If you’ve got a trip to Cali coming up, that means pure #instagold is coming your way. From sun-drenched beaches and towering cities, to picturesque lakes and green mountain scenery, the Golden State will guarantee you an epically-diverse range of locations. We know it’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to see absolutely everything, so our friends at Busabout have compiled a list of the absolute must-have shots for your ‘gram.
Head to these classic locations and you’ll have a jealousy-inducing feed in no time!
Travel to: USA
Best Places to Photograph in California
1. The Hollywood Sign, Los Angeles
What’s likely the most iconic of all California’s landmarks, The Hollywood Sign was originally constructed to advertise a housing development called “Hollywoodland.” While the “land” is long gone, the refurbished sign has possibly an absolute must-see for tourists, locals, and photographers alike. While the sign is visible from most points of the city, try one of the three hikes that lead to the sides and rear of the sign for a more unique photo.
2. Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles
Located in LA’s Griffith Park, the Griffith Observatory is a free planetarium and museum that provides stellar views of the surrounding area (including The Hollywood Sign!) but it’s also a photogenic star in its own right. Snap a cute candid while looking through a telescope, or try your hand at more architectural photography. The building’s domed roofs look amazing against a bright blue LA sky.
Photography tip: Follow the “rule of thirds.” A photo that consists of one third the sky and two thirds the building (or vice-versa) is more visually-pleasing than half and half of each.
3. Beverly Hills, Los Angeles
You’ll feel the glamour oozing from the 90210, so strut your stuff and get the camera ready! Indulge in some window shopping and keep an eye out for the rich and famous on Rodeo Drive. While you’re there, check out the Spanish Steps and get a pic with the fountain – you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into Europe! For the ultimate urban luxury shot, wander the surrounding area to find the palm-tree-lined streets. Don’t worry, they won’t be hard to find. Aim upwards for the classic shot of the trees silhouetted against the blue sky.
4. Balboa Park, San Diego
This is a 1200-acre urban cultural park, slap-bang in the middle of San Diego. As well as housing gardens, museums, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo, you’ll find some truly beautiful buildings with Spanish-Colonial architecture. The Botanical Building, the Casa de Balboa, and the Casa del Prado Theatre are all worth visiting for a pic – especially at sunrise or sunset. Not only will you avoid most of the crowds, but the buildings will cast incredible shadows and look even better in the low light. It’s no wonder the park has been declared a National Historic Landmark.
5. Joshua Tree National Park
If you’re looking to unwind and reconnect with the world, look no further than Joshua Tree. With over 800,000 acres of national parkland at your fingertips, Joshua Tree has long been an escape for nature lovers and photographers. If you’re more the urban explorer, never fear: the area is also home to shops, bars, and restaurants.
Photography tip: If you want to blow everyone away with a stunning sunset photo, make sure your iPhone camera has HDR enabled. This allows both the shadows and highlights in a sunset to be properly exposed, and can result in gorgeous pictures.
6. Emerald Bay, South Lake Tahoe
Calm blue waters, looming pine trees, and Fannette Island in the middle of the lake: Emerald Bay is one of the most popular and recognisable areas of Lake Tahoe for a reason. You can hire a kayak or paddleboard, and make your way to the island to explore. Stay out on the water for the perfect action shot, or hike the surrounding hills to get a picture from up high. No matter what angle you go for, you’re bound to be raking up the likes with a location like this. #nofilter
7. Mammoth Lakes
Mammoth Lakes really lives up to its name. From the mountains to the valleys to the, yes, lakes, everything here is truly mammoth in size, and screaming to be added to your Instagram feed! Offering paddleboarding, hiking, and fishing in the summer, and skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing in the winter, there’s always something to do — and something to photograph — at Mammoth Lakes.
Photography tip: If you’re visiting in the winter, wear a bright, bold colour (such as red) to stand out against the white backdrop.
8. Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco
This is an uber-cool alternative district packed full of tiny galleries, vintage clothing stores, record shops, hip cafes, and street art. Named for the intersecting Haight and Ashbury Streets, this was where thousands of young people gathered in 1967 for The Summer of Love. Hippie culture took off, and the vibes remain today, mixed with the urban hipster scene of San Fran that we know and love. Get a picture with some of the quirky graffiti art for your feed!
9. Painted Ladies, San Francisco
This one is a can’t-miss for any “Full House” fans! Across from Alamo Square in San Francisco live seven iconic Victorian houses, each painted a different pastel colour. You know you’re in San Fran when you see these ladies, and, once you get the perfect shot on your Instagram, your followers will know it too!
Photography tip: Standing near the middle of Alamo Square will allow you to get all seven houses in one shot.
10. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Is there anything more quintessentially-San Francisco than the Golden Gate Bridge? We don’t think so either. The bridge’s gorgeous shade of rusty red looks amazing in a shot paired with the sky, sea, or both. If you have time, you can walk across the whole thing and get some artistic shots of the cables that keep it together. If not, there are plenty of beaches, parks, and other sites from which you can get a golden shot of this iconic bridge.
11. Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park
Let’s put it this way: if you’re hanging out in Yosemite, it’s hard to go wrong when it comes to taking the perfect photo. You’ll find yourself surrounded by towering trees, staggeringly-high cliff faces, and crashing waterfalls, so we’re sure you won’t struggle for subject matter.
Photography tip: For one of the most iconic views of Yosemite, you’ll want to aim for Tunnel View – if you get it right, you can get El Capitan, Bridelveil Falls, and Half Dome all in one shot. Access this spot via a scenic lookout at the end of Wawoa Tunnel, off Highway 41.
Whether you’re aiming for the perfect nature shot in Yosemite, or a stylish selfie on Rodeo Drive, California is home to endless photo-ops.
Ready to hit the road and travel around the U-S-of-A? Check out Busabout’s new USA itineraries right here.