LOCATION – VENICE BEACH, CALIFORNIA USA
Venice is about as truly California as you can get. A crazy eclectic blend of homelessness, hippies, skaters, muscle bound weightlifters, cheap and high end shops and rich waterfront homes are blended up into something that actually resembles some kind of culture that is normally hard-to-find in Los Angeles.
Venice was founded in 1905 as a seaside resort town and today is truly bohemian in spirit filled with funky shops, street performers and colorful murals. All of this makes for a location and one of my favorite places in the city to visit and take photos.
Camera Gear Used
- Leica M-P240
- Leica 35mm Summilux 1.4 FLE Lens
- Leica 21mm Super Elmar Lens
- Voigtlander 50mm 1.5 Nokton Lens
- Voigtlander 12mm Ultra Wide-Heliar III Lens
- B&W UV Filter
- B&W 0.9 3 stop ND Filter
Venice Beach is approximately 20mins from LAX airport. Depending on where you are coming from in Los Angeles, it can take up to 1.5 hours to get to Venice.
Sometimes a location is just too big for one article so here are some related articles
Venice can be broken up into a number of key areas which are all quite distinct and offer very different photo opportunities This article will be broken up into the following areas:
- Venice Canals
- Venice Beach Boardwalk
- Muscle Beach
- Basketball & Skate Parks
The Venice Canals were founded by tobacco millionaire and developer in 1905 as a way to drain the marshes to make way for a residential area. When the “Venice of America” resort town was completed there were several miles of canals covering an area around four times that of today. But in 1924 the city decided it needed more roads and much of the canals were filled in.
Thankfully some of this area was preserved and it serves as a very serene escape from the chaos of Venice Beach and Santa Monica. It’s a beautiful location for a leisurely stroll and take in the sites of the amazing waterfront homes, tiny docks and boats and the many different bridges that criss-cross the waterways.
I love how each of the bridges seem to have a similar theme and paint color, but are each a little unique in design. They are great for taking photos from to gain a higher vantage point, or to capture their reflections on the water below.
The homes in the area are a real standout feature. Many a multi-million dollar lavish designs that take full advantage of the location. But due to the age of the area you are treated to a fantastically broad range of designs.
Venice Beach Boardwalk:
The Venice Beach Boardwalk is an area of Los Angeles that should not be missed. Stretching around one-and-a-half miles along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, it’s manicured sands sit in stark contrast to the sometimes grimy but very colorful vendors and stores than line the west side of the boardwalk.
On any given day, hundreds of street vendors and performers are present offering an almost circus like array of entertainment from mimes to musicians, break dancers, tattoo artists and fortune readers.
When I first moved to Los Angeles I found the city quite hard for street photography. This is a driving city and most locations, even in downtown, tend to get very few pedestrians. Venice however is usually bustling with people and with such wide range of cultures and backgrounds, its a great location for this style of photography.
The beach however is a stark contrast the walk it sits in front of. Extremely deep, the large sandy beach is normally quite open and quiet and is great for sunsets with the lifesaving huts (Baywatch anyone?!) and silhouetted palm trees in the background.
Located just steps from the sandy beach of Venice, Muscle Beach gym is world famous for being the home of body builders Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno, the newly outfitted serves as very unique outdoor weight gym.
The body builders who are almost always present throughout the day are always happy for photos to be taken and with the backdrop of the beach and palm trees, creates a very one-of-a-kind photo.
Basketball Courts & Skate Park:
One of the many unique features of Venice beach is the large variety of sports facilities found along the beach front including a gym, baseball courts, squash courts, a skatepark, tennis courts and more.
The basketball court is home to films including American History X and White Men Can’t Jump and is almost always busy with multiple games of pick-up street ball. With four full courts games of all skill levels are constantly being played with semi-pro or even NBA players through to kids enjoying a game in this unique location.
The Venice Beach Skatepark is located right on the sand and is a favorite of skaters in California due to its location and huge size and design. With a number of bowls, ramps and poles for all types of tricks, its filled with skaters of all ages and skill levels.
Its a fantastic location to photograph as their a many different vantage points all around the park, and if you are careful and respectful, the skaters are happy for you to position yourself amongst the action.
Shooting sports like this with a manual focus lens on a Leica M can prove to be very difficult. Every time I am there I can hear other cameras shooting off rapid bursts of images a second whilst I manually focus one image at a time. But I love this challenge and with practice found picking a spot to focus on and waiting for the skater to enter the frame I was able to nail the focus, even when the lens aperture was wide open.
Venice Beach is one of my favorite locations in Los Angeles to photograph. It is such an diverse and contrasting mixture of people and locals that always deliver amazing opportunities for interesting images. I have captured some of my all time favorite photos here, and every time I visit come home with a card full of images I am happy with.