5 Best Photo Opportunities in Los Angeles

Photo Opportunities Los Angeles

Lee Van Grack

Los Angeles, Calif., with its diverse neighborhoods, cultures and attractions, offers plenty of photo opportunities. There is Beverly Hills and the barrios, Olvera Street and Little Tokyo, Hollywood and Hancock Park, Griffith Observatory and the Getty Center. The city of the angels has so many people and so many things to do, you just gotta love L.A. Singer/songwriter Randy Newman loves it so much he wrote a 1983 song about his hometown, entitled "I Love L.A.," which is often played when the Dodgers, Kings, or Lakers score at home. And we're sure you'll love it, too. To help the romance continue long after you're back home, here are the five best photo ops in L.A.

1. The Romantic Photo: Getty Center

At the Getty Center (1200 Getty Center Drive), you can view Western artwork spanning from the Middle Ages up to present day. From inside out, the Getty is a feast for the eyes and a romantic place to stroll. There are gorgeous gardens, including a horticultural maze, and the center's location atop a hill offers a picture-perfect view of Los Angeles, California, that encompasses downtown's skyscrapers. Many unique garden features make the Getty camera-worthy, like whimsical steel trees that grow bougainvillea or the extensive cactus garden. Admission to the museum is free, however parking costs $15 per car (free after 5pm). Booking an advanced time ticket is highly recommended. To reach the museum from the street-level parking lot, visitors take a computer-operated tram up to the top of the hill, which is a fun experience in itself. The Getty Center is about 12 miles northwest of downtown L.A. and is located near the intersection of Interstates 405 (the San Diego Freeway) and 10 (Santa Monica Freeway). From the 405, take the Getty Center Drive exit and follow signs to the main gate on Sepulveda Boulevard. Hours are: Tuesday-Friday, 10AM to 5:30PM; Saturday 10AM to 9PM; Sunday 10AM to 5:30PM. The museum and gardens are closed on Mondays.

2. The Quirky Photo: Hollywood Boulevard

Would-be actors and actresses dressed up as characters from movies and television stroll Hollywood Boulevard from the Kodak Theatre (where the Academy Awards take place) to Grauman's Chinese Theatre (where the real stars' hand- and footprints are). The pretenders hover around the forecourt area in front of Grauman's, making it a perfect place for people watching and photo taking. You never know who you'll see here, from Lucy Ricardo to Spider-Man to Charlie Chaplin. Other area attractions include Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, and El Capitan Theatre.
Tip: Know upfront that if you start snapping photos of the characters, you'll most likely get asked for money. So bring along some change for these "struggling actors" -- it's worth a couple of bucks to get your photo taken with Marilyn Monroe, even if she's not the real deal. Park in the indoor garage for the Hollywood & Highland Center. There will be a fee (less expensive if you get validation from the visitors' booth at the main entrance), but it's convenient to the boulevard and much less than the surrounding parking lots. It costs $2 for up to four hours with validation; $1 for every 20 minutes thereafter; and a daily maximum of $10. Hollywood & Highland is at 6801 Hollywood Blvd., and Grauman's is right next door.

3. The Family Fun Photo: Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens

No matter what age you are, a visit to the zoo is always fun. The L.A. Zoo (5333 Zoo Drive) opened in November 1966, and its 113 acres are home to more than 1,100 birds, mammals, reptiles, invertebrates and amphibians, as well as 7,400 plants. Look for the zoo's special event days, such as fall favorite, "Boo at the Zoo," where children dress up in costumes and can participate in activities that include trick or treating, or watching apes eat pumpkins. See the zoo's calendar to find out about upcoming events. Even if you don't come during festivities, the L.A. Zoo is a great place for shutterbugs. Head to the Campo Gorilla Reserve and snap a photo of a troop of gorillas amidst lush vegetation and waterfalls, or spend some time focusing your lens on the Sea Life Cliffs -- a replica of California's rocky coast that's home to harbor seals -- near the front entrance. If you're looking for tips, the zoo offers a helpful list here, with its top tip being "patience." The zoo's regular hours are 10AM to 5PM daily, and is open every day of the year except Dec. 25. Admission is $14 for adults (ages 13 and older); $11 for seniors ages 62 and older; $9 for children ages 2 to 12; and free for children under 2 years old. There are discounts available for groups of 15 or more people. The zoo is located in the northeast corner of Griffith Park, at the junction of the 5 (Golden State) and 134 (Ventura) Freeways.

4. The Scenic Photo: Disney Concert Hall

Another photo opportunity in Los Angeles you don't want to miss is the striking, futuristic Disney Concert Hall. It took 16 years for this marvel of architecture to come to fruition; the design by Frank Gehry began in 1987, construction started in 1999 and the hall opened in 2003. The hall is home to the L.A. Philharmonic, but you don't have to purchase a ticket to snap some amazing photos. It's free to walk around this spectacular structure and you can probably photograph it all in less than an hour. Many photographers come at sunrise to Disney Concert Hall, when the golden light reflects off the metal surfaces, transforming it into something magical. Avoid coming during midday, when harsh lighting and glare become problems. There are some pathways you can take to lead you around the building. At one point, the structure appears to envelop you, with its walls towering above you on both sides, and you can see reflections of yourself on its burnished walls, making it a popular photo opportunity for photographers. Self-guided, audio tours are also available on most days. Call (213) 972-4399 for additional information. The Disney Concert Hall is located on historic Bunker Hill at the intersection of First Street and Grand Avenue in downtown, next to the Music Center of Los Angeles. From the 101 Freeway, exit at Grand Avenue or from the 110 Freeway and take the 4th Street exit.

5. The Classic Photo: Olvera Street

Step back in time on Olvera Street (9845 N. Alameda Street), an open-air Mexican market rich in Mexican history and culture. Restaurants, shops and stalls with Mexican crafts, clothing, jewelry and souvenirs line the street. Do some research ahead of time to find a "photo walk," where you can spend several hours walking around photographing the colorful historic area and its people, with a group of other photographers. Joining a group can give you fresh ideas on how to photograph the space, as well as the courage to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Finish off the day with a great dinner at one of Olvera Street's authentic Mexican restaurants, like La Golondrina.
Tip: Sunday afternoons are a good time to go to Olvera Street. You might be entertained by mariachis or see colorfully costumed folklorico dancers, which make for great photo opportunities. Olvera Street is across the street from Union Station and is in the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Park. Parking can be difficult to find and expensive, so we recommend the most convenient and cheapest option: take public transportation to Union Station, and then simply walk across the street. Union Station is the headquarters for L.A.'s Metro, Metrolink and Amtrak, and is itself a classic Art Deco landmark building in the city -- worthy of a trip inside, even if you don't have a train to catch.

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