An excellent week of exploring and lightpainting

My last post left off in Santa Fe, where we spent about four days exploring and shooting. After exploring the town there, we took a drive to Pecos National Historic Park, which is about 40 minutes from the city. The highlight of the park is an ancient pueblo, with some ruins and kivas surrounding it. We spent a good amount of time shooting in one of the kivas, which are circular, underground rooms that used to be used for religious rituals. We did find a little problem with the first kiva, however. I started to go down the ladder, and just as my head went underground, I found myself face to face with a small, but very irritated, rattlesnake. We decided to move on to the next kiva, but not before I tried to photograph the snake!

My shot from inside a kiva.

Instead of high-tailing it out of the snake area, I decided to try to photograph the little sucker.

The resulting snake photograph. I was using a fisheye, which made him look a little farther away.

After leaving Santa Fe, we moved on to the mountain town of Taos, a place I’ve been wanting to visit for a while. On our way there, we passed an amazing place that I just had to stop and photograph. It’s called the Classic Gas Museum, and is basically one man’s collection of vintage gas pumps, cars, signs, you name it. The place was full of old stuff… the kind of stuff I just love to shoot. The owner, Johnnie, was great and had no problem with us photographing there. He even let us return two nights later to do some lightpainting. Karen and I spent a good 2-3 hours shooting there after dark, and I was really happy with the results.

Karen’s iPhone montage from the Classic Gas Museum.

I was excited about this composition at the Classic Gas Museum. I just loved the old gas pumps surrounding this old race car.

This is the main building/shop at the Classic Gas Museum.

While in Taos, we explored the historic downtown area and then drove the famous High Road to Taos. You’re “supposed” to drive it from Santa Fe to Taos, but we did it the other way around because it wasn’t the most convenient road to take a 40-foot motorhome down, so we waited to drive it in the Mini. We mainly stopped to photograph old churches on the road, as they had a lot of character and history to them. The high road ended in the town of Espanola, where we stopped for dinner. I’ve got to mention the place we ate at because it was just excellent. It’s called El Paragua (The Parasol) and they specialize in Mexican cuisine (a standard in Espanola). The atmosphere in the place was charming, and the food was just delicious. Karen and I both ate more than we should have because it was just so darn hard to stop! We’ve been to a lot of Mexican places, and many of them are extremely similar as far as the menu and flavors go. This place definitely stood above the rest.

While in Taos, I also started experimenting with camera gear. I’m a Canon shooter, but I was curious as to how I would like Nikon’s D800E. I love to be able to make huge prints, and the D800’s 36 megapixels was taunting me a bit. Overall, the files that I’ve been getting from it are excellent, but I think I’m still going to stick with Canon. I’ll do a longer post on this later.

Karen and I both really enjoyed Taos, and we stayed there for four nights. Then, we were Colorado bound. We made a short stop at Great Sand Dunes National Park and we would have stayed longer had the weather been in our favor. It’s definitely on the list to visit again. Our first stop in Colorado is near Canon City, and we came here because of the unique aspects of the RV park. It’s called the Starlite Classic Campground and they feature a whole bunch of restored vintage trailers that are in beautiful shape and they’re all styled to perfectly to the era in which they were “born.” The couple who runs the place is just great and they were gracious enough to let me lightpaint some of the trailers. In fact, the first night’s lightpainting turned out so well that we extended our stay so I could shoot some more of them! We spent most of today arranging setups for the trailer shoots, and I’m going to be heading out to shoot some more as soon as this blog post is finished!

Here is my first lightpainting from The Starlite Classic Campground.

My new lightpainting e-book is now available!

Finally, I have some exciting news to share! This week, I released my new e-book, “The Fine Art of Painting with Light.” If you are interested in lightpainting, whether you’re experienced or not, definitely check it out. The book is a comprehensive guide, starting with your very first lightpainting and moving through to advanced techniques and post-processing in Photoshop. It includes a guide to the tools required, examples of different lightpainting styles and how to achieve them and 28 real-world examples where I demonstrate how I created specific images. The e-book is separated into two distinct sections. The first teaches the process of lightpainting and the Photoshop post-processing skills, and the second breaks down specific images and shows how they were made. The best part of it is that it’s only $9.97! You can read more about it, and order it HERE.

That’s all for now!

Mono Lake Night Photography Continued


Karen got this shot of me before the sun went down at the South Tufas on Mono Lake.

During our last visit to Mono Lake, about two weeks ago, I was mainly focused on night shooting in Bodie. I was attending a night photography workshop that gave us special access to the ghost town after regular visiting hours. This was excellent, but didn't give me enough time to visit the rest of the Mono Lake area, including the South Tufas. So after spending about a week in the Carson City/Lake Tahoe area, we returned to Mono and continued where we left off.

We spent the first couple nights shooting the South Tufas, which are interesting-looking limestone rock formations that grow out of the water in certain parts of the lake. I experimented both with flashlights and speedlights firing through colored gels.

Mono Lake-1

This is one of the results of my light-painting nights at the South Tufas.

Now while we're on the Tufas topic, I want to mention something cool that happened when we were there. While we were scouting our shooting spot one night at the lake, we ran into another photographer with a passion for night photography. He was working on some time lapse sequences and we struck up a conversation about it. Before he left, we exchanged business cards and continued shooting. We didn't get back to the bus until late that night, and while I was waiting for my images to load I looked up the photographer's web site. And HOLY COW was he good! Karen and I spent a good amount of time looking at his stuff and marvelling over the amazing time lapse "movies" he had up there. We highly recommend you check him out. His name is Jeff Chen, he's based out of San Francisco, and his site is It was nearly two in the morning, but we figured we'd shoot him an e-mail on the off chance he'd want to meet for breakfast. Not only did we meet for breakfast, but we met up a few random times during the next three days, talking photography and visiting the local gallery. Isn't it just awesome the way things can happen like that? Now we're looking forward to visiting him in San Francisco later this summer.


The MINI and the Milky Way

Anyway, during our week in the Mono Lake area, the moon was almost nonexistant, and the Milky Way showing up really well. It was my first time shooting the Milky Way, and I would have rathered be shooting with my 5D Mark II, which dove off a waterfall last week (see previous post), but I was happy with the image I got, shown above. (The MINI was actually lit with my iPhone.)


The Bristlecone Pines, the oldest trees in the world!

After shooting a few nights in a row at Mono, we headed south to where the Bristlecone Pines were. These trees are among the oldest organisms on the planet, some of them over 4,000 years old! We did a little light-painting there, but there were other photogs with the same idea, because we found ourselves jockeying for a tripod position. We didn't stay too long, and the above image is what I ended up with.

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Alabama Hills Lightpaint_0001_Layer Comp 2   Alabama Hills Lightpaint_0002_Layer Comp 5

A few variations from the arch at Alabama Hills. The bottom two shots are verticals also. Click on them to see the full image.

A few hours south of Mono Lake are the "Alabama Hills," an area of hills and rock formations near the Eastern Sierra Mountains. Many thanks to Jeff for letting us know about this nice place to shoot! The place is home to a pretty cool arch, and that's what we wanted to focus on. It was really convenient, because we were able to park the bus less than two minutes from the trailhead, and it was only a 5-10 minute walk to the arch. We did some light-painting at night, and then woke up early to shoot again at sunrise.

From the Alabama Hills area, we were Arizona-bound. Our friends and nomads of Technomadia just bought a vintage bus and were heading to the Lake Havasu area. Little did they know it, but we would be paying a surprise visit!

More to come…