Join me at CreativeLIVE!

Hi gang! I’d like to invite you to two online classes I’ve got coming up next month with creativeLIVE. The best thing about these classes is that they’re free while they’re live. Afterwards, you can purchase them to watch whenever you’d like.

Photoshop for Photographers • August 22-24

The first is a 3-day Photoshop for Photographers class where I’ll cover all the essential Photoshop techniques that every photographer should know. This will include optimizing images, sharpening, retouching, black and white conversion, directing the viewer’s eye, HDR, panorama-stitching, and more. Check out my more detailed description in the video below. Click here to purchase the course or to enroll for free.

Lightpainting • August 25

I’ll also be teaching a 1-day class on the art of lightpainting. I find lightpainting to be one of the most creative forms of photography, and it’s easier than most people think. After watching this class, you’ll know what tools you need, what camera settings will give you optimal results, and you’ll have a solid foundation for creating your own light-painted masterpieces. Learn more in the video below. Click here to purchase the course or to enroll for free.

 

I hope you’ll join me for one or both of these classes next month! We’re going to cover a ton of material, and you’re going to learn how to create some amazing images. Enroll now at creativeLIVE.

 

Back to this past week’s travels…

We’ve spent this past week just north of Eugene, Oregon getting a lot of bus work done. There have been a lot of mini projects accumulating, and we’ve been knocking off a bunch of those at Paradise Coach. I’m also considering having these guys work on the interior of my vintage bus, as they’re accustomed to doing high-quality work on bus interiors. So far, I’ve been really happy with their work. From here, we’re going to move north to Portland, where I’ve got a lot of friends to visit. More to come…

 

Teaching in the Land of the Midnight Sun

Imagine a landscape of lush rolling fields covered in flowers, pristine waterfalls, never-ending sunsets, beautiful wild horses and green mountains. It sounds like a fairytale, right? Something out of “Lord of the Rings,” perhaps? Believe it or not, this place is very real, and it’s called Iceland. Talk about a photographer’s dream come true! If you’re a photographer (amateur, professional, whatever.), and you visit Iceland, you WILL end up returning over and over again… just like I have. There are few places that I like to visit repeatedly, but Iceland is one of those special places.

We just wrapped up a week-long photography workshop with Focus on Nature called Discover Iceland. During the course of the week, we traveled along the south coast of the country, stopping at over 20 incredible shooting locations. The shooting/exploring was also punctuated by some lecture and critique sessions where I covered techniques for shooting and editing images. The workshop happened during a very interesting time of year. If you’re wondering what this midnight sun thing is all about, here it is: In Iceland, during the summer, it never really gets dark out because the sun sets around midnight and never really gets very far under the horizon before it rises again around 3 am. This makes for some very interesting shooting [and sleeping] scenarios.

Left to right: Ragnar Th Sigurdsson (our excellent local photographer guide), myself, and Einar Erlendsson (The man behind Focus on Nature).

Our group stops to grill dinner in the midst of one of our photo shoots. Here, you can see the rugged vehicle we traveled in during the workshop.

The setup for this workshop was very nice. The group traveled in a very large and incredibly rugged vehicle, maneuvered by Siggy, our awesome driver. Each person had their own row, so it was easy to keep camera gear out and ready. While we were on the road, I would give shooting tips and post-processing techniques (yes, I actually processed images on the move!). There was also my daily session of “How to pimp your 5D Mark II” (most of the workshop attendees shot with this camera.) When we were out shooting, the vehicle would stay open so that we could easily change out gear.

And then, of course, there was Einar. Einar is the man behind Focus on Nature and, while we’re on the road, he drives behind in his truck, aka command central. He is always using some type of device to arrange the details of the workshop. Because the weather and other conditions in Iceland can be so unpredictable, we don’t make many of the arrangements in advance. Instead, we follow the light and make decisions on the fly so that we don’t miss any great opportunities. Einar is constantly toggling weather maps, arranging hotel stays, meals, etc. It’s because he’s there, taking care of all the details, that we can focus on shooting.

But that’s enough about workshop details. Let’s get on to some more images, shall we? The following is a photoloque of the Discover Iceland, 2012 workshop:

Here I am shooting one of Iceland’s many geothermal spots. Iceland is situated in a location where there is a crack in the Earth’s plates and it allows the country to use the resulting heat/steam for energy.

One of Karen’s images from Skogafoss, an incredibly large waterfall on the south coast of Iceland. The group had a great time with this one, because you could actually climb up the hill on the right side of the waterfall to get interesting vantage points.

The two above images were shot in the town of Vik. We stopped here because the place is just so photogenic. There, you’ve got rustic buildings, Icelandic horses, the beach, and of course, that picturesque church on the hillside.

We stopped to shoot at two different locations where a glacier “flows” into a lagoon. Icebergs break off the glacier and float around, sometimes washing up on the land.

This is where one of the glacier/iceberg lagoons flows out into the ocean.

The two photos above were from a pretty comical shoot. As we pulled up to this field by the beach, Ragnar told us that we would be photographing these beautiful birds, and that it was great because, when you walk out there, they try to attack you! At first we were scratching our heads trying to figure out what was so great about this, but eventually, we found that you get some good shooting opportunities as they swoop down at your head! We got some good images, but the birds did get their revenge on some of us. Some people say it’s good luck when a bird poops on you. If that’s the case, we were a very lucky group!

If you know me, you know that I couldn’t let a whole week of shooting go by without doing some lightpainting! The tricky thing with this time of year in Iceland is that it never get’s dark. In order to keep our scenery dark enough, we had to use much shorter shutter speeds. This turned out to be ok because the type of lightpainting we did involved burning steel wool. When I spun the steel wool around it was bright enough to show up well with shutter speeds of 4-5 seconds.

In one of the above captions, I mentioned the iceberg lagoon that flows out into the ocean. Some of the icebergs eventually wash up on the shore and melt there, creating very interesting shapes and textures. Our group spent a while shooting here.

As a last-minute treat, Einar arranged for the group to take a boat ride out in the glacier lagoon.

We stopped to shoot at this charming little grass-roof church. Iceland has a lot of adorable buildings like this.

These pools were full of a funky green algae that almost gave them a glowing appearance. This was definitely one of those “off the beaten path” locations that you can only get to with a pretty rugged vehicle.

There was one day where we spent a bit of time in the vehicle waiting for a rain storm to pass by. (This wasn’t really a bad thing, because we covered some more shooting tips while we were waiting.) When the rain subsided, we were rewarded with this beautiful full rainbow. This is a rather unique group shot, wouldn’t you say?

This waterfall is called Seljalandsfoss and was the perfect spot to wrap up a full day of shooting. The falls are extremely picturesque and you can even walk behind them!

These very generous Icelandic horses allowed us to photograph them from up close in their pasture. They even had some foals with them that were very curious about our cameras.

Here is Karen, shooting at the Blue Lagoon, which is another geothermal location. These pools were probably 85-90 degrees F! If you’ve been to Iceland you know that the Blue Lagoon is actually a geothermal spa where you can go and swim or get treatments. The area you see above is not part of that spa but it’s still part of the same body of water.

As you probably noticed from the images, we had a pretty great experience. The group was wonderful, and everyone got along great from day 1. I hope to see many of them again in the future, either on another workshop, or during the course of our travels in the bus. We were sad to leave Iceland, but look forward to another future visit. We are actually working with Focus on Nature to arrange two more workshop events in 2013. I’ll announce them here on the blog and at DigitalMastery.com as soon as we have details.

More to come!

 

A Golden week and a retro weekend

This past week has been a blast! In my last post, we were just leaving the Starlite Classic Campground, en route to Golden, CO. We spent two wonderful nights at the Starlite, where we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Larry and Sylvia, the campground owners. As I mentioned in my last post, I also got the opportunity to lightpaint some of their incredible vintage trailers. While we left the campground on Sunday, I spent the rest of the week processing the images and was really pleased with how they turned out. Check them out below.

As I mentioned above, our next stop was Golden, CO. We stayed here for about three weeks last year and just loved it. The campground is in a beautiful park, along a river, and is within walking distance to downtown. We’ve been spending our time here working, walking, and processing images. We’ve also explored some of the fun places Golden has to offer. The Foothills Art Center was hosting a Chihuly exhibit, and I was excited to check that out. Chihuly is a very famous glass artist, most known for his colorful chandeliers made of twisty blown glass. Another fun place we visited was Woody’s, which is pretty much a really good pizza place/pub. We went for a late dinner on Monday and then returned Tuesday for their movie night, where they serve up free popcorn and play a movie on all of the screens in the bar area. Karen is a film nut, so when she heard about movie night, I knew we would be going.

The best part of this past week was most definitely the weekend. We returned to Starlite for the Colorado Classic Campout, which is an event where vintage trailer owners gather, have fun and show off their trailers to the whole group. One of the fun things about the weekend was that Karen and I did NOT stay in the bus while we were there. Instead, we left the bus in Golden, drove the Mini to the Starlite and stayed in the TikiBago, one of the rigs they rent out to guests. Just as you might suspect, the TikiBago is a Winnebago completely decked out in a Polynesian theme, complete with a tiki bar!

Karen and I enjoying the luau.

On the first night of the event, we had a meet-and-greet, followed by a movie under the stars. Of course, the featured movie was “The Long, Long Trailer,” starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. On the second day, there was an “open house” where everyone got their trailers all spiffy so that guests could check them out. Karen and I loved seeing the insides of all these amazing, vintage rigs. In the evening, there was a luau, complete with tacky Hawaiian shirts and a limbo contest! When things got dark enough, I lightpainted Birdie, a beautiful pink trailer decked out will all kinds of authentic vintage fixin’s.

Here, I’m trying to act all suave, as if I’d actually make it under this limbo pole. (I DID made it under the pole but Karen says I cheated.)  Behind me is the TikiBago, our lodging for the weekend.

Sylvia and Larry announce the door prizes for the Colorado Classic Campout.

Sunday morning started with a spam burrito breakfast, and then everyone said their goodbyes. As I said in the beginning of this post, the week has been great for me. I’m excited about this series of lightpaintings I’ve started, and I look forward to continuing it. I’m thinking about creating a calendar out of the images. Many thanks to Larry and Sylvia at the Starlite Campground. They do such a great job, and we had a blast at their event.

More to come…

Here is “Birdie,” a beautiful Cardinal trailer completely decked out with vintage accents. Many thanks to owners Jim and Diana for giving me the opportunity to make this image!

The Digital Photo Workshops: Page, AZ

This past week was full of photography, amazing scenery and Photoshop training. I taught with the Digital Photo Workshop gang in Page, Arizona, home to some of the most spectacular vistas in the Southwest. We came here from Mira Loma, CA (where the bus was parked for a few weeks) and stopped to visit friends in Lake Havasu City on the way. When we arrived, we parked at the Wahweap Marina Campground on Lake Powell, which is where we’ve stayed in the past while visiting Page.

The Digital Photo Workshops are 4-day photography events run by Jeff Leimbach and Randy Van Duinen, and I was the guest instructor for this event. They combine a lot of in-the-field shooting with in-the-classroom Photoshop/Lightroom training so that students not only learn how to take better photos, but they also have some nice final pieces to take home with them.

Me, Randy and Jeff at Monument Valley.

The workshop started off on Thursday evening with a 3-hour meet-and-greet and some introductory lessons. All of the attendees were great, and I knew they’d be a lot of fun to work with. The next morning, we set out at a reasonable time (8:30) to shoot in Lower Antelope Canyon. I have shot the slot canyons a few times in the past, but I always enjoy it. It’s just an amazing place to photograph, and I was nice getting to see the workshop attendees experience it for the first time.

I got this shot of one of the students in Antelope Canyon.

We got photographer passes in the canyon, so we were able to wander around on our own without being on a tour. I spent a lot of time helping the students with their camera settings and giving composition tips and, of course, I did a bunch of shooting myself. When we wrapped up, we all went to lunch and then headed back to the classroom for some lessons and photo editing.

Karen’s shot of me in Lower Antelope Canyon.

Later that day, we headed out for an evening of light painting at a place called Cliff Dwellers, which was about 45 minutes out of Page. On the way, we stopped at the Navajo Bridge. Jeff intended this to be a 10-minute stop, but the scenery turned out to be great and everyone wanted to stay much longer! When it finally got dark out, we did a lightpainting shoot at Cliff Dwellers. This style of shooting was new to a lot of the folks attending and they really enjoyed seeing the results.

My lightpainting from the Cliff Dwellers location.

The next morning we were up at 3 a.m. to shoot Horseshoe Bend at dawn. Karen and I are not morning people, so this was pretty rough. We eventually came to life when we started shooting. It’s about a 3/4 mile walk to get to the edge of Horseshoe Bend, and we got there around 4:30. The light was just starting to appear over the horizon and everyone set up as best they could. We shot for the next two hours, capturing the soft light before things got too contrasty.

My image of Randy at Horseshoe Bend.

We also made the 2-hour drive to Monument Valley, where we shot late afternoon and sunset. The scenery here is spectacular and some of the workshop folks said they were just waiting for John Wayne to ride into their frame. We had some beautiful clouds to complement the rock formations, and everyone got some nice images.

In this shot I took at Monument Valley, you can see some of the photographers in the top right of the frame, as well as my shadow in the middle/right.

On the last day of the workshop, we met at 5 a.m. to shoot an area at Lake Powell/Glen Canyon. It was a very different kind of scenery from what we were shooting the past few days, and the dramatic morning sky played a big roll in our shots. I used my 17mm tilt shift lens to make things look even more dramatic. Aside from the sky, the main photo subjects were the swirly patterns in the rock, the water itself and the formations in the distance. I also got some nice shots of the other photographers.

The event wrapped up around 2 p.m. on Sunday and we all said our goodbyes. Overall, Karen and I were both really impressed with the way this workshop was run. Jeff and Randy are great to work with and the schedule was very flexible. The locations were great and everyone had a blast and went away with some great images. I’ve got some more workshops scheduled with these guys and we’d love to have you at one of them! Check out the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta workshop HERE and the Zion National Park workshop HERE.

More to come!

The Vintage Bus Run: Shifting Gears

This post is part two of the Vintage Bus Run saga. If you didn’t read last week’s post, you can check it out HERE. It will fill you in on the general status of my vintage bus project.

I ended last week’s post in St. Louis, having driven all the way from Ft. Worth. As you know, my original plan for this trip was to spend 10 days driving from Texas to Nova Scotia, where the bus will get its interior fixin’s. Well, it’s amazing how much things can change in a week! This road has been filled with a lot of frustration and more drama than I care to deal with. Luckily, there’s been some fun moments along the way too.

When I arrived in St. Louis, I had to seek out a shop because the bus had a minor leak in the transmission’s heat exchanger. The issue required a fitting to be replaced, which wasn’t that huge a deal. I spent the time in St. Louis hanging out with my cousin Paul. We went out to eat and then headed over to the extremely wild City Museum. Paul had never been there, which I couldn’t believe! The place is like a playground for adults, but it’s really hard to explain. You really just need to see it for yourself. I highly recommend it if you’re ever visiting St. Louis.

When I returned to the shop to pick up the bus, I had a major issue with the staff there, who tried to charge me out the wazoo for something like 15 hours of labor. If you saw what had to get fixed, you would know that this was absolute silliness. I finally got them down to a less offensive price (by knocking off 11 hours of labor), but I left the place in a pretty bad mood. I left St. Louis and made it across the border to Indiana… when the bus had its second mechanical issue. A sensor that was connected to the air system broke and started spewing air. Since the bus has air brakes, that means I was stuck. After further inspection, I found what had caused the break in the air system and it led me to a bigger problem. There were about eight bolts holding the rear end onto the suspension that weren’t tightened properly (this leads back to the first mechanic who worked on the project) and had allowed the rear end to shift on the chassis 2 1/8″ toward the passengers side and interfere with the air lines. I had to call AAA to tow the bus, but talked them into plugging my air leak instead of having to tow the bus. I then found a shop that had alignment equipment and could work on it the next morning. In the meantime I checked into a hotel in Evansville. At this point, I was needing some good news and, luckily, good news came! I learned that my friends Sam and Tracy, who are fellow full-timers like us, were in the same little town as I was! The chances of me seeing anyone I knew there were slim to none, so I was blown away! I met up with Sam that night and had a much-needed beer.

Sam and I relax after I spent a long time troubleshooting bus issues.

The shop finished with the bus the next afternoon and I was on my way again. I got a late start, so I didn’t make it all too far that night. I stopped just outside Louisville, KY and spoke with the person who will work on the interior of the bus in Nova Scotia. This is where I was dealt the biggest blow of the entire trip. There I was, in the middle of the country on my way to his shop, when he tells me that he suddenly took on another project and wouldn’t be able to work on my bus for another six months. @#$%$^@!!! This project has encountered so many setbacks and has been delayed by nearly a year and a half already, so I really didn’t know how to react to this. How could he have taken on a new project, knowing that I was on my way to his place? He claimed that he didn’t know I was actively on my where to his place and thought I was on a leisurely road trip and wouldn’t show up until the fall. I don’t know where he got that idea. In fact, I went through my emails and saw that I had specifically told him what my plans were and when I’d be arriving. I was very upset and sent him an e-mail expressing this and explaining my situation. Then I proceeded to spend the rest of the night trying to figure out what to do. I had looked into some other shops that could do the work, but this guy is by far the most talented and understands the style I want. I started thinking about changing gears and getting the paint and body work done before the interior. This is the opposite order in which I had originally planned, but that’s ok. I started looking into paint and body shops that were in the general area of the country I was in. When I went to bed that night, I had no idea which direction I would be heading in the morning.

The next morning, before I even had a chance to wake up, the phone rang. It was Craig… the guy who I received the bad news from yesterday. He was extremely apologetic about the whole scenario and wanted to do what he could to make things right. He sent me an email expressing the same thing. As upset as I was, it would be hard for me to imagine bringing the bus to a shop other than his, so I’ll most likely do that, but nothing is 100% decided yet. What I DID do, however, is make some appointments to evaluate paint and body shops. The first place I visited was in Columbus, Ohio, which was on my original planned route. Unfortunately I wasn’t excited by the quality of the work there. I made a few appointments in Elkhart, Indiana as well, which takes me in the opposite direction of my original route, but at this point everything is up in the air.

Here’s an iPhone shot of one of the gas stations I stopped to photograph on the way to Elkhart.

I really have no idea what my plans will be for the next week and what will be done next in the vintage bus project. Maybe body work and paint. Maybe mechanical stuff like power steering. It’s really hard to say right now, but I should have a better idea by mid-week. I will have to return to the current bus in California soon, because we need to head toward Page, Arizona for a three-day workshop with the Digital Photo Workshops gang. If you’re a photographer, check it out! We have a room for a few more! More to come…

Because this post was full of speed bumps and frustrations, and not enough fun stuff… here is a photo of me with the world’s largest underpants. It’s an iPhone shot from the City Museum in St. Louis.