The backyard and living room work fine for testing out new lenses and techniques, but when you really want to capture everything Houston has to offer, it’s time to lace up some shoes and hit the streets. From the city’s most popular fire-spinning hangout to a literal wall of water, here are some of our favorite Houston locales to break out the DSLR and go crazy.
Buffalo Bayou flows all the way across Houston, but the best place to shoot it is downtown. It is one of my favorite places to shoot due to its versatility. Whether you want to shoot more green or more gray, Buffalo Bayou has it. Its proximity to downtown Houston and the industrial parks allows the photographer to capture the juxtaposition of the urban and the natural, which is very characteristic of the city.
Why It’s Unique: There are always new perspectives to be found along the bayou. The many paths that run alongside it will keep the hobby photographer from ever getting bored.
Location: The best places to start shooting are along Memorial drive near Sawyer St., and behind Spaghetti Warehouse at the corner of Main and Commerce.
Timing: While Buffalo Bayou is beautiful at sunset, you won’t want to stay too much longer after the sun goes down, as it is not the safest area of town. Also, avoid rainy days! The bayou is there to fill up when it rains.
Equipment: No special equipment required.
Last Concert Café
Last Concert Café is a restaurant and concert venue located in Houston’s warehouse district, just north of downtown. The building itself has quite a checkered past. It was a speakeasy during the prohibition era, then converted into a brothel after the legalization of alcohol. Today, it is a venue where you can find true hippies and a group of fire spinners ready to light up a few nights a week.
Why It’s Unique: Last Concert Café is one of the few places in town where fire spinners perform regularly. They are a friendly bunch, welcoming spectators and performing their stunts while the band plays.
Location: 1403 Nance street, 77002. Just west of McKee street.
Timing: The fire spinners perform year round, usually a few nights a week. Thursday and Friday nights are a good bet, but Sunday night you can usually catch them practicing from 8 to 10 p.m.
Equipment: Bring a tripod for long exposure shots. If you plan on using a flash, it usually washes out the full effect of the fire.
Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark
The Lee and Joe Jamail skatepark is one of the nation’s best public skateparks. This 30,000 square foot facility located just west of downtown is an ideal spot to shoot action photography framed by Houston’s Buffalo Bayou, and capture a great view of the skyline. The park is open to the public, so photographers have no problem getting in — just make sure to stick to the grass or the edges of the park to avoid any collisions.
Why It’s Unique: Due to its size and architecture, it possesses many features that can’t be found in many cities, which attracts professional skaters from all over.
Location: The park is located on Sabine street, just west of I-45 between Memorial drive and Allen Parkway.
The best time of year to shoot is in the spring, before it gets too hot. Go as close to dusk as possible, while still maintaining a high shutter speed.
Timing: People do not skate in the rain. If it is raining or it has rained in the last few hours, chances are no one will be there.
Equipment: Bring a sports zoom lens. Sony offers a really nice 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.
The Heights is an old neighborhood near the center of Houston. We enjoy shooting here because many of the houses in the neighborhood have not changed in the last fifty years, save the necessary upkeep. To compliment the houses, the Heights boasts an abundance of beautiful oak trees that, on some streets, create natural tunnels.
Why It’s Unique: The Heights’ appeal is largely due to the neighborhood’s artistic presence. It is a serene location where residents feel free to showcase their artistic tastes on their front lawns, with no criticism expected.
Location: The Heights is located north of I-10 and west of I-45. The intersection of Heights Boulevard and 11th street makes a good starting place for a tour.
Timing: The best time of year to shoot the Heights is in the fall, and dusk is always a good choice. It rains quite a bit in Houston. If you are able to, pick a day that is mildly cloudy.
Equipment: No special equipment required, but the neighborhood has some great HDR (High Dynamic Range) potential, so a tripod is suggested.
Williams Water Wall
Williams Water Wall is a manmade waterfall the shape of an amphitheater, sporting a high wall with archways on one side, and a half-circle waterfall about fifty feet high on the other. It is not the most versatile location to shoot, but it makes an ideal spot for portraits, or a fun shoot with the kids.
Why It’s Unique: What makes this location unique is the rush you get standing at the base of the wall. If you are into architectural photography, this is a must. It is very unique and special to Houston.
Location: The Water Wall is located at the corner of Hidalgo and Post Oak Boulevard, right next to the Transco Tower, a skyscraper off of the 610 West loop.
Timing: If you are able to, definitely shoot the Water Wall at night. The whole wall lights up from inside, giving it a very surreal look.
Equipment: Bring a wide-angle lens and cleaning material. Mist will be an issue, so if you do not have a lens filter, we highly recommend one, along with a rag.