How to photograph Griffith Observatory
Updated: Oct 14
Our #Photowalk today brings you to Griffith Observatory, the no. 1 tourist spot in Los Angeles (yes, it attracts even more people than the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the city tells us) where you can get the best city views anywhere, and a decent selfie of the Hollywood Sign.
Watch our video below, to see all about it.
Here’s what you need to know before making the trek:
Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, by Jefferson Graham for the Photowalks series.
—Parking is rough up there. The parking lot is usually full, so city boosters encourage folks to take public transportation. The Greek Theater parking lot, a mile down the road is free, and you’ll either have to walk up the hill to get to the Observatory, or fork over 50 cents for the Dash bus, which is well worth it. However, you’ll probably encounter ( as we did) super long lines waiting for the Dash at the end of the day to take you home. Solution: ride-hailing. I recently opened the Lyft app, requested the car share option, and got a ride for $5, and only had to wait for less than 2 minutes. This is a bargain, as Griffith charges $8 an hour to park, if you could nab an elusive spot.
—Once up there, you have several choices of what to do. You can go inside (admission is free, but it costs to see exhibits like the Planetarium) or do as most do, and just enjoy the grounds. You can grab a decent selfie with the best view in L.A. of the Hollywood Sign (without a hike) pick up city views from the decks or hike around for alternative views of the Observatory.
One of the many murals at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, photographed by Jefferson Graham for the #Photowalks series.
One of the many decks of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, with the L.A. skyline in the background. Photographed by Jefferson Graham for the #Photowalks series.
The James Dean statue at the Griffith Observatory, flanking the Hollywood sign. Photographed by Jefferson Graham for the #Photowalks series.
Shooting the iconic Observatory building (built in 1933, home to such classic films as “Rebel without a Cause” with James Dean and the recent “La La Land,” is tough. )If you do it straight on, you’ll get lots of people in front of your shot.
The best way to photograph the building is to climb. You have two choices: you could go straight up the hill, in front of the Observatory, or on the Charlie Turner Trailhead.
Walking the trail around the bend for a great side shot of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Photographed by Jefferson Graham for the #Photowalks series
If you walk up the hill a ways, you could get a straight on shot of the building, but it will be covered in shrubbery.
The Griffith Observatory, shot from above, but not high enough.
The two best shots are via this around the bend hike. Shoot the building from the side (don’t forget your tripod) and you’ll pick up the city lights and buildings after sunset. The shot below was in HDR (three exposures, merged together) and shot at 600mm. You’ll need an DSLR or pro-level camera to get a shot like this. On a smartphone, the Observatory would faint in the distance.
For another angle, if you keep walking, and go all the way to the top, you can shoot the Observatory straight on, without the trees being in the way.