Adventures in the Southwest

Karen shot this of me in Lower Antelope Canyon. We spent a good two hours shooting and exploring there.

The past few months have been full of adventure and photography… and this last week was no exception. The Page, Arizona area is a gold mine for those two things and we made the most of it for sure. The two places that took priority during our stay were Antelope Canyon, which is easy to get to, and the Wave, which is not.

We tackled the Wave first. In order to get there, you have to show up, first thing in the morning, at the land management office the day before you ideally want to go. There may be anywhere between 50 and 100 people trying to get a permit. 10 people get chosen, via a lottery system. Luck was on our side that morning, because our number got chosen, and we were on for the next day!

The Wave actually looks just like it sounds.

After scoring permits, getting to the Wave is still a commitment. It's a 3-mile hike, each way, and since they don't want just anyone to be able to go, there's no trail. You get a printout with landmarks and directions, but that's it. And each person needs to carry a gallon of water on them, in addition to any camera gear you might need. It's all worth it though, because the Wave is unlike any place I've ever seen. It's hard to even do it justice with photos. We spent several hours there, photographing and exploring the surrounding areas. By the time we finally got back to the car, we were both completely zapped.

This is one of Karen's people-free shots from Upper Antelope. The amount of people in there at once was ridiculous, but it was still breathtaking.

Next stop in the Page area was Antelope Canyon. We wanted to see both the upper and lower canyons, and set off to the lower first. Lower Antelope Canyon was more pleasant to shoot, because there weren't insane amounts of people. We got photo passes, and had to deal with a handful of people, but nothing to complain about. The light was great, and we spent about two hours there. Upper Antelope was a very different experience. It's this site where you see those beautiful beams of light coming down onto the sand, and it makes for iconic photos. However, the amount of people here was astronomical. I've never seen anything like it. There were hundreds of people, and even the people on the photography tour were herded around like cattle and told exactly what to shoot. It was very paint-by-numbers, and not our style at all. We'll have to return on the off-season for a better shooting experience. The place was still crazy to see though.

This is one of my shots from the Toadstool Hoodoos. The trailhead for this place was less than a mile from where the bus was parked!

We also visited the Toadstool Hoodoos, which was a shorter hike, and it turned out to be great for sunset. Horseshoe Bend was also a stop, and we went there for sunset as well. That's a nice place to shoot, because it's a short hike and, although there are a lot of people there, they're not going to get into your shots, as you're shooting off a cliff.

We rented a boat and explored Lake Powell a bit. In this shot, we were headed out of the Antelope Canyon area.

We stayed in the Lake Powell RV Park, which was great. We had access to the whole park and the rest of the Lake Powell Resort. We actually rented a boat on the last day to explore the canyons from a different vantage point. The weather was perfect, and it was great being on the water.

I love light painting, and I've been interested in getting into other kinds of night photography as well. We were parked at the Lake Powell campground, which got quite dark at night, so I tried out a star trail image mixed with a little light painting.

Though we could have stayed in the area much longer, it was time to move on, yet again. Next stop: Vegas. I have to fly out to teach an in-house seminar, and we have friends in the Vegas area. More to come…

Arches and Zion, with a little Washington, D.C. thrown in

My shot of Mesa Arch, the last sunrise we spent in Moab.

In the beginning of the week, we were just wrapping up our time in Moab. Our friend Sandy, and her husband, Earl, joined us for the last two days, and we shot sunset at the Windows section of Arches, and then sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park.

We had to leave Moab because I needed to fly out of St. George, UT, for my "From Focus to Finished" Kelby Training seminar in Washington, D.C. The seminar went well, but it was a rough road getting there. Karen drove me the 35 minutes from our RV park to where the GPS indicated the airport was. However, as we approached and saw a lone plane, on its side, and not another car in sight, we knew something was wrong…


Sure enough, we pulled up and saw a sign indicating the airport was closed. It gave an address to the new location… which was 35 minutes away! So we wrangled with the GPS again to get  to the new location. After about 25 minutes more of driving, we came upon the following sign…


Panic mode started. This was probably one of the only planes leaving out of St George that day, and I HAD to be on it. We finally got directions to the new location, which was truly in the middle of nowhere. Karen was driving over 90 mph to get me there on time. Luckily all worked out fine, but this was definitely a first for us.

In Zion, I was shooting the Watchman with the Virgin River as a foreground.

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This is my shot of the Watchman in Zion National Park.

Anyway, after I returned from Washington DC, I was able to join Karen in Zion National Park. The only negative was that it was Memorial Day weekend, and the place was mobbed. We're still reviewing our images, but regardless of how they came out, we had a good time. We had a wonderful dinner at the Spotted Dog restaurant just outside of Zion in the town of Springfield. (Totally recommend this place, if you're ever in the area.)

Before we arrived in Zion, we made a stop in the itty bitty town of Virgin, UT. There's a funky place en route to the park that makes for a great shooting location (if it's not loaded with kids, that is). Lots of goofy looking western-style buildings, with a petting zoo and a little shop with a lot of character.

On the technology front, we ordered a fancy router (Cradlepoint MBR1400) that is supposed to give us the following benefits: 1) Ability to "load share" two wireless cards (Verizon for both of us) to double our speed when one person is using the internet and allow Karen to use some of my bandwidth since I have a 20GB monthly cap, while her plan only offers 5GB, 2) Rebroadcast campground wifi within the bus over both a secure internal Wifi network and via ethernet. We've had *very* mixed results so far and will need to be in touch with tech support to see if they can smooth things out. We've just had too many instances when we can't get on the net and have to restart the device or do manual changes to the configuration.

Here's a different perspective of the Watchman in Zion.

Tomorrow we'll end up in the Page, Arizona area. Much to shoot there! More to come…

Moab, Round 2: Arches National Park

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, UT

Last week was a teaching week, as I bounced all over the country filming training DVDs and presenting my From Focused to Finished seminar. This week was a shooting week. And we did a LOT of shooting. On Wednesday, Karen and I both flew back to Grand Junction, CO, where the bus was parked. From there we immediately hit the road. Destination: Moab (again). Our time around Moab was cut short a few weeks ago, so we wanted to return and focus on Arches National Park.

This is an 11-shot pano that includes the North and South Window Arches and a mini rainbow (Click to see big.)

We stayed at Archview RV park, which was pretty convenient to both Arches and downtown Moab. The first shooting day started a little late because of bad weather (and bad light), but once it started, it was excellent! We hiked to Delicate Arch, the iconic Utah symbol (It's even pictured on the license plates). The hike is about 1.5 miles each way, and it can get a little strenuous at times, but it's completely worth it. The arch and the surrounding area is completely breathtaking. We stayed there a good two hours to shoot sunset. (And if you're a photographer bound for Moab, Delicate Arch is THE sunset spot.)

© _MG_2890_HDR-Edit.psd @ 16.7% (Curves 2, Layer Mask_16) *

A shot through the North Window, in Arches.

In the following days we explored a lot more of Arches. Some areas required a hike, while some were accessible right from the parking lots. We spent a good amount of time in the Windows section, where there are a handful of arches in one place, all at different angles so there was a lot of photographic exploration to do. We discovered that this is an excellent place for sunset. Just before the sun hits the horizon, these arches and formations light up in the most beautiful colors. It's really short-lived though, because after five minutes the light is dead again and it's time to move on.

Shot through Turrett Arch, in late afternoon.

The Devil's Garden section, at the back end of the park, was a lot of fun. There's a lot to see and shoot in a small area. The positive to that is that you can get a lot of variety in one afternoon. The negative is that there are a lot of tourists in this section, probably because it's one of the easiest hikes in the park. Landscape Arch is worth dealing with the masses though. It's a massive ribbon of rock, longer than a football field in length (which sports fans tell me is pretty long).

Car streakage

We tried to shoot a good amount of car streaks after sunset in Arches. This was the result of one.

We also spent a bit of time in downtown Moab, though the restaurants' schedules were a little frustrating for us. Some were only open for breakfast, and some only for dinner. One recommendation for breakfast would be the Jailhouse Cafe. We went there a few times and totally loved it. (In fact, we may head back again tomorrow!) 

Shadow of tree where we stopped to have a picnic near the Devil's Garden area.

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A shot near the Devil's Garden area (I had a tree fixation that day!)

There's one more thing worth mentioning in this post, though it had nothing to do with Moab. I recently switched out the Epson 3880 printer I had on the bus for the new and smaller R3000 printer. We've love it so far, and the only thing missing was the custom cover like the one on the last printer. To my knowledge, there aren't any companies making covers for this printer, so we had to pull out the big guns… Grandma. Yup, Karen's grandma is nearing 90 but still works a sewing machine as if she were still working for the clothing design business she did all her life. Now we have a nice custom cover, just as good (if not better) than anything you'd get in a store.

Our custom printer cover came with it's own custom tag.



A week of travel, training and technomads


Productive, fun and hectic would all be good words to describe the past week. I was literally all over the place (five states in one week) and had a lot going on.

Tampa, Florida
I started the week in Grand Junction, Colorado, where the bus is parked. We had been exploring Moab and then returned to Colorado in order to be closer to an airport. My first stop was the Tampa area, home of the NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals) and the Kelby Training team. I spent my time there recording some videos and Kelby Training DVDs, which will also be available in the online training section. There will be two courses, both involving Photoshop Curves. I'll let everyone know when those are available, which should be soon.

The Grid_ Episode 10 | The Grid
A screenshot of me on "The Grid," along with Matt Kloskowski and RC Concepcion.

In a recent blog post, I also mentioned that I would be appearing on "The Grid," the KelbyTV talk show focusing on anything that has to do with Photoshop, photography and other geekiness. The show aired live last Monday, and you can still view it online, right HERE.


Karen shot this during my From Focus to Finished Seminar in Philadelphia

Philadelphia & New Jersey
After Tampa, my next stop was Philadelphia, where I presented my From Focus to Finished seminar. As a side note here, we have posted upcoming tour dates for this seminar through December and you can find those on my Digital Mastery site.

Karen joined me on this leg of the trip and we stayed at her folks' place across the bridge in New Jersey. What worked out great was that our friends and fellow technomads, Chris and Cherie, of Technomadia, were passing through New Jersey the same time! It had been nearly a year since we met up with them last, so it was nice to be reunited again and geek out in a bus nut kind of way (Chris and Cherie are currently in the market for a vintage bus, similar to the one I have, so I was happy to share research and talk busses).

Me downing a delicious Philly cheese steak (When in Rome…)

We spent the day in Philly, so cheese steaks were a must! We even waited in a 30-minute long line for these famous sandwiches …. and I'd say it was worth it! We also visited the Magic Gardens, a folk art environment featuring the mosaics of Isaiah Zagar. The place is a labyrinth of art, consising of tiles, glass, a bunch of random objects, mirrors, woodcarvings, etc. It's actually hard to explain to someone who has never seen it. The place takes up half a city block, but Zagar's mosaics can be seen throughout South Street as well.

Me in the outside portion of the Magic Gardens in Philadelphia

New Jersey felt like a whirlwind, because before I knew it I was on a plane to Seattle, where I will be presenting my seminar again on Tuesday. I was excited to head to Seattle because it's the current home of Steven Roberts, the original technomad. And what does that mean? This man was living a nomadic, technology-rich life decades before me and my other current technomads were doing so. He was really a pioneer in the nomadic community. He's still at it, working on his current "nomadic substrate" in Seattle, which happens to be a sail boat. I had been wanting to meet Steven for a while now, and had been looking forward to picking his brain. I knew he would have great advice for the systems on my vintage bus. And it was great to meet with someone who, up until now, I had only known in the digital world. I got to tour his lab and his boat, which were both awesome. Overall a great start to my stay in Seattle!


More to come…


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


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.

Rifle Waterfall-web

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.)


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.

Karen Canyon-web

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


A travel week

Valley of fire state park - Google Maps
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

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."


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.


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,

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:

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.


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

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.

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…