Meet Larry Lewis. By profession he is an architect and by love of nature, he is an accomplished photographer. Perhaps there is not much difference between architect and photographer: both are creative pursuits that seek to bring order to their surroundings and to capture the beauty of a view. And perhaps it is both the disciplines of photography and architecture that underscore Larry’s love of the world around him, especially the outdoors. We asked Larry what views he likes most in Visalia whether it is the view of a building or of his dinner plate. Here is a look at Visalia through Larry’s lens.

Q: You are a longtime resident of Visalia and have seen the city grow. What buildings do you think play tribute to what Visalia is all about?

Obviously, the iconic Fox Theater, which brings back memories of going to Saturday matinees as a young kid, and the Bank of Sierra building (once known as the Bank of Italy), which still retains its elegant details. Another building which is beginning new life in downtown is the old courthouse annex which has become the Darling Hotel. One building that really fascinates me is the downtown post office – the art deco details, the outdoor lighting fixtures that are pieces of art. You won’t see that attention to detail anymore in new buildings, particularly in a new post office.

Q: Some historic buildings, like the recently remodeled County annex, have been repurposed and given new life, rather than being torn down. What does that say about the city and how does that contribute to the overall vibe of the city?

Renovation of these historic buildings is what keeps downtown vibrant and special. It says a lot about our city, that we care about and value our architecture. That wasn’t always the case. But now we are seeing restoration of buildings along Main St to the east in the brewery district which is keeping the flavor our town as new development continues. It is very refreshing and exciting to see a new generation of young people taking an active role in the development of the city, like the developers of the Darling Hotel. People come from all over the state to study why our downtown is and has remained so vibrant. They study our efforts and try to copy what we have done to be successful.

Q: As a photographer, you capture a view that conveys a feeling: maybe a moody view of the foothills or a vibrant view of the soaring Sierra Nevada mountains. What would a photo of Visalia look like?

A snapshot of Visalia would show excitement, it should show how the residents care about Visalia. Locals say hello to you when you pass on the sidewalk and look you in the eye. It still has a nice, hometown feel even though it has grown in population from 12,000 when I got here to about 140,000 people now. I would want to capture that feeling in a photograph.

Q: I’ve seen your social media accounts. You are a pretty popular guy. Where do you like to meet up with friends for a fun Saturday night out?

Anywhere downtown. I would go to the Sequoia Symphony, take a walk along Main Street. Stop in at Colima Mexican Restaurant for a bite to eat. I love the patio at the Vintage Press on a warm summer evening. Actually, any of the patios along Main Street, where you can linger over a meal and watch people going past. I enjoy celebrating a friend's birthday with a cigar on the back patio at Brewbaker's Brewing Company (He designed the renovation that made the historic building into the pub it is today.)

I think what also attracts people to Visalia is what we have in the county – the agriculture, the National Parks and Forests, Balch Park. These places help to make us a dynamic town. Visitors on their way to the parks eat and sleep in town and it becomes a mutual relationship.

Q: How about a dinner out with the family?

I would go to any restaurant on Main St. Mooney Blvd is nice too but downtown is a pleasure, a real joy. I like variety so it is hard to pick a favorite. I like Mexican food or Italian and like Little Italy. Pita Kabob (which he also designed) is one of my all-time favorites with its relaxed vibe and fantastic food.

Q: You take amazing photos of the natural beauty that surrounds Visalia, from the foothills to our local national parks: Sequoia and Kings Canyon. Where are your favorite place to take photos? 

Tulare County! So much beauty throughout the county. I feel fortunate to live here and have all of these natural resources in my backyard. This is my 60th year of hiking in the back country of the Sierras. I began hiking in 1960 and have been from Mt Whitney to Crescent Meadow. This the 2nd year that my grandkids have joined me in the high country. And that is really special. I would not have married my wife if she were not a backpacker! And, more importantly, she would not have married me if I wasn't!

Q: Most photographers talk about the golden hour as being the best time of day to shoot. What time of day is best to take photos in Sequoia National Park?

Any time of the day - or night - is the best time! I have taken some beautiful starlight photos - I've been at the right place at the right time. In the middle of the day I also take some of my best photographs. I have spent time composing my shots when I have a photo in mind, sometimes planning a year or more in advance for the right spot and conditions. 

But then when opportunity strikes, sometimes there is no planning at all. Just being in the right place at the right time will result in my best photos. Yokohl Valley is a super place to take pictures (like the one below.) Over the years, I have learned from my lousy photos, so that now I know what I need to do to get photos that I want and that I am happy with. Also, I have listened to the advice of other great photographers on how to get great shots. Once in a while, it pays off! 

As a photographer, you really begin to see the beauty that surrounds you. And, the more you look the more you see.

The Instagram Traveler
Architectural Highlights of Visalia
Pita Kabob Gastropub
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