Urban
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San Diego

Chicano Park

Chicano Park is one of those rare photography spots in San Diego that has some interesting and rich historical significance.

At some point, the city decided to build the Coronado bridge right through this neighborhood populated largely by Mexican-Americans.

Rather than the park they’d been asking for, they got a sea of ugly concrete piers that hold up the bridge.

You can read more about the history here, but the end result was that the area got turned into a park with incredible murals painted by well-known Chicano artists.

If you like shooting murals and urban scenes – this might be a great spot for you.

The Nitty Gritty

Best time of dayDaytime is probably ideal as the murals aren't lit.
But of course sunset will provide some enhanced lighting.
Best weatherCloudy weather would make for better colors and lighting on the murals.
Best versatile gearA walkaround lens is a good one for situations like this.
Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR II

Mural Art

Of course, the murals are the first thing to catch your eye at Chicano Park.

They are richly colored and the style is just an amazing testament to the artists who use the structure of the bridge as part of the art. Look at this guy, the Colossus, straining to hold up the structure.

Chicano Park Photography

Exposure
1/60s ƒ/9 @ ISO 800
Focal Length
25mm
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Date & Time
October 13, 2007, 4:48 pm

The color, style and details vary with each artist and they do change from time to time. They are rarely vandalized however, so you will always get to see a beautiful new work.

It was sunny on my shoot and that added to the challenge of dealing with the bright sun and shadow. Ideally, you’d want a cloudy day but we all know how common those are in San Diego.

Try not to blow out your highlights! If you can shoot raw, you might be able to recover enough color and detail in both your shadow and highlight areas.

Chicano Park Photography

Exposure
1/60s ƒ/9 @ ISO 800
Focal Length
25mm
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Date & Time
October 13, 2007, 4:48 pm

I kind of wish they had a walking tour pamphlet that told me a little more about the works – at least the ones that have been there a while.

But it’s also fun to just wander around and find the ones that catch your eye.

Chicano Park Photography

Exposure
1/100s ƒ/9 @ ISO 800
Focal Length
49mm
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Date & Time
October 13, 2007, 4:54 pm

Watch how the lines of the structure intersect with the frame of your image as well, as that can have an effect on your final composition.

Chicano Park Photography

Exposure
1/200s ƒ/5 @ ISO 200
Focal Length
50mm
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Date & Time
October 13, 2007, 5:17 pm

Statues and Sculptures

There are also a number of statues and sculptures in the park that you can shoot, like this one of Emiliano Zapata.

Chicano Park Photography

Exposure
1/3200s ƒ/4 @ ISO 800
Focal Length
50mm
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Date & Time
October 13, 2007, 4:58 pm

Events and Local Life

There are several events during the year that might be great to go shoot. I would love to catch something like this Aztec dance performance!

If not, there’s still the usual people watching that can yield some good shots. I photographed some kids playing in a fountain, as well as some skateboarders.

Chicano Park Photography

Exposure
1/200s ƒ/5 @ ISO 800
Focal Length
38mm
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Date & Time
October 13, 2007, 5:08 pm

Chicano Park Photography

Exposure
1/200s ƒ/5 @ ISO 200
Focal Length
50mm
Camera
Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Date & Time
October 13, 2007, 5:22 pm

If you like street art, this is a great place to go. I can’t quite do the art justice as I think it’s better seen in person, rather than just a photo of the work.

I prefer to capture scenes with the art as a backdrop.

But I do think it’s a real unique side to the history and culture of San Diego that a lot of tourists miss out on.

Have you been to Chicano park? Share your photos in the comments!

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Shimona Carvalho
Photographer, Engineer, Traveler who wants to help you take incredible photographs on your next trip.
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