Teaching & Tinkering in the Pacific Northwest

Hi all! I just spent most of the past week in Seattle, WA and Eugene, OR. However, unlike last winter where we kept the bus in the Pacific Northwest, I flew in from Atlanta this time around.

I started off the week in Seattle teaching my “Think Like a Photographer” class at creativeLIVE. This class is geared toward folks who have been shooting for a bit and would like to get more serious about their photography. We covered composition, shooting strategies, gear, post-processing, etc. It was a lot of fun and everyone learned a ton. If you missed the class, you can still snag it HERE.

Ben_CL_NovHere I am on the set of my “Think Like a Photographer” class. Thanks to my awesome host, Jim Catechi, for getting this shot!

After wrapping up my class, I went south to Eugene, Oregon. That’s where my vintage bus is being worked on and getting its new interior installed. If you’re not already aware, I live in a 40′ tour bus and I travel around the country taking photos. The vintage bus is my next home on wheels and it will feature a completely custom interior when it’s finished. It’s been a long-term project, but I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel! Karen and I spent last winter in Oregon so that I could oversee the project, but eventually the guys at the shop were on autopilot and we were able to explore and travel more. Now that lots of progress has been made, I wanted to pay the bus a visit and work with the shop on design details and such. I spent three days in Eugene and I’m thrilled with how the bus is looking! If you want to learn more about the project, or follow the progress, check out the Creative Cruiser Facebook page (yes, my bus has its own Facebook page).

LarryParadiseLarry, the owner of Paradise Coach, standing in my bus. 

As I mentioned earlier, the bus (the one I currently live on) stayed in Atlanta, so that’s where I returned to after my trip to the Pacific Northwest. My great friend and photographer Eddie Tapp is an Atlanta local, so we got to spend some more time together when I arrived. We paid a visit to the SE Railroad Museum and did a little shooting there. It seems that I’ve had a train theme going on the past few weeks. This is at least the third railroad-themed museum I’ve been to lately!

AtlantaTrainMuseumAn iPhone shot I took at the SE Raillroad Museum

From Atlanta, we will continue south to Florida because, well, that’s what we do in the winter time! Karen is actually in NJ to photograph her best friend’s newborn and she will fly directly to Jacksonville later this week. We will then continue to the Tampa area and maybe even make it further south. At the end of the month, we fly to Lisbon, Portugal, where we will board a cruise ship that will be our home for a month. I’ll be teaching a class for the cruise passengers, and then we’ll arrive stateside again just in time for xmas/new years. More to come!

Exploring The Palouse

Hi gang! Get ready for a very photographic post! We’ve spent the past week photographing the beautiful Palouse area in south-east Washington. We had originally only planned to spend two or three days in the area, but life got in the way a bit, in the form of bus transmission issues. Because we had to have the bus at a diesel shop in Spokane for several days in a row, we took the extra time to drive the mini down to The Palouse. This actually worked out really well, from a photographic standpoint, because we got to photograph in all kinds of weather/lighting scenarios.

BenPalouseSunsetThis image was shot from near the top of Steptoe Butte in the Palouse.

The Palouse is basically wheat country. The area is covered in beautiful, rolling hills covered with wheat and canola. When the canola flowers are in bloom, and they were for us, it is pretty spectacular seeing the sweeping expanses of yellow flowers. In exploring the area, we knew there was one place we had to visit, and that was Steptoe Butte. From the top, you have a great view of the rolling hills, and if you get good light, sunset is a great shooting time. From this point, you want to be using a pretty long lens to pick out barns and really emphasize the shadows & highlights. The photo above was shot from Steptoe Butte around sunset.

Aside from that one spot, the rest of our shooting locations were really found by exploring. We’d just get in the car, head into the Palouse area and see what we found. There were many small dirt roads we followed, seeking out good photo opportunities. Most of the time, we found them! While driving around, we were looking for one of two main things: Nice light hitting the rolling hills, and lone barn structures to use as subjects. The area has loads of spots like this, so it often took us two hours to go two miles because we would keep stopping to get out and shoot!

BenPalouseBarnWe found this barn near sunset while we were just driving around. This is an iPhone shot I took, processed with Snapseed.

I obviously did a lot of shooting this past week, but in addition to my usual DSLR shots, I did a lot of iPhoneography as well. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve been seeing tons of my iPhone shots from the Palouse. The effects you can get with minimal editing on the iPhone is just amazing. I used Snapseed to edit most of those shots.  I also took a lot of panoramas. I love printing big, and always shoot panos, but this place was just begging for it.

BenCanolaPano-longHere is a pano from one of the canola fields. That’s Karen in the middle doing a yoga pose.

BenPalouseFishyA fun circular fisheye shot

BenPalousePano2Here is another pano of a barn we found just by driving around the area. 

While we were out exploring the Palouse, the shop managed to fix the issue with the bus’ transmission. I am going to be hanging out in the general area, making sure that the problem has been fixed (If it occurs again, I want to be able to easily get back to the shop). Karen is flying over to NJ to spend a week with her family and attend her brother’s graduation party. When she returns, we will meet over in Seattle for my next creativeLIVE event.

Speaking of creativeLIVE, I’ll be teaching my Photoshop Mastery: Creative Explorations class on July 8-9, 9-4 PST. As always with creativeLIVE, while it’s live it’s totally free to watch, so tune in and learn how to add some awesome sauce to your images!

More to come…

untitled-748Me and Karen goofing off

Wandering around Washington

In last week’s post, we had just finished exploring the Columbia Gorge area, which runs along the border between Oregon and Washington. This week, we continued on to Walla Walla, Washington, which also happens to be Washington wine country. Now, if you read this blog regularly, you’re probably thinking, “wait… weren’t you just in wine country a few weeks ago?” And the answer would be yes! Only that was the Willamette Valley in Oregon, which specialized in Pinot Noirs. While Karen and I enjoyed our time in the Willamette Valley, pinots just aren’t our thing. We like BIG reds, and that’s exactly what Walla Walla has to offer. We tried lots of tasty cabernet and syrah there. Before we got to Walla Walla, we contacted our great friend Carl “The Wine Wizard” to ask for recommendations. Carl’s knowledge of (and taste in) wine is just spectacular, and he directed us to many fantastic wineries. Two of our favorites were Pepper Bridge and Woodward Canyon. We also loved Long Shadow, which is kind of an interesting place because they bring in a different wine maker for each wine they offer, so their wines were all very different, but the quality was there in all of them as well.

We also happened to be in Walla Walla for my birthday! It was nice to spend a birthday driving around vineyards and tasting wine! Karen also took me for an hour-long massage at a spa in downtown Walla Walla.

KarBen-PepperBridgeMe and Karen at Pepper Bridge (I’m sporting my new bespoke hat). This may have been my favorite winery in Walla Walla. Their bottles are quite spendy, but I ended up getting one as a birthday present to myself. 

After spending three nights in Walla Walla, we continued on to the Palouse area. The Palouse is in Washington as well, and it’s basically a big wheat-producing area. The draw for us as photographers is that the area is covered with green, rolling hills… similar to what you would see in Tuscany. Very beautiful. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate at all while we were in the area, so I really don’t have any photos to show for it. When we saw that the rain and clouds weren’t going to clear up, we took the drive anyway up this tall butte that overlooks the area, just to see what we could see. We saw clouds. The top of the butte was literally IN the clouds. Karen got a kick out of a photo she took that is completely white. Lovely shot of the Palouse, right?! Even though we didn’t get any good images, we could tell how beautiful it was, and how spectacular it must be on a partly cloudy day, with the shadows and sun spots dancing on the hills.

While the bus was parked in the Palouse, I also took a drive to the middle-of-nowhere, Washington to photograph another little gas station. The rain made it tricky here as well, as I was only able to shoot from the car window.

OldTexacoThis is the little Texaco I shot in middle-of-nowhere, Washington. It’s just an iPhone shot I snapped while sitting in the car hoping the rain would stop. 

While we were driving to the Palouse, I had noticed some transmission issues on the bus. It was acting odd in first gear and I began getting error codes. This made it so that our next stop was Spokane, WA where there is a diesel shop that can work on the kind of transmission that’s in my bus. They concluded that the issue was likely caused by a bad sensor. They replaced the sensor and we were on our way. Before leaving, though, we explored town a bit and paid a visit to the largest wagon in the world! Exciting stuff!

Karen-GiantWagonIf you look close enough, you can see Karen standing next to the world’s largest wagon.

BenShootingStationEn route to Spokane, we went a little out of our way so that I could photograph another vintage service station.

Once the bus issue was seemingly fixed, we headed east into Idaho and spent the night in Coeur d’Alene. Our goal is to make it to Glacier National Park as soon as possible, but when we left Coeur d’Alene in the morning, the bus issue came back. It hadn’t been fixed after all. Considering it was a transmission problem, and those can be ugly, we opted to turn around and go back to the diesel shop that had worked on it in Spokane. Bummer, huh? Luckily, they were able to get us in on a Sunday and after a bunch of testing, it turns out that three parts need to be replaced in the transmission. The shop has two of the parts in stock and we hope another shop in town might have the last part needed, but we won’t know until Monday rolls around. Ah, the joys of bus life!

A few more fun things:

I had mentioned in a recent post that I just bought a Brompton folding bike that fits in the bay of the bus. I had been eyeing them up for a while, and I’m really loving it. When I ordered it, I added an after-market electric conversion, which means that I can pedal like normal, I can do a mixture of peddling and electric, or I can just use the trottle on the handlebars to go all electric. Below is a rough iPhone video of me unfolding the bike.

A rough video of my new Brompton folding bike. 

Since this post includes a few vintage gas stations, I wanted to throw one more in there. This isn’t a new image, but it’s one I’ve been working on for a while. When it comes to these gas station images, I often end up doing some serious retouching work. Check out the before and after versions of this one by dragging the slider left and right:



Back in Explorin’ mode

If you follow this blog regularly, you know that, while we’ve been doing a lot of air travel, our motorcoach has been parked between Portland and Eugene, Oregon, for quite some time. This is because I’ve been monitoring the progress of my vintage bus project, which has been going on in Eugene. This past week, we nailed down the designs for the interior, so the project can now go on autopilot (meaning the guys at the shop no longer need my input) and we’re free to roam the country again!

First things first, though. I started out the week in Seattle, where I presented my online class on Photoshop retouching & collaging at creativeLIVE. This class is part of a larger “Photoshop Mastery” series that I’ve been teaching once a month for the past few months. Next month, I’ll be returning to teach “Creative Explorations” in Photoshop. If you missed the recent classes, or want to enroll (for free) to the next one, visit my instructor page here.

BenCL-JuneOn the set of my creativeLIVE class.

cL-BenRickMy friend and fellow photographer Rick Friedman was teaching a creativeLIVE class right after mine, so we got to meet up in Seattle!

After leaving Seattle, we returned to the bus in Eugene, Oregon and spent one night there before hitching up and heading out. We headed north through Portland, where we made a quick stop to pick up my new, custom-made hat! I’ll post pics of that soon. We then headed east along the Columbia Gorge, on the Oregon/Washington border. We had spent several days exploring the gorge area before, but there is lots to see there, so we spent a few nights near the town of Carson, which is right on the gorge, on the Washington side.

This area is just beautiful, and there’s lots to photograph. I am currently working on an e-book for shooting waterfalls, so that’s what we focused on. There are so many waterfalls in this area that you could literally spend weeks shooting them all. We had heard good things about Panther Creek Falls, so that’s the first one we hit up. It was about a 45-minute drive from Carson and a really short, easy hike to the falls. It was pretty spectacular, and we actually returned twice to shoot it in different light.

2013_06_15_173057_Panther Creek Falls WA_0118My shot of Panther Creek Falls. This is just a detail shot. The whole falls is shown below.

PantherCreekFalls-36Karen got this shot of me near Panther Creek Falls. The red light on my camera looks so bright because it was actually the brightest thing in the scene. This was pushing 8:30 at night and it was actually quite dark. 

2013_06_14_203638_Panther Creek Falls WA_0052-EditThe entirety of Panther Creek Falls.

2013_06_15_173825_Panther Creek Falls WA_0127Some of the rapids leading up to the waterfall. 

2013_06_15_174222_Panther Creek Falls WA_0137I got this shot of Karen shooting near the falls.

We also drove out to see Lower Lewis Creek Falls, which was a longer trip from Carson (1.5 hours) but totally worth it because of the scenic drive and the beautiful weather. The waterfall was great, expanding a wide area. It was, however, in direct sunlight so it was hard to get any really nice shots of it. This is one of those waterfalls you really need to shoot on a cloudy/foggy day. It was still nice to see, though, and we enjoyed the exploring aspect of it. While we were driving to Lower Lewis Creek Falls, we also got several great views of Mount Saint Helen, which was an added bonus.

Lower Falls-23-EditKaren’s shot of Lower Lewis Creek Falls. It would have been much better on a foggy day, but it was still nice to see.

After exploring the gorge area a bit, we continued eastward toward Walla Walla, Washington. We’ll spend a few days here visiting some vineyards (this is wine country) and celebrating my birthday! More to come.

Here’s a video Karen made from our time near the Columbia Gorge. 
Also, click HERE for Karen’s post on the Columbia Gorge area

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…