South Bay Shot Locations

South Bay, the southern curve of Santa Monica Bay, has some of the best photo locations in So Cal that hardly anyone knows. Here are 11 South Bay shots done in the last month.

Madrona Marsh

Madrona Marsh is a photo location that hides in plain sight. This square block of real estate is literally a street away from the Del Amo Fashion Center, one of the largest malls in America. It’s bound on the south by Sepulveda and Carson Ave on the north. And with all the recent rains, I figured I’d give it a shot or two.

I’ve never seen this much lake at Madrona, about half the marsh area. There are plenty of ducks there now. I even saw a couple of swans. But the stillness of the place is the draw.

Madrona Marsh


Torrance Beach

Just west of Riviera Village is a great overlook of Torrance Beach and the northern edge of the cliffs of Palos Verdes. Palos Verde Peninsula is the highest spot along the South Bay and shots from here are a nice change from the usual beachy stuff.

Torrance Beach

And if you’re at the beach, you might as well do the classic beach shot. It’s nice when nature does what you want.

Torrance Beach

Bluff Cove from the South

Bluff Cove is one of my favorite PV shot locations. But on this evening, I just stopped by for a second on my way further south on PV Drive. There’s a nice pull-off just at the top of that hill. Not sure why, but there were no real waves at Bluff Cove that evening and just a couple of bored surfers.

Overlook South of BLuff Cove

I noticed a grizzled bush as I was shooting and I had to add that in for some foreground.

Overlook South of BLuff Cove

If you look closely at the shot above, you’ll notice a mansion above Bluff Cove. And just above that is the LA skyline. Hard to imagine you’re still in LA County. But then, that feeling of remoteness is one reason the real estate here is so dear.

Point Vicente Lighthouse

Head a few miles further down PV Drive and you see the exit for Point Vicente Interpretive Center and Lighthouse. I’ve taken way too many shots of the lighthouse and most aren’t any good. So I added a foreground element. That’s probably Catalina in the distance.

Point Vicente Lighthouse

Abalone Cove State Park

Eventually Palos Verde Drive follows the curve of the cliffs to the east. And just a mile past the Terranea Resort is a turnoff for Abalone Cove.

Abalone State Beach Park

Abalone’s known for having some of the best tidal pools in the area. And I like working the rocks here for unusual abstractions.

Abalone State Beach Park

Abalone State Beach Park

Kids seem to enjoy the place as well.

Abalone State Beach Park

Playing at low tide


Torrance Farmers Market: Americana Reconsidered

The Torrance Farmers Market, Saturday edition, is the largest in the South Bay. Not quite as large as Santa Monica (or as urban) but with more food options and (generally) live music. In addition to the farmers and the shoppers, you can often find a ball game happening. It’s a bit Norman Rockwell, but in a multicultural universe.

Details. The market goes for earlier than I get there till about 1 PM. It’s at Wilson Park on Crenshaw between Carson and Sepulveda. The main lot gets crowded and I generally park in the Korean church lot.

I prefer to bring my little Fuji X-T2 over my Canon 5D MIII. It’s not so much the weight as the logistics of public photography. A little mirrorless doesn’t make folks think their pic will be spread all over the internet by someone from the National Enquirer, and it won’t be. People get into a certain zone here and part of my job is to let them go with that.

The South Bay is a voraciously diverse melting pot of multicultural harmony. And each visitor to this version of Norman Rockwell has their own deal with the world.  For these kinds of pics, I try to give each  his or her due.

Action Figures

Wilson Park is Saturday headquarters for kids and family sports. This flag football game was of particular interest on this misty morning. And I got to use the X-T2’s low speed burst to track the action. A sampling of those shots.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

More Action figures

People shots



Strawberry Man


Photographing Bluff Cove

Palos Verde Peninsula is truly one of the overlooked wonders of LA County. People think of it as an area for rich folks (if they know it at all). But there are a pile of spots along PV Drive that are amazing photo locations. Just head south from Riviera Village on the Drive and once you start up the hill, take a right on Via Corta/Via Almar and continue down till you get to Paseo Del Mar.

Getting There

As you drive along Paseo Del Mar, the road heads up hill and at one spot there’s an area with no fancy houses on the right side. Usually you’ll see lots of cars pulled over. The spot is popular with surfers, especially in the morning hours. And that’s when I visited a couple of weeks back.


Bluff Cove — notice the section of cliff that juts into the ocean

The path down to the beach

This bend in the path is the turnoff to one of my fav photo spots.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The path down is steep here. But luckily there’s a rope that helps ensure a safe footing. Shooting the area in morning light definitely helps and the ocean mist gives a nice bit of diffusion.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Part of the fun of Bluff Cove is trying to capture the denizens of this ocean world in action and in composition.

This spot also works for those who like to shoot abstract texture.


I didn’t get enough for ground interest in this view up the coast (see below) until I slowed the shutter speed. I didn’t bring the tripod but going hand-held seemed to do the job:

Looking north 1/25 sec

Looking north 1/5 sec

And, or course if you’re getting some nice surf coming in, you want to capture the moment of impact in a way that works in composition:


A South Bay Sandblaster

The South Bay part of LA, Manhattan, Hermosa, Redondo beaches and Torrance can have annoyingly nice weather. The 72 and sunny thing happens quite often. So when a big storm comes it, that’s one thing that makes my local photo spots worth another visit. And the wind and sand storm that swung through the bay a week ago definitely got my creative juices going.

This was just after a big El Nino storm. The rain had moved on but the wind was blasting at 30-40 mph at the beach. I went down to Pier Avenue, the bar-lined square that leads out to Hermosa Pier.

Hermosa Pier, sandstorm

Hermosa Pier

The pier itself was closed. With the waves, blasting wind, the city didn’t want to hassle with security. Plus anyone with half a brain was avoiding the beach. Except for those at loose ends and a few photographers.

Being so close to the beach, even the bar area here was a battle zone. It wasn’t so bad if your back was to the beach, just sand getting into all your pockets. But walk towards the pier and you have to protect the eyes. The wind was thick with stinging sand.

In the Sandblaster, Hermosa Beach

In the Sandblaster, Hermosa Beach

There was a strange beauty at the pier. The blowing sand was thick as fog and the beach had lost it’s contours under what looked like powdery beige snow. There was a thick color all around the sun with all the sand catching light. Plus the sea mist coated any lens in seconds, giving the pictures a gauzy effect.

Sand Dune and Manhattan Beach Pier

Sand Dune and Manhattan Beach Pier

But away from the sun, colors were more muted.

Lifeguard Stand in the Sandstorm

Lifeguard Stand in the Sandstorm

Storm Blowing Over the Redondo Breakwater

Storm Waves Blowing Over the Redondo Breakwater

Closer to the water, the sandblaster lost steam. But the wind was just as bad.

Any time a storm’s coming through, I like to try out one of my favorite spots or another. And the three South Bay piers are always a safe bet.

Hermosa Pier, Storm Blowing Over

Hermosa Pier, Storm Blowing Over


%d bloggers like this: