities for capturing nice landscape pictures are endless and can be taken from a whole lot of angles. To do that, you’ll have to hike as many of the park’s trails as you possibly can. If you’re into nightscape photography, then you should stay in the park overnight and aim for the stars. When you’re done taking photos, spend the night at one of the park’s 135 campsites, and check one of the top things to do in Morro Bay off your list.   

8. Death Valley National Park

Death Valley is the complete opposite of everything California is famous for; it’s almost lifeless. Despite being pretty much dead, the one-million-plus visitors who visit it every year bring it back to life. There’s something about this barren place that photographers can’t get enough of. From giant sand dune fields to Mesquite Dunes, the 3,373,063-acre Death Valley National Park has everything a photographer could dream of. Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, is possibly the most photographed place in Death Valley, but not the only captivating feature in the park. Pack a lot of water and food, bring a map, and hike the 1,000-plus miles of the valley in search of the desert’s gems.

Did you know that Joshua trees are not actual trees but succulents? The name got us all fooled.

9. Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua trees are native to the Mojave Desert area of California, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, so the least we can say is, they’re a rarity. To see the best of these unique plants, a trip to Joshua Tree National Park is a must. The desert park is not just about the succulents though — any photographer would rejoice over the California landscapes stretching for miles here. Hike the trails of Joshua Tree National Park and snap photos of the iconic plants with impressive, desert rock formations in the background. If you’re planning to stay here overnight for a few nice night pictures, remember that the desert might get freezing cold, especially in the winter.

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