Channel Islands National Park 

About Channel Islands National Park 

The island is a United States national park comprised of five of the eight Channel Islands off the Pacific Ocean coast in California. Although the islands are close to the shore of densely populated Southern California, their isolation has left them relatively undeveloped. We traveled to Santa Cruz Island to photograph. You can go to the PARK WEBSITE to pick your island and check for closures.

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A Think Tank Camera Back Pack is a must for this journey.

We traveled to this photography location several years ago.  You should plan on hiking a lot at this photography spot. The boat will drop you off; then, you are off for about 4 hours to explore and take photos. You might see some dolphin friends swimming with you on the boat ride.  That was the best part. It was as if they all wanted to play as they cruised alongside the boat.

Five islands comprise the Channel Islands, including San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara. These idyllic gems are hidden just off the coast of Southern California. Island Packers Takes you to the island.  They depart from Ventura and Oxnard. DETAILS BELOW

Ventura Beach Boardwalk. fishing pier in the sunset on the way to Channel Island National Park.


If you’re traveling from outside the area, like we did, and must be on the boat early, we suggest staying in a hotel near the pier. This will allow you to take stunning sunset photographs at this incredible location. We highly recommend putting this on your list of things to do while you explore the Channel Island National Park area.

The photography gods love us. We were only here once, and the skies were on fire with crazy-good colors, making for dynamic photography.



Lens: Wide Angle, but you may find a bird or two. Not much wildlife here.

Gear List at a Glance: Circular polarizing filter, neutral density filter, tripod, shutter release, wide-angle lens.

When to Go:  The park is open all year. We would go based on weather conditions. It is all about hiking on this trip.


If you have moving subjects, you will want to shoot in shutter priority to assure your shutter speed is high enough to have your subject in sharp focus. For people walking by, approximately 1/250th of a second is appropriate, and adjust your ISO accordingly. If they are running fast, increase your shutter speed to about 1/500th of a second. A fast bird flying by would be shot at about 1/1000th of a second. If it’s a bright sunny day, go as high as  1/1200th of a second. Remember, the higher your shutter speed; the less light comes into the camera. It should not be an issue outside during daytime hours. For More Details, see our Shutter Priority Page.


You have moving waters here. You can do your long-exposure running and milky water shots. You will have to use a tripod for this effect. Your settings will vary depending on the lighting and your neutral density filter. You will shoot in manual mode for the milky waters. ISO is always 100 or as low as your camera will allow. The aperture is f22. Your shutter speed will be the only variable depending on the light. Roll your shutter speed until your meter reads zero. (In the center)  Use your shutter release or your 2-second timer to prevent camera movement when exposing. You will want at least a 2-second exposure for milky water. If you don’t have a neutral density filter, you may not get more than 1/15th of a second in the sun. 

If you don’t have a neutral density filter, you can buy one here. We highly suggest you do not go anywhere without one. It makes all the difference between lifeless images and outstanding, dynamic images.


Aperture Priority is often used to blur the background of your images and control your depth of field (how much from the subject to the background is in focus). For more information on this – see our Aperture page 


The higher you set it, the more light comes in when exposing an image. The higher the number, the more digital noise, so if possible, stay below 800. If you need to go higher to get the shot, you can use Topaz Denoise to filter out the digital noise later.

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Entrance Fees:  Good news! None.

The park is open all year. However, the visitor centers in Ventura and Santa Barbara are closed on Thanksgiving and December 25th.

The Robert J. Lagomarsino Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center is open daily from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm.

The Outdoors Santa Barbara Visitor Center is open daily from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.

You must take a boat or plane over to the island. Reserve in advance! When we got there, people were turned away.

For departures out of Ventura and Channel Islands (Oxnard) Harbors, contact:

Island Packers
1691 Spinnaker Dr.
Ventura, CA 93001  –  (805) 642-1393 –
Channel Islands Aviation
305 Durley Avenue
Camarillo, CA 93010  –  (805) 987-1301



 Primitive camping is available year-round on all five islands in the Channel Islands National Park in National Park Service-managed campgrounds. Be sure to get all of your camping details before going here.  Read about camping here.

Year-round camping opportunities are readily available on all five islands within Channel Islands National Park, offering a variety of experiences for visitors. Each island boasts a unique and established campground: above the tranquil Landing Cove on Santa Barbara, on the secluded east islet of Anacapa, nestled in Scorpion Canyon on Santa Cruz, at scenic Water Canyon on Santa Rosa, and high above the picturesque Cuyler Harbor on San Miguel. Due to conservation efforts, camping is prohibited on The Nature Conservancy’s western 76% of Santa Cruz Island. For those seeking a more rugged experience, limited backcountry camping can be found on the Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands. Please consult the Backcountry Camping guide for further details and regulations.

Where to camp

Do you want us to send our photography and ghost-hunting friends to your campground to stay during their ghost-hunting trip? Put your campground information here. We will put a picture of your establishment, the website link, the phone number, and your information on your campground to make it easy for our photographers and ghost hunters to find you. They are good at getting there in the dark.

Would you like to be featured in an article as a place to stay while doing photography or ghost hunting? If so, please send us an email. You will be surprised at how affordable our prices can be.



None, zero. You can buy food on the boat ride over. Make sure you bring food and water in your backpack. These are hiking islands. There are no commercial entities out here. Make sure you bring your snacks and plenty of water to stay hydrated.

The best hotels while doing photography


Holiday Inn Express is our pick for a Ventura hotel with complimentary breakfast and an outdoor pool. We like this location because it is near the pier, as pictured above, and the boat dock. You can take lots of images at the marina park with the pier.   The hotel is located in the heart of Ventura, within one mi (2 km) of Ventura Harbor and Olivas Adobe Historical Park. McGrath State Beach is 1.9 mi (3 km) away.
Hotel Features—This hotel features an outdoor pool, a fitness center, and self-parking. Buffet breakfast is complimentary. Dry cleaning, laundry facilities, and complimentary newspapers are available onsite.


Add your hotel here!

Do you want us to send our photography and ghost hunting friends to your hotel for their photography or ghost hunting trip? Put your hotel information here. We will put pictures of your hotel, the website link, the phone number and your information on your hotel.

Would you like to be a featured hotel like this article or this one?  Please send us an email.  You will be surprised at how affordable our prices can be.



Check out the weather

Don’t forget that you can use a rain sleeve on your camera if it is raining. If it is bright and sunny, you want to use a low ISO such as 100.

If you are doing photography along with your ghost hunting on cloudy days, you can do running water or waterfall photography to avoid the glaring sun. You can also use an ND filter to get a long exposure for dramatic effects, even in the sunshine. If you ghost hunt indoors in abandoned places, be careful!

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