The State College region is home to quintessential Pennsylvania landscapes and quaint pockets of charm perfect for your photo shoot session. Among the ridge-and-valley landscape of the Appalachian Mountains, you can find wooded mountain sides, rolling hills, streams, lakes, and grassy meadows. We also have many beautifully cultivated areas, such as the varied architecture and landscaping on the Penn State campus and 19th- and early 20th-century charm of downtown Bellefonte. Here are a few of my personal favorite locations to shoot photos.
Best Sunset Scenery
Harvest Fields in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania
There is no place that I have found with more dramatic scenes or more versatility than Harvest Fields in Boalsburg Pennsylvania. Whether cloudy or sunny, the view over Boalsburg is absolutely stunning. Harvest Fields features a pond, wooded areas and trails, and lots of rolling hills and grassy fields. I like to start my sessions in the woods just before golden hour and wrap them up in the big open fields with the sun setting behind my subjects.
Most Versatile Location
The Penn State Arboretum and its botanical gardens provide endless opportunities for photos. It’s a truly magical place, full of wonder from corner to corner. I highly recommend scoping out the area near to the time of the session since the gardens change constantly throughout the seasons. With flowers and trees constantly blooming and colors changing, you never know what you are going to get—which is part of the fun of having this incredible space at our fingertips. Start in the pollinator garden, then work your way through the rose garden and bamboo until you find your way to the fields behind the Arboretum for a striking view of the setting sun.
Best Sunrise Location
Bernel Road Park (AKA “Airport Park”)
The relatively new Bernel Road Park features winding manicured paths as well as endless fields of tall grasses and wildflowers. If you’re an early bird, I highly recommend taking advantage of the gorgeous light in the morning golden hour, with the sun rising over Bald Eagle Mountain ridge. Bernel Road Park is perched atop a cluster of small hills, giving you plenty of sky and views in all directions. Thanks to the paved walking path and grassy disc golf course, there are plenty of trees and hollowed paths for photo sessions later in the day.
The Airport Park moniker is derived from the nearby University Park Airport, which is close enough to watch takeoffs and landings, and park designers added a small-scale runway and air control tower for kids in the playground.
For the “Outdoorsy”
Lake Perez, Stone Valley Recreation Area
Stone Valley Recreation Area is about half an hour from downtown State College and worth the drive for a quiet, serene setting. It’s one of my favorite places in the region. The 72-acre Lake Perez offers a gorgeous sunset view surrounded by 20 miles of wooded trails and a shallow stream. (Don’t forget the bug spray.)
Most Unexpected Gem
Tom Tudek Memorial Park is a local photographer’s favorite for good reason. It’s conveniently located right in the middle of State College near the intersection of Atherton Street and Blue Course Drive. There are loads of lush greenery as well and big fields, a butterfly garden, and even a horse stable. It makes for a uniquely wonderful location to take photos year around.
Be sure to take some carrots and apples for the gentle horses if you need an extra incentive to get the animal lover in your life excited about the shoot.
Best Midday shoot options
Hintz Alumni Center, Penn State University and Downtown State College
The Penn State Duck Pond at the Hintz Alumni Center and State College’s downtown are both great options if you plan to shoot in midday sun. Buildings block out much of the harsh light to allow for beautifully lit images at any hour of the day.
In addition to the finely preserved architecture, you can get a wide variety of backgrounds at the duck pond with the gazebo, secret garden, and Alumni Center garden all in very close proximity.
If you’d like a more urban vibe, head to Downtown State College. Starting at the Corner Room, you can head to the many beautiful murals or walk down Calder Way to get a more industrial vibe.
Pines at the Boalsburg Military Museum
When all the foliage has fallen but photos need to be scheduled, the best spot to take them is at the pines in front of the Boalsburg Military Museum. The pines provide a beautiful background for photos all year around but they are especially appreciated in the cold winter months when all the other locations are looking drab and lifeless.
Beach Lover’s Delight
Sayers Dam in Bald Eagle State Park
Bald Eagle State Park features one of the largest lakes (Foster Joseph Sayers Reservoir) in the region and many kinds of shorelines. On the north shore, you have a man-made sand beach, perfect for catching sunsets over the lake. Both the north and southern shores feature wooded public access points with great lake views in many directions.
Double up on settings by strolling some of the wide, flat, grassy trails on the northern side of the lake.
Downtown Bellefonte & Talleyrand
Downtown Bellefonte features Victorian- and later-era architecture, with many facades beautifully restored and maintained. Some couples like to stroll up West High and Allegheny streets, where classical architecture towers above you on either side.
Across the stream from the central downtown district is Talleyrand Park, a magnificently manicured 3.5-acre public park situated at the convergence of Spring Creek and Big Spring Run and nestled up against the restored Match Factory, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. At Talleyrand Park you will find all sorts of seasonal blooms, big weeping willows, butterfly gardens, sculptures, and more.
These are just a few of the many beautiful locations to shoot in State College and Centre County. There are many more gems out there, and I would love to hear your ideas and secret spots!