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Finding Exotic Locales – in The U.S.

Chicago River Walk

With overseas travel restricted these fashion photographers found inspiration in an unlikely places – at home.

Photography’s newest power couple, Stephen Nava and Angel Citron of CiNava Photography, love travelling the world, experiencing new cultures, foods, people, and art while shooting exotic locales for their fashion clients. They often rely on iconic landscapes for their gorgeous imagery, like the cascading Spanish Steps in Rome or the mountainous regions of Switzerland.

Havana Cuba(Havana, Cuba)


For the Chicago-based JToor Menswear, Nava and Citron shot in Havana, Cuba, incorporating the vintage vibrant colorful facade of the colonial architecture as a backdrop. For the April issue of Elements Magazine, they traveled to a town thirty minutes from Paris to shoot at an epic warehouse called the L’atelier Demoraine Studio.

“It’s crazy to think we flew half way around the world for an interior shoot but it was worth it,” Angel Citron reflects from his San Francisco studio.

All of that changed when the pandemic struck. With international travel no longer an option, Nava and Citron were left with two choices: shoot in-studio or find domestic locales that equaled in grandeur to their international landscapes.

 “There is a compelling sense of realism in photos shot outdoors,” Citron explains. “It makes the images more personal, more believable. The viewer become part of the experience.”

A fashion shoot outdoors near beach

(The photographers on location at an outdoor fashion shoot)

“It is also harder to shoot outdoors,” Nava adds. “One thing Stephen and I love is a good challenge.” 

Sunlight is often the enemy with outdoor shoots: the extreme brightness from the sun or the lack-of. “Most issues are quickly fixed by setting the aperture and/or shutter speed when balancing light,” Nava explains. “Or we will use an off-camera strobe, scrims to block harsh light, or a bounce to override the extreme shadows.” He proudly notes that these techniques require an expertise that not all photographers have.

Photographers Stephen Nava and Angel Citron

(CiNava photographers Stephen Nava and Angel Citron)

The CiNava guys scoured the USA in search of vast open fields, picturesque-antique townscapes, and dazzling white sandy beaches and blue waters that resemble the paradise-esc island living of the tropics.

What they found was even better.

“We discovered the Chicago Riverwalk [opening photo],” says Nava. “It’s canals and bridges make a grand illusion suited for fashion editorials. The endless flow of iron, concrete, and wood are enchanting.”

“We found Charleston, South Carolina,” says Citron. “It’s historic, narrow, cobblestone streets and antique mansions are reminiscent of an old European village. Also, the East Battery section of the city and its beautiful harbor with sailboats are perfect for nautical images.”

The search also gave Nava and Citron a greater appreciation for their hometown. According to Citron, “The [San Francisco] Bay Area offers plenty of breathtaking views and gorgeous panoramas. We may not have the Spanish steps, but we have steep streets that make for magnificent backdrops.”

Colorful Victorians in San Francisco

(San Francisco)

Wherever they shoot, Stephen Nava and Angel Citron follow the same strict CDC guidelines, even if the city doesn’t require it, with every person on set - talent, staff, and themselves – always in masks. They even have a medical practitioner on location tasked with making sure everyone remains compliant.  “It is the reality we all face in 2020,” says Nava.

Follow Stephen Nava and Angel Citron on Instagram.

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