The Mission Inn – Riverside California – Part I

Mission Inn Riverside California looking down at the rotundaCanon 5D Mark III, 17-40mm f/4L USM at 17mm, f/16 for 6s at ISO 100


The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa is located in the heart of downtown Riverside California. It is a massive structure comprised of 4 floors of hotel rooms, multiple restaurants, bars and patios, and a beautiful reception area. The hotel has hosted numerous presidents and celebrities and most notably, Pat and Richard Nixon were married and Nancy and Ronald Reagan honeymooned at the Mission Inn. The Mission Inn is also known for the Festival of Lights when the entire building is decorated with hundreds of animated figures and millions of lights during Christmas.Part II of this series can be found here

How to get this type of shot

The shot was made shortly before sunset where the tiles of the rotunda were bathed in golden light from the west facing windows and doors. I also was drawn to the spiral stair case and the repeating patterns created by the columns and archways.

I used my 17-40mm at its widest focal length of 17mm to fit as much of the scene as I could into the composition. Since I wanted everything in focus, I used an f-stop of f/16. Due to the narrow aperture and the resulting slow shutter speed, a tripod was necessary for this shot. This was perhaps the most difficult aspect in making this image.

Making an effective composition required me to shoot downwards into the rotunda, so I had to shorten the two front legs of my tripod and leave the last leg which extended backwards all the way to pitch the tripod forward. Positioning the tripod this way also cleared the 3 foot fence that was in front of me.

Mission Inn Riverside California courtyard at sunsetCanon 5D Mark III, 17-40mm f/4L USM at 19mm, f/11 for 1.6s at ISO 100

The second shot was much more straight forward and was taken at sunset. I used the same Canon 17-40mm this time zoomed into 19mm and an aperture of f/11 to get good depth-of-field without sacrificing softness due to diffraction. Because most of the lower portion of the building was in shade, I had to use a 3-stop graduated ND filter to balance the lower portion of the building and the upper parts and the sky which were receiving light from the setting sun. Due to how the shadows and light were falling, I had to position the filter with the graduation slanted in the 10 o’clock to 4 o’clock position.


The location of the rotunda in the north west corner of the hotel (Coordinates: 33.983776,-117.373035)

The location of the rear patio at the Mission Inn (Coordinates: 33.983297,-117.372576)


13 thoughts on “The Mission Inn – Riverside California – Part I

  1. Beautiful work again, Mark. Appreciate you doing the extra work by including the location coordinates too.
    What do you primarily do your post processing work in?

    • Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment Distan. My workflow is RAW -> LR -> PS (Nik software plugins). I do all the basic adjustments in LR then import as a smart object into PS to use the Nik plugins. For the Nik workflow it is Dfine -> Viveza -> Colorfex pro (Tonal contrast, smart contrast, brilliance and warmth, detail extractor). Hope this helps.

  2. Hi Mark,

    Thank you for being generous in sharing your techniques and locations. Great shots throughout your blog. I was wondering if you need a special permission to shoot in this hotel, or anyone can just come and shoot with their tripod? Thanks!

    • Aswin,

      No special permission was needed since it was in an outdoor location in the hotel with little foot traffic. I would imagine that you may need permission if you were to set up inside the hotel in a high traffic area.


      • Thanks for getting back to me Mark. I think I’ll stay around the area with light foot traffic. It’s great that the awesome area of the hotel is an outdoor location. Appreciate your input here, Mark! And keep up the great work, I really enjoy your blog.

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