Vittoria: Once Upon a Time in the West Desert

This lifestyle editorial features the amazing Vittoria Hiltbrunn. The theme of the whole shoot was “road trip to the desert.” We spent the better part of a day and a couple hundred miles driving from the city making our way through much of Utah’s West Desert and finally ended up at the Little Sahara Sand Dunes.

I want to mention that it’s simply not possible to do a shoot like this and not be able to take photos in any lighting condition. You To hell with “golden hour!” I’ve always found it puzzling that people relegate themselves to be a slave to an hour or so at either end of the day to make photos. Don’t do that. Learn how to use flash, scrims, making some place work no matter what time of day, whatever. In other words, be able to take photos in whatever conditions you find yourself in.

We started the adventure at noon in the lobby of my studio because I love the mid-day light there. Plus it’s a great way to break the ice so to speak.

Vittoria in the doorway.
ISO100, 85mm, f2.8, 1/250

A quick change and another lobby shot. This one using the awesome Sigma 24-70 Art 2.8 lens.

Vittoria in the lobby.
ISO100, 35mm, f3.2, 1/160

After a few shots in the lobby of the studio we drove to a coffee shop before hitting the road. The coffee shop has some huge west facing windows that throw some amazing light into the common area.

Vittoria coffee shop stairs.
ISO100, 24mm, f2.8, 1/200
Vittoria coffee shop view
ISO200, 24mm, f2.8, 1/800

After our coffee, we hit the road in earnest traveling south for several miles then cut off of the freeway heading into Utah’s West Desert. Our first stop was the tiny town of Goshen, Utah. The only reason you even notice this little place is because the posted speed limit slows a bit.

The following photos taken with a Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art.

Vittoria in Goshen
ISO100, 50mm, f3.5, 1/640
Vittoria gas pump.
ISO100, 50mm, f2, 1/2000

The whole vibe of this extinct roadside gas station was pretty amazing.

Vittoria, extinct gas station.
ISO100, 50mm, f3.5, 1/400

Continuing further west, we hit a little wide spot in the road called Elberta.

A friend of mine looked at the photo below and commented, “I can almost hear the wind blowing, the door hinges squeaking as the doors bang in the background.”

Yes, so can I.

On this shot I did use a tiny bit of fill flash from camera right. The lighting conditions were all over the place with clouds coming and going.

Also, I’m using the Sony 85mm 1.8, one of the best sub $600 lenses there is. It’s absolutely a beast of a lens for any price point.

ISO100, 85mm, f3.2, 1/1000

If you find an old broken down motorcycle, of course you integrate it into a photo.

Again, a tiny bit of fill flash from camera right.

ISO100, 85mm, f3.2, 1/1000

After we finished up in this cool little location, we packed it up and continued west, eventually arriving at the mining town of Eureka. I kid you not. A mining town called Eureka.

Vittoria changed it up and we found this great little stairway alley. It’s amazing the cool locations you can find just about any place.

Vittoria on the stairs.
ISO100, 85mm, f3.2, 1/800

Looking around, what did we find? An awesome door frame.

ISO100, 85mm, f4, 1/640

After the mighty town of Eureka, we headed to the final destination; the Little Sahara Recreation Area.

Pro tip: If you ever decide to shoot out at Little Sahara, do it on a Sunday. Any other day of the week it’s jammed with ATVs, motorcycles, and campers. On Sunday it’s generally nearly empty.

Vittoria changed her clothes, and Angela who was pulling assistant duties this day brushed sand from her bum. Of course I caught the moment. To be honest, without Angela, the whole day would have been much more difficult.

Angela the assistant.
Angela the assistant.

Vittoria changed into a dress and we took off across the sand dunes. There’s no way around it, she just rocks these shots.

Vittoria in a blue dress.
ISO100, 85mm, f4, 1/1000
Vittoria blue dress again.
ISO100, 85mm, f4, 1/1000
Vittoria kneeling with the blue dress.
ISO100 ,85mm, f4, 1, 1/800

It was at this point that Vittoria changed into a different outfit and I changed lenses to a Sony 135 1.8 GM.

The shorts and top combo are perfect for the desert vibe:

Vittoria in shorts and boots.
ISO100, 135mm, f1.8, 1/2500
Vittoria in bodysuit and biker jacket.
ISO100, 135mm, f3.5, 1/400

And finally, one last look before calling a wrap:

Vittoria in shorts and bikini top.
ISO100, 135mm, f1.8, 1/1250.

At this it was time to load up, call it a day, and head back home.

I just have to say that Vittoria was amazing and a huge pleasure to work with.

Model: Vittoria Hiltbrunn.

Assistant: Angela X. A huge and giant shoutout to her.

Gear used: Sony a7R4, Sony 85mm 1.8, Sony 135mm 1.8GM, Sigma 24-70 2.8 Art, Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art. Godox AD600Pro with a 28 inch octa.

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