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The 7 Most Rewarding Photo Shoots of 2019

How we got those shots, involving drones, dunes, rooftops, blacktops, and more


Photo by Becca Batista

March 2019—Dunes Fashion

Sydnie: Ever since I moved here I wanted to do a shoot out at the Glamis Sand Dunes, so this has really been five years in the making. I got my team together (photographer Becca Batista who was 7 months pregnant, stylist Kristi Brooks, hair/makeup artist Elizabeth Root) and we booked an amazing model that typically lives in New York but was in LA for the month. The stars all aligned that day. We even had a trailer delivered to us for staging wardrobe! While it wasn’t the easiest shoot—a 2 hour drive each way, a 7am call time, cold temps and windy weather—it was definitely was one of the most rewarding shoots I have been a part of.


May 2019—Drone Shots and Adventures in Airspace 

Sydnie: With drone photography growing in popularity, so have the rules that surround drone usage. In San Diego specifically we have extensive rules and regulations on zones that drones can be used, some of which you unfortunately don’t encounter until you are on the scene ready to fly and photograph. This was the case with myself and my drone photographer Emily Kaszton. We had carefully mapped out our shoots and a timeline for our Landscape feature, but due to a hospital flight path near one of our shoots, the drone landed almost immediately after taking off. Sometimes, no matter how prepared you are for a shoot, things can still go wrong. Thankfully, due to Emily’s connections we were able to get approval to fly our drone in three of the five areas we were shooting. We simply had to provide the coordinates and the exact hour timeframe we would be there, and voila! Cleared for takeoff.


Sept 2019—Street artist Cecelia Linayao photographed by Dewey Keithly

Elisa: Chalk artist Cecelia Linayoa created a piece of impermanent art just for our annual arts preview. We wanted to show exactly how much work goes into these pieces. Photographing from above at regular intervals allowed readers to see how her work develops throughout the day and just how big of a job it is to create artwork on that scale. In this case, the biggest challenge was scouting the location. We had to work to find a location that 1) had a large piece of blacktop available that would remain untrafficked for most of the daylight hours AND 2) was drone-friendly area. Our editor tried her alma mater, Torrey Pines High School, as school was out for the summer, but the public school and the district proved to have too much red tape. After many dead ends, Lux Art Institute was the true hero of the day, graciously offering their upper parking area. The museum has a mission of making art more accessible, and welcomed us with open arms. 


May 2019—On the Job: Crane Operator by Robert Benson

Elisa: This shot was originally planned to take place on a high-rise rooftop garden with a line of sight that could capture the crane working a couple of blocks away. Once there, we quickly realized that we would get a much better angle on the skyline from a parking deck a couple blocks away. After a little sweet-talking, we made our way to the top and called the crane operator, who adjusted the direction of the machine via phone until we could get a good scope of the crane and downtown. The construction site and the operator, Shane, is still working on this very site today, more than seven months later—and his crane has risen several stories higher.


June 2019—Best Restaurants

Sydnie: Another concept that had been on my wishlist for a couple of years was working with Nick Misani to create a custom fauxsaic, and what better issue to show a beautiful floor than with a beautiful plate of food being carried out over it. In the creation of the fauxsaic, it took several weeks of conceptualizing the look with Nick and implementing the design. It wasn’t until the last week before press that we decided on the striking black and white palette. Then, the other component to this cover was the actual dish of food to photograph. In our long list of Best Restaurants, we chose to highlight a select few with photography by Anne Watson in the feature. Out of those ten or so places, we narrowed down even further to our top three that we were likely to show on the cover. At those three restaurants, Anne specifically shot dishes overhead with chefs holding the plates, so we could get that feeling of a birds’ eye view. 


Sept 2019—Women in City Hall by Flavio Scorsato

Elisa: I walked away from this photo shoot really feeling like I had seen a part of history. San Diego has more women on City Council now than ever, and likely the most-ever women in deputy positions or higher (there is no official record or count), and we had the honor of commemorating this milestone in our city’s history. Organizing this shoot took some logistical mastery. Before anything else, there was the matter of getting everyone there. A great deal of thanks goes to Christina Chadwick in the Mayor’s office, who was able to coordinate busy schedules and get the buy-in from our female leadership. Once on site, it was our job to make sure we could see everyone in frame, and to make sure other smaller details were as orderly as possible (moving shorter people out from behind taller ones, separating ladies in similar colors, etc.). This involved some yelling. Not because anyone was inattentive, but because getting the shot required photographing from the press box a floor above the council floor. And also: We had just 15 minutes to file everyone in and get the shot!


Nov 2019—Food Lovers’ Guide cover

Sydnie: We went to a dozen locations to get the goods that were shown on the cover and in the feature. It wasn’t only the gathering of the food, but the labor of putting it together. Nearly eight hours of styling in our conference room took place for the cover image and two images within the feature—the cover image taking four hours alone. But it’s shoots like this where we get to be creative and work with our hands. We appreciate the image that much more in the end.

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