Southern California truly does have a little bit of everything for drone photographers. From the sunny, sandy beaches, to the snow-covered mountains, to the barren desert, one is never more than a couple hours’ drive from these various photogenic ecosystems. Add in the year-round sunshine and it is easy to see why so many people flock to Los Angeles, the second largest city in America. The film and entertainment capital of the world, LA is a fun, trendy city, with an abundance of opportunities for actors, photographers, videographers, singers, writers, and artists. This city is a lot of things, but quiet is not one of them. Like most big cities, because of the dense population and multitude of tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of a celebrity, there is rarely a moment of peace and quiet. Many citizens of Los Angeles escape the noise at one of the various beach cities, such as Venice Beach or Santa Monica. But these are also often ridden with tourists and crowds because of their close proximity to the city. The real hidden gem beach city of Southern California is just a little bit farther away. Located just 35 minutes outside of Los Angeles, Malibu is a quiet, remote, peaceful getaway, and perfect for our first stop on our Southern California aerial photography tour.
If the ocean is your happy place, look no further than El Matador State Beach. Located just off Pacific Coast Highway, this beach is about as secluded as they come. There is no built-up downtown strip nearby like many of the other beach cities in California. One of the only restaurants around is a small, picnic style, seafood restaurant, Neptune’s Net, with some of the best, most fresh seafood around. But even this restaurant is over 5 miles away. The beach itself is surrounded by nothing but nature, with a few beautiful beach houses sprinkled in the hills. To get to the sand, one must climb wooden stairs down the side of a 150-foot bluff, but the views from the top are spectacular from ground-level, and even more stunning when seen through a high-resolution lens of a DJI Phantom 4 drone. This beach is famous for its unique rock structures and caves, contrasting many of the flat, open beaches in California. Each night, as the sun sinks closer to the horizon, the golden glow reflects off the water and into the caves, creating gorgeous photo opportunities unlike any other. Because of this, dozens of photographers appear on any given evening at golden hour to shoot stunning portraits, engagement photos, etc. But these photographers don’t distract from the relaxing nature of this beach. They usually keep to themselves, not bothering those who come to sunbathe. This beach is famously known for being one of the most naturally beautiful beaches on the west coast, if not the entire country, and is the perfect place to escape the racket of the city.
Hiking & Activities
If the beach is still too populated for you, Malibu’s dozens of hiking trails offer nearly complete solitude. One of the more popular trails runs through Malibu Creek State Park, located in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountain Range. This park offers over 8,000 acres of beautiful scenery, mostly untouched by human beings featuring breathtaking views of Las Virgenes Valley and Malibu Canyon, with rolling hills and deep valleys. The park has been maintained almost exactly how it was when the Chumash people settled over 5,000 years ago. This park features an abundance of outdoor activities year-round for people of all ages, including hiking, fishing, bird watching, mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking, camping, horseback riding, and more. But one of the main attractions of this park is its history, what it was before the land was turned into a state park. It used to be owned by 20th Century Fox Studios, and was used for filming many different movies and TV shows in the 1970s and 1980s, including Planet of the Apes and M*A*S*H. Some of the props from these shows can still be found in the park, and attract tourists from all over the country. The lake in the center of the park, Century Lake, was even named in honor of 20th Century Fox Studios. Malibu Creek State Park combines the isolation of nature with just a hint of Hollywood. Even if you are an amateur photographer, there’s something really cool about launching your drone in the air to capture video shots that might rival those found in these iconic shows and movies.
Another relaxing hiking trail is Santa Ynez Canyon Trail. Located just a few miles east of Malibu Creek State Park, this trail is also hidden in the Santa Monica Mountains. Very family friendly, his trail is short and sweet, only about 2 miles round trip. It is mostly flat, cutting right in the valley between two mountains. But at the end of this trail lies a beautiful, 10-foot waterfall, which is fairly rare in the dry terrain of Southern California. In the rainy season, this waterfall flows into a creek that runs parallel to the entire trail. The flowing water has carved out unique rock structures, creating a very unique experience. The shaded woodland is the ideal place to hike alone or with friends, fly your drone in peace, or to clear your head and simply embrace all that Malibu has to offer.
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