Laguna Beach Photowalk
Updated: Jan 18
Place. Laguna Beach is a former artists colony that’s kept the arts tradition alive with tons of art galleries and festivals like the summer traditions Pageant of the Masters and Sawdust Festival. Laguna is a small town with about 23,000 population, but it attracts 6 million visitors yearly for the art, long and dramatic beaches, coves and attractive surf.
Where: In the heart of Orange County, Laguna is about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, flanked by Newport Beach to the north and Dana Point and San Clemente to the south. Laguna is about a 30 minute drive from Disneyland and an hour’s drive from Los Angeles.
Photo highlights. Beach life, tidepools, rocks, cliffs, fancy hotels, and street photography. Laguna has some of the most extensive trails in SoCal, and attracts mountain bike fans from all over the world. Laguna is a great spot for rural shots from the trails.
Why Laguna for a Photowalk? “We’re surrounded by 20,000 acres of open space and hidden gems all over town.There are so many hidden gems all over. Laguna is an unplanned community steeped with history from its artist colony roots. We’ve got funky to modern homes, to the beaches always changing with the tide, and exposing hidden rocks sculpted by the sea.” Jan Schrieber, Laguna Beach photographer
Best time to visit. Summer is most congested, so the other seasons would be your best bet. Remember that the most dramatic sunsets in Southern California occur in November and December, so that would be photographer prime time.
Rules: You'll see lots of shots in the Laguna tourism brochures that were done on a drone. Despite that, know that Laguna has strict "No Drone Zone," laws, no drones on beaches or in the park.
Laguna postcards: The iconic shots in town are of the Lifeguard tower on Main Beach, a surfer entering or exiting the water, the coastline, the old castle like building on Victoria Beach and of course, sunsets.
1. Main Beach
Parking can be tough to come by, especially in the summer, so the city recommends taking the free trolley, which, should be noted, will stop at all the places mentioned here.
Start here, in the center of town, where Broadway meets Coast Highway, where you see the iconic lifeguard tower, basketball and volleyball courts. This is a great place for your establishing “I’m in Laguna” shots and selfies.
Turn right and head up the hill to Heisler Park, where you will see the gazebo and the killer outlook view of the coast.
Beyond the gazebo for coastal selfies, Heisler is a large park with sculptures, benches and fun only in Laguna signs worth checking out.
2. Public access beaches
Laguna has 30 of them, off-the-beaten path beaches with more dramatic settings (rocks, coves, tidepools) than you'll find at Main Beach.
My shot of the surfer was done at Shaw's Cove, because I love the waves , and Victoria is arguably the most popular with photographers thanks to the pirate tower, built back in the 1920s, which makes for a great backdrop.
3. Montage Laguna Beach
Laguna's ritziest resort might be a little rich for your blood - (a room in the summer starts at nearly $1,000 a night) but visiting is free.
You get to see an awesome mosaic swimming pool which is featured in most of the tourist info, and some of the coolest public access beaches. They are just off the Montage property, including Treasure Island and Goff Cove.
4. Top of the World Park
Now start heading back into town, on the trolley, or your vehicle, which will take you all the way up to Alta Laguna Park, as it's officially known, but everybody just calls it "Top of the World."
You'll get a great 360 view of Laguna and Orange County and is really popular with hikers and bikers. Don't forget your GoPro.
This is a great photo spot, because first of all, you'll get shade on one side of the street, which will be more pleasing for your natural light portraits.
And secondly, this is a chance to photograph many Laguna icons, like the red phone booth on Forest Avenue or the Gate sign.
Laguna is chock full of galleries, and its main art areas are just outside downtown, home to the Sawdust Festival, Art-A-Fair and Pageant of the Masters.
They are only open in the summer, but the grounds are worth checking out year round.
The galleries are downtown, and the Laguna Art Museum is right off Heisler Park, near the Gazebo.
8. Back to the Beach
We will end the Photowalk back on Main Beach, as we prepare for sunset and one more shot of the 1929 Lifeguard Tower.
HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH THE MAIN LIFEGUARD TOWER:
The main tower is dead center in the middle of town, (105 N. Coast Hwy.) a historic monument to years gone by, originally a structure at a Union 76 gas station across the street. It got moved over to the ocean side in the 1930s and is seen on many a Laguna photo and painting. It looks more like a lighthouse than the classic bright blue lifeguard house that we see on most beaches, with dutch doors that open up. Laguna Beach photographer Jan Schrieber likes sunsets, standing directly in front, when the doors are open. You can watch a glimpse of the sun and the ocean through the door. She also likes standing to the south, and getting the cliffs in the shot as well.
HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH VICTORIA TOWER
Victoria Tower is a Cinderella era like tower in the right in the middle of a SoCal beach. Schrieber likes shooting it from the south side, a low angled shot that also shows the waves.
BEST HIDDEN BEACH FOR PHOTOGRAPHY
There are nine coves in Laguna. Visit Laguna Beach recommends Shaw’s Cove, where the north side has underwater structures and beautiful plant and sea life.
FAVORITE SUNSET SPOT
Rockpile Beach at low tide. This beach is located below the south end of Heisler Park, the main park in the heart of Laguna. High tide covers much of the beach, and during low tide the tide pools are exposed.
Jan Schrieber is a Laguna Beach based photographer and graphic designer. She runs the AdventureMuse channel on YouTube, which features active lifestyle and travel videos.