By contributing author and Rochester-area wedding photographer, Matt Lim
It is no secret Rochester offers a wealth of photographic opportunity. Whether you prefer scenic landscapes, urban settings, or a mix of both, we’ve got it! Today, though, I want to focus on locations I have found to work well for sessions of any kind.
What I am keeping an eye out for in any location is the scenery, variety, and light.
Scenery and variety go hand in hand. Obviously a location needs to have a quality of beauty and intrigue as a backdrop. I appreciate when there is a variety of scenery to shoot in front of and in the midst of, as well.
Lastly, and perhaps most subjectively, is quality of light. Is there open shade to get bright and even light under or is the scene we want to capture going to be beaten down on by the late-afternoon sun from an awkward side-lit angle?
These are all things I use to examine a location. And now without further ado, let’s walk through some of my favorite spots in Rochester for photography with scenery, variety, and light in mind.
1. Highland Botanical Park & Arboretum
One of Rochester’s most natural and beautiful settings, Highland Park is both scenic and offers lots of variety in its settings. It is an absolutely gorgeous park. From more evergreen stands of trees to greener deciduous settings, I love the many places you can shoot within just a short walking distance.
Plan to do some walking and exploring to find interesting angles and pockets of light amidst the trees. Or enjoy the warmth of the area in the many open lawns. In the Spring, the lilacs are in bloom and showing off their purple flowers, making it a favorite time of the year for photography in the park.
With the variety of landscapes, Highland Park offers, most any time of the day can work for photography. If shooting in the morning or afternoon when the sun is higher up, find locations in the midst of the trees and move out in its open spaces as the sun gets lower in the sky.
No matter what, I do not think you can go wrong in such a beautiful setting.
2. Lamberton Conservatory
While technically a part of Highland Park, the Lamberton Conservatory really deserves its own section. A conservatory displaying tropical and desert plants, it is a warm and lush welcome perfect for the long winter and early springs months.
With its glass walls, natural light is plentiful in each of its 5 sections, making it an ideal place for your session at any time of the day while it is bright outside. The Lamberton Conservatory also opens the space for weddings both before and after opening hours making for a beautiful and intimate venue for a wedding.
The center of the tropical dome is the perfect spot for a small ceremony. Make sure to take your time with your session here in order to take advantage of the nooks and crannies within.
For more recommendations for wedding venues both large and intimate in Rochester, check out Matt Lim’s wedding venue guide.
3. Warner Castle’s Sunken Garden
Located right behind Warner Castle is the hidden gem of the Sunken Garden. Its historic stone walls and layered stairways and levels make this a most interesting location.
Surrounded by trees, you should be able to find both bright and shady places to shoot, especially towards the tail end of the afternoon and into the evening. Beautiful green in the spring and summer, autumn colors showing off in the fall, and the architecture taking a front-row seat amidst the snow in the winter, the Sunken Gardens works wonderfully year-round.
Either before or after you shoot in the gardens, you may also walk through the surrounding trees for added variety.
It might not get any more “Classic Rochester” than the urban setting of the downtown area. In terms of scenery and variety within the urban spectrum, it is lush.
4. Liberty Pole
The Liberty Pole area is iconic within the Downtown. It and the surrounding buildings offer some unique architecture and lines to play with for your photos. Shooting from a lower angle captures the skyline, while an eye-level angle captures the classic grit and street feel of the urban setting.
Kitty-corner to the Liberty Pole, the Rochester Savings Bank building comes to a point with views down Franklin Street and Liberty Pole Way.
In terms of light, this area of downtown is best at golden hour when the sun is at a lower angle to the skyline. You can catch it shining down the street, or you can find its warm glow in the shade of a building. Just watch out for it shining too brightly off an opposing building which could give an unnatural feel to your photos.
5. Cascade Drive
Another section of Downtown Rochester, Cascade Drive next to the Inner Loop offers classic brick buildings for scenery with small alleys to tuck into for a touch of privacy.
With those back alleys, Cascade Drive is perfect for shooting earlier in the day when the sun is higher but harsher. The alleyways provide shade for most of the day to get even lighting, while also giving great depth for photos.
6. South Ave Parking Garage
Lastly, parking garages with open top floors might surprise you as being perfect locations for wedding or engagement sessions. They give you the feel of being amidst the skyline, while also staying safe.
The South Ave Garage is easy to get to and offers a beautiful view of the city. I like to head up there in the last half hour daylight as I find the light to be softer at that hour and you cannot beat a silhouette at dusk.
7. Cobbs Hill
Lastly, Cobbs Hill boasts the best view of Rochester, hands down. But that’s not what I like best about the area, as the actual location to see the city is rather small with a consistent handful of people also enjoying the view.
Instead, what I like best is the Upper Gatehouse at the west end of the water reservoir. It is an open Greek Revival styled building with cascading flights of steps leading down the westward hill. The pillars at sunset are beautiful and unique.
Moreover, the Cobbs Hill area has beautiful lawns to picnic on for your session, a walking path around the reservoir to incorporate movement with, and the aforementioned steps offer beautiful leading lines point up to the Upper Gate House. Consider using Cobbs Hill at sunrise rather than sunset to beat the crowds, as it can be quite busy in the area in the evenings.
This quick list is merely scratching the service of the many locations that would be perfect for your next session. Feel free to chime in and share your favorite locations for photos below in the comments.
Matt is a wedding photographer here in Rochester. He is a smitten husband, proud dad of three, and a burgeoning table tennis enthusiast. Mostly, he is just happy to contribute to the photography community both here in Rochester and around the country.
Where are your favorite photo locations?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!