Touring Union Station with the Los Angeles Conservancy & the LADIG

This last Saturday I participated in a special photo tour of downtown Los Angeles’ Union Station, one of the great art deco landmarks in Los Angeles architecture. The tour of the train station was organized by the Los Angeles Digital Imaging Group with the help of the Los Angeles Conservancy. The LA Conservancy is an organization dedicated to the preservation of old architecture in Los Angeles and they lead a number of tours throughout the city. They made special arrangements for the LADIG to visit some areas not normally open to the public and designed a tour to accommodate   the visual orientation of the participants.


LA Union Station Entrance

The main entrance to Union Station has many classic art deco features



Tours like this are a great way to get to know some of the more picturesque areas of the city and you’ll be introduced to many things that you would not discover on your own. The tour guide was a docent for the Los Angeles Conservancy and their normal orientation is historical and it was hard for them to appreciate the photographers visual interests. At various moments we all felt a little rushed to move on to the next area of interest. I consider this trip a scouting mission and I definitely will return on my own to re-visit some of the areas where I felt I needed a little more time to properly explore…


Grand Hall

One of the off-limits areas we were allowed to explore



The Union Train Station is a wonderful combination of art deco and southwest design elements – lighting fixtures and signage most clearly art deco but the wood beam ceilings and tile designs are all clearly influenced by southwest style. Most areas of interest are easily photographed with available light, though in some cases high ISO settings were necessary because tripods were not allowed. I used my SteadePod a couple of times when I wanted to shoot some HDR and I needed some level of fixity – this little “string tripod” is very handy for exposures up to 1/4 second and it takes up almost no space. Its perfect for those situations where tripods are not allowed (think museums and such…)


Information Kiosk

I took 3 exposures with the SteadePod for this HDR shot



There are many different environments within the overall complex and the quality of light was always changing. A combination of old and new sections exhibited unique approaches to lighting, often incorporating natural daylight with expansive windows. The three styles of architectural lighting were on display in different combinations and there were a number of examples of “ambient luminescence” combined with the “play of brilliants.”


Travel Plaza Mural

The large foyer of the Travel Plaza east entrance from the parking garage




Glass Ceiling

Skylights are used very effectively for natural lighting



We also got a chance to visit the “Harvey House” an old, high style restaurant that is now closed to the public. Private parties are occasionally held in what was once a very swank night spot downtown. For the most part, this section of the station grounds is left undisturbed. There are some amazing features in this place – a large serving counter and secluded bar off to the side of the main room. Colorful tile is splashed throughout with stylish detail everywhere…


Harvey House Main Room

The Harvey House main room is very elegant with a very tall vaulted ceiling


Even the restrooms are worthy of attention…


Mens Room

The Men's room seems to be designed to wake up sleepy patrons



I highly recommend going on one of the LA Conservancies tours – especially the tour of Los Angeles Union Station. The cost is very reasonable (normal fee for the general public is $10) and well worth having the guidance and expertise of the docent to lead you through the areas of interest. Union Station is full of great photographic possibilities and I plan on returning to my favorite spots soon.

See some more images captured on the tour on my Flicker page: