Big thanks to our guest writer, Sarah Sloboda, today! She is a Bay Area family photographer with knack for making lives look just a little more rock ‘n’ roll than they might otherwise.
A couple things make a great spot to photograph your kids in addition to having an interesting visual landscape. One is, how happy or content will your child be in that place. Environment makes a huge difference on moods.
And, another is child-friendliness – how much room do they have to safely roam? Ideal places are somewhat enclosed so that the kids are contained within an area, but big enough for them to run and jump and enjoy.
East Bay is positively teeming with amazing photo backdrops and great places for kids. Here are 5 spots I recommend for the vibe and child-friendliness, with tips for each.
1. Temescal Creek Park (Emeryville)
A tucked away Emeryville secret, Temescal Creek Park was co-built with the city of Oakland in 1991 as a trailway tracing the river that gushes underneath it. It was recently renovated, and the gorgeous playground is padded with that awesome springy stuff. (To think of all the skinned knees I could have saved if this existed when I was a kid!) There’s lots of room to run within the fence, and a dog run, in case you want to bring along furry friends.
Why I love it: Unlike other playgrounds where the equipment takes over the shot, here massive trees and the gorgeous landscape dwarf the metal bars, making for celebratory shots of childhood and playfulness.
Tip: Go at sunset if you can. The light wafts through the trees magically.
2. Jack London Square (Oakland)
To depict the childhood of a city kid, I find it natural to use urban backgrounds. Jack London Square has the perfect mix of urban grit and mellowness, with cool overhangs, poles to spin on, and fire hydrants. I love the juxtaposition of sweet kids in a concrete environment.
Why I Love it: Kids look great in city backdrops because it shows that the world is a playground through the eyes of a child.
Tip: The proximity to Blue Bottle is a parental bonus.
3. Adventure Playground (Berkeley)
Perhaps not for parents faint of heart, Adventure Playground has you sign a waiver on admittance, acknowledging that your children will be playing in all manner of junk-yard toys and structures. That said, for the brave and free-spirited, it makes for an incredible photo backdrop that friends in any city would be hard-pressed to match. Kids can ride the zip line, slide slides, climb nets, barrel down an incline in a tube – whatever they’ve got the courage for – all in an aged-wood, kid-painted, artistic environment.
Why I Love it: Playing is what gets kids to really smile, and so does being curious and rising to challenges. Adventure Playground encourages all of that, and the rickety “outside the circus tent” visual effect is enchanting.
Tip: Seriously, if it makes you nervous, you might want to skip this one. But for adventurous spirits, this is my favorite location photographically.
4. Redwood Regional Park (Oakland)
Redwood Regional Park was epic before we called everything epic. It’s over 1,800 acres of lush forest, hiking trails, hills and scenic vistas. You could spend days here and keep seeing new things, and it is a convenient place to immerse yourself in Northern Californian landscape without having to leave East Bay.
Why I Love it: Kids can commune with their own biorhythms in nature. As can adults. So a photo shoot here becomes a restorative respite, and relaxed faces look amazing on camera.
Tip: If you have very little ones, this is a great choice versus some of the more “urban” options.
5. Temescal Alley (Oakland)
A set of former stables, Temescal Alley (really 2 alleys) now houses fantastic little boutiques. There are many different textures on the shop exteriors and in between — brick, wood, corrugated metal. And, taking a long view down either alley gives you another look entirely, so there are all kind of photo ops within this small area.
Why I Love it: It’s architecturally interesting and somewhat enclosed, so kids can run around a bit in almost any direction, and still have a cool backdrop behind them.
Tip: If your kids require bribes to have their photo taken, Curbside Creamery conveniently purveys ice cream in the alley.
Sarah Sloboda is a kids and family photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area. View her work at sarahsloboda.com.