Lonely Planet Writer

On the trail of real-life filming locations with this passionate photographer

Photographer and cinephile Steve Peterson combines his love of travel with his love of film. On Instagram, he shows fans where cities and celluloid meet by juxtaposing famous film and TV scenes with the filming locations as they exist today. From TV shows like Stranger Things, Parks and Recreation and Lost to movie classics such as Forrest Gump, Back to the Future and Home Alone, Peterson takes moments from the big screen and brilliantly lines them up with their real life locations.

Photographer Steve Peterson y juxtaposes movie and TV scenes with their locations as they are today. Image by Transformers: Dark of the Moon / Steve Peterson

Peterson has been taking photos since 2001 but took a particular interest in movies in 2014 after he travelled to a Hawaii for a convention for the ABC supernatural TV show Lost. While in O’ahu, he snapped photos of the show’s filming locations and posted them online in fan forums. The reaction was so positive that Peterson was spurred on to create even more. 

“I’ve always been a huge movie nerd, and few years back I got really into photography, so this just seemed like a great way to combine my passions, plus it makes for a fun way to see the world,” Steve told Lonely Planet Travel News. “There have been a lot of interesting spots that aren’t popular tourist locations that we would never have found if not for movies.”

When Peterson travels with his wife they research the area to see what has been filmed there. It can require a bit of detective work to track down spots especially with changing cityscapes so Peterson will visit websites dedicated to filming locations or request tips on Reddit’s city guides.

After I get all the addresses I’ll go to Google Maps and look them up and make sure they still look the same or even exist (it’s sad how many buildings and houses from older classic films have been demolished),” he said. “Once they’re verified I’ll pin them to the map then start planning a route and making spreadsheets to keep track of everything.”

One of Peterson’s favourite places to visit so far has been Hawaii. “All of Hawaii is just gorgeous,” he said. “Lost is my absolute favourite [TV show] and what got me started on this hobby, plus it was my first trip with my wife when we first started dating so it holds a special place in my heart. As for individual spots, Kualoa Ranch in Hawaii is just a magical place.”

Jackson, Georgia which stands in for the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana in Netflix’s Stranger Things was another highlight for Peterson. The school where all the kids attend is actually filmed in a real high school, (Patrick Henry High School in Stockbridge) and when Peterson visited the area, there were hints of Hawkins at play.

“The school actually still had ‘Hawkins Middle School’ painted on the gym,” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a location that was still in production and dressed for the show. Plus it was full of other fans running around finding spots where they filmed and taking pictures. The whole visit just had a great vibe.”

Next on Peterson’s travel list is Seattle, where he hopes to capture images from the David Lynch’s legendary TV show Twin Peaks. Top of his wish list, however, is New Zealand to take in the cinematic scenery showcased by Sir Peter Jackson in his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies

To see more of Steve Peterson’s adventures, visit here.