Goodbye photo albums. Hello photo books.

MobileMe Gallery - Ben-Karen-2010

Hi everyone. Karen here. I'm posting this in response to a conversation Ben had on the KelbyTV show, The Grid, just minutes ago. They were talking about making small prints with a home printer for family photos and such, and how fewer and fewer people are actually doing that. That's where the topic of photo books came up. There are lots of companies out there that will let you make a bound book from all your digital photos and, in our opinion, it's so much more convenient than going the album route.

I've been using a company called Blurb for years, and they do an amazing job. I've even made books with my photography portfolios, and they are coffee tablebook-quality. As a surprise, I made Ben a book of our entire 2010 and gave it to him for Christmas. He loved it, because it's not only a lot of memories, but they're in a format that's not clunky and dont take up a lot of space. Plus it just looks damn cool. (isn't that reason enough?)

I also made a gallery of all the book pages so that we could show people online. You can check that out HERE.

 

From Colorado to Utah

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Karen got this great shot of me at the Green River Overlook, in Canyonlands National Park.

As much as I love Colorado, we were parked in Golden for nearly a month, so it was time to move on. Our stay there was both fun and productive. We spent time with friends, explored the mountains and got lots of work done. But Utah was calling. Karen had never been to Moab and I was itching to get back.

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My shot from Rifle Falls, CO.

We did make one stop on our route west. Rifle Falls State Park was on our way, so we stopped to shoot there. It was a nice trio of waterfalls, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It's also photographer-friendly in that it's easy to get around and there's lots of vantage points to shoot from. I'd recommend the stop if you're in Colorado heading west on 70.

In Moab, we found an RV park on the main street, not two minutes from downtown. The first photo excursion we made was to Dead Horse Point. (we were trying to make it to Canyonlands National Park, which was a bit further, but we were racing the light to get there by sunrise and didn't quite make it.)

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Dead Horse point, a bit after sunrise.

Later that day, we did make it to Canyonlands National Park, and stayed there to shoot sunset. This is a huge park, split into three parts: Island in the Sky, The Needles and The Maze. We only got to visit the first, and largest, of the three. Lots of canyons. Lots of panoramas. We shot sunset at Green River Overlook.

One of the "must shoot" places for photographers in Canyonlands is Mesa Arch, and we attempted a sunrise shoot there. The idea is to get the sun coming up through the arch, just when it hits the rock with that amazing light. Well, not only was it a bit hazy that morning, but when we got there (just in the nick of time) there were already about 20 other photographers set up, making it hard to get a good vantage point. We still ended up with some decent shots though. Next time, which will be soon, we'll leave earlier and claim some territory!

Unfortunately, we had to leave Moab sooner than we'd like because we both had flights to catch out of the nearby Grand Junction, CO. When we return, we'll head back to Moab and shoot some more. Arches National Park will get a lot of attention next time around!

More to come…

*Karen also posted images from this trip on her blog, The Pixel Diaries.

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A photo I shot of Karen at Green River Overlook in Canyonlands National Park.

 

A travel week

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The above markers are many of the places we would like to see in the next few months.

Though the bus has been parked in Colorado, the past week has been spent travelling… by plane, that is. I had two of my "From Focused to Finished" seminars, put on by the Kelby Training gang. The first was in Livonia, MI, and the second in Columbus, OH.

I would like to say that they went off without a hitch, but unforunately, this was not a lucky week for us. The first seminar, which was near Detroit, had to be postponed by a day due to a water main break at the convention center. Since the delay caused us to miss our flights, the seminar gang ended doing a late-night drive to Columbus for the second event. Unfortunately, the second event didn't get off problem-free either! The conference center accidentally booked the room next to us with musicians that were causing so much noise it was hard to concentrate! Luckily, the racket stopped after an hour or so and we were able to continue.

The seminars got a good response, despite the unfortunate circumstances, but boy was it good to get back to the bus and relax after that crazy week!

As far as our future plans go, we will be leaving Golden, CO, in the next day or so, en route west. We tried to figure out our schedule a bit and set our travel priorities. Though we dont have everything perfectly scheduled out (and we probably never will, knowing us), our plans for the next two months will take us to Moab, Arches National Park, Zion and other amazing shooting locations on the Utah/Arizona border. The map above marks some (ok, many) of the places we'd like to hit at some point.

That's it for now! More to come…

“Housekeeping” in Colorado

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In my storage unit I found my original 128K Macintosh!

Our time in Colorado has been quite productive, both on the bus and off. One of the big jobs I had to tackle in the area was the clearing out of my storage unit. When I originally moved onto my bus, I left a storage space (smaller than a one-car garage) full of stuff from my old house.

We parked in Golden, CO, which was about a 30-minute drive from Boulder, where my storage was. I've got to admit, going through all the old stuff was both tedious and entertaining. I found things like my original 128K Macintosh, a Commodore VIC 20, all the old brochures for my Photoshop seminars back in the day and a slew of old photos from family, college, etc. (Karen got a real kick out of going through the photos and I know she stole some and has them stashed somewhere!) After several days of sifting through storage, I was able to separate everything into "trash," "sell," or "keep."

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Karen here! I just had to get this photo on here. It's Ben and Mini Ben! How cute!!! (And yes, this was one of the photos I stole)

We also did a lot of upgrading on the bus. For the last year or two, I've had the 17" Epson 3880 photo printer, which has been wonderful. But since I'm going to downsize busses soon, I decided to downsize my printer to the 13" wide Epson R3000, which is a bit smaller. We haven't tested it yet, but we certainly have high hopes! More to come after we take her out for a spin.

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Another big change on the current bus is that Karen now has her own workstation. She's been living on the bus for about a year and a half and has been using her little laptop screen (after years of using Apple's 30" display). Now she finally has her own desk, big display, etc. In other words, she's happy. Check out more on her at her blog, ThePixelDiaries.com.

Whenever we make a big change like that, things get reorganized and moved around, so  we look for the best ways to mount and stow things. I recently came across a nice product that helps us do just that and put it into use this past week. It's called Sugru, and their motto is "Hack things better." (three geek-friendly words, right?) Sugru is a soft-touch silicone rubber that molds onto anything you want and sets permanently in 24 hours at room temperature. So far, we've used it to create "feet" for our Tobasco caddy, so it doesn't slide while in motion, and I mounted my super thin Neat scanner onto the side of Karen's desk so it's both convenient and out of the way. So far this Sugru stuff is pretty great!

That's what I've been up to. It's not so much exciting exploration, but definitely "housekeeping" things that feel good to be done with!

In addition to the progress we made on the current bus, the vintage bus has been seeing progress as well! For the latest update on that, check out the Creative Cruiser site, and the latest update HERE

 

Springtime in Colorado

After hanging out with Joe Glyda in Oklahoma, our next stop was Colorado, where we were planning on spending a few weeks. Now the problem with this drive was that between Oklahoma and Colorado… is Kansas. So let me give you a little recap of Kansas in the following iPhone photo:

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Ok, well that's about it for Kansas. Next stop: Colorado Springs! 

We stayed in Cheyenne Mountain State Park, which was absolutely beautiful. The front of the bus was facing the mountains and the back was overlooking the city. When we woke up in the morning, there were often deer hanging around the bus doing their little deer thing. 

One of the great things about staying in Colorado Springs was that we were within minutes of my longtime friend and wildlife photographer, George Lepp. It's always great hanging out with George and his wonderful wife, Kathy. We went to dinner with them one night and spent some time catching up at their place as well. 

George was also gracious enough to help me out with a custom printing project I had planned. Last year, when I was in Bagan, Miranmar, I shot a 14-image panorama where I tried to encompass the sheer saturation of temples in a small area. In the end, the aspect ratio of the image came out to be 17.5-to-1…  NOT an easy image to print. We worked on it for a while though, and eventually came out with a successful print, measuring 20 feet long. (If there was no software limitation, it would have printed at 40 feet, which would have matched the length of the bus!) It's an impressive print to say the least.

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Me, George and Kathy Lepp, doing a test print of my Bagan pano.

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An iPhone shot of my 20-foot print from Bagan, Miranmar. 

Another fun thing we did in Colorado Springs was eat in the Airplane Restaurant. This place is exactly how it sounds, too. It's a Boeing KC-97 that has been converted into a restaurant. The waiters even don airline attendant attire. The food was decent, and it was definitely a unique way to do lunch.

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The airplane restaurant in Colorado Springs

After Colorado Springs, we moved on to the quaint town of Golden. We couldn't have parked in a better place. The little RV park was right on a river and at the foothills of some beautiful Colorado mountains. You can walk from the bus to town in less than 10 minutes and there are plenty of interesting places to explore. 

More on Colorado to come…

April travels: Fort Worth to Tulsa

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Here's a shot of me with George Fields' Flxible. George is the fabricator and mechanic who is working on my vintage bus.

After Photoshop World, we flew back to Fort Worth and stayed at the shop where the vintage bus is getting worked on. Upon returning, I was excited to find that much progress had been made since we left! I posted the updates on the Creative Cruiser web site right HERE.

It's been a while since I've been in the same location as my vintage bus, so we spent about a week at the shop in Texas so that I could take measurements, work details out with the great team working on the bus and make some crucial decisions regarding the systems it will have. When we finally moved on, I felt really confident that the bus was definitely in the right hands. 

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Here's my bus in George's shop, getting lots of TLC. 

When we moved on, the next stop on the map was Tulsa, OK. We stopped here for two reasons: First, my friend and fellow photographer, Joe Glyda, lives in Tulsa and we were psyched to pay him a visit! Second was an exhibit going on at the Philbrook Museum of Art called "American Streamlined Design: The World of Tomorrow." Streamlined design was the follow-up to the art deco period, and it's the style I'm most interested in. When the vintage bus is complete, the interior will feature this kind of design.

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Me and Joe at the Philbrook Museum. The grounds there were great!

Our day in Tulsa was a blast. I'm used to seeing Joe in the midst of Photoshop World craziness, so it was nice to have a full day of one-on-one time. We got breakfast and then headed to the Philbrook Museum. There were over 180 streamlined design items on display there, many of which would be great additions to the vintage bus, and some of which… I already have! The grounds of the museum were really surprising, in that I couldnt believe we were in Tulsa! It was a massive and beautifully arranged array of gardens and walkways. 

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 Karen and I are heading into the Streamlined Design exhibit at the Philbrook. 

After the museum, Joe showed us around Tulsa a bit and he did a good job at honing in on the stuff we like to shoot. He took us to the massive Tulsa oil man! And man, is he massive! We spent a while shooting there, and I'll hopefully process the images soon. For now, though, here's Karen, sitting on his gigantic shoe. 

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Here's Karen sitting on the giant oil man's shoe in Tulsa.

We had a great time touring around Tulsa and spending time with Joe.

Next stop: Colorado (but we have to drive through a lot of nothingness to get there!)

Photoshop World: The Feel, The Fashion, The Filters

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Yup. It's that time again. The digital love fest that is Photoshop World invades Orlando. And since we spent much of the winter in Florida, we flew there from Fort Worth. Actually, I flew first to Los Angeles and then to Atlanta to present my Kelby Training seminar. While I did that, Karen flew to NJ to hang with her family for a week. We met up again in Orlando before the conference kicked off. 

Every year, Photoshop World takes on a different theme. Last year was rock & roll and the NAPP team dressed and performed as KISS at the keynote. This year's theme was Project Photoshop, based on the hit TV show "Project Runway." If you've ever been to a PSW keynote you know that they go ALL OUT. So they created a perfect parody of the TV series, down to Julianne Kost taking on the roll of Heidi Klum. Oh, and not only were the dresses themed after different Photoshop tools, but they were actually designed by fashion students in the Orlando area.

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Above, my class on HDR plugins is about to start at the Orange County Convention Center. 

I taught three classes this year: Actions & Intermediates, HDR Plugins and Extracting Hair in Photoshop CS5. There were also a handful of new instructors, which was great. PSW is just as great for meeting new people as it is for learning new things. One of the reasons we always look forward to it is that so many friends are converging in one place. 

After this event, it's back to Texas to work on the vintage bus project. More to come!

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At the PSW Expo, onOne Software had a photo booth, that Karen and I just couldn't resist.

Fort Worth, TX: The vintage bus saga continues

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By the time Mardi Gras ended, we were pretty much ready to move on from New Orleans. Besides, the vintage bus project needed some serious attention, since the California mechanic was NOT working out*. 

Luckily, some helpful folks on my "bus nut" forums stepped in and recommended George Fields, a fabricator and mechanic located outside of Fort Worth, TX. We drove from Louisiana to Texas and after meeting with him I knew he was the right guy for the job. The next step was getting the vintage bus shipped 1,300 miles to Fort Worth. (no biggie, right?)

I'm not going to go into detail here, because I posted the whole story, with lots of photos, on the Creative Cruiser website, which is dedicated completely to this project. Karen also made a video of the vintage bus' arrival in TX, which you can see HERE. So now, the two busses are spending a week together while we head to Florida for Photoshop World.

*"Not working out" would be putting it very nicely, as you'll read on the Creative Cruiser progress page.

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Fat Tuesday… in New Orleans

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It seems that Mardi Gras is one of those things that I've wanted to experience at SOME point, just for the experience, but never really made the push to be down there for all the craziness. This year, however, we were actually at the right place, at the right time and with the right friends!

We were parked in St. Augustine, Florida, which is actually the oldest city in the country, (Karen's blog post on that HERE) and were lucky to run into our friends and fellow full-timers Shonda and Michael. We stayed in the same RV park and explored the city together while we were there. It was then that we learned that they were headed to Mardi Gras after leaving Florida. We hadn't really thought about it, but after looking at the map and calendar, we figured it was a convenient time to do it, and heck, we'd be with friends! We were in!

Now I'm not really sure how to explain Mardi Gras, because it's one of those experiences where if you haven't seen it for yourself, words and photos might not do it justice. It's crazy wild. 

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We arrived a few days before Fat Tuesday and set out for Bourbon Street one night, and at 8 pm it was already packed with people in costume, street musicians and women lifting their shirts for strings of beads tossed from streetside balconies. Karen and I had to hold on to each other's shirts just so we wouldn't lose each other, which could easily happen in a split second amongst those masses. 

What's interesting though, is that we ended up finding our happy place NOT on Bourbon Street, or in the French Quarter, or on the main parade route. Instead we hit up Frenchman Street and found it to be like a breath of fresh air in comparison. Now, mind you, it was still Mardi Gras and it was crowded. But it was crowded with locals and funky, more eclectic parades. We visited a few bars/restaurants there and they all had such a unique and local flavor, and it was all classic New Orleans, from the decor style, to the music, to the people. 

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On Fat Tuesday, we ventured out really early. And of course, at 8:00 am, there were bars open, with customers drinking outside. We had tickets for a venue called the Eiffel Society, which had a private building with restrooms, a bar, food, etc. It also had a private grandstand so we were able to watch the parades without having out toes stepped on. All in all, the right choice for watching the mahem!

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In the end, we were really glad that we went, and now that we know the SERIOUS craziness can be avoided and traded in for a more local and interesting experience, we'd probably do it again!

Next stop: Texas (and Vintage Bus updates)!