Friday, July 28, 2017

California Dreamin' - Photo Shoot

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California Dreamin'

I made a trip out to California recently to visit friends and opted to travel by train due to the low cost ($170 round trip from El Paso). I would be out there for a full week but only had one social obligation, which meant I would have plenty of free time to organize some photo shoots while I was out there.

Traveling by train instead of by car, meant however, that I was limited to how much photography equipment I could bring along. I had to travel light, and that mean being extremely selective about the gear I would be bringing and it all had to fit into my Sony camera bag.

Model: Sierra. Location: Salton Sea, California. Camera: Sony A7

My “go-to” camera for any important shoots is the Sony A7RII, that, along with my A99 and A7II are always at the top of my list, however, I could only bring one “full size” body on this trip, so the A7RII got the nod. I won’t be getting into the specs but let’s just say it’s a world class, professional mirrorless camera, on par with any other full-frame available today and let’s leave it at that.
I would be shooting all my video on this trip in 4K so that meant bringing my AX33 and RX100 IV. The AS100 Action Cam is also small and compact, all three of these cameras fit easily into my camera bag and didn’t take up much space, even collectively.

The four lenses I chose to bring I chose for their versatility and quality. The Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 is probably my best portrait lens, in fact, it can hold its own against any comparable portrait lens on the market. The other three lenses are outstanding as well and I threw them in my bag due to their versatility. Sony Zeiss 16-35mm f/4, Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 and Sony G 70-200mm f/4. With these three lenses I can cover any focal range I might need from 16mm all the way up to 200mm. Even at f/4 all three lenses produce outstanding bokeh and subject separation.
I have been highly impressed with the Sony VCT-VPR1 tripod. It includes a remote control that plugs into your Sony cameras via multi cable and can control your shutter button and power zoom. It’s got a smooth head and it’s been my “go-to” tripod ever since I purchased it a couple month ago. The Manfrotto mini tripod is surprisingly sturdy for a small, compact, desktop-type tripod. I use it mostly with my compact cameras.

The final items in my camera bag were my external flashes. Normally, I prefer to use my Godox TT685’s with the Godox trigger but since I could not bring soft boxes and extra light stands, I opted for my Sony HVL20 and HVL32. They work well together with the HVL20 on my camera and the HVL32 off camera as a slave. Granted, this is not the ideal flash lighting set-up but my options were limited due to having to travel light.

I was fortunate enough to connect with two outstanding models in Kaylan and Sierra. Kaylan was a total amateur, in fact, the shoot we did together was her very first. She is gorgeous, tall, with a magnetic smile and is a one in a million natural beauty with an amicable personality to match. Sierra is a talented make-up artist and occasionally does some modeling. Both were a real pleasure to work with.

Temperatures were in the low to mid 120’s in the Coachella Valley that week. You read that right 120 degrees! So when I was discussing a photo shoot with Kaylan, I thought it might be nice to head to the beach to get away from the scorching temperatures and well, I was in California, why not shoot at the beach? Always one to kill two birds with one stone, I arranged to meet up with my lifelong friends, Reno and his wife Michelle. Reno and Michelle live near Santa Monica and Malibu beaches, minutes from where Kaylan and I would be shooting, the plan was to shoot near Santa Monica pier, take a short break, meet up and say hello to Reno and Michelle, then shoot at sunset in front of their condo at Malibu beach.

Fate intervened in our plans, but in a good way. Reno is the proud owner of a black, convertible Audi R8 V10 sports car. Long story short, the sky was overcast, so a sunset shoot was out of the question, however, Reno let us shoot with, and drive his Audi R8! This car is a dream, Kaylan and I really enjoyed getting to shoot with an amazing car like that, add the fact that Kaylan is super hot, it was a winning combination.

It’s a long, two hour drive back to the Coachella Valley from West Los Angeles, but Kaylan and I got to know each other well, we enjoyed working together and although we did not get to shoot again that week that I was out there, we do have tentative plans to shoot together again at some point in the future. She is really beautiful and has the potential to become a successful model should she ever choose to pursue it.

My second model, Sierra, and I would not have to option of shooting outside of the Coachella Valley, so the only options would be to shoot early in the morning and/or indoors. Much to her credit, Sierra was open to doing a sunrise photo shoot out at the Salton Sea. This meant, of course, waking up early enough so that she could do her hair and make-up and make the 45 minute drive to the location. I think she must have woken up around 3am to meet me where I was staying at 4:30am. A big thanks to Sierra for her efforts and I think the resulting images were well worth it.

We headed back to my friend Matt’s house for another hour or two of indoor shoots and overall I would say we got some great images but most importantly we had a fun time (whish is always my number one priority) and I was happy to make a couple of fantastic (and beautiful) new friends.
Special thanks to Matt for letting me crash and shoot at his house and to Reno again for letting us shoot and drive his Audi R8.

Enjoy the images everyone!

To see more of Sierra follow her on Instagram @

You can purchase any of the equipment mentioned in this post at the following links:

Sony LCSBP3 DSLR System Backpack with Laptop Storage -
Sony VCT-VPR1 Compact Remote Control Tripod -
Sony HVLF20M Flash -
Sony HVLF32M Flash -
Sony AX33 4K Video Camera -
Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Lens -
Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS Lens -
Sony 24-70mm f/4 Vario-Tessar T FE OSS Lens -
Sony 16-35mm Vario-Tessar T FE F4 ZA OSS Lens -
Sony A7RII Full Frame Camera -
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV -
Sony AS100 Action Cam -
Sony RMLVR2 Live View Remote -
Manfrotto MTPIXI-RD PIXI Mini Tripod -