Happy New Year!

Our 2011 travel map. This is one of the first pages of our yearbook.

Happy new year everyone! I hope you all enjoyed the holiday season as much as we did. As I mentioned in my last post, I spent xmas in New Jersey with Karen’s family and stayed there for several days after. We spent a lot of time relaxing, playing with new toys and getting some work done.

My friend Mike took me for a ride in his electric Tesla the other day!

The other day, I flew back to San Diego (where the bus is parked) while Karen hung back to spend more time with her family. When I returned to CA, I got to spend some time with my great friend Mike and he even took me for a ride in his Tesla. It’s amazing how fast these powerful electric cars are!

The cover of our 2011 yearbook

It’s also been fun reflecting on everything that’s happened in 2011. We really filled the year with a lot of fun stuff and made some excellent memories. Just as she did last year, Karen created a book that documents our entire year. She designed the whole thing herself, adding pictures, graphics and blog posts from all our experiences this past year. So instead of reminiscing in words, I’ll send you to the digital version of our 2011 yearbook. Check it out HERE

And cheers to 2012!

Happy Holidays!


Happy Holidays everyone! When I left off last week, we were just arriving in the San Diego area and getting ready to fly over to New Jersey for the holidays with Karen’s family. Karen flew out a few days before I did, and I literally dropped her off at the airport in the bus on my way to a San Diego RV park.

Prior to flying out myself, I spent a lot of time getting work done and planning for the new year. Unfortunately, I was stuck in the bus because we still have no tow car. We recently sold our last MINI, and are waiting for the new one to arrive from Oxford, England. The last time we checked, the new Mini had finished production, and was just waiting to get on a ship.

I flew over to NJ on the 22nd, to spend the holidays with the Nace fam. We had an amazing dinner on Christmas Eve that was made by Vera, Karen’s 89-year-old grandmother. She cooked 8 or 9 different types of fish, which were paired with some excellent wines. Not a bad way to bring in the holidays! Christmas morning at their house is somewhat of a gift marathon. There were eight of us total, and everyone took turns giving and opening gifts. It went on so long that we had to take a brunch intermission and a bloody mary happy hour!

Karen’s parents got me a GoPro camera, which I’m totally psyched to try out. We had been talking about getting one of these for some timelapse things as well as really unique videos. Karen gave out a lot of fun book gifts that she made with Blurb. If you’re not familiar with them, Blurb is a pretty great way to create nice-looking one-off books. We also received our 2011 yearbook, which Karen spent 80+ hours on the past few weeks and ended up being over 200 pages long. The yearbook is something she creates at the end of the year which literally chronolizes everything we’ve done, with pictures, blog entries and graphics. We’ll post the entirety of it come new years. She, of course, used Blurb for that as well. Karen also gave her sister a beautiful image that she had printed on acryllic. It’s a new way to present photos, and the results are stunning. She used mpix pro for this.

I also wanted to mention a pretty funny gift that I gave Karen, and she LOVED it. It’s called the Alien Abduction Lamp, and it’s literally a space ship with a beam of light coming down (the beam is the lamp’s light source) that is sucking a cow up from a round astroturf lawn. Seriously. This is what my girl wanted. Check out the lamp HERE.

We wrapped up the day enjoying some spirits while watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. We still have some festivities to go and I’ll be in NJ until the 30th. After that, it’s back to San Diego (and hopefully warmer weather).

_ Mpix.Com

Life on the road: The furthest thing from boring!

HuntingtonBeach-1The view out the front window of the bus in Huntington Beach.

In my last post, we were wrapping up a five-day class with the Light Workshops near Morro Bay, CA. Since then, we’ve started to meander south toward San Diego. The first two days were pretty quiet. We stayed in Ventura, CA, spending a lot of time getting work done and preparing for the holidays.

We then headed toward Huntington Beach, but not without a few stops on the way. First off, we got to meet with my good friend Eric Magnusson, who lives in the greater LA area. I hadn’t seen Eric in years, so it was great to meet for breakfast and talk about color management (his speciality). After breakfast, we headed south a bit and then met with fellow photographer Ed Freeman, who has a gallery in the Chinatown area of LA. Two friends within three hours … not bad!

When we arrived at our RV park in Huntington Beach, we were delighted. The view was gorgeous. Not only were we right on the beach with a perfect view of the ocean, but we were also a 2-minute walk from the Huntington Beach Pier. Since we dont have a car right now (the new one should arrive mid-Jan) this spot was perfect in that it was a 5-minute walk to town.

Photo copy 2
Me and Russell Brown at the Digital Darkroom event.

It turns out, we arrived in the area with perfect timing! Adobe’s Russell Brown clued me in to an event that was going on called the Digital Darkroom, in the Annenberg Space for Photography. It’s a gallery that features a wide array of digital artists… everything from compositing to 3D imaging. The whole thing was inspired by Jerry Uelsmann, who was creating incredible composites in the darkroom long before digital photography came about. The event was actually a pre-opening, so we were really lucky to get in. The work was excellent, and they did a great job of presenting it all. After the gallery event, we met up with my friend Jeff Dunas, who now runs the Palm Springs Photo Festival. I’ll most likely be teaching there this spring.

Photo copy
Me and Lee Varis at Huntington Beach after breakfast.

So let’s just tally things up here. I had been in Huntington Beach for about 24 hours and I had already met up with three friends, plus the whole gang at the Digital Darkroom event. As if this weren’t enough, there were more friends to meet. My great friend and fellow photographer Lee Varis met us for breakfast one morning. We ate at the diner located on the very end of the pier and had a perfect view of the ocean. Not bad! Later that evening, our friends and fellow RVers, Sam and Tracy, rolled in to our RV park. They were in town for a SantaCon event, and stopped by to see us on the way. The fun part about this was that I didn’t even tell Karen they were coming, so it was a total surprise when they showed up! We had dinner at a place called 25 Degrees. They specialize in burgers, and I think I had the best burger of my life there. I kid you not!

Photo copy 5
A [bad] iPhone shot of me and Craig Dorsey working out the interior of the vintage bus.

The next day was full of vintage bus planning. In case you dont know of the project, in addition to the bus we currently live in, I own a vintage bus that is currently in Ft Worth getting the engine and transmission work done. After that part is done, the bus will move to Craig Dorsey’s place in Nova Scotia, where the interior will be done. Craig just happened to be in the LA area this month, so he was able to stop by the bus to go over some of the interior design and planning. We spent nearly eight hours talking about the project!

Before we left Huntington Beach, we met with Colin Smith, of Photoshop Cafe, for dinner. It was nice meeting him out of the tradeshow realm. He showed us a bit of the old town in Orange County… a place Karen and I would both love to revisit.

After we left Huntington Beach, we headed south toward San Diego, stopping at Stone Brewery on the way. Stone is one of our favorite places in the San Diego area, and they have easy parking for the bus. While we were there, my friend Robin Bjorklund, who I grew up with in Minneapolis, stopped by the brewery. He and his family just moved to the SD area and have started to grow an affinity for Stone as well.

As of right now, Karen is getting ready to fly out to NJ, and I will follow in a few days. We’ll spend the holidays there with her family and then fly back to winter in San Diego. More to come…


A week teaching at Light Workshops

A light painted shot I got at Sunny Acres during my 5-day course with Light Workshops.

The past week was full of intensive photography and Photoshop training. I started the week in Fort Lauderdale, even though the bus is parked in Morro Bay, CA. I flew out for a one-day Kelby Training "From Focus to Finished" seminar, which went really well. An extra treat to this short trip was that I was able to meet up with Bruce and Judy, a couple who joined us on our recent African photo safari trip!

We spent a lot of classroom time going over Photoshop techniques and helping students with their images.

As soon as I flew back, we moved the bus to Los Osos, CA to be close to the photographic center for the Light Workshops. I taught a five-day class, from Wednesday to Sunday, on Shooting for Photoshop. It was a small, hands-on class, and the students were great. We spent a lot of time in the digital lab, going over Photoshop and photography techniques, and giving one-on-one advice. Then we would go out shooting, with specific techniques in mind. One of our shooting destinations was a place called Sunny Acres, which was full of old cars and some buildings with a lot of detail. We first went during the day to practice some HDR photography and then we returned in the evening to do some light painting. It was fun seeing the students getting really into it! On another night, we went out to the coast to shoot the sunset at the bluffs. We shot some long exposures as well as some time-lapse photography. Overall, the whole event went really well.

At the end of the workshop, Karen and I had to get a group shot with Hal and Victoria.

It was also great to catch up with Hal and Victoria. They run the Light Workshops and they really do an awesome job, doing their best to make sure everyone gets the absolute most out of the experience… both students and instructors. If you're not familiar with them, check out the site HERE. They do lots of workshops, both on site at the center and at incredible destinations like Alaska.

From here, our plan is to head south. Neither of us like the cold, so we'll probably be spending a lot of time in San Diego this winter. I'll also be flying out with Karen to spend the holidays with her family in South Jersey. More to come…

A low key week on the coast

One of the week’s projects was putting up the Xmas tree on the bus.

For the past several weeks, we have spent a lot of time exploring and shooting. This is pretty normal for us, but sometimes we need some quiet time to focus on work and reboot, so to speak. That’s what we’ve been doing over the last week. We left Napa Valley and headed in the direction of the Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo area. Our location is great because we are right near the water and within walking distance to the marina area (we are still in between cars, with our new MINI Countryman on order). The main reason we chose this location is to be near Los Osos and the San Luis Obispo airport. This week, I am flying to Fort Lauderdale to present my “From Focus to Finished” one-day seminar. Then I am flying back and teaching a five-day course at the Light Photographic Workshops (located in Los Osos).

We’ve spent a lot of time working on projects and making travel plans for 2012. Of course, any “planning” for us is more of a loose idea of where we want to go. We give a new meaning to the word “tentative.” I also got to spend a day with my old friend Brian Lawler, a photographer and graphic arts professional who lives in the area. It had been over two years since we last met up!

The Creative Cruiser’s engine now boast a nice fresh coat of paint.

The past week also marked a lot of new progress on the vintage bus project. While I wasn’t there to see it in person, the person who is working on it (in Ft. Worth, TX) has been sending lots of photos and detailed updates. The support system for the frame has gotten a pretty big overhaul and the engine has been removed, cleaned and freshly painted. Check out the Creative Cruiser’s Facebook page to follow all the progress.

More to come…

Hello, Wine Country!

We have been wanting to explore California wine country for a while, and with the Africa trip over and a few weeks to go before some December workshops, this was the perfect opportunity. It was a two-day drive from Las Vegas to Napa Valley, and when we arrived, we parked at Skyline Park, which is near the southernmost point in the valley.

Me and Karen with my friends Marv Miller and Lewis Kemper.

Before we even got to exploring, I was meeting up with friends! My great friends Lewis Kemper and Marv Miller happen to live not too far away, so they both dropped the bus to catch up and grab lunch. I had been to Iceland with Lewis and Marv, and it was one of those trips that resulted in a lot stories, so it was fun to reminisce about the adventure.

NapaValley-375Karen got this shot of me at Raymond, a winery in the Valley. They have a bunch of picture frames just hanging in their vineyard. Pretty cool!

When we finally went out to go shooting, we started driving up Silverado Trail Road. There are two main roads that go up and down the valley, Silverado Trail Road and St. Helena Highway (29). We would often drive up one and down the other. Silverado Trail was more of the backroad, and was usually less crowded than the other. It was easy for us to travel at our own pace and pull over whenever we saw something we wanted to shoot. We got a lot of vineyard shots here, but struggled with the weather during our whole stay in the Valley. We had few opportunities to shoot in truly good light. The good news is, when the light was blah, there were other things to do in Napa… like drink wine!

NapaValley-468-EditA photo Karen got at Kunde Family Estate, which is the Sonoma winery where much of the film “Bottle Shock” was filmed.

We did several tastings during the course of our stay, some standing out more than others. With many places, you can just walk in and do a tasting, and with others, you might need to book a tasting or a tour. We did two tours and the first was Castella di Amorosa. This was an actual castle built in the Valley and made into a winery. The tour was very cool, because hey, it’s a castle! The guide had us weaving around the underground wine cave and tasting rooms, and we got to do a barrel tasting in the cellar. Now as I said, the atmosphere of this place was pretty interesting. The wine, however, was not. It wasn’t bad, but Karen and I both thought it was quite overpriced for what it was.

KarenMontelenaA very happy Karen at Chateau Montelena

The other tour we did was Chateau Montelena. Karen was NOT leaving Napa without going here and she even signed us up for the “Bottle Shock Experience.” If you’re not familiar with Bottle Shock, it’s the name of a movie that was recently filmed about Chateau Montelena and the famous 1976 Judgement of Paris wine tasting that helped put Napa Valley on the map. The movie is not a documentary. It’s a fictionalized account of what went down there and I’d recommend it if you haven’t seen it. After this tour, we even went to another winery in Sonoma, where they did a lot of filming, and then to a local dive bar that’s in the movie.

Some of the other highlights for me were the tasting at Ehlers winery (I actually bought a couple bottles there) and Seghesio, where I not only bought a case, but we signed up for their wine club. It was also nice to visit Charles Krug, which was the first winery to start up in Napa and is still going strong, with Peter Mondavi at the helm.

Ben Tastingcar
Here I am in the tasting car on the Napa Valley Wine Train. It’s not the best iPhone shot, but you can see how nice the interior is.

Since we were in wine country for Thanksgiving, we wanted to do something special, so we managed to snag reservations on the Napa Valley Wine Train. The train runs up and down the valley, you are served dinner, and are free to roam around the train and visit the tasting car, where you can create your own flights of wine. The food was excellent, and we couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend the holiday.

On a totally different topic….

While this is completely unrelated to our stay in Napa Valley, I just couldn’t leave it out. Before we left Las Vegas bound for wine country, we ordered a new Mini Cooper to tow behind the bus. We had been towing Karen’s Mini for a while, and had been talking about switching to a Mini that was a little larger and that would also match the colors of the vintage bus. We ended up ordering the new Mini Countryman, which is the 4-door version, in red with white roof and bonnet stripes. Before leaving for Africa, we sold the current Mini to our great friends Chris and Cherie, of Technomadia. They recently bought their vintage bus, which just happens to match the Mini! They were in need of a tow vehicle, aka a toad, so the timing worked out perfectly. The only negative is that there were no Countrymans that matched what we wanted, so we had to order one. This will leave us carless for a few weeks (we rented a car in Napa) but should be worth it in the end.

CountrymanHere is a pic of the new Mini we ordered. Should be arriving mid January!