Marshall Williams Photography Blog

Luxury Boutique Hotel, Entrance to Inn at Rancho Santa Fee

I love the opportunity to work with resort properties and boutique hotels with a rich history and a story to tell. The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe is just one of those places.  The Inn sits on 21 acres in “The Covenant” of Rancho Santa Fe, a historic community of country estates surrounded by rolling hills and eucalyptus trees, just east of Del Mar, CA. 

Guest room, wood burning fireplace, relaxation

After undergoing a $12 million renovation,  I was commissioned to photograph the property including the new guest rooms, new restaurant,  new spa and new meeting facilities as well as some lifestyle and food images. As always, my objective is to evoke the nature of the surrounding environment and to highlight certain features of a property to help tell it’s story.  For The Inn, we were careful to include  streaks of California sunlight making it’s way through the doors and a roaring fireplace to tell the story of rustic California country charm.  Adding to the success of this shoot was the deft styling of Margaret Daley, who procured just the right objects to augment the inviting and relaxing vibe of The Inn.  Check out those authentic equestrian riding boots resting by the fire. 

The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe guest room with sunlight streaming in.

The history of The Inn is fascinating. In 1906 The Santa Fe Railroad Company had purchased almost 9000 acres of land to farm wood to produce railroad ties.  Unfortunately the Blue gum eucalyptus trees they planted were ill suited for this purpose.  The land was then developed into a planned community of beautiful estates and was named Rancho Santa Fe. Originally The Inn was known as La Morada, built in 1923 as a guest house for The Santa Fe Land Company for potential land purchasers. In 1941 La Morada was renamed The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe.


Detail of a guest opening a bottle of white wine.

Relaxing soak in a copper tub.

Fans of San Diego and Spanish Revival architecture will appreciate the work of architect Lilian Rice who designed La Morada and will also recognize the name Richard Requa whose firm, Requa and Jackson, for whom Rice worked, left a legacy of Spanish Revival structures and homes throughout the San Diego region. The firm was highly sought after in the 1920’s and 1930’s for their Southern California Style.

Guest arrival at The Inn

See more of my work for The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe on my website.

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Portfolio Presentation has always been a challenge.  It’s expensive and time consuming to constantly update a printed book.  In the very old days it meant making duplicate 4×5 or 8×10 transparencies and mounting them in custom printed cardboard mounts.  Then with the advent of ink jet printing, large beautiful printed books were in fashion.  Still it was a laborious process to keep them fresh and updated and the printed version seldom had the proper color and range of the original file.  Over recent years I’ve relied mostly on my website as my portfolio but I realized I still needed to be able to sit down with someone and share my work.

Then the Ipad Pro arrived- with a large beautiful display and a screen that is very bright and wicked sharp!  This is the perfect portfolio vehicle.  With the use of FolioBook app, I can easily organize my many different portfolios and incorporate video too.  The on screen presentation is clean and highly customizable, navigation is simple and the most important of all it is EASY to keep updated.

Now all that was needed was a display case to present it in. I wanted it to be unique and possibly even a conversation piece.  I turned to Dan and Jess of San Diego Urban Timber.  They reclaim local timber and repurpose into a multitude of new uses including beautiful custom made furnishings.  From their workshop we chose a prime piece of California Coastal Live Oak.  I shared my vision and Dan and his crew did the magic.  I needed to somehow solve the problem of how to allow the case to remain tilted upward for easy viewing.  Dan came up with a niffy little stand that is easily removed for transporting.

Want to see my custom portfolio presentation in person?  Give me a call.

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Last winter I was hired by Less+More, a design and branding agency, to create a series of lifestyle images for Tanners, the hip new multi level ocean front restaurant at Paséa Hotel in Huntington Beach, CA. We would be shooting lifestyle images and some food and dining shots as well. The images were to reflect the overall upscale environment with a casual beach community vibe along with a slight amount of irreverence that is the Tanner’s experience.  Think motorcycle chains that compose the main lighting feature over the bar.

Jeremy Backo, the Art Director at Less+More was looking for authentic, natural and spontaneous looking images of people engaging in the moment.  Our approach was basically to have a party –  drinks, music, food and let the interaction and engagement happen while I shoot what naturally unfolds. The marketing staff at the hotel provided 3 real life couples as our talent for the day. For the first half hour or so I’m basically just firing the camera to build up the energy, but soon the conversation (and the drinks) kick in and we are indeed partying.

Chemistry among the talent is critical and these people really brought it with authentic and genuine interaction.  We shot at the communal table in the downstairs restaurant and then upstairs for cocktails at sunset in Treehouse, their roof top lounge overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  After the shoot ended,  our talent enjoyed an evening of dining and complimentary accommodations at Paséa. Party on.

Marshall Williams did a great job capturing the unique vibe at Tanner’s. His style of shooting, his work flow, and his crew were all extremely efficient. They captured everything on our shot list and much more. It was a tough edit getting down to the final selects but in the end the client was thrilled with the images.” – Jeremy Backo



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Every now and then as a photographer I am privileged to shoot in some pretty magical places. Mii amo Spa is a world class destination spa in the heart of Boynton Canyon in Sedona, AZ- ground zero for Sedona’s famed energy vortexes. The facility itself literally butts up to the towering red rock walls of the canyon. Spectacular is an understatement.

The spa was launching a new website and was in need of lifestyle photographs that would “activate” the property to tell the story of the spa experience. Doug Moore from The Starmack Group and I worked together to identify the shot list. This included a couple of scouting and research trips to Mii amo and Boynton Canyon where again and again we returned home with the same revelation; the unique aspect of Mii amo is that it is a complete product of it’s surrounding environment, it is infused with the terroir of the region. No need to import a fancy french clay rub product here. Mii Amo draws from the rich offerings just outside it’s door. Our thought was to make photographs that would tell the story of the strong connection to the earth and the natural environment.


We brought in professional talent and styling for a 3 day shoot. Chris Park from my studio ran video B roll to maximize the opportunity with the talent which also provided added value for the client. This footage was later edited into several short pieces for use on their website as well as online ads.  Watch Mii amo Spa video.

“Marshall always brings a sensibility that goes beyond just a photograph”, says Doug Moore, “He really digs in to find the visuals that tell a story about a place. The client was blown away by the beautiful images and the volume of photos she was able to add to her image library along with the video assets.”

See more photographs from our shoot for Mii amo Spa on our website.


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Surprisingly I don’t recall exactly the first time I met Chef Bernard Guillas of the Marine Room in La Jolla.  But every time I’ve had the opportunity to work with him since is a memorable and inspiring experience.  This guy is passionate and intense about every detail of his work.
 “We need to do the shoot on a Monday”  Kristin Kacirek of the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club tells me, “it’s normally Chef Bernard’s day off but he is coming in for it and wants to start at 8am”.
He arrives at 8 sharp, always with a smile on his face and gives me a big hug. We chit chat a little bit while Zach and I set up our gear. He is visibly excited about the fresh fish that was just delivered to the kitchen.  “I’ll be back in 30 minutes with the first plate” he announces. And so the day if off to an enthusiastic start. 


Lucious hunks of Ahi appear perfectly seared and artfully arranged. We click off an exposure and huddle around the monitor for the first glimpse. Then we both huddle over the dish, Chef puts his glasses on for a closer look and I dig out the tweezers and other tools. We nudge, lift, noodle and otherwise primp.  It’s a surgical kind of process.  A few more exposures and then some more discussion around the monitor.  There’s no phoning it in with Chef Bernard.  Frequently he insists on re-plating a dish to make sure it is perfect. When people ask about food photography I tell them it’s this kind of commitment and attention to detail that are key to making great food photographs.

“Marshall and I collaborated on many projects including our award winning cookbook, Two Chefs, One Catch.  Marshall is an artist who always looks beyond the lens. Through Marshall’s photography, all of the images come to life.  As a chef you learn to master your heat, as a photographer, Marshall has mastered his light!” – Chef Bernard Guillas

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The recently launched law firm of NoonanLance was in the process of putting together their new home – in the historic Pack Loft Building just steps from Petco Park in East Village San Diego. Working with Jean Walcher of J. Walcher Communications , I was enlisted to capture a fresh look for the firm’s new persona. We chose to capitalize on the vintage red brick walls of their loft offices and a loose and natural approach to express their personality and activate the environment. This included 2 separate photo shoots several months apart.


For the first shoot I made individual portraits of the attorneys against the original red brick walls and then a group shot of the entire firm that featured the raw space to showcase and announce the new firm in it’s soon to be new home.  For the second shoot I returned after the interior was fully built out and the firm had move in to capture the nuance and experience of their new work environment. In these situations I initially set up a scenario with people and help construct the scene,  but then find that backing away and letting the conversation progress naturally often yields those special moments of truth that make honest photographs. For both of the  shoots we chose to use the natural existing light in the loft to help the pictures further express an honest and authentic portrayal of the law firm and the environment.

Marshall was able to provide and execute a vision for how to use the firm’s unique new environment to help them stand out and apart from other law firms in their photography and visual assets. The firm has a lot of pride in the historical nature of their new facility and Marshall helped to express that.”  – Jean Walcher, President, J.Walcher Communications

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Marshall Williams Photography Blog 2017.

We will be updating our blog with various new photography and video galleries from our projects. Contact us to learn more.

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