Des Moines, the capital and largest city of Iowa, may not be the most famous photography destination, but it’s a city with its own unique charm and a wealth of picturesque locations waiting to be captured through the lens. From urban landscapes to natural beauty and cultural landmarks, this article serves as a guide for photographers looking to explore and photograph the diverse facets of Des Moines.
Downtown Des Moines
The heart of Des Moines boasts a stunning skyline, particularly along the Des Moines River. Iconic buildings like the Iowa State Capitol, the Financial Center, and the Ruan Center punctuate the cityscape, offering excellent opportunities for capturing the city’s architectural beauty. One of the best spots for skyline photography is the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park, which features unique sculptures against the backdrop of the city skyline.
The Des Moines River flows through the city, and its banks are adorned with picturesque bridges and riverwalks. The Principal Riverwalk and the bridges connecting East Village to the rest of downtown provide captivating scenes, especially during sunrise or sunset.
The East Village is a vibrant neighborhood with historic buildings, trendy boutiques, and eclectic street art. Stroll along its streets to capture the neighborhood’s unique character and artistic flair. Don’t forget to check out the famous “East Village” sign, a popular subject for urban photographers.
The East Village is home to a thriving street art scene, with colorful murals adorning building exteriors. These make for captivating backdrops for portrait and urban photography.
Gray’s Lake Park
Gray’s Lake Park, located just south of downtown, offers a serene escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. The lake, walking trails, and picturesque bridges provide plenty of opportunities for landscape and nature photography. Reflection shots on the lake’s calm waters are particularly striking.
Gray’s Lake is known for its breathtaking sunset views. The combination of the setting sun’s warm hues and the lake’s tranquility creates a magical atmosphere for photographers.
State Capitol Building
The Iowa State Capitol is an architectural masterpiece and a symbol of the state’s heritage. Its neoclassical design, complete with a golden dome, is a captivating subject for architectural photography. The surrounding Capitol grounds, with their manicured gardens and statues, also offer excellent photo opportunities.
Don’t miss the chance to explore the Capitol’s interior, where you can capture the grandeur of its rotunda, ornate chambers, and beautiful stained glass windows. Check the visitor guidelines for photography permissions inside the building.
If you’re a sports photography enthusiast, Principal Park, home to the Iowa Cubs baseball team, provides exciting action shots during games. The stadium’s architecture and the vibrant atmosphere of baseball make for dynamic photographic opportunities.
Pappajohn Sculpture Park
Located in downtown Des Moines, this sculpture park is a photographer’s paradise. Unique sculptures dot the landscape, offering intriguing focal points for your photographs. The interplay between art and nature in this park is a visual delight.
The State Historical Museum of Iowa
The State Historical Museum of Iowa is not only a treasure trove of Iowa’s history but also an excellent place for photographers interested in historical and cultural subjects. Capture artifacts, exhibits, and the museum’s architectural beauty.
Botanical Garden and Arboretum
The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is a haven of natural beauty and a fantastic location for macro and floral photography. Explore the lush greenery, colorful blooms, and serene ponds for a delightful photography experience.
The Jordan House, a historic stop on the Underground Railroad, is a beautifully preserved 19th-century home. Photographers interested in history and architecture will find it an intriguing subject. Check for tour availability and photography permissions.
Nature Reserves and Trails
Des Moines offers several nature reserves, such as Ewing Park and Brown’s Woods, that provide opportunities for wildlife and nature photography. Capture the diverse flora and fauna, especially during the changing seasons.
Des Moines, with its blend of urban sophistication and natural beauty, presents a diverse array of photographic opportunities. Whether you’re drawn to the city’s architecture, its cultural vibrancy, or the tranquility of its parks and waterways, Des Moines has something to offer every photographer seeking to capture the essence of this vibrant Midwestern city.