We love vacations at the beach, especially since our girls love playing in the sand and ocean, and I can get some fun seascape photography done. California is the closest ocean to us in Las Vegas so we have been to a lot of the beaches from Los Angeles to San Diego. Laguna Beach is one of our favorite areas for its beautiful beaches, and one of our favorites is Aliso Beach. At Aliso Beach, there is one photography spot I love that I want to share with you here.
How to get to Aliso Beach
Aliso Beach is located off Highway 1 just south of Laguna Beach and just north of South Laguna, where the Aliso Creek enters the Pacific Ocean.
The parking lot to access Aliso Beach is just off Highway 1 on Aliso Way. It is impossible to miss; however, you may get confused and turn off somewhere else before you see it. Just north of Aliso Beach, there is a big parking lot at Treasure Island Park. There is also a road just south of Treasure Island Park called Aliso Circle.
The parking lot you want is just south of Aliso creek. So if you are coming down Highway 1 from the north, you will turn right into the parking lot immediately after you cross the creek. If you are coming from the south, you will turn left into the parking lot immediately before you cross the creek.
Why We Love Aliso Beach
Beach trips can be a hassle unless you are staying right on the beach. That is not the case with Aliso Beach, and that is why we love it. That and the beautiful photo location.
Easy Beach Access
I think our favorite part about visiting Aliso Beach is how easy the beach access is. While the parking lot probably gets full on weekends in the summer, we have only been during non-peak times and had no problem parking.
The parking lot is right on the edge of the sand and only 30 yards or so from the water. It is awesome being able to park and go set up within 5 minutes, instead of dragging everything across 300 yards of sand to reach the water like at so many beaches along the coast.
I hate paying for parking, but when it is only $1 for an hour in a parking lot a stone’s throw from the ocean, I will happily pay that any day. We visited other beaches in the area and they were more expensive and further from the water. Although I hate paid parking, this is so cheap it doesn’t even count as paid parking in my mind. You would have to spend an entire day there to even have to pay more than what a soda would cost.
Children’s Play Area
Since we have little kids, we like the playground at Aliso Beach. It is just off the sand, next to the parking lot. It is actually a really nice play structure and it was nice for our kids to have something to do other than just beach time.
We found the playground especially useful because my family went and showered at sunset while I was doing photography at the spot I describe below. After they were all clean, the kids were able to play on the playground and have fun, while not getting sandy, and I could enjoy an hour of shooting.
When I talk about ocean conditions, I am mainly talking about the size of the waves and the depth of the water. A beach with no waves is boring, but at the same time, little kids can’t play much in giant waves crashing on the beach. Kids also can’t play much if the water gets too deep too fast.
I think Aliso Beach is a perfect combination of having big enough waves to play in, without getting too deep too quick. You definitely have to keep a sharp eye on young kids, but we really enjoyed playing in the water at Aliso Beach.
Having public showers at a beach is a great benefit. There is something nice about washing all that sand off before getting back into your car. Most beaches have showers so this isn’t some big thing, but it is still a benefit in our minds.
We love beaches that have tide pools. Frankly, there is only so much time you can sit in the sand and play in the waves. We like to do and see things so it helps when a beach has something more interesting to look at as well, and tide pools are one of our favorite activities.
The tide pools at Aliso Beach aren’t anything spectacular, but they are still fun for a little exploration. There are tons of mussels around and we saw a fair amount of Sea Anemone.
The Best Photo Spot at Aliso Beach
Just south of the sand at Aliso Beach there is a rock outcropping. Going through that rock outcropping, there are a ton of great compositions that you can play with, especially if the waves are crashing over the rocks, creating little pools and running off the rocks back into the ocean.
If you go past the first 20 yards or so of rock, there is a sand channel that goes between two big outcroppings of rocks. It is directly below a set of stairs that lead up to the houses on top of the cliff.
I found this spot during some afternoon scouting and knew it would be amazing at high tide during sunset as the water would come in that little channel and almost appear like a small stream going into the ocean.
I set up at this spot and shot all of sunset. While the sunset wasn’t amazing, it was so much fun, and there was only one other photographer anywhere close. I was the only one shooting this awesome channel. It is rare to find such a fun place to shoot and have it all to yourself during sunset. I hope you enjoy this collection of images from the location.
While I was waiting for the sun to go down and hoping for some good colors, I decided to play around with a long exposure to get that misty surreal effect from the tide coming through the channel. I used my favorite filter, the 10 stop Luzid ND. These are the best filters at an amazing value.
I really wanted to get more of the sand in the image to create a better mood with the misty water, but the sand was so torn up from people walking through it during the day. I could smooth it all out in Photoshop, but that just sounds boring.
In these next couple images, I captures the tide rolling out just as a new crashing wave was coming in. I was set up about 10 feet from the rocks to catch the sun’s reflection off the wet sand.
In this next image, I just captured the stillness of the water before the tide came in too far.
As the night got later, the tide started creeping in a bit more, spilling past the end of the rocks and creating cool shots of the water coming down the rocks. I played around with different compositions and shutter speeds in the next few images.
Before long, the sun was setting almost completely, warming the scene up quite a bit as the tide came in even further, covering all the rocks in water before rushing back through the channel.
Finally, as the sun was setting completely, I wanted to use the last of the light to have a little fun. I walked down into the channel and set my tripod up right in the pathway of the crashing waves. Feeling dangerous, I started taking exposures, pulling the tripod and camera up at the last second before getting hit by water. Of course, this left me plenty wet, but my camera survived!
This one almost got me, even thought I was still a bit away from the mouth of the channel!
If you are going to be anywhere near Laguna Beach, we highly recommend a visit to Aliso Beach. It is a perfect beach for kids, young or old, and also has a really awesome photography spot that is definitely worth a sunset.
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