• Abigail Saalfrank

USA Photography Bucket List

Updated: Dec 8, 2019

Obviously as a photographer I have venues and locations that just make me drool. Literally. I have the privilege this year of shooting at a venue that I have always said was on my bucket list, but as I found myself crossing it off my list, I also found myself asking what other venues, or areas do I want to shoot at? How many is there exactly? The planner in me immediately set off to find them and of course plan a few future vacations to make these a reality. The top 15 venues, and top 15 locations that I just drool at the site of, that the thought of photographing there makes me want to jump up and down and scream like a child who just found out their were going to Disney World. Okay, that may seem extreme to most, but my photography bucket list has 30 of the prettiest places, the places where I see images and I just can imagine the perfect shot there. Once you see them I think you will agree they that they are totally gorgeous, or drool worthy as I would say.

Now I stumbled upon venues, and then locations such as gorgeous canyons or beaches, and felt I had to break them up. A reason I think a venue is gorgeous and I would kill to shoot there is not necessarily the reason I would chose a location. In fact, most of my locations I picture portrait sessions, and not even a bride and a groom. Therefore I decided to break them down. Plus I felt like realistically I could definitely check off 15 places, but 15 venues might be a little harder to do! Also these list are in no specific order, but I will definitely be mentioning which place is at the top of the list.

I will say, 99% of my locations are a flight away, meaning the odds of them all happening this year, or even within the next two years, is probably unrealistic. But I am hoping to widdle away at this list a little each year. A friend of mine and I are headed out to California this summer, meaning I can hopefully cross off a few of these that are on my list. There is also a location under my places, I am actually shooting at this summer. So slowly but surely I will make my way through this list. The venues are definitely going to be more of a challenge for sure.

I will also be sharing an International Photography Bucket List here in a few weeks, because of course I have a list of gorgeous international locations and venues I would die if I had the privilege to shoot at!

15 Places That Are On My Photography Bucket List

1. Oneonta Gorge (Multnomah County, Oregon)

One Google image search and it is probably very clear why I want to shoot here. This looks like something out of a fairytale. I literally have a million ideas for shoots here. I think it could be absolutely stunning with a bride and a groom, but I really see one of my friends who has this gorgeous red/auburn hair standing between those big rocks. I am sure it is near impossible to get this place completely empty so a lot of photoshop would be needed, plus the idea of hiking through water with my gear kind of makes me nauseous but oh my goodness would it be so wroth it.

2. The Neon Museum (Las Vegas, Nevada) This is hands down the top location on my list to me. It is right at the top of the bucket list in big bold letters. I think it would be the coolest place for a portrait shoot, especially a senior. I think I could honestly shoot someone here for hours. I also saw that you can get married here, so I may be adding that to my future venue ideas because the urban lover in me is totally obsessed with this place. Maybe it is due to the fact I love abandoned things, and this place is basically full of abandoned signs, or maybe it is because I just love how unique and urban this place is. Either way it is right at the top of my photography bucket list, dying to be checked off. Hoping to head there next winter to be marking this one off!

3. Baker's Beach (San Francisco, California)

I went to San Francisco the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school and I have never forget about San Francisco. I am totally in love with San Francisco, I even planned on going to art school there, but of course life had different ideas. There are probably a dozen other places in San Francisco that I would love to shoot at, but I didn't want to cover this list with only locations in one area, although a third of them are California based. Sorry not sorry, especially since my venue list is a fifth California based as well. This beach sits right by the Golden Gate Bridge, meaning the stinking Golden Gate Bridge would be in the background of your photos. Totally what dreams are made of. This location would be totally breath taking for an engagement shoot.

4. Santa Monica Pier (Santa Monica, California)

This one is so cliche and that is fine with me. Sure there is a big festival here where I could take cute fair engagement photos but there is something about the Santa Monica Pier that just screams to me. I love the bright colors, I love the whole carnival/theme park vibe. I love the fact that there is a beach two feet away where you can get the whole pier in the background of your photo. Seriously the possibilities of photos here are endless meaning if I ever shoot here you will probably have to drag me away. I totally dream of shooting an engagement session here because it would just be so fun and flirty!

5. Antelope Canyon (Page, Arizona)

I am pretty sure that most photographer's photo bucket lists would include one of the red rock canyons in Arizona because they are incredible. Personally Antelope Canyon is my favorite mainly because it has the big high rocks that you can get between, similar to the big rocks at Oneonta Gorge, just a totally different look. I can see one gorgeous portrait session taking place here, but also think an engagement shoot would be totally cool! I will be in Phoenix in November, and hoping I can talk my family into making a day trip!

6. Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park (Three Rivers, California)

I have always loved the look of the big California Red Woods and this park happens to be full of them, so of course it made the list. There is acres and acres of them, and I think it would be such a gorgeous place to shoot. Definitely a far cry from anything we have here in Indiana. This location would be an amazing spot for an engagement shoot since it looks like something out of a story book.

7. Disney World (Orlando, Florida)

Another totally cliche place to shoot, but let's be real 7 year old me would of totally put this on her bucket list so of course 23 year old me had to as well. But in all seriousness I have seen so many amazing engagement portraits, family portraits, and senior portraits from fellow photographers shot in Disney World that have been amazing, so of course I am dying to shoot here. I think the best thing to shoot here in my opinion would be an engagement shoot, just because it would be so fun and flirty, as well as colorful, and just joyful. But I think a portrait session here would be awesome as well, and so would a family session. Honestly I just want to shoot in Disney World, I am not really picky on what I would be shooting.

8. Bonneville Salt Flats (Tooele County, Utah)

I think every photographer I know would love to shoot here, and I am definitely no exception. Although I said the Neon Museum is top on my list this is definitely a close second and I mean by inches. I have seen so many gorgeous wedding photos captured on the Salt Flats and I have to say I am dying to capture some as well. This is the only location on my list that shooting a wedding couple at is a must, and the only desire I really have. I mean I would settle for an engagement session, or a portrait session, but a gorgeous white dress blowing in the wind on the salt flats is totally goals. th

9. The French Quarter (New Orleans, Louisiana)

The French Quarter in general intrigues me with its gorgeous architecture, lush greenery hanging, and the fact that it is bursting with life and color, but photographing there intrigues me even more. Such a unique location that is unlike anything I could photograph here in Fort Wayne, which is one of the main reasons it is on my list. But also the fact that it is so unique and offers such a range of options for photos. I would literally have to dedicate a whole afternoon to shooting, so I hope I find some seriously dedicated models.

10. Acorn Street (Boston, Massachusetts)

Probably the most "boring" location on my list, but definitely one of the highest in my mind. The gorgeous brick cobblestone, combined with the old style traditional brick buildings just speak to me. The entire aesthetic of this street just begs to be photographed. I think this location would be just gorgeous for a family session, and is practically begging for one to be photographed there. Obviously a place I would want to photograph in summer or early fall, as the residents of the streets hang gorgeous lush greenery during that time of year just completing the appeal of this street.

11. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (Albuquerque, New Mexico)

This Balloon Festival is on my bucket list as is, but shooting there is hands down a must for me. I could see a gorgeous portrait session taking place here with the balloons rising into the sky. They release balloons throughout the day as well as at sun rise and sun set, meaning the possibilities are endless. I have so many gorgeous shots in mind as I think about the sunrise and sunset balloon releases. The only thing about photographing here is that it is definitely going to be high pressure as you only have so long to get the perfect shots before the balloons are too high, or off in the distance too much to look as amazing as I would desire.

12. Belt Alley (Detroit, Michigan)

This is really the only in driving distance location on my list, which means it is the most obtainable, and I will actually be shooting an engagement session here this summer, so most likely will be the first one checked off my list. There are literally a million areas in Detroit I would love to shoot at, mainly every single abandoned building that exists in Detroit, but since there are 10's of thousands, I decided to place a location on my bucket list that is a. just a little more obtainable, and b. I am not going to get arrested for shooting at. Belt Alley is a really cool area in Detroit where artists have gone crazy making their mark, meaning it is colorful, and bright. Basically a giant never ending alley of murals, and I could not be more excited to be shooting there this year.

13. Urban Light (Los Angeles, California)

An art installation in downtown Los Angeles that is beyond photographed, but still high on my list. It is an art installation of vintage style street lights and there are hundreds. There is something about this art installation that intrigues me and think it would be awesome to photograph a portrait session or engagement session, the possibilities are endless with this location.

14. Skagit Valley Tulip Fields (Washington)

My mom's favorite flower is a tulip, so I think she would probably very much approve of this location being on my bucket list. The perfect location for a romantic engagement session as you are literally surrounded by tulips as far as the eye can see. It is also super bright and colorful because they grow so many different colors of tulips which means I totally love it. The more colorful the location, the happier I am that is for sure. This is a location that is obviously very time of year dependent on how gorgeous it is, but still on my list.

15. The Saqyaro Hotel (Palm Springs, California)

I took a trip to Palm Springs two years ago, and so wish I had known this hotel existed when I was there because I would of been dragging my family there so I could shoot it. The Saqyaro Hotel is also known as colorful hotel, and if you see a photo you would know why. Each block of the building is painted a different bright color, as well as the interior, basically making it a giant rainbow. I have a thousand ideas for this location and what I could shoot there, but I think it would be really awesome to do a portrait session, where they dressed in various colors to match each block creating essentially a rainbow series of photos. Literally just talking about that photo series I have in my mind made me squirm a little with excitement.

15 Venues That Are On My Photography Bucket List

1. 620 Loft and Gardens (New York, New York)

Probably assuming I will put an iconic New York venue on here and you were dang right. If you have ever seen a picture of a rooftop wedding venue in New York, this is probably it. This venue overlooks the entire city, and is what dreams are made of. This venue is as high class, New York city that you can get. Offering both indoor and outdoor spaces, so you can have a gorgeous outdoor rooftop ceremony, with a gorgeous indoor reception in a room with basically glass walls, there are that many windows. This venue is photogenic from every angle, and the best place that I could think of in New York City to tie the knot.

Check it out here: 620 Loft and Gardens

2. Haiku Mill (Haiku, Hawaii)

I mean Arie and Lauren from the bachelor got married here, so you know it absolutely beautiful. But in all seriousness I have been following this venue for years and I am in love. They took an old sugar mill and the ruins and turned it into the lushest, greenery filled venue to exist. It looks like something out of a magazine, and I actually could drool over it. Basically a photographer's dream, plus it is in Hawaii which is a massive bonus. Honestly, if some day I decide I want a destination wedding, this will be the first venue on my list, and the first one on my list that I want to photograph. I would basically jump in front of a car to shoot here. Joking but semi not. Basically the perfect mix of a gorgeous greenery filled venue, and urban with the ruins.

Check it out here: Haiku Mill

3. Race and Religion (New Orleans, Louisiana)

You are going to learn rather quick, I love urban venues, and this one is no exception. Right in the heart of New Orleans, this venue is definitely high on the list for me. It is the perfect venue for an outdoor wedding with a gorgeous courtyard, that would literally be such a gorgeous backdrop for photos between the reflection pond, the gorgeous urban, distressed white walls, and the adorable blue shutters. It is definitely a unique venue, and not one for everyone, but it is definitely a venue for me.

Check it out here: Race and Religion

4. Mill City Museum (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

As you continue in this list, you will see that I clearly love venues that are more urban, or have ruins, maybe its the Abbey who loves abandoned buildings that chose half this list, or maybe I'm just obsessed because these venues are so dang unique. Either way Mill City Museum in Minneapolis is definitely on my list as a venue I would love to shoot at. I love this venue for a lot of reasons, one of the main one being its location. It is literally located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis meaning the photography locations if you shot a wedding here are practically endless. It also offers both nature and urban backdrops which I love since it sits on a river that is full of lush greenery.

Check it out here: Mill City Museum

5. White Sparrow (Quinlan, Texas)

This is the venue of all venue to nearly every photographer I know. This venue is the most shared on social media, and a picture of this venue is the most pinned picture on Pinterest, so you know this venue is good. It is a gorgeous barn, that looks like something out of a fairy tale. It is a rustic barn venue that is rather high fashion and looks like something only the rich and famous would get married at. I think the thing I love most about it is the fact that it is a all white barn with massive crystal chandeliers with lush green outdoor spaces that are the perfect backdrop for photos. It is incredibly gorgeous.

Check it out here: White Sparrow

6. Hotel Emma (San Antonio, Texas)

Another urban venue, imagine that. Nestled in downtown San Antonio, right on the river, is this gorgeous vintage hotel that is the perfect wedding venue in my opinion. It offers 6 different reception spaces to chose from meaning you can totally find the perfect space at this venue to fit your style. One of my favorite part about this venues is the fact that it is so dang photogenic everywhere, and that you can literally host your wedding there and stay there. Meaning your guests can party the night away with no worries about driving away to their hotel, and the hotel rooms are equally as gorgeous as the venue space. Seriously I may make a trip to San Antonio just to stay at this gorgeous hotel!

Check it out here: Hotel Emma

7. Grand Hotel (Mackinaw Island, Michigan)

This venue as well as the next, also located in Michigan are definitely the most obtainable on my list. So I am going to shift into high gear with my marketing towards these venues and hope to win a bride who is getting married there is 2020. All fingers crossed. The Grand Hotel is actually a venue I grew up around. We have had a lake house about 45 minutes south, and been up there on and off all summer since I was 7 months old. So this venue definitely holds a little bit of sentiment to it. We used to head to Mackinaw Island with my grandparents each summer, and I would beg my grandparents to let us go on a horse and carriage ride. While they didn't give in every time, they did most times. Part of the ride is riding past the Grand Hotel, and I was always in aww. This was the end all be all of hotels to me, and as a little girl I used to ask my mom when we would finally stay there. When I was about 8 or 9 I started saying that the Grand Hotel was where I was going to get married, right on the Fourth of July, my favorite holiday at the time. Now I realize the waiting list is insane, so not necessarily as realistic as 8 or 9 year old me thought. So now I have shifted my sites on shooting a wedding there!

Check it out here: The Grand Hotel

8. Planterra Conservatory (Michigan)

This venue was actually brought to attention by my 2019 bride who is getting married at one of my bucket list venues. (not on this list, since it is essentially crossed off) The Planterra was her dream venue, but they decided to go with a different venue that went with their overall dreams for their day. She asked about doing her engagement session here, and I tried to get us in, but they only allow you to do your engagement photos there if you are getting married there. However after seeing pictures I definitely fell in love with it and immediately it was on my radar. This venue is literally gorgeous, and truly hoping to add it to my 2020 wedding list.

Check it out here: Planterra Conservatory

9. Beaulieu Gardens (Rutherford, California)

A seriously gorgeous venue in California, located right in the middle of wine country, so you already know this bonus is gorgeous. The reason Beaulieu Gardens quickly became some place I am dying to photograph a wedding at was because of the gorgeous grounds of this place. There is not a single place on this property that is un-photogenic. Seriously, every single location is gorgeous. My favorite part of this venue has to be the reception space, with the ceilings covered in moss with twinkle lights and chandeliers. It seriously looks like something straight off of a Pinterest board, and I totally love it.

Check it out here: Beaulieu Gardens

10. Atlanta History Center (Atlanta, Georgia)

A venue that is probably not on your radar, but definitely on mine. This history Center is housed in a gorgeous old Georgian style mansion, complete with luscious greenery, ample garden spaces, gorgeous stairs leading right in and out of more gorgeous spaces, and a gorgeous indoor ballroom. Basically this venue embodies everything that I picture when I think of a southern wedding and I think that is why I am so drawn to it. I also love this venue because it is old, and traditional, it also is filled with the most photogenic landscapes and wedding portraits here would be so gorgeous! It totally looks like a venue straight out of a magazine, or something you would see in Europe.

Check it out here: Atlanta History Center

11. Bear Flag Farms (Winters, California)

A venue in California that includes a freaking ferris wheel. Sign me up right now! It is also covered in lavender fields, so if anyone needs me I will be moving across the county because this venue basically screams romance. An outdoor only venue, that is absolutely breath taking. Seriously the pictures on their websites with the gorgeous tents in the middle of the lavender fields, the lush greenery, and the vineyard. Oh this is something that is out of a straight dream, and was a rather easy choice for putting on my list.

Check it out here: Bear Flag Farms

12. Calamigos Ranch (Malibu, California)

This venue is gorgeous, and here is my main reason why. They literally have a ferris wheel at this venue on the property. Honestly that was the selling point for me, and the first image I actually saw of this venue. I know so did Bear Flag Farms but just wait. I then went to their website and HOLY GORGEOUS this venue is literally to die for. It is covered in lush greenery, with the prettiest willow trees filled with twinkly lights. Like something out of a romance movie is you ask me. The "indoor" space is also breathtaking. This is basically a venue of dreams, and exactly what I would expect from a venue in Malibu. I know I have said at least 10 of these venues were near the top of my list. But seriously when they look like this how can I not say that?

Check it out here: Calamigos Ranch

13. Pippin Hill (North Garden, Virginia)

This venue is basically the perfect high end Pinterest Barn brought to life. Seriously this venue is gorgeous, if someone could replicate it here in Indiana I would greatly appreciate it. This venue came to me through a photographer I follow who shoots there on the regular, and I just fell in love with it. The perfect mix of rustic yet classic, it is a timeless venue that is basically what photographer dreams are made of. Between the gorgeous barn, the amazing indoor space, the land this venue sits on, and the millions of possibilities for photo locations it definitely is high up on my list.

Check it out here: Pippin Hill

14. Blacksmith Shop at the Yards (Albuquerque, New Mexico)

This venue is either at the top of my list, or second. It is such a strong contender with Haiku Mill in Hawaii. When I probably said that however it threw everyone off because they could not be more opposite. Haiku Mill is lush and full of greenery while the Blacksmith Shop at the Yards is urban, and industrial which is why I am obsessed with it. It is no secret I love urban/industrial venues, and wish we had more in Fort Wayne. So when I stumbled upon this venue I knew it had to be on my list because it is what urban dreams are made of. Those blue and green windows are incredible, the space between the buildings is to die for, and I need this venue to be one I am shooting at asap!

Check it out here: Blacksmith Shop at the Yards

15. The Ruins at Kellum Valley Farm (Cleveland, Georgia)

This venue is basically the best of the best because it combines a little bit of urban with a whole lot of nature, meaning it very easily comes close to the top of my list. A completely outdoor wedding in the middle of rural Georgia, that was built all around the remains of a dormitory built in the early 1920s. This venue is considered a historical venue which I absolutely love, and I love the history of it and the fact that there is just so much more to this venue, then it is a pretty venue. They also have a gorgeous Georgian style mansion for you to get ready in, so basically a dream venue all around.

Check it out here: The Ruins at Kellum Valley Farm

I am willing to offer a seriously hefty discount to anyone who makes one of my 15 venue dreams come true! So definitely send them my way.

All that aside, I bet you are probably as obsessed with at least a few of these places as much as I am because they are all incredibly gorgeous. I will definitely be taking you guys along for the ride as I hopefully cross a few of these off within the next year!


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