LA is a strange city. From a photography point of view it is an absolute goldmine with photo opportunities everywhere you look. Having only spent a short amount of time there this is in no way an expert’s guide, instead more of a hacker’s guide to getting the most out of your camera in the shortest possible amount of time – with a few timely coffee breaks along the way, needless to say.
Having driven around a little bit in LA one thing is certain; if you don’t have to drive, then don’t do it. Even the shortest journey will leave you clawing at the windows of your car desperately searching for a way out of the endless queues of traffic. The city is pretty vast and sprawling which does make having a car annoyingly unavoidable, but if you can pick your parking spots carefully you can probably walk a lot more of it on foot than you might assume. We took our car to Little Tokyo which, along with Chinatown, has some of the cheaper parking rates.
From there, our first stop was the very impressive Union Station, the interior is just perfect for pictures and movie geeks will be familiar with the architecture thanks to films like Pearl Harbor and Blade Runner (more on that later). We got some great pictures here and the dark panelled interior really lends itself to some light HDR shots. We are not massive fans of the over-processed look but in certain situations it really does work well if it’s done with a subtle eye.
Once out of the station we walked a short way up to Olvera St, the oldest part of Downtown LA and supposedly the oldest street in the city. This area was so contrasting from the one we’d just come from it was pretty hard to fathom that we were in the same city. It’s one of the things that makes LA so unique. This was a great opportunity to get some pictures of the tourist knick knacks they sell here, from ukuleles and Lucha Libre wrestling masks to bumper stickers and bracelets.
One of the places we’d ear-marked to go to while in LA was the Disney Concert Hall, which is a pretty stunning building in Downtown LA. We didn’t really have a map or anything to guide us while walking, but we kept glimpsing it’s abstract mix of curved lines and angular edges which told us we were walking in the right direction.
As we walked, the early cloud we’d seen in the morning had burnt off completely to reveal a crisp blue sky and we took full advantage. Taking a walk through Downtown past some of the more impressive buildings LA has to offer, we got some pretty interesting and abstract architectural shots to add to our collection.
Walking back in the rough direction of the car, we stumbled across Grand Central Market. Again it was one of the places we’d made a note of before we arrived to try and explore and as luck would have it we walked straight into it. The market is not too dissimilar to Borough Market in London, except for the fact that Grand Central Market has a distinct Blade Runner feel to it, packed with neon lights and Asian cuisine. The hustle and bustle of life inside meant we were able to get some more candid photos than elsewhere in LA.
Having been out and about for a few hours we went in search of coffee and didn’t have to look far (obviously). G&B Coffee is just inside the entrance to the market and serves great coffee in uber-hipster glasses (which we are not ashamed to say we loved). Since the flat white doesn’t seem to have caught on in America quite yet, we opted for cappuccinos and blueberry muffins to keep us going for the next hour or two.
LA is split up into pretty distinctive districts and as we left Grand Central Market we made a beeline for a map (like London, they’re dotted around on street corners so you can’t ever get truly lost). We decided to head back to the car via as many of the districts as we could and ended up seeing some really cool bits and pieces along the way, with so much contrast between each block we walked.
This is just a small snippet of the crazy expanse of culture and contrast that is LA; we’ve not even mentioned Venice Beach, Santa Monica, the Getty Center or the Griffith Observatory which are all great places to visit with your camera too. While LA isn’t exactly a classic Californian beauty spot, it’s so varied that you’re bound to find plenty to explore no matter where you head to.
Patches & Flash