It has been a while since I listed out some of my favorite Phoenix photography spots.  In fact, the last 10 Top Phoenix Area Photo Spots was over 2 years ago.  So it is time for some updating.  But since the 10 locations I listed the first time around still stand as great spots in the Phoenix area to photograph this list is more of an expansion of, rather than a replacement of, the original.  As with the last list these are in no particular order, they are not the top 10 photography locations, they are 10 of the top locations.  Subtle but important distinction.

Architecutral photograph of the hayden Ferry building on Tempe Town Lake1) Tempe Town Lake – This location encompasses a lot of area and could probably be broken up into ten distinct spots on its own.  But the Tempe Town Lake area as a whole has a lot to offer photographers.  Check out the bridges, there are three of them; the Mill Ave. car and pedestrian bridge, the rail road bridge and the light rail bridge (which is awesome for night photography and catching the motion of the trains passing over). From the north shore you can get some great architectural shots of the Hayden Ferry buildings on the south side of  the lake.  Then maybe stroll around the Tempe Beach Park and get shots of the boats on the lake, people enjoying the park, or the lake itself.

2) Mill Ave. – When you finish up photographing Tempe Town Lake head over to Mill Avenue.  This is the downtown and historic heart of Tempe.  The avenue is lined with historic buildings and buildings made to look historic.  It is also a gathering place for students from nearby Arizona State University (a photography spot on the original list) so you can get some good people shots if so inclined.  There are also some great hidden gems on Mill to capture (or hidden in plain site and just over looked by most). Pay attention to the signs, architectural details and the crowds.

3) Gilbert Riparian Preserve – The preserve is better photographed very early if you are looking for wildlife photography or in the evening for some great sunset photography.  The wetlands of the Riparian Preserve attract a wide variety of birds.  Although I am no avian expert and bird photography is not my area of expertise it is fun to get out there and stalk the birds with your camera.  I have gotten some pretty good shots and it can be very peaceful in the early morning hours with just you, the birds and a dozen or so other photographers and birders.

4) Phoenix Zoo – If after the Riparian Preserve you are on an animal kick the Phoenix Zoo is perfect.  The zoo is perfect for practicing your animal photography before heading out on your next African safari.  Bring a telephoto lens, a tripod and patience.  The animals aren’t always right up close and personal so the telephoto will let you get up close without getting up close.  A tripod will give you flexibility to and stability that can be helpful in zoo photography.  And patience is always good with kids and animals.  They are not going to pose for you so you have to be on their terms and wait for the perfect shot.  But the Phoenix Zoo is big and has a great variety or animals to shoot photograph.

Photo of Grand Avenue in Phoenix, AZ5) Grand Ave – In the not too distant past not too many people would have sent you down to Grand Ave to photography or for anything else for that matter.  But it is coming around and there is a lot to see with your camera.  You are probably safer to avoid it after dark.  But a daylight stroll from the Grand Ave starting point at 7th Ave. and Van Buren (Grand diagonally crosses the city so that is a three street intersection) to 15th Ave and Roosevelt will present some great photo ops if you keep your eyes out.  These are not postcard shoots for the tourists, but an urban photography buff should be happy.  If you want to explore Grand Ave a bit more hop in the car and drive Northwest.  There are some great old signs, including Mel’s Diner, railroad cars and general urban grit.

6) Encanto Park – Encanto is in the center of the city and includes a small amusement park on an island in the park’s lake.  The lake, the amusement park, a golf course and several buildings from Phoenix’s past all present ample photograph opportunities.  You can also venture out into the historic neighborhoods that surround the park.  They can range from stately homes on grass and tree lined streets to ones that have seen better days and have fallen on hard times.  But the whole area has a lot to offer and you are sure to find something to capture with your camera.

Photo of downtown Chandler, AZ7) Downtown Chandler – The downtown area of Chandler in the East Valley doesn’t cover much ground.  But in this small, historic area you can find quite a bit to photograph.  The San Marcos hotel is great for some architectural photography

8) Downtown Gilbert – Downtown Gilbert is no more than a few square blocks.  But there is a lot to see and photograph in those blocks.  The overall look and feel of the downtown area is of a small town Main St.  Many of the buildings date back to the turn-of-the-century (the last one, not the 21st).  Pay particular attention to Liberty Market (great place to grab a bite to eat while you are out photographing) – both the building and their neon sign, Joe’s Real BBQ – again a great building and neon, and the Gilbert Water Tower.  Then stroll down a few side streets for a few hidden photo ops.

9) Chinese Cultural Center – The Chinese Cultural Center is tacked on to a shopping center with a Chinese theme.  But there is a great Oriental garden with temple-like structures, koi ponds, and plenty of Chinese statuary.  I found this a great place to photography textures and patterns and see how the light plays with some of the intricacies of the structures.  You can get the broad shot of a “temple” but getting down to the details here makes for some great images.

Photo of Paolo Soleri's Cosanti in Paradise Valley, AZ10) Cosanti – I am partial to architecture and this small studio where the Soleri Bells are made has become a favorite photography spot of mine.  Located in a suburban neighborhood (that sprung up around it) the architecture of Cosanti is nothing like its neighbors.  It is very organic and free flowing and appears to have grown over time.  The structures make for some interesting shots.  But then there are the bells.  The Soleri ceramic and bronze bells are very well known and great for some up close detailed shots.

Bonus! Japanese Friendship Garden – This is a very peaceful and tranquil Phoenix photography spot right in the heart of the city.  The garden is an authentic 3 1/2 acre Japanese garden with streams, paths, a tea house, bonsai, and lush vegetation.   It is located on 3rd Ave in central Phoenix right near the Deck Park and is open October through May (you don’t want to be strolling and shooting in July anyway).


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