Glacier & Other Montana Goodness

Hi everyone! Here’s the Monday weekly update. We spent most of the past week in Glacier National Park, exploring and photographing. I had not been to the park since college, and it was Karen’s first time there all together, so we were both pretty excited. The bus was parked about five miles from the park entrance, so it was really convenient to get in and out. We would head in mid-afternoon and stay through sunset and twilight, which is actually after 10 pm this time of year. That was actually a good AND bad thing. Good because we got an extended golden hour, and bad because there were some roads that were closed in the park after 9 pm so we couldn’t really shoot the nice light in those areas.

BenGlacierValleyAn evening shot of the beautiful valley. 

Glacier National Park is still home to several small glaciers, but there’s not nearly as many as there used to be, and one guide told us that by 2030, there probably wont be any glaciers left there at all. Even the glaciers that you do see there now look more like big patches of snow. You cant really compare them to what you’d see in Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park. But regardless of the actual glaciers, this park is just beautiful, with lakes and green valleys setting the foreground for the beautiful Rocky Mountain Range. Most of the snow had melted by the time we arrived mid-July, so it would be nice to return a little earlier in the year one day to see some more white caps.

The park is home to a few beautiful lakes, and Karen and I took a boat ride on Lake McDonald to get a glimpse of the park from the water. In my last post, I mentioned that the park used a fleet of restored vintage busses for public transportation. Well, I guess that’s a theme here because the boats used for tours are old and restored too. Quite beautiful, actually.

BenMcDonaldLakePanoWe took an hour long cruise on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park in this 1929 wooden boat. I thought an antique treatment was appropriate.

Kar-GlacierBoatHere’s an iPhone pano I shot of Karen during the boat tour.

While we were there, I also got to lightpaint a bus from Glacier National Park’s vintage fleet. The park owns 33 busses that were made from 1936 to 1939. This Model 706 bus was make by the White Motor Company of Cleveland ohio in 1936. It was restored and had its powertrain modernized by Form Motor Company back in the year 2000.
The most difficult part of this light painting was dealing with all the black areas on the vehicle. Those areas either absorb all the light falling on them and become a black hole, or reflect light of a certain angle back into the camera like a mirror. I had to light the black areas from odd angles to pick up the texture of the material, or light the ground surrounding it to get an interesting reflection. The same is true of the front bumper, which would have come out black had I not strategically lit the ground and other areas to produce a nice reflection to define its shape. Since it doesn’t really get dark until close to 11pm this time of year in Glacier, I chose to capture this image in a barn where darkness could be achieved while the sun was still up.

Some interesting details: The White Motor Company went out of business in 1980. When they went bankrupt, Volvo bought their assets. In 1999 Ford bought Volvo. A year later they had a special interest in restoring these buses since they, in essence, owned the assets of the company that originally created the buses. Once 2005 rolled around, Volvo stopped being a profitable division of Ford, so Ford sold the company to a Chinese company in 2008. Good thing Ford owned it back in 2000, otherwise these buses might not have been lovingly restored. Glacier still owns one of the original unrestored buses that I didn’t get a chance to see. I hear it’s not in the best of shape.

Red-Jammer-smallMy lightpainting of one of Glacier’s vintage busses.

BenGlacierWaterfallYou can see this waterfall right from the main road in Glacier National Park.

After leaving Glacier, our next goal was Yellowstone, so we headed south. We did make a few stops on the way, though. The first was called the Miracle of America Museum in Polson, Montana. This place has an enormous collection of old Americana. Some of the stuff is pretty cool. Some is a little weird. I was drawn to an old vintage service station on the property, and you can see an iPhone shots of that below. There’s also loads of old cars, buildings and other random things, including “Area 51” space ships.

BenMOAmuseumAn iPhone shot of the old service station in the Miracle of America Museum.

About an hour north of Missoula is the National Bison Range and we stopped there along our travels as well. The Bison Range is a National Wildlife preserve and is home to 300-400 bison. There are a few gravel loop roads on which you can drive your car around the range. We only spent an hour or so there, as the sun was setting pretty quickly, but we were still able to see groups of bison. One of them even walked up right alongside our car and into the road. It’s a neat place to stop if you’re already in the area.

BisonRange-13One of Karen’s shots from the National Bison Range.

We spent one night in Missoula and then continued south toward Yosemite. The bus is now parked about 30 miles from the park entrance and Karen is off exploring. Where am I, you might ask? In Cleveland, Ohio, presenting my Photoshop Creativity 1-day seminar. I flew out yesterday and will return tomorrow to join Karen in the park. Since Yellowstone is so huge and magnificent, we plan on spending a good amount of time there. More to come!

Explorations in Washington & the Columbia Gorge

Hey gang! This past week has been jam-packed with photography, and as a result, this post is going to be very photo-rich. In fact, I’m going to make this more of a “photologue” type of update. Here goes:

In the beginning of the week, we moved on from Seattle and headed toward North Cascades National Park. Now that I’ve knocked off all the 50 states, I’m trying to visit all the national parks as well. North Cascades is just south of the Canadian border and is full of snow-capped mountains. There is one main road that goes right through the park so we took that and made various stops. I’ve got to say, even though the drive was gorgeous, the area didn’t “sing to me” photographically. Now, that’s just me. It could be completely different for you.

I took the above pano from the Washington Pass overlook on the east side of the park. I still have to fine-tune it. We parked the bus a few miles outside the park entrance in a tiny town called Marblemount. From there, we would go exploring. We also attempted to enter the park on a more primitive road, but the washboard bumps ended up being too much for the Mini. It wasn’t a failed journey, though, because we found this nice waterfall on the way (shown below) and we ended up spending a while shooting it.

In the shot below, Karen demonstrates how to shoot a roadside waterfall when it’s cold out. She parked the car next to the falls and is sitting on the heated seats! Her tripod is set up on the ground next to the car.

The next stop in our travels was Ellensburg, WA. I wanted to photograph a vintage gas station there, and we ended up over-nighting in that area as well. The town is really nice. There are lots of old buildings with character that are also well-maintained.  The station I photographed was part of the Red Horse Diner and you can see me shooting there in the photo below.

The Teapot Dome Service Station is another building that’s been on my shooting list for a while, and it’s located in the town of Zillah, WA, which is about an hour south of Ellensburg. When we arrived in Zillah, we literally had to track the building down. When we arrived at the first address, we saw this:

It was as if the darn thing got up and walked away! We later learned that it didn’t actually walk away… it was rolled away, and moved to a new location closer to downtown. We finally found it and spent about an hour shooting this little gem. Karen shot the image below, and she captioned it “Where is Ben?” Can you find me in the shot?

I shot the image below with my new fisheye zoom lens.

We continued south to the border between Washington and Oregon and then spent a few days exploring the Columbia Gorge area. There is lots to shoot in this area and it’s one of those places we’ll probably revisit again and again. During this visit, we focused on waterfalls. Both of the falls we shot were located inside John B. Yeon State Park, which is on the Oregon side of the gorge.

The first of the waterfalls was Wahclella Falls, and it was about a mile hike to get there. The whole area is beautiful, with vibrant foliage and moss-covered trees. Karen shot the pano below of me shooting the falls. Because of her angle, it’s hard to tell how big the waterfall actually is.

In the shot below, I have Karen in the frame to show the scale of the waterfall. In this one, you CAN tell how big it is!

The second waterfall we photographed was Elowah Falls, and it was a .8 mile hike to get there. This one was much taller and narrower, with nice moss-covered rocks to use as a foreground. The fisheye shot below is of Elowah Falls. (As is the header of this blog post)

Finally, we spent a bit of time exploring the towns along the gorge. There are lots of nice little restaurants, wineries and breweries. It was great to wrap up a day of hiking and shooting with a wine tasting or a local beer! Our next stop will be the Portland area, but we’ll most likely be making day trips back to the gorge area to hit some waterfalls we missed, including the spectacular Multnomah Falls. More to come…


Crater Lake: Checking off another national park

Our travels take us to the most amazing places. This past week, we spent our time at Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon. We parked the bus at an RV park right on Diamond Lake, which is only a few minutes north of the park’s entrance. I was excited to go shooting there, not only because the scenery is fantastic, but because I just got my new 5D Mark III camera, as well as some brand-spankin’-new lenses. I just love playing with new toys tools!

A Crater Lake image I shot with my new Canon 8-15 mm Fisheye Zoom.

There are a lot of really interesting things about Crater Lake. First of all, it’s not actually a crater. It’s a caldera, which is a deep basin formed by a collapsed volcano, post-eruption. Nearly 8,000 years ago, it was a mountain. After a massive eruption, the mountain collapsed and formed what is now the deepest lake in the United States (1,943 feet at the deepest point). Because no water flows into the lake (all of the water comes from rain and melted snow) it’s some of the purest water you’ll ever see. The vibrant blue almost looks unreal.

A pano of the lake. If you look hard enough, you’ll spot Karen shooting too.

Another interesting thing is that just about all of your viewpoints of the lake are more than 1,000 feet above the water’s surface. There are various places to stop along the main road that loops around the lake, and if you’re a photographer, plan on using a pretty wide lens in order to get the whole lake in your shot (unless you’re shooting panos). The lake is 4 miles x 5 miles wide. There is, however, one trail that will take you down to water level. The trail leads to a small dock where you can catch a boat for a tour of the lake, which we did. The general boat tour is about two hours long and costs $32. per adult. To ensure a seat, you should make reservations in advance. The trail down to the water takes about 30 minutes, and it’s a pretty steep hill. It feels even steeper on the way up!

Our boat tour approached “Phantom Ship,” a formation peaking out of the lake.

Another view of Phantom Ship. This one was shot from the rim.

Even though we were visiting Crater Lake in the middle of the summer, we were blown away by the amount of snow still on the ground. There were a lot areas where the snow was still several feet deep, yet the temps reached 80+ degrees during mid-day! Part of the road that circles the lake was still closed due to snow. The main negative to all the melting snow was all the still water lying around. Still water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes, and those suckers were plentiful and aggressive! In some cases, it was hard for us to even concentrate on shooting. Luckily, we still had some serious bug repellent cream from last year’s trip to Africa, and that seemed to help ward them off.

Here I am, along side the main loop road, which was still lined with snow!

After spending our days shooting, we would often end the night at the Crater Lake Lodge, a beautiful building nearly 100 years old. The lodge overlooks the lake and has a beautiful interior that includes some massive fireplaces. We would settle in some comfy chairs, order some drinks and reflect on the day.

Overall, we had a great week at Crater Lake, and it was nice to check off another national park. Now that I’ve been to all 50 states, my new goal is to hit all the national parks. Karen keeps a National Parks Passport book, where she logs all our visits to National Parks, Monuments, Historical Sites, etc. If you’ve never heard of these books, and you like visiting national parks, check out Karen’s post about them HERE.

After leaving Crater Lake, we’re going to move on and explore more of Oregon. There are a lot of beautiful things to photograph here, and summer is the best time of the year to do it!

A waterfall right off of the main road that circles the lake.

I couldn’t resist taking this sunset shot of a funky RV in an overlook parking lot.

A family interlude

The National Park wasn’t the only thing we saw this past week. En route to Oregon, we made a stop in Salt Lake City to visit some of my family. I don’t get to see them often, so it was great to catch up. We met my aunt Jeanne and Uncle Ken at their house just north of the city. We had lunch there and spent a long time talking about what’s new in our lives. They have been anxious to meet Karen, and wanted to hear our whole story, from where we met down to how I proposed this year. We returned the next day, where we had a little gathering that also included my cousins Cathy and Lisa. I hadn’t seen them since we were all kids!

Me with my cousins Lisa and Cathy.

From Vegas to Joshua Tree

After an excellent Photoshop World in Washington DC, Karen and I flew back to the bus in Las Vegas. We had a few things to do in the city before moving on. First of all, we had yet another bus repair to have done (there have been several in the past few months.) The bus has an air leveling system, and one of the front airbags had a serious leak. I had already purchased new air bags and we got them installed at a local shop. We also had a modification made to Karen’s workstation on the bus. She has a desk with a 27″ display, but it wasn’t positioned high enough. This ended up putting stress on her back, so our great friend Steve built her a little desk riser for her monitor to be mounted on. This raised the whole thing about 7 inches and [after Steve and I spent a night installing it] she’s much happier now!

When we finally moved on from Las Vegas (we had spent a LOT of time there during the past year), we headed to Joshua Tree National Park. It was only a four hour drive, so we took our time meandering there and stopping along the way. We stopped at a place called the Kelso Depot within the Mohave National Reserve and shot a post office building, which looked pretty old and worn. Our drive also overlapped Route 66 for a few miles and include the “town” of Amboy. If you’re not familiar with my work, I have an entire series of Rt. 66 photography, and you can check that out HERE. Karen got a great shot of me on “The Mother Road” during our stop here.

Karen’s shot of me on Route 66. (Literally ON Rt. 66!)

We arrived in Joshua Tree at night and planned to get out and explore the next morning. My friend Sean Mahoney, who lives in southern California and is also a photographer, met us out there for breakfast and then a day (and night) of shooting. He visits the area a lot and gave us a lot of tips on where to go shooting. We started off at a funky folk art-ish place owned and created by Noah Purifoy. We got there in the glaring mid-day sun, so we were all shooting HDR (and just taking in the unique vibe of the place).

Here’s Karen, Me and Sean and the Noah Purifoy art site.

Joshua Tree National Park was our next stop (obviously!). We stopped in the visitor’s center so Karen could get her stamp (she has one of the National Parks Passport books and has been accumulating a lot of stamps in the recent years) and then did the Barker Dam hike. The dam itself wasn’t too exciting because the water level was extremely low, but as we continued on, we had some fun shooting the Joshua Trees and the general landscape in the area. We also did the Hidden Valley hike, which featured much of the same landscape. I focused on shooting some straggly trees as well as some images for my future seminars.

Don’t really think a caption is necessary here!

While the daytime shooting was all nice and fun, the good stuff started after the sun went down. Karen, Sean and I went to dinner at a great little place called Bistro 29 and then headed back into the park to an area called Jumbo Rocks. Sean had a good place in mind for some light painting, and it turned out to be perfect! We set up our tripods just before it got dark and then we started to play. We took turns lighting the scene and trying out different techniques and light sources. We even ended up with a curious audience since there was a camp site just down the hill from where we were shooting. Some of the campers were thrilled by what they saw on our camera screens and we even saw some of them trying out light painting for themselves in other areas of the park! We tried some new techniques that I will be covering in my upcoming e-book on lightpainting.

The finished result of my night of light painting in Joshua Tree National Park.

Unfortunately, our last day in Joshua Tree was extremely windy and not suitable for shooting, so I spent the day editing images. When we moved on, we headed toward Palm Springs for the 7th Annual Palm Springs Photo Festival. I’ll be teaching a few classes here this week and taking a few classes as well. More to come…


Upcoming Workshops & Events

Hi everyone! I’ve got a lot of great workshops and events going on in 2012 and would for you to join me on some. Here’s what’s coming up:

Discover Iceland: A Photographer’s Paradise

June 24-30, 2012

Get ready to discover one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Iceland features black sand beaches, waterfalls, geysers, volcanos, geothermal features, glaciers, icebergs, lighthouses, turf houses, storybook horses and interesting architecture, all packed into a country that is 1/95th the size of the United States. Its unspoiled countryside offers breathtaking vistas, dramatic weather and such a diversity of subject matter that after a week’s time, you will feel like you’re just scratching the surface. You’ll see so many waterfalls (including the largest in all of Europe) that they’ll become ubiquitous enough that you might even start to ignore them. This will be my fifth visit to Iceland in the last seven years!

Click HERE for more information and to register.


Photoshop Mastery: A two-day workshop in Honolulu

February 25-26, 2012

Master the creative tools of Photoshop . . . in Hawaii.
In the first day, gain a deep understanding of the fundamental foundation of how Photoshop’s adjustments work. See how you can substitute curves for almost half of Photoshop’s adjustments since many of them use curves behind the scenes. Learn what’s special about camera raw and find out how to best apply adjustment layers and layer masks to make your adjustments more versatile.

In the second day, learn how to creatively alter your images to make them look more appealing. Topics covered include blending modes, working with color globally and selectively, colorizing B&W photographs and learn to apply antique color, soft contrast and painterly effects. Learn how to Influence what a viewer is attracted to within your image, stylistically unify a group of photos, and apply certain tricks to help your viewer stay with your image longer. Employ unique effects to help develop your own personal style.

Click HERE for more information and to register.


The Peoria Camera Club: From Capture to Wow

March 17, 2012

Learn to make better captures – starting with equipment choices and camera settings. In this jam-packed day of photography and Photoshop, I’ll share my techniques for quickly evaluating shooting locations and creating compositions that are dynamic and interesting. You will learn how to think about post-processing techniques in the field to capture the most ideal images for later digital enhancement. Then, I will demonstrate my favorite post-processing techniques for enhancing and fine-tuning images on the computer. You will learn how to use digital processing tools to create images with more visual impact so you can develop your own style and take your creativity to the next level.

Click HERE for more info and to register.


Photoshop World

March 24-26

The must-attend conference for photographers and Photoshop Users
Designed to help you boost your skills, Photoshop World offers three days of pulse-pounding training with classes from renowned experts in the fields of Photoshop, photography and lighting and a once-in-a-lifetime experience guaranteed to enhance your skill set and help your work soar to new heights!

My Photoshop World sessions are: Mastering Adjustment Layers, Understanding Color Adjustments and Panorama Stitching.

Click HERE for more info.


Page, Arizona

May 10-13, 2012

Page, Arizona is a little-known spot with great photo opportunities. This small town, located on the Colorado River and overlooking the Glen Canyon Dam,  will be base camp for our photo adventure. During the course of the workshop, we will photograph the Slot Canyons, Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend and Lake Vistas, just to name a few.

Our location is ideal for exploring many of the American Southwest’s renowned national parks and monuments, and discovering the unique culture of the Navajo Nation.

UPDATE: As a special bonus for attending this workshop, OnOne Software is giving each participant a FREE copy of their award winning software, Perfect Effects! (a $99.00 value)

Click HERE for more info and to register.


The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Oct. 4-7, 2012

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a world-renowned attraction and destination for balloon pilots and photographers. For more than three decades, the first week in October brings the smell of roasting chiles and the beautiful, magical moving picture show of hot air balloons sailing silently through the crisp fall air.

The colors and textures will boggle your senses and you will come away with some of the most incredible images you have ever taken. We’ll throw in enough HDR training if you want to get a bit crazy with your creativity.

Be overwhelmed by this seldom experienced spectacle and you’ll be amazed at the photos your creativity will find.

UPDATE: As a special bonus for attending this workshop, OnOne Software is giving each participant a FREE copy of their award winning software, Perfect Effects! (a $99.00 value)

Click HERE for more info and to register.


Zion National Park

October 18-21, 2012

Massive canyon walls ascend toward a brilliant blue sky. To experience Zion, you need to walk among the towering cliffs, or challenge your courage in a small narrow canyon. These unique sandstone cliffs range in color from cream, to pink, to red. They could be described as sand castles crowning desert canyons. We will be experiencing the beauty of this tranquil place when the trees are the most colorful.

UPDATE: As a special bonus for attending this workshop, OnOne Software is giving each participant a FREE copy of their award winning software, Perfect Effects! (a $99.00 value)

Click HERE for more info and to register.