Villa Visuals

I’m Mike, a wedding and commercial photographer based out of Orange County, CA. I’m husband to the incredible Carizza Rose, have a love of all things loud and motorized (particularly of the automobile persuasion), and will never turn down a good burger.

I shoot with a big, bold style and I’m completely obsessed with light in all its forms. I’ve shot a little bit of everything (gear) and a little bit of everything (subjects), so my work often ends up melding multiple genres together – bringing a bit of commercial polish to weddings or approaching a commercial shoot from a more journalistic perspective. Over my photography career I’ve shot hundreds of weddings, worked in nearly 50 countries, and consumed an embarrassing number of doughnuts.

As a journalism major in college, I shot mostly photojournalism and used all Canon gear, as that was what my school and classmates all owned. Towards the end of my college career, I stumbled upon wedding photography, and started into the wedding industry. I jumped to Nikon (Imma let you finish, but the D3 was the greatest wedding camera of all time!) and began shooting weddings full time after I graduated.

After a few years shooting weddings and a brief stint at MotorTrend, I was contacted by Nick Vujicic’s team and asked to accompany him on his world tour as a documentary photographer. During the tour, we averaged anywhere from 4-8 flights per week, and I quickly discovered that trekking a large DSLR setup through multiple countries per week was a huge, heavy, luggage-compartment-stretching hassle.

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And then Fujifilm came out with the X-T1. It didn’t take long for me to ditch my entire Nikon kit for Fuji, and ease all my traveling woes (except for the one time I had to find a Fuji battery charger in Mexico, but that’s another story). During this time I also added a Leica kit, based around a well-used M9, mostly because there’s something very romantic about traveling the world with a Leica in hand. To date, it’s still my favorite camera.

After a couple years my travel work was being replaced more and more often by commercial and wedding work, and I found myself needing more resolution and better low light performance from my cameras. So I swapped my Fuji kit for Sony, and here we are.

The Villa Visuals Kit

Sony A7R II – The backbone of the whole shebang, this little guy is what I shoot with 90% of the time. The incredible dynamic range, intuitive eye-focus, and excellent size (not too small like the Fujis, not as large as a DSLR) were all big decision-makers for me. The ridiculously high resolution tends to be more detrimental than helpful, and low light autofocus can be slow at times, so I’ll likely add an A9 as my primary body and leave this as a backup and commercial-only camera.

Sony A6300 – This little camera is hugely underrated! It’s so quick and responsive, and addicting to shoot. To be honest, it’s typically just lying around my bag as a backup camera, but when I need a bit more reach or speed, I’m always happy to shoot it.

Leica M9 – The best worst camera ever. This was ancient technology back when it was first released in 2009, much less 8 years later. It has terrible dynamic range, incredibly poor medium ISO performance (nevermind high ISO), and is slower than anything short of a film Leica. It’s also my favorite camera.

The colors and “look” of the CCD sensor will amplify bad lighting and sloppy color management, but are so unique and gratifying when you nail it. The manual focus and rangefinder system make for a fun shooting experience, and the more I beat it up, the better it looks.
Note – not pictured in the main photo (out for repair!)

Sony Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 FE – Easily my most used lens. I’ve always loved the 35mm focal length, and at least 50% of my images are shot with this. It’s a good “neutral” focal length that doesn’t call attention to the photographer or gear used – it lets the content of the image speak for itself. Bonus points on this guy for having great rendering when shot wide open. This, the Sony 85mm, and the Zeiss 25mm are almost always in my Boda Bag (RIP) ready to go.

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM – My other go-to lens. If the 35mm isn’t on my camera, this one is. A great portrait lens for when I need a clean, flattering image, or when I need to nuke to background into bokeh oblivion. A little slower to focus than I’d like, but the crazy sharpness makes it worth it.

Sony 70-200mm f/4 FE – Don’t particularly like it, don’t particularly use it. It mostly is there for the rare occasion I need something longer than 85mm. I’m not big on zooms in general – I prefer the focus, light weight, and wider apertures that often come with primes. Would I like the 2.8 version better? Most likely. Is it worth the added expense and weight for something I rarely use? Nah.

Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 – This is a great landscape/travel lens with a lot of image quality in a little body. That said, if I’m at 18mm I typically want to be even wider. I bought this before there were better ultrawide options for Sony, so I’ll likely swap it for something different soon. In the meantime, it makes a great 27mm (equivalent) in 1.5 crop mode for reception photos!

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 – Great wide angle for more journalistic coverage. I love how small, light, and sharp it is! Although I don’t use the 25mm as much as my 35mm or 85mm, I like to keep it close in case I want to bring more drama or action into the frame. There’s something very unique about a wide aperture 20-25mm image that keeps me coming back to this focal length.

The Voigtlander Trio – These are my three rangefinder lenses that get used on my Leica. They’re all ridiculously wide aperture, manual focus, and surprisingly sharp – more so than most professional DSLR glass. The all-metal build helps them feel so smooth and fantastic in hand, but they’re a bit heavy because of that. The biggest downside to these guys is that the internal gearing tends to wear out quickly, and so with my heavy (borderline abusive) use, they don’t last a very long time. As much as I enjoy them, a trio of equivalent Leica lenses would be my first post-lotto-winning purchase. However, these (and the theoretical Leica lenses) get bonus points for being great compact travel lenses that can be mounted on both my Leica and Sony!

Godox v860IIs – Flashes play a huge role in my photography, and these make up the backbone of my flash work. I have 5 or 6 of these laying around at home, but depending on the shoot I’ll take anywhere between 2 and 4 with me. The rechargeable li-on battery is a game changer (no more charging 40 AAs after every wedding!), and built-in radio wireless control is rad.

My favorite part of the Godox is that it’s super flexible. All of my flashes and strobes – from the tiny TT350 all the way up to the massive AD600 – all work together seamlessly, and can be fired from any camera brand. Bonus points for being an incredible value.

Godox AD200 – I have two of these unbelievably flexible strobe/flashes. They’re a bit larger than a typical hot shoe flash, but have 3x the power and a swappable flash head so that you can use a fresnel lens or bare bulb. So rad. The added power means I can use them as a small strobe for commercial shoots, or use them at very low power during wedding receptions. Low power, fast recycle time, and cross-brand compatibility means that at wedding receptions both myself and my second shooter can be shooting on the same pair of off-camera flashes.

Godox AD600 – Giant battery-powered strobe with all the Godox benefits of cross-brand compatibility, TTL, and HSS. I typically will only bring this along if I’m doing a shoot fighting the afternoon sun or need thousands of strobed images.

Godox TT350s – It’s so cute! Being a tiny flash about half the size of a typical hot shoe flash means that it pairs well with the smaller mirrorless cameras. All the power in all the world (master wireless control, TTL, HSS), itty-bitty living space.

Godox X1T – Wireless trigger for all the Godox things. Great for when I want to trigger my flashes but don’t need an on-camera flash!

MagMod Accessories – These make gridding and gelling flashes so easy! They go on every flash I own.

Thinktank Photo Airport International V2.0 – Holds all of the above (sans AD600) but fits in an overhead bin.

ONA Union Street – This guy has seen millions of miles and 40+ countries, and it shows! But man does it show well. This bag has been on my shoulder literally nearly every day over five years. I use it for traveling, engagement shoots, and as a laptop bag.

Boda Bag V3 – My tactical wedding fanny pack. Not the most stylish bag out there, but my back loves me for rocking the fanny pack! Wish they still made them.

Fira the Fox – Shiba Inu/Jindo mix. Great for editing breaks and entertainment around the home office. Needs lots of maintenance and upkeep in the form of 4 walks and 2 meals. Bonus points for being potty-trained.

www.villavisuals.com

Inside Mike’s camera bag:

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