Scouting San Diego by Shaan
We are lucky to be located in Sunny San Diego, the “finest city in America” as they say. From being able to shoot in various locations across town, I can tell you that there is definitely truth to this, and we are very lucky to have such variety as to ambiances that the city offers. From beaches, to urban decors, from cliff falls to desert views, here are a few tips on location scouting for your next local projects.
- The Beaches
We are in SoCal after all; and the beach is definitely part of our landscape. It’s not rare for our videos to include scenes at the beach so that we can really represent the enjoyable side of Sunny San Diego. But even the beaches vary greatly and offer their own range of diversity.
For instance, the boardwalk in Pacific Beach has a lot of activity (people cycling, roller blading, surfing), so if you’re looking for a quiet and empty beach, it’s definitely not the place to go. Further south, the San Diego bay is pretty huge and is definitely a good spot for downtown views. The practical aspect of the bay is the grass: you don’t have to put the equipment in the sand and risk collecting dust everywhere, and you can still have shots on the beach. You can also find some cool beach spots in Ocean Beach with surf shops, thrift stores, and the typical modest beach cottages of Southern California. If you want a beach with more upscale housing in the background, La Jolla is home of the most luxurious houses and stores of the city. And last but not least, there is Black Beach… a nudist beach in Torrey Pines state park. It all depends on what you’re trying to get, maybe you are shooting a nude scene on the beach… 🙂
San Diego has various hills and therefore many view points from which you can shoot the cliffs, downtown, or the valley. I think for this category, photos will talk for themselves, but one of my favorite spots is the top of Mount Soledad Veteran Memorial Park that offers a breath taking 360 view of San Diego and suburbs.
We’re lucky to have beautiful cliffs in San Diego, and even though future married couples often use these locations for their engagement photos, it’s not only for weddings! La Jolla has amazing cliffs that allow for gorgeous views all the way up to Torrey Pines golf course. Be careful though because it’s a very touristic point so getting a quiet and isolated set is tough. Your shooting might be disturbed by many locals or tourists walking around the area. You can go down to the rocks and have your feet in the water while shooting. This allows filmmakers and photographers to find many more angles. Another nice spot in Ocean Beach is Sunset cliffs. Sunset or not, this is a beautiful location for various obvious esthetic reasons. This spot can be used for romantic shots, but also athletic scenes if your talents can jump from the cliffs or climb them. Finally, Torrey Pines’ famous cliffs aren’t popular for nothing. Either on the golf course, or in the state park, you can find beautiful views that will be stunning for your photos and videos.
It’s always nice to have a park in the city that allows for nature shots without going out of town, but Balboa is especially nice! With its spanish inspired architecture, but also beautiful botanic gardens and various grass spaces, this park is often a go-to location for local projects. Bonus point: there is a great view of downtown San Diego on the Cabrillo bridge!
Not many cities haves access to a border, so we definitely count this as a shooting location. Various documentary filmmakers have documented the tragic image of the wall between Tijuana and San Diego* (link to The Walls of Shame?). But it’s also very convenient if your film needs to have a different cultural ambiance because you’re within driving distance from Mexico. If your character needs to escape, or if the story is about traffic at the border, or just about two lovers that have a long distance relationship, San Diego and Tijuana are THE place to shoot. You have to see it for yourself, the contrast between the two cities, only a few miles away is frankly breathtaking. (Link to the series The Bridge).
The Different Urban Vibes
Even though most picture San Diego as a beach town, we’re still talking about the 7th biggest city in the country. San Diego has various urban vibes and here are a few key neighborhoods. The Gaslamp Quarter is very cute and classy. This historical neighborhood includes a series of buildings constructed in the Victorian Era and are now active businesses such as restaurants, nightclubs and theaters. Although you will need a special authorization for shooting, you have plenty of really cool landmarks there, such as the beautiful San Diego Padres baseball stadium, Petco Park. Or, if you feel like this is too upscale, South Park, Hillcrest, or North Park will work great for a more low key, laid back urban environment.
Obviously, scouting for locations is a personal process. You choose specific locations for your own reasons and esthetic sensibility. This quick guide is just meant to give you an overall vision of San Diego. It’s important to mention that if you have more time, San Diego is less than 2 hours away from the desert (Borrego Springs/Coachella area and Joshua Tree), the mountains/forests (Julian/Cuyamaca, Idyllwild-Pine Cove), the sand dunes (Imperial Valley), and even the snow (Big Bear) !
Photo credits: I found these pictures through Google search, and unfortunately I couldn’t find the authors’ names, but I definitely thank them for these very nice shots of our beautiful city!