Mormon Temple, La Jolla

LDS temple christmas

You cannot miss the Mormon Temple when you drive on I-5 between San Diego and Los Angeles. The white towers ominously rise next to the freeway, luring curious visitors. I have passed this sight many times, wondering about this mysterious building.

On a recent trip, I decided to take the short detour to investigate. We walked around the ground for a few minutes, when a friendly missionary holding a folder approached us. We quickly found out that we could not enter the temple, but he had pictures showing us the intricate details and the lavish decorations of some of the rooms. The man explained some of the details of the Mormon faith and even succeeded in portraying the LDS faith in a positive light, without pushing his belief onto us.

The atmosphere was quiet and relaxing and upon our departure he reminded us to come back and take some photographs of the Christmas lights later that day. We strolled around the grounds a little longer and came back for the lights, as he suggested.

Since you cannot enter the temple, it is not a major destination for photography, but it is worth the quick stop, especially when the light is good and you have no other plans or want to take a break.

How to get there

From I-5 northbound, take exit 28A to Nobel Drive. Turn right on Nobel Drive, then right again on Lebon Drive and right on Charmant Drive. This will get you in front of the Temple. You can park on the street or drive through the gates to the temple parking lot.

From I-5 southbound, take exit 28 to La Jolla Village Drive. Turn left on La Jolla Village Drive, then right on Lebon Drive and right on Charmant Drive.

GPS position

32°51’57.54″N 117°13’42.26″W

How to photograph the Mormon Temple

Stained Windows

Stained Windows

There are not many tips you need for this location. You can only photograph the temple from the outside and even here, you will likely find out that the area near the gate is simply the best location for photos of the temple. In the first picture, I used a wide-angle lens to fit the foreground into my image. The temple thus appears smaller and further away reducing its significance.

Photographing from a closer point of view requires that you point your camera up. The resulting converging vertical lines cause very unnatural distortions that you need to correct in your image editor. Leave some cropping space above your subject to make correcting the distortions easier. If this simply is not an option, you can also enlarge the canvas of your picture before the correction and then crop the image back down to size.

Mormon Temple Walkway

Mormon Temple Walkway

The temple will look good at night too, even without Christmas decoration. Night photography has the added advantage that other visitors will not be in your way. People moving at a normal pace will become too fast for the camera to see and thus invisible, as long as they do not stop.

When we finished our nightly shots, I saw our missionary still roaming the grounds with the same welcoming smile and easy going attitude. After a blizzard kept us from the temple in Salt Lake City last year, I am glad I decided to finally check out this one.

Best Time of the Day and Best Season

The Christmas decorations add more interest to your night shots. Otherwise, I would recommend mornings over evenings, since you cannot photograph the temple from the west side.

Time required

Just 15 minutes should be sufficient.


  • Wide-angle lens
  • Graduated ND filter
  • Tripod (HDR and Night shots)


There are no fees to visit the garden surrounding the temple. You cannot go inside the temple.

Close Locations

Useful Resources

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  1. Posted 2011/02/23 at 16:11 | Permalink

    That top photo is gorgeous.

  2. Posted 2011/02/24 at 03:57 | Permalink

    We have a Mormon Temple in the greater Phoenix area, too…in Mesa. They have elaborate Christmas lights also. That photo of the walkway looks like it’s from a fantasyland.

  3. Posted 2011/02/26 at 06:53 | Permalink

    Very cool, Andre. Although I am an agnostic, I have many Mormon friends, and I have been inside a temple (before it was dedicated and thus sealed from non-believers). Beautiful work, employing many craftsman. Glad you made this detour and applied your talents.

  4. Posted 2011/03/13 at 12:56 | Permalink

    Magnificent temple, very impressive. Seeing the outside, I’m very curious about the inside decoration. Unfortunately it’s sealed for non-mormons.

  5. Nancy Beck
    Posted 2011/12/14 at 04:30 | Permalink

    I’ve taken some magnificent pictures of the temple against a foggy background at night. And I’ve taken night pictures with the white temple against a black sky. It’s simply a magnificent structure — well worth visiting any time of the year. The flowers are well groomed and lovely. All are welcome to come and feel the peace of the grounds.

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