Three seconds later…the cop walks up

March 28, 2017  •  6 Comments

Model Peyton Drew There is a back story to every photo shoot. Some are more interesting than others, but there is always a story. This is one.

On a foggy morning at El Matador Beach in Malibu, CA (don’t you love how I started this?) I shot with the beautiful model Peyton Drew. This shoot was in the making for several years. I first had conversations with her when she lived in Indiana, long before she moved to Palm Springs.

We actually had a fair amount of pre-shoot planning conversations. Our plan was to shoot various beach fashion looks along with some beautiful artistic nude (implied) poses on the beach. The second part of the plan was tossed out for the most part because the beaches were busy this day.

We drove into a beach access point that provided majestic overviews of the ocean and cliffs of El Matador. Drew made the comment that “I can’t believe all this it’s usually sunny and clear.” Of course, as a photographer, I was thrilled with the fog...I mean after all how often does an Arizona based photographer get to shoot in FOG? As it turns out, the fog did indeed contribute an appealing dynamic to the photos outcome.

Model Peyton Drew We discovered this amazing pedestal point on the edge of a steep cliff that provided a perfect place for Peyton to pose, set up some lights and shot swimwear looks for maybe 45 minutes. The fog kept changing in density and the ambiance was an absolute photographers dream. We had not encountered a single person during the shoot and was happy about that.

Peyton wanted a bare back shot with slight side boob. Something very sexy but slightly emotional and dramatic. We found a spot on a secluded part of the trail that went along the cliff line and set up for the shot. I clicked off maybe six shots all the while adjusting the strobe light and camera settings. I could see through the lens that like the others, this was going to be a beautiful shot.

A few seconds after I snapped the first photo shown in this blog, Peyton suddenly ducked down behind that bush. I was like “what the hell?” Then I heard the deep assertive voice commanding her to put a top on. My stomach dropped when I realized that a cop walked right up to our shooting set. The second thing the cop said was “I’ll need to see your ID young lady” as he was glaring at me. Thank god, I had already confirmed that my model was of legal age...otherwise this story would be much different.

Model Peyton Drew The officer asked to see my permit. I knew this was coming...right? So, playing the naive photographer role I told him I did not know that I needed a permit. After explaining to me that in order to shoot commercial photography on a state beach a permit and insurance rider is required. Now, if you are a photographer you already know how to answer to this: ”We are just friends, this is not a commercial shoot. We are shooting pictures simply for our own pleasure.” The cop laughed and said that he has heard that excuse a thousand times. Because I had a strobe light, in a beauty dish, on a stand, shooting with a long lens on an expensive looking camera...the cop said “you can say whatever you want but this is considered a commercial shoot”.

So, I was getting a ticket for “Commercial Filmmaking” with no permit and Peyton was going to be cited for nudity. He pulled each of us to the side and questioned us...Peyton first. When it was my turn we ended up having a decent conversation and I was able to convince him to just charge me and let Peyton off the hook. Peyton was very relieved and asked if she could give the cop a hug. He said NO, lol.

The next part was the worst part of all. He asked me to give him the memory card from my camera. I was told that after I pay my fine, I will be able to petition the courts to have it returned to me, but he had to confiscate it for evidence. I argued, pleaded and begged him to not take the SD card. I offered to delete the six topless shots we took, all to no avail. He warned me that he would be in his legal rights to confiscate ALL my gear including the camera if he choose to. I forfeited the card thereby losing all the photos from the shoot.

Model Peyton Drew We left the state beach area to find a place to shoot on a private beach. Trust me, that is not an easy proposition and has another story all of its own, but not for this blog.

Later that evening, I began looking at the photos from the rest of the day and realized that I was vindicated to some degree. YAY. I had my camera set to record the images to both my SD card and CF card. (The Canon 5DM3 can read to two cards). I had the entire shoot on the CF card. Hence, I am able to share the photos here on my website, on my social medias and soon to be published in LUXX Magazine. Stick that in your pipe officer Gunn.

I have been trying to pay my ticket for a few weeks now. So far, the Santa Monica Court does not have the ticket paperwork it seems. Strange. Anyway, I will update this blog after I finally get it paid. I am a little nervous how much this is going to cost me.

Some lessons learned. Plan your shoots. Get a permit. Find secluded areas to shoot. Make damn sure your model is 18. Avoid the alien nation of California all-together. Shoot on foggy days. Make sure your camera is writing to both memory cards. Make sure you shoot model is as beautiful as Peyton Drew. Don't piss off the cops. 

UPDATE 4-28-17: The fine was $239. Are the photos I got that day worth it? Damn right. 

You can view all of Peyton's images in her gallery 



Roland Reed(non-registered)
I agree it was worth every penny to get these photos, amazing
Scott Hays(non-registered)
Beautiful lighting.... beautiful pics!

Lived and shot the west coast for 20 years, SB to SD... Not sure I would have the patience to deal with that scene anymore. Revenue Rangers!!??
Could you keep a blank SD card in your pocket and slip them that one? Lol. I thought they couldn't take any gear without a court order, unless that's just AZ
Morgan Oyler(non-registered)
Bam! I loved the story. I've been looking into what you've been posting about it and am VERY glad you had them going on both memory cards. Hopefully you didn't have ant left overs from another shoot or different day waiting to be taken off. Can't wait to hear the next story! Better luck next time :)
Dave Kelley(non-registered)
That is exactly the beach Aurora and Tayler and I shot for about an hour. I knew I was pushing the limits without a permit but I didn't use a light to make it easier to duck the Randy Rangers. Just as we got up those long steps and were packing up the truck, a ranger truck pulled in and two of them headed down to the beach to badger people taking pictures. Whew!!! Getting away with anything typically isn't how it goes with me.
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