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Foliage along the Alpine Pedal Path

Best Photo Opportunities In Big Bear

Posted: 09/19/13 | By Kelly Garfield

The endless skies, the crystal blue lake, the soaring mountain ranges and the scenic beauty invites me to Big Bear Lake to partake in one of the most popular hobbies amongst any generation, both young and old: photography.

Big Bear Nature Photography

Big Bear Lake’s 7,000 foot setting is just a short drive away from the LA area and offers an escape not only for a relaxing stay, but many photo opportunities to capture the gorgeous land, wildlife and open skyline of an area wrapped in lush color and vibrant life.

The weapon of choice for capturing the area may be film or digital, but the results will yield much of the same: stunning photographs of Big Bear Lake and the surrounding mountains elevated by the colors of the setting or rising sun and by the smiles of your family and friends within the photographs. Your adventure to Big Bear Lake can be highlighted by the photographs you keep, which also make the perfect souvenir of your vacation for years to come.

Your photography adventure can be begin at any time of day, but let's start in the morning! Driving up to Big Bear Lake provides an atmosphere for scenic photos all on its own, beginning with Rim of the World Drive on Highway 330. The mountainside dips down and offers views of the majestic skies which are filled with oranges, reds and perfect light at just the right moment you snap your photo. Pulling off to the side of the highway on a turn out, you will be at just the right elevation to capture the sky in all its glory any time of day.

Continuing to Big Bear Lake, you'll cross the dam and can continue onto Highway 38 and North Shore Drive – the scenic route! Your first stop will be Fawnskin, a small mountain top community rich with gold mining history and several vintage, historic buildings perfect for shooting close-ups of older signs or rustic interiors. If stopping by, you can also grab a bite to eat at one of the local favorite restaurants!

Taking your drive down the highway, you'll encounter The Discovery Center and Serrano Campground areas and across the way, the scenic Alpine Pedal Path, one of Big Bear Lake's most frequented walking and biking paths in the valley. Parking in the Carol Morrison Public Boat Launch Ramp is free, and provides you with great shots of boats, docks and fishermen along the ramp areas. Of course, the lake is the main attraction and the waters give off amazing crystal light and depth throughout the afternoon. With the proper lens, you can acquire outstanding shots of the shore across the way, the sailing water craft and even the ducks floating along the waters. Take a walk down the Alpine Path, and you can get great shots of the greenery and trees, as well as the Solar Observatory just down the way. In my experience, using film, especially expired film, brings out an array of distinct colors that completes the value of your escapade into the forest. Even if you were to walk across this path during the gorgeous dusk time, your photographs would illuminate the wildlife and showcase the natural light of the glowing moon and stars above. Natural light can bring out the best in your personal photos, and make good use of it in Big Bear Lake! The times of 10 AM and 7 PM during Spring and Summer tend to have the best effects on your work. Fall photography offers various great time to take your best shot – especially later in the evening around 6 PM to 7 PM or early morning, about 9 AM. When taking photos in winter, sometimes your goal will be to get the moodiest shots, attempt going out early before the sun is shining around 7 AM to capture the stillness of the clouds on the horizon.

Big Bear Trees Photography

Heading into Big Bear Lake, you'll find a city bustling with opportunities for photography. Roadside diners, wooden bear statues, unique signs and vintage shops, all a perfect shot for the photographer's eye. You'll encounter several downtown parks with lakeside views with serene vistas to capture, plus the occasional duck and squirrel! I recommend shooting with a 50MM lens on your digital or film camera, a prime lens which make your photos tack sharp and replicates the field of vision in the human eye. It's the perfect, professional solution for portraits beside the lake, and also works great in low lighting. If your type of camera is a point-and-shoot brand, you'll get the best results from playing with your settings depending on the time of day in Big Bear Lake. If you're taking a shot of our spectacular sunset over Stanfield Cutoff – make sure your camera is set to night time or sunset mode and snap away. Don't forget, you are also a "human tripod." Who needs fancy equipment when you can utilize yourself for low, high or level angles?

If you want to take your photography journey even higher than the lake's central point, take your camera up the Snow Summit Scenic Sky Chair (open on weekends through the fall) - a 15 minute elevated ride on a ski chair typically used in winter months to transport skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts to the most popular snowy trails in Southern California. But in summertime and the fall, you are transported to a forested wonderland with epic lake and city views perfect for a wide or more casual lens. You'll find several trails among the pines to take your best shot!

If you're still looking for an epic shot to write home about, you can climb the Castle Rock Trail in Central Big Bear Lake in the Boulder Bay area just before the dam cutoff. For a $5 Adventure Pass (available at the Big Bear Visitor Center), you can park your car on the turnout for the trail and take a hike up the boulder covered hillside to an elevated view of the lake from one of the best sites around the valley. You'll find yourself at a height advantage for some of the best views and angles in the forest, just a short drive away from The Village in downtown.

As an amateur photographer who enjoys the hobby, I recommend Big Bear Lake, California if you're looking for a grand picturesque spot! It's not only a vacation destination, but a photographic destination for every season!

Kelly Garfield