Best locations for outdoor photo shoots in the SCV

Posted by on May 17, 2012 in Blog, Event Photography, Portrait Photography, Wedding Photography | Comments Off

Whether you’ve just moved to the Santa Clarita Valley or, like me, were born and raised here, this local guide should help any photographer to find some great spots in and around the SCV for outdoor portraits. Over my whole life, but especially the last 20 years, I have photographed many weddings, conducted an array of outdoor family, engagement, maternity, children and senor photo shoots and even painted landscapes from all over the SCV and I have found what I believe are some of the best photography locations in the valley and surrounding areas.
As I mentioned, I was born in Valencia, California and I have also lived in Stevenson Ranch, Hidden Valley, Canyon Country and Castaic. I have always loved to hike, explore trails, and make artwork using photography or paint, and my biggest inspiration aside from people I love has always been nature. This guide will mostly include spots that I have found in nature but will also include some areas with attractive landmarks, parks, historical locations and famous filming locations in movies and T.V. shows.

Parks of Santa Clarita

There in many fun and peaceful parks located throughout the SCV. All of these parks are okay for photography but my experience is that parks are not perfect spots for photoshots unless it has a personal meaning for the family. Here is a list of our local parks in alphabetical order; Almendra Park, Begonias Lane Park, Bouquet Canyon Park,Bridgeport Park, Canine Country, Canyon Country Park, Central Park, Chesebrough Park, Circle J Ranch Park, Creekview Park, Discovery Park, Newhall Park, North Oaks Park, Northbridge Park, Oak Spring Park, Old Orchard Park, Pamplico Park, Santa Clarita Park, Santa Clarita Sports Complex, Todd Longshore Park, Valencia Glen Park, Valencia Heritage Park, Valencia Meadows Park & Veterans Historical Plaza.


The Felton school was named for Charles N. Felton the president of the Pacific Coast Oil Company. It was built in 1885 and closed in 1932.The Newhall High Country Trail. It is open now, but you can’t go very far. There is a bench up the trail overlooking Mentryville, but soon after that you come to the end of the trail. Is a barbed wire fence and three no trespassing signs. I like this area for the historical buildings and trash; there are piles of rusty oil industry related, and other, artifacts such as an early oil tank wagon, a wagon which is breaking down on one side, square riveted box probably used to condense steam, a pump jack, an old engine attached to a large pulley, the belt around the pulley may have extended to a “power”, part of a jack plant setup. The engine is on the left. You can get shots of the gears from the engine meshing to the gears of the pulley. There are a couple old engines, piles of historical stuff such as engine parts, an incomplete set of center irons, an impressive 27-inch long threaded object, 45-inch long cable tool bit, a well, pump adjuster, jack line hooks, a rusted section of a sprocket tug rim from a calf wheel, a little oil rig model located just east of the school in the area at the base of Mustard Hill where all the above artifacts are located. As you hike out of Mentryville you come to a gap. On both sides you can see how steep the angle of beds of the Pico anticline are. Straight ahead on the other side of the creek are the remains of the bakery.

Placerita Canyon

Two of my favorite places in Santa Clarita to hike and take stunning outdoor photos are the Placerita Canyon Nature Center and the nearby Waterfall Trail.
When hiking the Botany Trail and the Ecology Trail expect a total of 2 miles round trip. These 2 short trails at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center will both show the natural beauty of the Santa Clarita Valley. In the winter and spring, there is a creek running alongside the trails and there are a lot of wildflowers. It is possible to see Grey Fox, Deer and Squirrels in this area. It’s a great hike for seniors and children as there are several benches in the shade, which make pleasant posing spots. I love the colors of the wildflowers in the spring, and some of my favorite pastimes are spending the day frolicking about in the groves of oak trees, with an occasional running creek in the wet seasons. These easy hikes along a well-maintained, busy trail will take 45 minutes to 1 hour.
To find the Nature Center and it’s many trailheads take Highway 14 north and exit Placerita Canyon Road. If you are coming from the south, turn right, if you are coming from the north, turn left on Placerita Canyon Road. Turn right into the Placerita Canyon Natural Area (marked by a wooden sign). There is a large parking lot with plenty of shade. Trailhead is to the left of the buildings.

My all time favorite trail in Santa Clarita is the Waterfall Trail in Placerita Canyon, behind Walker Ranch. This is a short hike that is moderate to difficult, and roughly 2 miles round trip. This trail is not at all convenient if you have a great deal of photo equipment, so pack lightly. I love this hike because it presents a variety of very pretty, even spectacular views. This one-way trail that dead-ends at a 25 foot waterfall, if you can call it that, and note that it only that runs from November to June during normal rain years. Even then, there is rarely more than a heavy trickle of water but the backdrop of rugged rock formations and foreground of large twisted fallen trees creates several unique posing opportunities.
To find this trailhead take the same directions as referenced above although you must pass the Nature Center and look for turnout marked with a wooden sign reading “WALKER RANCH TRAILHEAD”. Parking is not as easy here as there are no designated spots and the trailhead is right by the road.

Towsley Canyon

Near Newhall, Towsley Canyon has a few views that are quite breathtaking when the wildflowers were blooming and everything is very green. There you’ll find open fields, groves of oak trees with a small creek, hillsides that are alive with California Poppies, Blue Lupine and tall green grasses. I would say the highlights are a few spectacular geological formations and the backdrop of rugged mountaintops. There are even supposedly some tar pits there, but I’ve never seen them. The whole round trip hike is 5.1 miles and the you can complete the hike in approximately 3.5 hours if you trek the entire loop, which is only moderately difficult and has a well maintained trail.
To get to the trailhead: Take the Calgrove exit from the Golden State Freeway (Interstate 5). Turn west back under the freeway and take the Old Road south to Ed Davis Park at Towsley Canyon. Drive 0.6 miles west on the graded entrance road to reach the picnic area and nature center. Park your car in the dirt lot to the right and then proceed up the graded road towards the floodplain of Towsley Canyon.

Whitney Canyon

Mostly a flatland full of wildflowers (in the springtime), Whitney Canyon along the Whitney Canyon Creek has a beautiful grove of oaks and a creek, a rocky area with a little climbing, and at the end of the trail is a nice waterfall, plus a beautiful view of the Santa Clarita Valley from the rocks and a wooded area. The highlights are most notably the vast array of wildflowers in the springtime, the groves of oak trees, and of course the waterfall. This easy, well-maintained trail near Newhall is about 1.5 miles one way and takes 2 hours for entire hike.
To find this trailhead: Take Interstate 5 north to Highway 14. Exit San Fernando Road/Newhall Avenue and head towards Park & ride. Turn left at dead-end and park in dirt lot.

William S. Hart Regional Park

Located in the heart of Newhall, California, William S. Hart Regional Park is home to a ranch house purchased by William Hart, a popular cowboy during the silent movie era. In 1921 he also built a 22 room mansion on top of the hill. This mansion is now the William S. Hart Museum.
Next door to the regional park is the Santa Clarita Heritage Junction, which houses the Saugus Train Station and some other historical buildings from around the Santa Clarita Valley. This is the historic museum for the city of Santa Clarita and is open every weekend.
There are many landscape options at this park; You can take photos in front of some rustic cabins near a duckpond, venture out to the grassy areas lined with rustic fences, explore the historic Saugus Train Station & Heritage Junction or you can hike the trail to the museum and out-buildings where you’ll find stunning views, desert landscapes, and beautifully aged trees. You can also visit the animal barn for some fun candid shots of children or animals. This location is easily accessible for families with small children or even maternity shoots. Many of the great spots for photos are a short walk from the parking lot on either paved road or dirt (not very rocky). Hart Park is in close proximity to other great locations, most of them within walking distance. A session at Hart Park can also include a short walk to Veterans Historical Plaza for a perfectly landscaped, manicured look or even Old Town Newhall / Main Street for an eclectic, urban feel.
Hart Park is full of the rich history of the Santa Clarita Valley. William S. Hart had a huge impact on Santa Clarita in it’s earliest years and Hart Park is one of the most historic locations in the city. Hart Park is great for photographing families, maternity shoots, headshots, seniors, wedding parties.

To get to this park you can take Route 14 to Newhall Avenue (formerly San Fernando Road) and head west. Park will be on your left about 1 mile from the freeway. There may be better ways of getting there from where you are so look up the address 24151 Newhall Avenue,
Newhall, CA 91321.

San Fernando Mission

Mission San Fernando Rey de España is a Spanish Mission in the Mission Hills, an area just south of the Santa Clarita Valley. The mission was founded on September 8, 1797 near the site of the first gold discovery in Alta, California and was the seventeenth of the Spanish missions established in present-day California. Named for Saint Ferdinand, the mission is the namesake of the nearby city of San Fernando and the San Fernando Valley.

I have shot several great photo sessions here utilizing the beautiful arches, fountains and columns. There are many great features about this mission, from the gardens to the well manicured trees.

San Fernando Mission is at 15151 San Fernando Mission Boulavard, Mission Hills, CA 91345.

Le Chene

My favorite French restaurant, Le Chene, provides more than just a romantic dining experience. There you’ll find an oasis in the countryside, and a fantastic restaurant covered with murals skillfully painted by one of my art teachers, Miguel Ramirez. Many weddings are held on the beautiful grounds and their banquet facility is the perfect location for any kind of function. My experience shooting a wedding ceremony and reception in their beautiful gardens was positive and easy, with the old fashioned watermill making a unique background for photos that made my clients’ special day memorable.

Le Chene is located at 12625 Sierra Highway, Santa Clarita, California, 91390.



Bridgeport at Valencia offers views of winding paseos, a small man-made lake, occasional paddle boats on the lake, a lighthouse with perfect lighting at night. It is a residential community but it is beautifully landscaped and open to the public.

Across the street on the Northeast corner there is a lovely bridge over another man made pond. There are some beautiful weeping trees over the pond and there are a few artistic installations there such as some static sailboat-looking features and a great statue of many birds flying.

There and also plenty of real ducks and turtles living in the pond that will come right up to you for breadcrumbs. This is a decent spot for photography although due to several shops and a busier atmosphere be very careful about what ends up in the backgrounds of your shots. There are some great restaurants in this center and I highly recommend eating here as there are quite a few patios and the food is delicious at almost all the restaurants.

Bridgeport can be found on both of the eastern corners of Newhall Ranch Road and McBean Parkway.

Movie and Television Studios and Ranches

For filmmakers, one of Santa Clarita’s strengths is that it is within the Studio Zone or Thirty Mile Zone (TMZ). That’s 30 miles measured from the intersection of West Beverly Boulevard and North La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles, the center of old Hollywood. Most major studios have moved away, but the TMZ is still enforced by the industry’s unions. A production crew can work at any location within the Thirty Mile Zone without subjecting the production company to additional travel requirements and expenses, a huge benefit.


Just across I-5 from Magic Mountain theme park, in an area of Santa Clarita known as Valencia, is the studio of CBS TV series NCIS. At the corner of Avenue Hall and Avenue Crocker are warehouse-type buildings containing the principal sets. There is a small section of exterior facades in a back corner of the property. The show sometimes shoots city street scenes at Universal Studios, especially shootouts and explosions that are difficult to do in public places. But exterior scenes are mostly shot on location. The show takes place in Washington, DC, which Santa Clarita does not resemble, but somehow they make it work. One day I saw the NCIS prop response van just inside the studio fence, and snapped the photo in this article.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

This CBS TV series’ original home base is Santa Clarita Studios, also in the Valencia area. While the show pretends to be in Las Vegas, it usually films much closer to the studio, often in hills and valleys that look nothing like the barren desert and hills of southern Nevada.


Many of Jack Bauer’s 24 adventures were filmed in the area, and at times he was said to be in Saugus, an area of Santa Clarita. The main interior sets were in a warehouse in nearby San Fernando Valley city Chatsworth.

The Mentalist

An episode about a scientist being killed by a radiation leak was filmed in north Santa Clarita in Rye Canyon, a science/technology business neighborhood that has a variety of visually – interesting buildings and grounds. For this episode The Mentalist used the white building at the north end of Rye Canyon Loop that has a dramatic bridge to its semi-round front door. Rye Canyon also has been a location for The Unit and other shows.

Movie ranches

Outdoor film lots typically have a variety of rustic and rural standing sets ranging from ranch houses to mines, from tunnels to modern buildings or even entire towns. Santa Clarita Valley has been a film location almost from the first days of Hollywood. As mentioned above, William S. Hart was an early movie cowboy, and his Newhall movie ranch and home is now a Santa Clarita park.

Melody Ranch

Now surrounded by suburban houses, this historic movie ranch in the Newhall area of Santa Clarita has been used for filming since 1915. It was bought in 1952 by singing cowboy star and entrepreneur Gene Autry for his movies and TV shows, including Annie Oakley. In the 1950s you saw it at lot on TV: The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, Hopalong Cassidy, The Cisco Kid, Rin Tin Tin and more.

Golden Oak Ranch

Owned by Disney since 1959, this ranch of 800 acres mainly has outdoor sets and settings. You’ve seen this ranch in Old Yeller, Pirates of the Caribbean II and III, CSI, Spin and Marty, The Shaggy Dog, Pearl Harbor, The Parent Trap, The X-Files, Bones, American Idol, Murder She Wrote, Lassie, and many more. Disney is planning to expand it into a full studio by adding 12 stages, mainly for Disney-owned ABC Studios production.

Blue Cloud Movie Ranch

If you wondered how far CBS series The Unit traveled to film in Afghanistan, the Middle East, or Latin America, the answer is, just to Saugus, on the east side of Santa Clarita. Blue Cloud Movie Ranch has a variety of towns, villages, military camps and even military gear — helicopters, trucks and more — just right for filming adventure and battle-oriented scenes. You’ve also seen it in Without A Trace, JAG, and CSI. There’s also a 1950s town used for period and small-town films. The countryside of Santa Clarita Valley has many more ranches, hills, valleys, rocks and interesting roads where TV series are shot.

Surrounding Areas

West of Santa Clarita along California SR-126, you’ll find the towns of Piru, Fillmore and Santa Paula, which have appeared in many films. The countryside has the orange groves of movie Chinatown, and the field where Howard Hughes crashes in The Aviator. The railroad line and classic train stations have been used for decades, as have several ranches in the area, see Seabiscuit, for instance.
North of Santa Clarita just off I-5 are two major lakes (reservoirs) you’ve seen in films, Pyramid Lake and Castaic Lake.
Southwest of Santa Clarita, just north of SR-118, is the former location of some of the most spectacular movie scenes. Porter Ranch, Iverson Ranch and others had vast expanses, fabulous rocks and wide valleys. You’ve seen them in war movies, westerns, and all kinds of “cast of thousands” productions. TV shows include Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, Fury, Wanted Dead or Alive, Combat, and Bonanza. Unfortunately, these historic movie ranches are now gated communities, apartments and golf courses.

Vasquez Rocks

Vasquez Rocks County Park, near the village of Agua Dulce, just off I-14 a few miles east of Santa Clarita is “the most commercially photographed boulders on the planet” according to The Los Angeles Times. You’ve seen the bizarre slanted, jagged rocks many times in Star Trek. Do you remember Captain Kirk battling the Gorn? He was scrambling around Vasquez Rocks. The unique shapes were later used in several more Star Trek TV shows and movies. You’ve also seen this location in The Flintstones, Monk, CSI, Numbers, any number of sci-fi and western shows and movies, fashion photo shoots, even in CGI (computer-generated images) where artists have used Vasquez Rocks as inspiration.
On the east side of the rocks is an open dirt area that is primarily a parking lot. But sometimes it has a Hollywood set. For a while it had a fort set, built for a movie, then used in various TV show episodes including the original Mission Impossible TV series. You can see recent filming at Vasquez Rocks in a video called “Get a sneak peek of special features from NCIS Season 6″. They don’t name the location, but there’s no doubt where Mark Harmon’s character Gibbs is chasing the bad guys
If you go to Vasquez Rocks, rather than taking I-14, I recommend taking Sierra Highway the whole way.
I hope this guide helps you to find a great location for you outdoor shoots in the lovely Santa Clarita Valley. Good luck and have fun!

Alan Schwartz