10 Places to Photograph in Pasadena

So, check THIS out:

“A severe Indiana winter during 1872-73 prompted a group of friends from Indianapolis to form an investment group with the purpose of moving to the warmer climate of Southern California. Sent to scout the area, D. M. Berry recommended purchasing a portion of the Rancho San Pasqual, which later became Pasadena.”

When I read this fascinating little tidbit on the City of Pasadena’s website, I instantly had a cosmic connection to Pasadena’s founding fathers, and felt as if we were kindred spirits. Especially as I hunt and peck for the keys on my keyboard with freezing cold hands … in Montana … in February … with a current HIGH temperature of 14 degrees! But I guess I should be happy that it’s not -25 like it was two weeks ago. Sigh. You know who has already figured out that it’s more comfortable to be warm than cold? That’d be Los Angeles resident and 2012 RMSP Graduate James Kao. James is a former landscape architect and city planner who decided to pull a switch-a-roo and pursue his passion for photography. Turns out … it was a great move! In recent years, James has won numerous high profile contests including the grand prize in PDN’s The Shot Sports and Action Contest in 2016. He has been published in many publications, including Trail Runner, Triathlete and Hana Hou!, the magazine of Hawaiian Airlines. You will definitely want to check out his website to see the quality of his work. James was an awesome sport, and took a mini road trip to provide these 10 Places to Photograph in Pasadena.

1. Pasadena City Hall

The Pasadena City Hall was completed in 1927 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a favorite shoot location for filmmakers and most recently served as the city hall of fictional Pawnee, Indiana, in the television show Parks and Recreation. The dome rises 206 feet and is visible from much of the city. Be sure to explore and photograph the courtyard rose garden which was used in the 1995 film ‘A Walk in the Clouds’ to portray a Napa Valley town square.




2. Richard H. Chambers, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit This prominent example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture sits high above the Arroyo Seco and was once a resort called the Vista Arroyo Hotel and Bungalows. It was built in two sections from 1920 to 1930 and featured a six-story bell tower. During WWII the building was acquired by the War Department for use as a hospital and was converted into the southern seat of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the 1980s. Though access into the building is limited for court functions, there are areas to photograph the building from the exterior, primarily from the opposite side of the arroyo accessed by crossing the Colorado Street Bridge, or from beneath this same bridge.

125 S. Grand Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91105



3. Bungalow Heaven In the early 20th century Pasadena became a fountainhead for the Arts and Crafts movement as the abundant sunshine attracted wealthy vacationers, new residents and prominent architects to Southern California. New neighborhoods sprung up like Bungalow Heaven—now a quiet, leafy, close-knit neighborhood of historic, early 20th century bungalow homes. The 16-block Landmark District was created in 1989 to preserve the historic significance of these homes. Recently, Bungalow Heaven has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated as one of the “10 greatest places in America” by the APA. Explore this area by foot in the early evening when porch lanterns are lit and you can peer into charming golden interiors lit by mica lamps.




4. Art Center College of Design, Hillside Campus The Art Center College of Design was founded in 1930 in downtown Los Angeles and featured prominent guest instructors like Ansel Adams. The college is renowned for its innovative industrial design and film programs. The Hillside Campus was designed by modernist architect Craig Ellwood and opened in 1976 and features the “bridge building” and the Sinclair Pavilion. The campus has been designated a historical monument by the City of Pasadena and is a beautiful spot to get an elevated view of Pasadena and the San Gabriel Mountains.

1700 Lida St #2319
Pasadena, CA 91103



5. Colorado Street Bridge The Colorado Street Bridge was built in 1912 for a cost of $191,000 in the Beaux Arts style and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It spans the Arroyo Seco as part of Colorado Boulevard and throughout its history, has been known locally as ‘Suicide Bridge’. It was closed after sustaining severe damage in the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 and was reopened in 1993 after a major seismic retrofit. Take a stroll across the bridge by foot to see the vintage street lights, park at the cul-de-sac at the corner of Green St and Grand Ave just down the street from the Richard H. Chambers Courthouse.

504 W Colorado Blvd.
(Colorado and Orange Grove)


6. Old Pasadena Old Pasadena is the heart and soul of Pasadena spanning 22 blocks along the Colorado Boulevard spine. Nationally recognized for its vibrant main street revitalization, Old Pasadena is a cultivated collection of shopping, delectable dining and endless entertainment and the best people-watching spot in town. The historic streets and alleyways, rustic brick façades and architectural accents of Pasadena’s original business district are alive with open-air eateries, specialty boutiques, galleries, theaters, antique shops. Visit in the late afternoon and evening when the streets come alive with pedestrians.




7. Castle Green Situated in the heart of Old Pasadena, the Castle Green is a Nationally Registered Historic Monument and Officially Designated Pasadena Treasure. Over 117 years old and built in the Victorian era in 1898 as an annex to the resort Hotel Green, it has been faithfully restored in every detail, including architectural details and colors. It has extensive grounds, including a lily pond and arched walkways and verandas, with magnificent trees and expansive lawns. The building now serves as an event center and houses private condominium units. You can capture interesting details just by walking around the block.




8. Eaton Canyon Falls The hike to Eaton Canyon Falls begins at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center and is a short and moderate 3.8 mile out-and-back stroll. The hike is popular with families so I recommend coming early in the morning and on weekdays to avoid crowds and to find parking. The hike includes about 8-10 creek crossings so there is some boulder hopping required—please have your camera in a padded backpack so you can keep your hands free in case you slip on a rock like I did! Snow levels are up again in the local mountains so there is plenty of water coming down the falls and creek. Bring a tripod to capture the beautiful effect of slow shutter speeds and water.

1750 N Altadena Dr
Altadena, CA 91001



9. Caltech Campus If you’re looking for a quite respite from the city, the 124-acre leafy Caltech campus is such a place. The California Institute of Technology is one of the world’s preeminent science and engineering universities. Bring your camera to stroll the grounds and check out the ‘Gene Pool Fountain’ located between the Beckman Institute and Beckman Auditorium on the east side of campus.

1200 East California Blvd.
Pasadena CA 91125



10. Rose Bowl The Rose Bowl of Pasadena was built in 1922 in the Arroyo Seco and has a long and storied history as a sporting venue for American football and soccer. It is a National Historic Landmark and home to the UCLA Bruins Football team. It hosts the annual Rose Bowl and has hosted 5 Superbowls, the 1994 FIFA World Cup Final, 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final, and the 1984 Olympic Gold Medal Match. It also serves as a concert venue with a capacity of 90,000 and has hosted music greats like the Rolling Stones, U2, Coldplay and Beyonce. The stadium hosts tours and the parks around it offer recreation opportunities for locals and visitors alike.



Need some pointers for how to photograph Pasadena? Join us for the Pasadena Weekend Intensive on March 11 – 12, 2017.

Your camera will thank you!