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!

Lightpainting & Vintage Things

Two of my favorite topics! This week, I combined the two by lightpainting a vintage truck I had visited a few weeks ago. This truck is located at the Antique Powerland Museum in Salem, Oregon. The museum is full of vintage semis and other vehicles, and back when Karen and I got a tour, I spoke with our guide about returning one night to lightpaint my favorite vehicle. After seeing my work, the guide agreed to meet me after dark one night.

The vehicle is a 1938 Ford COE (cab-over-engine) that has a whopping 85 horsepower (my vintage bus has more like 400 for comparison). It was the first Ford truck to use the COE design. I just love the art deco/streamline moderne design of trucks of that vintage.

If you’re a photographer or photo enthusiast, know that there are only three things preventing you from making an image like this one: 1) time, 2) patience, 3) technical knowledge. I can only help you with #3. If you want to get started painting with light, check out my e-book on the subject. You can even download a free starter/sample pdf to get you started.

Truck-LightpaintThis is one of my mega light paintings… I shot no fewer than 120 exposures! But some of those where as short as one second long just to light the hood ornament for example. When it’s a big and complex object like this one, I tend to be excessive with the number of exposures I capture… if I miss something, it’s going to be just a black hole… so I better light be sure to light everything… and often from more then one angle. My main complaint about this image is the lack of shape in the near front fender. The far front fender is lit from light reflecting off the white wall next to the truck. If I were to do it again, I would have lit the ceiling to get some light to reflect into the near front fender.


While I was in the Salem area, I toured Gordon house, which is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s usonian homes. I’ve always been a Frank Lloyd Wright fan, and whenever I’m near one of his buildings, I try to pay a visit.

Outside of lightpainting, I spent a good part of the week between Portland and Eugene, Oregon. My vintage bus is located in Eugene and the progress on the interior has been really consistent. Up until now, the interior of the bus has been a “mockup,” meaning a temporary interior that we would constantly tweak until we liked how everything was set up. Well, we finally got everything how we wanted it, so the mockup was pulled out, and progress has begun with the true materials. The guys started building our cabinets, and we completed the plans for the entryway design. If you’d like to follow the progress of the bus, I post everything on the Creative Cruiser’s Facebook Page.

BusBlueprint The constantly-changing blueprint for my vintage bus.

This coming week, I’m heading to Seattle to teach the next segment in my Photoshop Mastery series on creativeLIVE. This class is on retouching and collage, and it’s free to watch while it’s live! Of course, if you like what you see, you can purchase the class for a discounted rate while it’s live. The class is Monday and Tuesday, 9 am – 4 pm PST. Check it out HERE.


More to come!

creativeLIVE & more upcoming training events!

Many thanks to the creativeLIVE team for snapping this photo of me on set.

Hi gang! I just got back from Seattle, where I had an excellent time teaching two online courses at creativeLIVE. I taught a 3-day course on Lightroom Mastery and a 1-day class on Photoshop Mastery: Advanced Masking. If you’re not familiar with creativeLIVE, I highly recommend checking them out. They broadcast live training almost every day, and while its live, it’s completely free to watch. If you decide you like the class, you can purchase it to either stream or download the videos to watch at your convenience. You also must purchase the class in order to get all the course materials. Folks who purchase my Lightroom and Masking classes actually receive a special bonus, because as I was teaching, Karen was following along, creating comprehensive handbooks to go with each class. The Masking handbook is 18 pages long and the Lightroom handbook is 50 pages long!

For more information on the classes or to purchases a course, check out the links below:

Lightroom Mastery

Photoshop Mastery: Advanced Masking

While we were up in Seattle, we got to meet up with my friend Erica Gamet, who also happened to be in town teaching classes at creativeLIVE! Her iBooks Author and InDesign classes were broadcast on the days following my courses. It was nice to be able to catch up with her in such a fun environment.

Me, Karen and Erica hang out after my creativeLIVE classes wrap up.

New Seminar Tour!

And now for some more training news. I’m happy to announce the launch of my new seminar tour, Photographic Artistry with Adobe Photoshop! This will be a full day seminar packed with Photoshop techniques designed to give your photos a creative edge. You’ll learn how to transform a collection of ordinary photographs into seamless, stunning composites. Learn how to remove difficult objects from complex backgrounds, add dimension and depth to your 2D images, master 3D photographic effects, discover the power of Photoshop’s Blending modes, and so much more.

The first two tour dates are March 19 in New York, NY and March 20 in Washington DC. For more information check out the seminar page HERE.

Mastering HDR & Lightpainting

Finally, while we’re on the training topic, there’s still room in my 5-day workshop on HDR & Lightpainting, coming up March 11-15. This will be an intense double feature of a workshop, covering two of my favorite photographic techniques. Once you feel comfortable with those two specialties, then you’ll be able to expand your shooting range beyond the standard golden hour and capture idealized images regardless of what time of day you encounter an interesting subject. This event is being held by the Light Workshops in Los Osos, CA. The gang at Light is great to work with, and students always receive hands-on, one-on-one instruction during these training events. For more information or to register, click HERE.

That’s it for now, everyone. During the next week, we’ll be hanging out in the Eugene, OR area nailing down the layout for the interior of my vintage bus. The shop that’s working on it is making progress every day now. If you’d like to follow the updates, check out the Creative Cruiser Facebook page HERE. More to come…

More lightpainting & happy holidays!

Hi Gang! I’m writing this post from New Jersey, where I’ll be spending the holiday week with Karen’s family. We started off the week in Eugene, Oregon, where my vintage bus is having its interior worked on. Before we left, I spent some time chatting with the gang at Paradise Coach, making plans for the beginning of the project. Paradise Coach has just finished a 2-year restoration of a 1947 Silverside bus. I did a lightpainting of that bus, which I included in last week’s post. Karen and I also created a video tour of that bus, so if you want to see the kind of work this shop does, check out the video below. The Silverside is a brand of bus I really love and considered buying back when I was in the market for a vintage bus.


On Wednesday, we flew out of Portland and made an overnight stop in Las Vegas before continuing to New Jersey. We stayed with my great friends Steve and Beverly and stayed up into the wee hours catching up with them. In the morning we boarded our flight to Philadelphia and later arrived at Karen’s parents’ house, where the holiday festivities were in full swing. The family has been spending a lot of time preparing for the holidays, and the next couple days should be great.

Karen’s gingerbread house. She and her sister make these every year.

I also got to do another lightpainting shoot in NJ. Our friend Carl, dubbed the “Wine Wizard,” is one of the winemakers at Heritage Vineyards and has an incredible wine cellar of his own. In the past, Karen and I have had the privilege of attending one of his incredible cellar wine dinners, where he shared some of the most amazing wine we had ever tasted. Carl will be moving back to Texas soon, and we wanted to photograph his wine cellar for him, as a nice memory he could take with him to his new house. I spent about an hour and half lightpainting the cellar, and it proved to be one of my more challenging lightpaints because of how reflective the bottles are, and because many of them had to be back-lit to make sure they showed up properly. You can see the image below. The entire shot was lit with only the red ribbon light that’s found on the top of the cellar rack and a LED Lenser P5R Flashlight, which is my favorite small lighting instrument.

This one was rather crazy since it’s the combination of no fewer than 160 shots. It was very difficult to light in such a small room with bottles that look black if you don’t either back-light the whites or side light the reds. Just imagine trying to stand somewhere inside to light an area without having your body in the shot.

The final lightpaint. This image is made up of no fewer than 160 shots. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Karen’s shot of me shooting. Of course, when I was ACTUALLY lightpainting, it was pitch black in the room.

If you’re interested in this type of photography, you can learn to lightpaint with my 94-page e-book, The Fine Art of Painting With Light. It’s only $9.97 and you can get it HERE. If you prefer to learn hands-on, I’ve got a workshop coming up in March called “Mastering HDR & Lightpainting.” You can learn more about that event and register HERE.

Well, now it’s time to get back to the holidays festivities. I hope you all have a great holiday season! Best wishes to you and your families!

The California Photo Festival!

Hey gang. We just wrapped up the 3rd annual California Photo Festival (aka Click!) in San Luis Obispo. It was my first time teaching at this event, and I had a blast. This festival it a week-long photography infusion, with tons of classes going on nearly 18 hours per day. Some of the classes are lecture style and some of them are live location shoots. I taught a good mix of both.

The event kicked off with an instructor meet and greet on Monday night where I got to reunite with a lot of my great photographer friends. This is always a bonus when it comes to events like this. The following night was an opening reception with all the volunteers and students.

My work was shown at the Light Workshops headquarters during the festival’s opening reception.

During the course of the week, I taught several classes, the first of which was on HDR. We had a lecture session which was followed by a live shoot at a funky place called Sunny Acres, which is full of old cars, barns, tools and more. It was a great place for students to practice HDR photography, and everyone had a great time. We returned to Sunny Acres the following night for my Lightpainting class. You can see the result of that shoot below.

My lecture on HDR photography

The HDR live shoot at Sunny Acres

One of my images from the evening lightpainting shoot at Sunny Acres. What’s funny about this image is that in the process of shooting, I was thinking aloud that a fog machine would be great. Well, the person standing next to me said, “oh, I have one in my car. I’ll go get it.” What are the chances!? We used the fog machine to make it look as if the engine was smoking.

There were also a couple of sunset shoots on the beach where we had horses on the beach, dancers, surfer models, etc. It was truly a photography playground for the festival students. Not only was there excellent subject matter but there were instructors available to make sure everyone was getting great images. After long days of shooting and teaching, we would go out to dinner, catch up with friends and make new ones.

One of my beach shots, with the horses in the sunset.

One of Karen’s shots from the sunset/horses shoot

Post-class dinner and drinks with my friends (and fellow photographers/teachers) Bobbi Lane and Lee Varis.

During the week, I also got to sneak out and pay a visit to the Really Right Stuff gang. They make extremely high quality tripods and accessories and I highly recommend them. I’ve been using their stuff for years and not only is it great, but their customer service is outstanding. They just moved into a new and bigger building in the area and they were nice enough to give us a tour.

Here I am in the new Really Right Stuff showroom.

Overall, the festival was excellent! The classes were diverse, the instructors were all very good and the whole vibe of the event was just plain fun. I’d really recommend it for everyone from photo enthusiasts to seasoned pros. There’s something for everyone. The California Photo Festival is put on by the folks at the Light Photographic Workshops, located in Los Osos, CA. I’ve taught with them several times and always have a great experience. I’ve got a 5-day workshop coming up with them in late November/early December that will focus completely on HDR photography. Check out the WORKSHOP PAGE for more details on that one.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a little video/slideshow that Karen made from her festival photos. Next stop, San Diego and then Portland. More to come…