Some photographers pick the location while others prefer to have their client chose a spot. Some like to do a little bit of both. I certainly have my own method for picking a location, but that's a topic for a different post. So, let's get into it! What are my top 5 favorite photography locations in Flagstaff, Arizona?
The start of the Humphrey's Peak trail goes through a beautiful, wide open field, which, in the winter, is part of the ski resort at Arizona Snowbowl. In the summer however, as well as the parts of spring and fall when the resort is closed to skiing, this place becomes one of my favorite go-to's for photoshoots. The sunsets here are EPIC! The field allows me to play with aperture and foreground elements and the wide open background creates a lovely backdrop for all types of photoshoots. I have done headshots, couples, engagements, and family shoots here. This is by no means a "secret" or little known spot, however. During peak season expect to see many other photographers and their clients here as well. Be patient and respectful as everyone there definitely deserves to get their shots! (Bonus, Aspen Corner is near here which is a lovely spot during the fall when the leaves change. However, expect that location to be VERY crowded during peak leaf turn season.)
Lockett Meadow is another all-time favorite of mine . . . and pretty much every other photographer in town. When the Aspen leaves here are in full color be prepared to get up there early with your clients. Not only will you catch great light but you'll beat the crowds as well. This is a very popular hiking and photo destination and the Forest Service actually limits the amount of cars allowed up there so if you get up late you might get turned away. They won't care that you booked a shoot, if the lot is full, you're screwed. Another tip if you plan to shoot here is to go on weekdays as there is always less people than on the weekends.
I love this spot because it offers a variety of locations. There is a large meadow which you see pictured here that looks on the mountain and the changing trees. There is also a beautiful trail that will allow you to get into large stands of Aspens. Plus, if you time it just right, the forest floor will be blanketed in yellow which is always fun to play and shoot in. Be sure to wear good shoes if you plan to head up to Lockett Meadow because you will want to hike up that trail to get into those gorgeous trees.
Aspen Corner is a popular hiking and photography destination in Flagstaff right off of Snowbowl Road. This location offers an amazing stand of Aspen trees, lots of little trails to dip into, fields of ferns, and a couple of small meadows to shoot in. This is a lovely spot all year round, but when the leaves change I swear every photographer in the state of Arizona can be found up there! I love shooting here but sometimes there are just too many people. Luckily there are some nice spots just above and below it on Snowbowl Road to stop and take photos without fighting over locations and wasting time avoiding other people in your background. If you plan to shoot here, especially during the fall, be prepared to see lots of other photographers and their clients as well as hikers and tourists. I tend to avoid this spot on weekends and will only book shoots on weekdays or sunrise shoots here.
Buffalo Park is hands down my top go-to location in Flagstaff. This is a wide-open field with nice flat and easy trails that looks directly at the San Francisco Peaks and Mt. Elden. It's absolutely beautiful in every season in Flagstaff. The winters are lovely and white, the springs are green, the summer features endless fields of sunflowers, and the fall offers those lovely yellow and brown tones that eventually lead back into winter. Again, this is a popular destination for photographers but here people are far more spread out and way less competitive. The trails make it accessible to nearly any client and it's right in town so it provides easy directions. The only thing you will run into here that would be any kind of annoying is background characters as this is a popular spot for people to hike, walk, and run. I try not to go here right after everybody gets off of work, but sometimes it's just unavoidable and I'll end up cloning someone or their dog out of my background. That doesn't bother me enough to stay away however!
McMillan Mesa is very similar to Buffalo Park and offers almost the same views, but usually with less people. This large field is actually just across the road from Buffalo Park and behind the San Francisco de Asís church. Because it is slightly farther away from the mountains than Buffalo Park I actually prefer this spot sometimes because it's easier to get the mountains in the background. The San Francisco Peaks and Mt. Elden also look more separated here than they do at Buffalo where sometimes Mt. Elden can actually block your view of the peaks. There is also a nice, wide, flat trail here that is part of the Flagstaff Urban Trail System making access also very easy here. This is another good spot for your clients that don't want to hike or want to wear shoes that are not trail compatible.
Plus, the sunsets here are gorgeous as they will briefly light the mountains in a pink or orange glow like you see in the photo above.
Let me know in the comments if you share some of my favorites, if you have a fav I didn't mention, why you may or may not like the locations listed here, or if you have any questions! Happy scouting, my friends!