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Vasquez Rocks – Agua Dulce, CA

Address:  10700 Escondido Canyon Road, Agua Dulce, CA 91350  [ Map It ]

The Vasquez Rocks were first made famous in 1873 by a notorious bandit named Tiburcio Vasquez who used the rocks as a hide out and for whom the rocks are named. Later, Hollywood made the rocks famous again by using them in many movies and TV shows. Probably the most famous of which was a popular Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk faces off against the lizard like Gorn Captain.

The rocks’ very noticeable and unique 45 degree angle were formed as a result of the rocks being pushed upward by the San Andreas Fault, and are what makes the rocks stand out both as a great western back drop (Apache 1954 and Blazing Saddles 1974) as well as that of a far away planet (Star Trek 1967, 1986, 1994, 2009).

In pictures of the Vasquez Rocks that I found online, many of them showed cars parked right in front of the rocks (a photographer’s nightmare). For my trip out to the rocks, I planned to be there when the gates opened at 8:00 am so that I could be the first one in and to get my photos before someone decided to park in my shots.

Admission is free and once past the gates, you follow a car safe dirt road down to where the main rock formation is. Arriving at the formation, I quickly unpacked my gear, set up and while I was shooting, a car pulls right into my shot as if I didn’t exist. Giving the occupants a few moments to notice me taking pictures didn’t seem to matter. They exited their car, grabbed some backpacks out of the trunk and were about to head off before my friend politely asked them to move their car.

Capturing the Shot: If you plan on photographing the rocks, I would recommend arriving at about 7:30 am and wait for the gates to open. Arrive later and you will likely find someone parked right in front of the rocks which would ruin any shot for you. Now, if the lighting is good, you can always park outside of the gate and walk in before the gates open and any cars have a chance to get in, and many do just that. Outside parking can be found right outside of the gate alongside of the road.

I visited the rocks on a day slated for good weather, however, not a single cloud could be found in the sky which made my photos appear rather bland looking. I would suggest visiting on a day slated for at least some cloudiness to give your sky some detail.

Once you get your photos of the main rock formation, there are many easy trails that you can follow for some photos of other strange and unique rock formations. The back side of the main formation produces some great shots that show the rock’s flat side seemingly heading off into space at a 45 degree angle. You could spend an entire day walking the trails and various rock formations can be found everywhere. I prefer to shoot unique landscapes but I could easily see posing or laying a model across one of these rock formations for a terrific outdoor shot.

Note: This location is a living desert and desert wildlife such as rattlesnakes do live here (and in rock crevices), so be careful when you’re out hiking and climbing around. Also, Summer temperatures will often hit 100 degrees and winter temperatures in the mornings are very cold. This area is also prone to high winds that can pose problems for camera gear as well. Check your weather report before heading out and dress accordingly.

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