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In his travel photo essays, TPG Contributor (and pro photographer) Patrick T. Fallon includes tips on exploring destinations, redeeming miles, gaining elite status and improving your own photography while traveling. Between TPG posts, follow his photo work and travels on Instagram. (All photos by the author.)

If you find yourself in the Los Angeles area this Fourth of July holiday and are willing to brave some crowds, consider soaking up the sun in the Beach Cities of the South Bay, a sprawling area that begins about 15 minutes south of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and hugs the Pacific coastline. In the three cities of Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach, you’re sure to find a flurry of holiday activity.

Competitors celebrate the 4th of July by participating in the annual Iron Man on Friday, July 4, 2008 in Hermosa Beach, Calif. Competitors haul themselves, flags, and beer into the air to celebrate Independence Day and show their patriotism as part of the Iron Man competition on July 4, 2009. In the Iron Man, a Hermosa Beach 4th of July tradition for 32 years, participants must run a mile, paddle board a mile, then chug a six-pack of beer, awards are given to those who do not puke Ð and those who puke the best. © 2015 Patrick T. Fallon
The annual Iron Man is rich with colorful – though sometimes cringeworthy – photographic opportunities.

Get to Hermosa Beach early for the Iron Man — a Fourth of July tradition for about 40 years (and not to be confused with the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii). Iron Man is a fun event to attend and photograph, but be careful to protect your cameras, as it can get pretty messy!

Participants run down the beach toward the Manhattan Beach pier during the first leg of the Iron Man competition on Saturday, July 4, 2009 in Hermosa Beach, Calif. Competitors haul themselves, flags, and beer into the air to celebrate Independence Day and show their patriotism as part of the Iron Man competition. In the Iron Man, a Hermosa Beach 4th of July tradition for 32 years, participants must run a mile, paddle board a mile, then chug a six-pack of beer, awards are given to those who do not puke Ð and those who puke the best. © 2009 Patrick T. Fallon
Participants run down the beach toward the Manhattan Beach pier during the first leg of the Iron Man.

Starting at 9am sharp, participants must run a mile, paddle board a mile then drink a six-pack of beer. Awards are earned for the first man and woman to finish without, um, failing to hold their liquor.

Competitors celebrate the 4th of July by participating in the annual Iron Man on Friday, July 4, 2008 in Hermosa Beach, Calif. Competitors haul themselves, flags, and beer into the air to celebrate Independence Day and show their patriotism as part of the Iron Man competition. In the Iron Man, a Hermosa Beach 4th of July tradition for 32 years, participants must run a mile, paddle board a mile, then chug a six-pack of beer, awards are given to those who do not puke Ð and those who puke the best. © 2008 Patrick T. Fallon
Patriotism will be on fine display on Hermosa Beach.

You’ll know you’re in the right place when you get near 28th Street and The Strand (also known as the Marvin Braude Bike Trail), as a massive crowd of revelers will be gathered on the sand. Parking in the beach cities is generally awful and expensive, so riding a bike along The Strand — which runs for 22 miles between Pacific Palisades (near Santa Monica) and nearby Torrance — is a great way to move quickly and avoid the hassle. Lyft or Uber are also options to go between the beach cities, but because of the holiday weekend rush, anticipate some surge pricing.

A man drinks a can of beer during the annual Iron Man competition on Saturday, July 4, 2009 in Hermosa Beach, Calif. Competitors haul themselves, flags, and beer into the air to celebrate Independence Day and show their patriotism as part of the Iron Man competition. In the Iron Man, a Hermosa Beach 4th of July tradition for 32 years, participants must run a mile, paddle board a mile, then chug a six-pack of beer, awards are given to those who do not puke Ð and those who puke the best. © 2009 Patrick T. Fallon
Skip the craft beer for the six-pack chug; you’ll want something much lighter.

The Iron Man might seem pretty raucous, but it is unofficially well-organized. Often, whole families come to cheer on their friends and relatives.

People pose for photos before the annual Iron Man competition on Saturday, July 4, 2009 in Hermosa Beach, Calif. Competitors haul themselves, flags, and beer into the air to celebrate Independence Day and show their patriotism as part of the Iron Man competition. In the Iron Man, a Hermosa Beach 4th of July tradition for 32 years, participants must run a mile, paddle board a mile, then chug a six-pack of beer, awards are given to those who do not puke Ð and those who puke the best. © 2009 Patrick T. Fallon
It’s best to get your cute photos done before the body paint wears off.

Drinking alcohol on Los Angeles County beaches is illegal, and the Hermosa Beach Police department strictly enforces the law — except for during the Iron Man, a tradition too deeply rooted in local history to be halted.

Participants in the Hermosa Beach Iron Man pour beer over each other as they hoist flags into the air at the end of the Iron Man competition on Saturday, July 4, 2009 in Hermosa Beach, Calif. Competitors haul themselves, flags, and beer into the air to celebrate Independence Day and show their patriotism as part of the Iron Man competition. In the Iron Man, a Hermosa Beach 4th of July tradition for 32 years, participants must run a mile, paddle board a mile, then chug a six-pack of beer, awards are given to those who do not puke Ð and those who puke the best. © 2009 Patrick T. Fallon
A participant has a sacrificial beer poured over his head.

Police are on hand to make sure things are safe and that everything is cleaned up by 10am. After watching the competition, go for a swim yourself or head south to Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach or north to the Manhattan Beach Pier — which is a good spot to watch airplanes take off from the nearby airport.

Functional and fashionable  swimwear is always critical – but don't forget that sunblock!
Functional and fashionable swimwear is always critical – but don’t forget that sunblock!

I love The Standing Room for great food and beer in Hermosa Beach. In Manhattan Beach, try Brewco or go to Lemonade and get some food to take down to the beach. All of these accept credit cards, so you can use your card of choice with bonus points for restaurants — such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Participants paddle board during the second leg of the Iron Man competition
Participants paddle board during the second leg of the Iron Man competition

If you’re looking for a more enclosed, organized and family-friendly environment for the afternoon, consider the Redondo Beach Seaside Lagoon Fireworks. The Standing Room also has its original Redondo Beach to-go location nearby; I suggest the Chance burger and truffle fries, which you can order on the phone in advance and pick up on the way to the lagoon.

Fireworks over Seaside Lagoon on Friday, July 4, 2008 in Redondo Beach, Calif. © 2015 Patrick T. Fallon - All Rights Reserved, No Use Without Permission
A spray of water from this Seaside Lagoon fountain made for a cool effect in this photo.

Starting at 2pm, the event has entertainment, lifeguards on duty and a fireworks show in the evening. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children.

Fireworks over Seaside Lagoon on Friday, July 4, 2008 in Redondo Beach, Calif. © 2015 Patrick T. Fallon - All Rights Reserved, No Use Without Permission
After a long and sun drenched day, catch some fireworks over the water and relax. I used a tripod for this shot but a tree or table can work, too.

If you want to see some more Fourth of July photos, here’s a detailed guide on How To Photograph Fireworks from the Los Angeles Times for both smartphones and DSLR cameras. Otherwise, pack up your food, blankets and chairs, head to the beach, cozy up in the evening, and watch the holiday show!

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