A Grand West Coast Train Adventure on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight

Amtrak's Coast Starlight: A Grand West Coast Train Adventure from LA to Seattle

All aboard! Last December Ian and I jumped on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train — simply to experience a new method of getting from Point A to Point B — and it became one of our most off-beat and unexpectedly enjoyable travel adventures yet.

If you’re looking for a short and unique getaway that won’t require spending all of your savings, this 35-hour train ride could be your perfect trip. Continue reading

Escape Campervans Review: Los Angeles to Death Valley (and why we don’t recommend Escape Campervans)

Escape Campervans Review and Our Trip to Death Valley

Let’s visit a popular U.S. National Park in peak season at the last minute! Yeah, that sounds like our travel style. And that’s how our conversation started two weeks back when we decided we had to see the Death Valley Superbloom.

All advance reservations for park accommodations were full. We could try our luck at a first-come first-served campsite, but we didn’t really feel up to tent camping this trip. So we decided to try something new: the rental campervan.

Despite paying more than we should have (no thanks to Escape), we had a good time on our trip. Want to know what the campervan life is like? Keep reading to find out! (More on why we don’t recommend Escape Campervans, too.) Continue reading

The Superbloom of Death Valley National Park: A Photo Journal (California, USA)

Death Valley Superbloom Spring 2016 on North to South: a Photo Journal

After receiving substantially more rain than typical in the 2015-2016 winter season, Death Valley National Park is experiencing a rare “superbloom” of wildflowers. The last superbloom event was 11 years ago, in 2005.  Since missing this year’s superbloom could mean waiting another decade or more before it happens again, we knew we had to go see this rare event.
Continue reading

Shot of the Week: American Woman (Simi Valley, California, USA)

Shot of the Week: American Woman -- American flag photo shoot

With this post, we’re now officially caught up on our Shot of the Week post series. (Yay!) And since it’s Memorial Day, we’ve got an America-themed photo to share.

As we’re road-tripping around the U.S. this summer, Ian and I are working on an American Women photo shoot for my women’s travel fashion blog, which I’ll be publishing the first week of July. I’m gathering friends (and friendly strangers) to create a collection of photos of American women with the American flag in cool places around the U.S. The best photos we get — from two months of shooting — will be featured in a post on the blog!

This shot is from our first day of shooting, when my two L.A. friends Maya and Vaish joined me in the rocky peaks overlooking Simi Valley, California for a sunset shoot. This isn’t the best shot from that evening. I’m saving those. I’m really really happy with how the photos are turning out, and I’m super excited to share them on Stylish Travel Girl in just a little over a month! P.S. I’m still looking for women to participate in St. Louis, Chicago, and beyond. If you’re interested, please don’t be shy!

This photo was taken on May 2nd with the Sony a7 II and 35mm f/2.8 lens. Continue to view full photo.  Continue reading

U.S. Road Trip Re-Cap: Week One (California, Nevada and Arizona)

U.S. road trip week one recap: California, Nevada and Arizona

We’ve hit the one-week marker on our U.S. summer road trip, and I’ve already got ambitious dreams of visiting each of the 49 states we can reach by car. Do you think we can do it? I do! But to start, here’s a photographic overview of our first week on the road.  Continue reading

Shot of the Week: Busy Bee (Huntington Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California, USA)

Shot of the Week: Flying Bee and orange flowers at Huntington Botanical Gardens, California, USA

One hundred thirty-six. If you’ve ever wondered how many shots it takes to capture a killer, in-focus — and in-flight — bee photo, that’s your answer.  We don’t typically do this type of photography, but the setting we found ourselves in earlier this week gave us the perfect opportunity to practice. My cousin Val is visiting California this week, and luckily (for once) I was in town! While searching for something to do together near to where she’s staying, I remembered the Huntington Gardens. I’d been once or twice before, several years ago, and I always enjoyed spending a few hours meandering around the Garden’s huge variety of flowers, plants and trees.

The weather’s been chilly here in California the last few days, but Monday treated us to a beautiful sunny California day. Hummingbirds were flitting about, the gardeners were busy pruning, and bees were buzzing around all the vibrantly colored flowers.

Ian, having just borrowed a new lens to review from B&H Photo, was eager to take photos. While flowers are a fine subject on their own, they’re certainly more interesting when there’s something flying around them. But these little buggers just wouldn’t hold still! This photo is #121 out of 136 bee photos he took in this spot. (Just ask me how many external hard drives we have — completely filled with photo files…)

This photo was taken on Monday, May 4th with the Sony a7 II and Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 Heliar III lens with the Hawk’s Helicoid V5 close focus adapter. (Continue to view full photo.)  Continue reading

Shot of the Week: Morning Levitation (Trona Pinnacles National Monument, California, USA)

Shot of the Week: Morning Levitation, Trona Pinnacles National Monument, California, USA

It’d been awhile since our last trip to Trona Pinnacles. We’d been engaging in a good amount of chatter around photos we’d taken there — one photo now makes up the cover of a Papa Roach single, and three were on exhibit in a gallery in Mexico — but at least 6 months had passed since we’d last visited.

After a month in the city (Mexico City), we were excited to have some dark skies awaiting us when we returned to California. We brought the whole crew — Tiger, too — and headed north to capture our first Milky Way photos with the a7 II. Tiger had an awesome time, as expected, though he did nearly step on the largest scorpion we’d ever seen in the wild (unbeknownst to him). That kinda ended Tiger’s and my frolicking around in the dark. I took him back to the tent and we hung out inside while Ian continued shooting.

Since Ian was in the process of editing his final video lessons for our latest Skillshare class — Levitation Photography — we couldn’t miss the opportunity to get one more levitation photo in this exotic desert landscape the next morning. We hadn’t tried many in direct sunlight, so the shadow was a bit of a challenge, but the natural landscape made for a nice contrast to all the urban shots we’d been getting for the class. Want to know more about levitation photography? Check out our class on Skillshare — at least watch the intro video; it’s pretty cool — and view sample photos from the class over on The Photon Collective.

This photo was taken on April 24th with the Sony a7 II and Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 lens. Continue to view full photo.  Continue reading

Shot of the Week: The Purple Orchid (El Segundo, USA)

The Purple Orchid, El Segundo, California

El Segundo has got to be one of my favorite LA cities; it’s definitely in my top three. I lived in El Segundo for a year and a half, back in 2012-2014 when I was still working in Santa Monica. I’d moved there after my place in Marina del Rey became a little too pricey, which increased my bike commute from 30 to 60 minutes but cut my rent in half (totally worth it!). I knew almost nothing about the place when I moved there, but I grew quite fond of it over time. It’s a safe LA city near the airport with a small-town feel — and a surprising amount of nightlife for the size of it. It’s got the only beach I know of in LA with fire rings for beach bonfires, the annual Easter Keg Hunt, and plenty of local bars and restaurants in the main part of town.

This past Friday, the day before we left for Costa Rica, Ian and I decided to head out for one last evening in LA. We stopped first at Rock & Brews and got our fill of beer, pizza, rock music and pretzels. (Rock & Brews is a local favorite started by KISS‘s Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley plus 3 friends; read about R&B’s history here). Then we finished the evening off at none other than The Purple Orchid. The Purple Orchid is a ‘tiki lounge,’ but it’s perhaps better described as a dive bar with a Polynesian theme. Here you can (and should) order a volcano bowl to share amongst friends, complete with a flaming shot of 151. Grab as many straws as you need!

The above photo was taken with the Sony a7 II and 35mm f/2.8 lensContinue reading

Shot of the Week: The Photon Collective (Los Angeles, USA)

Shot of the Week: The Photon Collective

Aside from our smartphones, Ian and I were both camera-less for the first time ever last weekend. (Oh no!) As a result, this shot of the week is less a pretty travel photo and more about the gear we’re using for our travel photography. To prepare for our upcoming travels to Costa Rica and Mexico City (and to have new stuff to review for our latest web project), we swapped out some of our camera gear. (Very exciting!)

This photo of Ian with his new camera is one of the first photos I took with my new camera (with some Photoshop involved). And the text is part of our new logo for The Photon Collective — designed by Ian. What do you think?

So what’s this new web project and what new gear did we choose? Read on to find out more about our new and exciting photography endeavors!  Continue reading

Shot of the Week: Desert Shenanigans (Jawbone Canyon, USA)

Shot of the Week: Christmas Tree Burn in Jawbone Canyon 2015

What do you get when you combine fire, truckloads of Christmas trees, ample libations, a 10-ball roman candle, Santa, a full-size school bus, an acoustic guitar, and a ton of people you know — plus even more you don’t know — summing up to a crowd of (probably) over 100 people? (Did anyone count?)

A recipe for disaster? Maybe. But we survived. And the answer’s not Burning Man, either. But it’s similar… (read on to find out!)

The above photo was taken with the Sony a7s and Sony E 10-18 f/4 OSSContinue reading