Teaching, celebrating & shooting

Hi everyone! we’re currently in the greater Tampa area and I just wrapped up a fun week, which started all the way across the country in Seattle! Last week was Creative Cloud Fundamentals Week at creativeLIVE, and I was teaching the Photoshop segment of it. This was just a one-day class, and if you missed it, you can get it HERE, or get it as part of the whole CC Fundamentals bundle.

While we’re still on the topic of creativeLIVE, I’m excited to announce a new class I’ll be teaching next month, July 21-23. It’s called Post-Processing for Outdoor & Travel Photographers. This topic is extra special to me because these are two of the main types of photography I do. We’ll be using both Lightroom and Photoshop in this class, and you can learn more about it or enroll for free HERE.


I arrived back to the Tampa area after a redeye flight and landed the morning of my birthday! Aside from a much-needed nap, Karen had some fun things in store for the day including breakfast at one of our favorite places in the area, a cake she made completely of fruit (because that’s my favorite!) and a visit to a local brewery. (I’m a huge fan of craft beer and love to visit different breweries as we travel about.) Near the end of the day, we embarked on a sunset cruise that left from Clearwater Beach. While the actual sunset wasn’t overly spectacular, the sky put on quite a show for us afterwards. It was a great mix of storm clouds lit by what was left of the golden light. We even got to see a waterspout (a water tornado) nearby. Pretty cool! At the end of the night, we had dinner at a tapas place we like in Clearwater Beach.

BenSkyPanoAn iPhone pano I shot of the post-sunset clouds in Clearwater

BenKarBoatKaren and I on the sunset cruise

As implied from the title of this post, I also got to do some shooting this week. If you read this blog often, you know about my service station project. I have researched and located over 250 vintage service stations around the country and my plan is to photograph each one. I had been conversing with the owner of this Polly Station in the greater Tampa area and we finally set up a time this week for me to head over and shoot it. The shot below is just an iPhone shot that I also processed on the iPhone. The actually shots will take much longer to process.


Well, that’s it for now folks. The upcoming week will be more on the mellow side, where I’ll be catching up with work and some image processing. More to come!

Lightpainting Before & After

Hi gang! We just spent a few days in Gainesville, Florida, where lots of vintage trailer owners were converging for the Tin Can Tourists’ Winter Festivus. If you follow this blog regularly, you know that it has been an ongoing project of mine to lightpaint different brands of vintage trailers and motorcoaches. I wanted to share a little before & after with you that shows what the scene looked like with ambient light (before it got really dark out) and the final image.

The subject is a 1956 Airstream Bubble towed by a Chevy Suburban. I captured 102 exposures over the course of 35 minutes using my LED LENSER M7R Flashlight as the only light source. I then used 52 of those exposures to create the final lightpainted image. It took about 3.5 hours of computer work.

If you haven’t tried out light painting yet (it’s a blast once you’re used to it), then be sure to download the free sample PDF on the lower left of this web page… it will give you enough guidance to get you started on your first light painting. http://digitalmastery.com/lightpaintebook/

Drag the handle back and forth to see the before & after:


2014_01_16_161404_Tin Can Tourists Festivus_00112014_01_16_165356_Tin Can Tourists Festivus_0112


Continuing eastward…

Hi gang! This past week, we’ve continued eastward, through Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. We made a fun stop in Auburn, Ohio to visit the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum, which is just loaded with old cars. Walking in to the first level showroom, you feel like you’ve walked into a scene from The Great Gatsby, with art deco decor and restored cars from the 20’s and 30’s. I actually wished we had hours to spend in this place because there is just so much there. To quote their website:

MSNBC News named the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum one of the “Top Ten Gearhead Destinations in the United States.”  It is easy for visitors to see why the museum has received such high national praise. This automotive mecca exhibits over 120 cars ranging from 1894 to 1999 and automotive displays on three floors. The museum has the greatest and most extensive collection of Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg automobiles in the world, and features the largest exhibit of Duesenberg automobiles on public display in the world! This is a destination that you and your family can not miss!

Unfortunately, we only had a very limited amount of time to visit the museum because we were having bus alternator issues, which made it so we had to get plugged in at an RV park ASAP. The museum is definitely on my list of places to revisit though! (The image at the top of this post if from the museum as well.)

AuburnMuseumA scene from the Auburn Museum. 

As we continued eastward, we stopped at Ohio’s only National Park, Cuyahoga Valley, so that we could check it off our list. To be honest, the place seemed more like a state park or a national historic site rather than a national park. It was nice, but not spectacular by any means. The historic buildings are pretty cool, and there was even a gas station for me to photograph. We did one short hike to the park’s waterfall and it was just ok. Coming from places like Yellowstone, Glacier and Grand Teton, I suppose we’ve gotten a little spoiled this summer! It was a nice stop nonetheless.

Ohio-StreetsboroStationThis historic service station at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

As I mentioned above, the bus was having alternator issues (basically, the thing was fried), so we were covering ground pretty quick to get to a town in New York where it would get worked on. Crossing Pennsylvania, I hit one more vintage service station before the downpours started, making it a straight run to New York after that.

MiddlesexPAstationI stopped to photograph this one on our way through Pennsylvania.

We dropped the bus off in a small town in NY to get work done. I’ve been accumulating a list of things that need to be done on the bus, so our “bus guy,” Joe, should be busy for a while. Instead of staying on the bus while Joe is working on it, Karen and I took the Mini down to her parents’ house in New Jersey and we’ll be based there for a few weeks (though we’ll be flying out for various events.) There were two vintage service stations on my list in New Jersey, so I did take a day to go and photograph those. You can see them below.

NJstation1Jersey Service Station

NJstation2Another NJ service station.

It wasn’t two days after we arrived in NJ that I had to fly out to teach at a corporate training event in Ft. Worth, Texas. I spent two days teaching, but in my off time, I took my rental car to check off even more of my service stations! In the past two weeks alone, I’ve shot service stations in at least seven different states! If you missed my last post, there are loads of photos there too.

More to come!

FtWorthSinclairA service station near Ft. Worth, TX.

FtWorthCityGarageAnother Ft . Worth shooting locale.

Vintage service stations & art deco cars

If you keep up with this blog, you probably know that I love all things vintage. This week has been full of vintage things so I’ve been pretty darn happy! I’m going to start with the cars. I absolutely love the design of the classic art deco style cars, but it’s hard to see many of them in the same place all at once. When I learned about the Sensuous Steel event, in Nashville, TN, I knew I had to go. The problem was that the bus was in Minneapolis. Well, I wanted to see these cars so bad that I got on a plane, went to the show, and flew back the same night! Ya know… just a 1,000-mile day trip to Nashville. No biggie.

It was totally worth it though. The cars were stunning, and I learned that seeing them in photos doesn’t do them justice. You really need to be able to walk around them and see all those sexy curves! The show was located at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. I was also able to visit the  Lane Motor Museum, which had some cute smaller cars, so that was a bonus for the day.Unfortunately, my phone’s battery died early on, so the only other shots I have are on my DSLR and I haven’t off-loaded those yet.

DecoCarOne of the beautiful cars at the Sensuous Steel show.

So back to Minneapolis: One of my personal projects has been to go around the country shooting vintage service stations. Here is one of my more popular images from that series:

Petrol Paradise-afterPetrol Paradise

I have an entire database of service stations that I want to shoot and they literally span the country. My goal is to travel around, shooting as many of them as I can. After we wrapped up Photoshop World in Las Vegas, we returned to the bus in Minneapolis and I started checking off a bunch of stations on that list.

My_places___EverplacesThe map that goes along with my vintage service station database. I have just a few dots on it!

We spent a few days in Minneapolis, where there were a few nearby stations, and then we began moving eastward, stopping in Des Moines and continuing east from there. I am, of course shooting these stations with my DSLR, but I’ve been loving the immediacy of being able to create images on my iPhone and immediately share them with you all. So without further ado, here are the stations that I’ve shot this past week:

CarverMNThis one was in Carver, MN

NewUlm-MNStation in New Ulm, MN

1upStationThe mushroom station in Dassel, MN. Karen calls this one the 1-up station because of the mushrooms in Super Mario Bros.

Shell-IAGreat looking Shell station near Cedar Falls, IA

OpalinestationWaterloo, IA station


I was bummed that this station had many broken down cars parked there and the sign had been removed. I’ve seen photos of it from a few years ago when it looked much better.

PhillipsPetroleumPhillips 66 station near Massena, IA

BridgewaterOilWasn’t expecting to run across this Sinclair station… Found it by chance!

PhillipsIA2An IA Phillips station


Was bummed to find that the station I was searching for has been destroyed.  Someone told me about this station in the same town… So I didn’t leave I empty handed!

ColoIAstationStation near Colo, IA

CollinsIAstationThis was a bonus station I found that wasn’t in my database! (Near Colo, IA)

SullyStationStation in Sully, IA

ServiceStdOilProductsLove the look of this one and just wish they had pumps from the 50’s instead of 70’s. But, they still serve gas here!

YoungvilleStationThis one is more a restaurant that happens to formerly serve gas.


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!