aerial photography, aerial view, civil engineering, corporate photography

Travel to California and a big jump in speed

A few days in California

Last week, I returned from nine-days of travel and shooting in California.

The first project was for das42 and involved some corporate work, a day at the BMW racetrack and a day of portraits.

The day at the track was a blast and it was hot – close to a hundred degrees. I know people say it is a dry heat, but it is still too hot for me. I prefer cooler climes.

The second project was in the greater Los Angeles and San Diego areas for a long-term client. I was covering for another photographer whose wife is sick.


So, travel these days is a bit more of a hassle than it used to be – people in general seem more stressed, less civil and with little patience. Knowing that ahead of time, I decided to take a direct flight to LAX on Alaska Air and then drive to Palm Desert. That to me was less stressful than connecting flights with gear in tow. Plus, there is less carbon output taking one direct flight than with a connection.

Getting to my room in Palm Desert was a bit of a grind. Even though I am Diamond Level with Hilton Hotels, that did me no good when trying to check-in at 5:00 in the afternoon. Rooms were not ready because – yes – lack of help with staff and the hotel could not turn the rooms fast enough. When a man in front of me objected that his room should be ready at 5:00 in the afternoon, the staff suggested cancelling his reservation and that he book elsewhere. (just, to add insult to injury). I was a bit surprised by their attitude. Eventually, at 9:30 my room was ready and I checked-in. That was a long-tough day that started at 5:00 Eastern time (2:00 PST).

Food – The good stuff

One of the joys of location photography is memorable meals – hopefully with good crew, clients or friends. Three years ago, I spent a week in Palm Springs and had dinner with a group of photographer and producer friends at Thai Smile. Fantastic service and the food was exceptional. This time around, I met up with ace producer Peter Schnaitmann, photog friends Mark Tucker and Scott Lorenzen for a meal at Thai Smile in Rancho Mirage. (Their second location) As expected, the meal was stellar. If you find yourself in Palm Springs or Rancho Mirage, make a reservation at Thai Smile.

On to Los Angeles and San Diego

Stayed at another Hilton property while in Lakewood, Ca. My experience was one of total do-it-right attitude. Friendly front staff, excellent room – super clean and quite a few suggestions for eateries nearby.  My shoot was a civil engineering project that was bathed in beautiful morning light and incredibly well designed.  Finished up around 9:30 and headed to San Diego to shoot another engineering project. The day got a bit hot and my Fujifilm GFX cameras came close to overheating. (warning signs started popping up in the viewfinder) I found some shade, took the battery out of the camera and let it cool down. Five minutes later I was back in action.

I stayed at a Marriott property in Liberty Station near the airport. It is a bit quieter than downtown San Diego and far less tourists. The only downside is that the TownPlace properties are switching over to grab-and-go breakfasts. I prefer to start the day with a decent meal since most likely it will be the one that fuels me for the day. I’ll stay at the Hampton across the way the next time I am in San Diego. (I stayed at the Hampton last fall – stellar hotel and staff).

Plus, just across the pedestrian bridge there are a slew of excellent restaurants to choose from. Every time I have stayed at Liberty Station I head over to Oggi’s for their large Cobb salad. Attentive service and a large outdoor seating are with a five minute walk to the hotel.

One of the projects I documented in San Diego was in a pretty sketchy area – as in prostitutes strolling their wares in broad daylight and meth heads tweaking on the sidewalk. I knew this before hand and hired a photog friend of mine who has a large and quite scary looking German Shepherd as “security.” That made all the difference in the world to me – nobody bothered us during the shoot.

Scott and Timber

The Need for Speed

Recently I purchased a new M1 MacBook Pro laptop as my personal machine, slowly replacing my 2015 15″ road machine with a new 14″ beauty. What impressed me the most – besides the blazing speed – was the image transfer time from the computer to my Samsung T5 and T7  SSD drives that I use for back-up on the road. Since I am shoot primarily with the Fujifilm GFX 100s, it makes a huge difference when backing up. Speaking of backing up data. I carry the ThinkTank Pixel Pocket Rocket for my Sony Tough Cards and also, conveniently, the SSD drives fit into the card slot.

My rule on the road is: one SSD back-up on my person at all times, another in the day bag, another with a crew member and another in the camera case. Halfway through the shoot (say, a multi-day trip) SSD’s will get FedEXed to my office – that way at least another SSD is off-person and off-site.  The T7’s are fast. A couple of my editorial clients require delivery of RAW files on SSD’ s (they do their own color grading). I have not used these the SanDisk larger SSD’s but hear that they are reliable and fast.  Upgrading to USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 is well worth it. I held off because my 2015 machine was loaded with ports and I did not want to switch to a machine that required dongles for power or transferring data. Fortunately, it seems that Apple listened to their customers, dumped the touch-bar and brought back ports plus created a wicked-fast machine.