Generally speaking, every state's laws differ on this issue just a little bit. I'm not licensed in California, and it does not appear you are asking for a proper legal opinion, just some guidance.
Whether this photographer was in the right or wrong depends on the facts of the situation. For example, if the ladies were in the front yard and visible to anyone walking or driving by, then filming them may be legal. How that film is used, on the other hand, could result in a different conclusion. For example, if the photographer uses the film of them in a television commercial--and they are identifiable in the film--then he may have committed a tort (civil wrong) for invasion of privacy (specifically, using someone's likeness without their permission). If the photographer is going to use the film just as part of a personal use documentary of his neighborhood before he moves away, it may be legal.
On the other hand, if the ladies were in an area that is screened from public view but he was filming them, then he might be invading their privacy (specifically, intruding into their seclusion).
I always advise clients (and students) to get signed releases from anyone that they are going to film. It avoids so many problems and it's such a simple way to avoid trouble, it's a shame more people don't do it.
Finally, please note this answer is not intended to provide legal advice--which can be given only after the attorney can gather all facts, ask questions, and perform any needed legal research. In addition, by answering this question I am not entering into an attorney-client relationship. Such a relationship exists only after a proper retainer agreement is signed.