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Photograph Los Angeles on a $400 budget

Photographed from the 5th street bridge in Los Angeles
Photographed from the 5th street bridge in Los Angeles
Keith B Dixon

If you enjoy photographing cityscapes, environmental images, or street photography downtown Los Angeles offers the perfect opportunity and it is close to the Bay Area. If your goal is to create images, experience other cities, and “breath new content” into your photographic landscape experience photographing outside of your current element is a great first step. The key is saving money. Saving money on your travel and lodging to Los Angeles will depend your time, ability to walk, and comfort level with lodging.

As you know there are all sorts of Internet deals and travel specials advertising air, hotel and rental car packages all the time and some are good. But to find the absolute best deals you have know where to look and when to book it. There are 4 ways you can travel to Los Angeles from the Bay Area:

  • Your personal vehicle or rental car
  • Bus
  • Train
  • Airplane

Since we only have a $400 budget (travel and lodging) renting a car or driving is going to eat up a lot of our budget in gas and parking fees. And a train ride (approximately $160-180 RT) might cut into about 40% to 50% of our cost as well.

If time isn’t a factor riding the Megabus might be an option. A round trip ticket from San Francisco to Los Angels is $33 and each trip will take about 8 hours and doesn’t require advance booking for lower fares.

If your time is critical, you might consider Virgin America. Virgin offers some of the best low fares to the Los Angeles even inside the 21-day advance. Here is the catch; you have to become a member of their Elevate Program (Frequent flier program) to take advantage of their short notice specials. This means that they will offer fares on major routes like Vegas, Los Angeles, or Seattle for as low as $59 one way.

Once you are in the Los Angeles area your ability to move around city is critical. The Cecil Hotel (aka The Stay on Main) offers the perfect lodging for the area and you can save money booking off peak. If you’re looking for service and amenities the Cecil ranks low in this area and has a checkered past but is fairly safe now and caters to mostly tourist. On the other hand, this hotel is perfect for it’s location, which is in walking distant to all the major ground transportation, downtown, the fashion district, and Little Tokyo. The Cecil also offers a free breakfast each morning.

If you decide to fly into the LA area and stay of the Cecil you can catch the Fly Away Bus from the airport to Union Station ($7 one way) and then it’s a short 10 min walk to the Cecil. Have your camera ready because there are a lot of photo opportunities along the way. Here some of the most popular photo opportunities in walking distance of the Cecil

These photo opportunities are easily full day opportunities and a lot of ground to cover if you are on a two-day trip. If your goal is to move outside of your normal environment and explore other cityscapes without breaking the bank, then you should consider photographing Los Angeles as an option for far less than the cost of a camera lens.

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