Notoriously spread out, sometimes it seems like the only way to truly grasp Los Angeles is from the sky. Also, there is such terrain change from the east side to the west, it can feel like an almost endless possibility of angles and compositions to you high-flying image-makers. To help break it down a bit, I’m going to give you my favorite tall views and, where I can, a bit of a hand in where and how to capture them.
To me, this is just one of the most classic and beautiful views of Los Angeles you’ll find anywhere. The large, oddly-shaped lake has beautiful features, including plenty of palm trees and a towering fountain right in the middle. The lake appears to stretch out toward the skyline when viewed from the north, which is the obvious and iconic way it is normally captured. Also, the buildings of downtown can be seen side-by-side from the north, for the best, spread-out composition of downtown.
As the water will reflect the sky, it’s a beautiful way to create stunning imagery and play with color, while capturing L.A. on its best side.
Looking for a safe place to, um, park your car? Try the top of the garage at 1132 Glendale Blvd.
“Why don’t you take the 10 to the 110…”
Not everyone realizes this, but the history of cars and the history of Los Angeles are as intertwined as its freeway interchanges. The drive-in, the roadside attraction, the gas station, valet parking, dying young while driving fast… these are all inventions completely rooted in Los Angeles’ love affair with cars. Nowhere does this automobile obsession play out more than as you head downtown from the 10 freeway — famously, the busiest road in America.
This perfect infinity sign can be used in any number of mesmerizing visual ways; from a slot car ricochet into downtown to it’s own graphic representation of the infinite amount of time it seems to take to get anywhere in this city.
You’ll need a helicopter to truly capture it at the right angles and with the proper equipment, but it’s a ride you’ll never forget. And images nobody else will.
In 1874, a guy named Prudent Beaudry, from Montreal, became mayor of Los Angeles. Funny enough, his brother became mayor of Montreal that same year. Fancy! Beaudry got his rise developing the first properties in the area now known as Bunker Hill, which became the residence of wealthy Los Angelenos who, from this vantage point, could see both downtown to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
Los Angeles history is nearly always torn down and built on top of, destroying basically all but a distant memory of previous eras, but Beaudry Ave refuses to let go of L.A.’s beautiful past with a continued stunning view of downtown on one side, and “the rest of the city” in every other direction. Nowhere else in the city can you feel both this close and this far from the skyline, and Los Angeles’ history, at the same time.
Even as you pull back and up, from the north, you can still see Beaudry to the right, offering a safe edge and border from which to take it all in.
Getting these shots is not easy, necessitating a helicopter, difficult-to-access rooftops or drone balls of steel, during Los Angeles’ quieter moments, if you can find one. But for those with the adventurous spirit of Prudent Beaudry himself, just put Beaudry Ave into your GPS and let your ambition be your guide. Beaudry, too, failed many times before finding his castle in the sky.
The Observatory, in my opinion, is as important a building in this country as the Golden Gate Bridge, the Gateway Arch or the Space Needle. It’s not as purposefully gaudy as any of those, but it’s prominence and grandeur is on par. This was — and probably always will be — the most romantic destination in Los Angeles. Aside from the otherworldly romance of being home to a giant star-seeking telescope, the Foucault pendulum and the Tesla Coil, it also offers out-of-this world, let’s-make-out views of pretty much the entirety of Los Angeles, and especially the Hollywood sign.
But the humble truth is, despite being such an outward-facing kind of destination, the art deco beauty of Griffith’s Observatory is pretty easy on the eyes in and of itself. Which is why you can do little wrong finding a way to capture this gem from the sky. They deeply frown on drones up here, for obvious reasons, but many still find ways to fly around without parking up at Griffith’s to do it. I have not actually done it myself, but you do not have to search very hard to find those who have and the incredible images that their efforts have yielded.
Santa Monica Pier
There were a lot of choices here. If need be, I can list out many more spots that look amazing from the sky, but I would be irresponsible if I didn’t list the Santa Monica Pier in my first pass. This seaside diversion is the epitome of the West Coast, but even more, the very essence of the term “destination.” You can go no further west, and you can have no better sense of Los Angeles than from — and from above — this spot.
It’s, in fact, an odd-shaped kind of thing. It seem to have just been figured out as folks went along, but that creates for some interesting shapes and angles, giving it both a simplicity and complexity.
The pier is normally shot from the south, as the beautiful winding Malibu coast line behind it evokes the spirit of Pacific Coast Highway, but the view from the north offers a sublime and simple view as well. You can shoot it from above, from the sides and, as long as you don’t take off from the pier itself, or go over any people, from right overhead. It all looks stunning, and distinctly Los Angeles. These two views look specifically at the westernmost tip where fishermen, lovers, tourists and performers collide. But of course there’s the famous ferris wheel and more to be seen above and around this famous location.
There really is nothing quite like seeing the Santa Monica Pier during a beautiful sunset.
Hope you enjoyed the fly around. If you like this kind of thing, I’m happy to follow up with more suggestions. As always, check in on the daily feed at: Instagram.com/joshsrose