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Date: Monday, 12 Nov 2012 04:35

Visit WhereIsBen.com and resubscribe to any RSS feeds you're used to following. I've integrated this blog into my main web site and am shutting down this one.

-Ben

Author: "Pixelhead"
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Date: Monday, 08 Oct 2012 23:34

Hey gang! This is just a reminder that this blog, WhereIsBen?, has moved! If you follow the blog via an RSS feed, you will have to resubscribe within the new site, and you can find that HERE.

If you keep up with the blog by going to www.WhereIsBen.com, you'll be fine. The domain name has been moved to the new site.

Again, the new WhereIsBen? blog can be found HERE.

Author: "Pixelhead"
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Date: Thursday, 08 Mar 2012 19:25

This blog has officially moved to its new home! We've been working hard to put all of my sites under one virtual roof and the final product can be seen at www.digitalmastery.com. WhereIsBen is now located under the "blog" menu item, but you can still type in www.whereisben.com and it will take you to the right place.

Important for RSS feed users

If you follow whereisben.com via an RSS feed, you will have to re-subscribe to the new blog by clicking on the little orange RSS icon at the top right of the page.

Author: "Pixelhead"
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Date: Monday, 05 Mar 2012 11:22

 

Above is a little video Karen made of our time in Hawaii. Note: Many of these are iPhone shots.

Here is part two of our Hawaiian interlude. If you read the last blog post, you know that we spent a week on Oahu and then hopped over to Maui. where we spent this past week. Before we left for Maui, we attended a Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Before the feast started, we got to explore the grounds a bit, and were very impressed by their setup. It's a huge park-like village with separate areas for many of the individual Polynesian cultures (Hawaii, Fiji, Tahiti, etc.). At each area, you could see shows, demos, or just explore the buildings. The Luau was fun, and on the way in, we each got a fresh orchid lei. There were hula dancers and live music throughout the whole event. When it was over, we headed over to the large theater for the live show, "Ha: Breath of Life." Karen and I were both pretty surprised at how big of a production it was. There were at least 70 performers, and a huge staff for effects and such.

We flew to Maui on Tuesday, where I taught a 3-day Photoshop course at the Maui Institute of Visual Arts. The institute is run by Randy and Becky Hufford, and we stayed in their guest suite during our visit. The course went really well, and all the students seemed to enjoy it a lot. We had one interesting day where the power went out completely, and we all had to work on the battery power from our laptops, with no projector at all! I kept plugging on, and the class seemed to make do just fine, which was great. When I was down to 3% battery life left, I started to wrap things up for the day and that's when the power came back on ... just in the nick of time! We were able to continue the class with no problem. Many thanks to my students and Randy for making the most of the situation!

If you read this blog a lot, you know that as we travel around the mainland in the motorcoach, we are constantly running into friends (and making new ones). You would think that out here in Hawaii, we would be less likely to be running into people we know. Well that couldn't be further from the truth! As soon as we landed in Maui, we were picked up at the airport by my great friend Steve. You may have heard me talk about Steve and his wife, Beverly, in many of these posts. They live in Las Vegas and that's one city we've been visiting a lot lately (mostly because of friends and convenience... not because of the "Vegas scene"). In fact, the bus is currently parked in their driveway! Here's what's crazy: It was sheer coincidence that we happened to be traveling to Hawaii at the same time! It sounds almost impossible, but that's how our lives seem to roll. But wait... this gets better. My awesome friend Diane (who is also a mutual friend of Steve and Beverly) happens to live on Maui and was with Steve when he picked us up at the airport. So on our first night on the new island, we had a small gathering of close friends, and considering we hadn't seen Diane in over a year, it was somewhat of a reunion.

One morning, we woke up early to go whale watching with my friends Mark and Shayla. I had met them during a previous visit to Maui, where they attended the class I was teaching. They were kind enough to take us out on their boat to search for humpback whales. We spotted several of them, but didn't get close enough to get nice photographs. That's ok, though. We were just thrilled to be able to get out on the water and catch up with Mark and Shayla. Later that day, we went sight-seeing with Steve and Bev all over the south side of East Maui.

While I was teaching my three-day class, Karen spent a lot of time exploring the island. This was her first time to Maui, and she wanted to see as much as she could. In just two days, she drove the perimeters of both the east and west sides of Maui, as well as part of the interior. She's going to post a bunch of photos on her blog (as well as some interesting stories from her adventures) and I'll link to it when she does.

As I mentioned above, we stayed in Randy and Becky's guest room (aka the Pineapple Love Suite) while we were in Maui and spent a lot of time with them in the evenings. Becky is an incredible chef and had delicious things in store for us every night. Karen has really been getting into cooking lately, so she was eager to soak up all the tips Becky could give her. On Saturday, we had a joint birthday party for Randy and Steve. Everyone had a blast ... maybe too much of a blast, because many of us needed some "recovery time" the following morning!

Me and Karen at the "Three Bears" waterfall on the Road to Hana

On Sunday, Karen and I drove the famous Road to Hana together, stopping to shoot along the way. It rained for a good part of the way, but cleared up toward the end of our drive and we managed to get some nice late-afternoon/early-evening shots of the coastline at Waianapanapa State Park. Since it would have been a long and dark drive back, we decided to spend the night in Hana, which is where we are as I type this. We're right on the ocean, and the place we're staying is semi-open, so we can hear the wind and the water from the room. Not a bad way to wrap up this post, I'd say! Aloha!

More to come...

Extra note: Karen posted a free desktop calendar wallpaper for March up on her blog, The Pixel Diaries. It features one of her images from Oahu. You can download it HERE.

 

Author: "Pixelhead"
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Date: Monday, 27 Feb 2012 17:56

This week, I'm checking in from the Hawaiian Island of Oahu! We flew here after moving the bus back to Las Vegas, where it will stay while we're on the islands. The main reason for my visit here was to teach a two-day course at the University of Hawaii for Pacific New Media. Karen and I are even staying right on the campus, which is less than 10 minutes from Waikiki and downtown Honolulu.

Mai Tais at the Hula Grill in Waikiki

On the day we arrived, we landed around noon and immediately went to pick up our rental car, which happened to be a lime green Volkswagen Beetle. Karen really got a kick out of this. Since I was starving, I did a Yelp search for a nearby food place that was fast and had good reviews. What I came up with was Helena's Hawaiian Food. It not only had amazing ratings, but we later learned that it had been featured on some food-related TV shows. The place was small and very "no-frills," but it is a local gem, for sure. Everything on the menu is very Hawaiian, and there was a line out the door to get a table. We took our food to go and ate in the car at a parking locale that overlooked the city of Honolulu. Not a bad intro to our stay in Hawaii!

After lunch, we explored the eastern side of the island for a bit and then checked in at the hall we would be staying at on campus. For our first evening, we went down to Waikiki for drinks and dinner. I first did a Yelp search for local happy hours and found a place with wonderful reviews called Bacchus. It was supposed to be a wine bar. When we arrived, we thought it was a little odd that there wasn't much of a wine selection, and the music was louder than we're used to for a wine bar. This didn't bother us too much though. It was a fun place and the bartender was really friendly. I went up to get drinks while Karen got a table. When I got back to our table, Karen gave me a funny look, leaned in, and politely informed me that I had taken her to a gay bar and she was the only female in the place. When I looked around, I noticed that the place was full of very "affectionate" guys. Now gay bars don't bother us one bit, but the fact that this was totally unintentional on my part made the first part of our night VERY amusing. After leaving Bacchus, we walked around for a bit in the downtown Waikiki shopping area and then eventually ended up at the Hula Grill for dinner. There was live Hawaiian music, our table was on a terrace that overlooked the beach, and the food was amazing.

Karen got this shot at the Pipeline surf break on the North Shore of Oahu.

On our second day, we decided to drive around the island, starting in Honolulu and heading up counter-clockwise. We first stopped at the easternmost point, Makapu'u, where we hiked to the lighthouse there. It was a good workout, and the route was scenic. Part of the walk overlooked a sanctuary for humpback whales where you could easily see dozens of spouts and tail fins. When we got back to the car, we continued the drive, stopping at any place that looked interesting. We spent a good amount of time on the North Shore, stopping at many of the popular beaches up there. This place is a surfer's paradise, for sure. Karen really wanted to find the famous Pipeline break, which could possibly be the most famous surfing spot in the world. (We didn't see it that day, but she eventually found it when she returned alone during a day I was teaching) We stopped for dinner in Hle'iwa, a town on the western side of the island, where we had some excellent curry food. By the time we got back to the university, we were both pretty beat.

My Photoshop Mastery class at the University of Hawaii Campus

On Saturday and Sunday, I taught my two-day class called Photoshop Mastery on the University's campus. Both days went really well, and I think the students got a lot out of it. On Saturday night, Karen and I went back to Waikiki for a night on the town. We started off with a happy hour in a rotating bar that overlooked the city and the ocean. What's funny is that we didn't realize that the place was rotating until at least 15 minutes after we arrived! For dinner, we went to a place called the Genius Lounge, which also had amazing ratings on Yelp. We got a table outside and the food was both delicious and unique. I had Pumpkin and Bacon along with breaded deep fried hamburger on rice topped with a fried egg and Demi glacé sauce. Karen, of course, had two salads. We always like going to places with interesting menu items.

On our way back to the car, we noticed a lot of activity in Peter Lik's photography gallery, so we decided to stop in and see what was going on. It turns out, there was an open event going on where servers were handing out wine and appetizers. Nice way to end the night!

We have one more day before we leave Oahu and move on to Maui. I will be teaching another two-day class there and I also have some great friends to visit on the island. More to come!

Author: "Pixelhead"
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Date: Monday, 20 Feb 2012 14:06

ValleyOfFire2012-90_1_2_3_4-Edit
Karen got this shot of me during our hike in the Valley of Fire.

After spending the first month and a half of 2012 in California, we finally ventured on ... all the way to Nevada. The first part of the week was spent in Las Vegas, where we met up with lots of friends. We parked at the home of Steve and Beverly (who you've read about in previous blog posts). As it turns out, our mutual friends, Eddie Tapp and Judy Host, were staying with Steve and Beverly as well! Six friends all together under one roof (and driveway)! We arrived on Monday night and all went out to dinner in honor of Judy's birthday, which happened to be the same day.

The next day was Valentines Day, and although Karen and I don’t really get into it, we used it as an excuse to spend a nice night out with our nomadic friends, Sean and Louise, of the blog Our Odyssey. We started off with some cocktails in their bus, which was parked very close to the Vegas strip. Then we went up to the Foundation Room on the top floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel. This place has become one of our favorite hangouts in Sin City. It has a rich, asian atmosphere, with dark colors, buddha statues and unique and comfortable furniture. After the Foundation Room, we went to dinner at Pan Asia, another favorite for me and Karen. It’s a no-frills kind of place (far from the strip), but the food is amazing, the couple who runs it are adorable and it’s byob. It was great to catch up with Sean and Louise, who we hadn’t seen in over a year!

LakeMead-Feb-76_77_78_79_80
The new MINI just got its new bonnet stripes installed. Pretty snazzy!

I mentioned in recent blog posts that we just got a new MINI Countryman. It’s red with a white roof, white wheels and white mirrors. On Tuesday, we took the MINI to get its new white bonnet stripes installed. They look pretty sleek and really add to the unique look of the car.

While we were still in Vegas, Sean helped me out by taking a look at the generator on the bus. The generator has been giving me issues for two years and stopped working completely. It’s been a major source of frustration for us. Sean managed to narrow things down and actually get it running... not problem-free... but running.

ValleyOfFire2012-138
My bus and Sean and Louise's Odyssey share a little peninsula on Lake Mead.

On Friday, we joined Sean and Louise on a short journey to Lake Mead. They went ahead of us and scouted out the perfect “camping” spot for our two busses. We literally have water on three sides of us. The atmosphere is extremely relaxing and at sunset, the color is beautiful. Sean and Louise even set up their portable hot tub, and we’ve been using it every night, with a view of the stars and the water.

LakeMead-Feb-93
Sean inspects my problematic generator at our "camping" spot on Lake Mead.

While we were camped on Lake Mead, Sean and I spent even more time on the generator, and we managed to make a lot of progress on it. (I say “we” but my part really consisted of handing tools to Sean when he needed them). The rest of the time was spent relaxing, working and enjoying meals together.

LakeMead-Feb-94
Sean, Louise, Karen and myself


From our parking spot at Lake Mead, the Valley of Fire was only an hour’s drive away, so the four of us took a day trip to the park and did some hiking. It’s the perfect time of year to visit the Valley of Fire, because we didn’t feel like we were actually on fire. In the summer months, that place can easily reach above 110 degrees. Karen and I did some shooting along the hike, and we enjoyed the scenery during the drive (except for the flashing police lights in the rear view when Karen was driving a little too “spirited.” Luckily, she’s cute and the cop let her go.)

Our next stop will be Las Vegas again. We are flying out this week to Hawaii, where I’ll give two seminars - one in Honolulu and one on Maui. More to come...

Author: "Pixelhead"
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Date: Monday, 13 Feb 2012 13:08

During the past week, we've been parked in Huntington Beach, CA. We migrated up here from San Diego after the new Mini Countryman got it's base plate installed (that's what makes it possible for us to tow the car behind the bus.) We're parked right on the beach with a view of the water and the pier. Not too shabby!

It's been a pretty jam-packed week, especially when it comes to lifestyle research. And what does that mean? Well to start, I'll say this: The current bus we live on will soon be swapped out for my vintage bus, which is being completely restored and remodelled. Once it's complete, we plan to live on it for several years, touring the country just like we currently do in my 40' bus. In the more distant future, I would like to live on a boat at some point. I've had my eye on a brand of trawler style boat called a Nordhavn. These boats are high quality and extremely sea-worthy. Let this be the intro/precurser to the meat of this blog post...

VBus-shopping-7

Craig and I search for wood veneers for the vintage bus.

Vintage Bus Shopping

Right now, my vintage bus is located in Fort Worth, TX where it is getting its engine, transmission and body work done. This leg of the restoration is nearing completion and the bus will be ready to get its new interior installed. For the interior, the bus will move from TX to Nova Scotia, to Craig Dorsey's shop. Craig owns a company called Vintage Vacations and does an incredible job restoring old trailers and motorhomes. From a style standpoint, he is the best person in the country to handle this job. He truly GETS the look I'm going for, which is a streamline design style mixed with high tech elements.

It turns out that Craig is currently in Los Angeles, spending a few months working on a restoration job in the area. This is perfect because we were able to meet up, talk about the project and go shopping for the interior fixtures, textures, etc.

One morning, Karen and I met Craig at the place he's staying right outside L.A. He had researched a bunch of places in the area and we didn't waste any time getting to them.

VBus-shopping-3Our first stop of the shopping day was focused specifically on curves.

The first stop was a shop that specialized in curves, meaning the kinds of wall and cabinet elements that would intersect in a curved angle. As I mentioned before, the vintage bus is going to be very streamlined in the inside, and I don't want a lot of abrupt corners. Rather, I want the walls and cabinet corners to be nice and curved. The photo above may give you a better idea of what I mean. After pulling out the 3D diagram of the bus on my Mac, we figured out how many curves we would need, and how they would fit in.

Our next stop was a wood veneer place. The walls of the vintage bus are going to be covered in a wood veneer and we had to pick out what we wanted. This task was a little more daunting than I anticipated. There were so many veneers, and it was hard to judge how they would look once finished. Luckily, they had some finished samples that gave us somewhat of an idea, but it was still tough. What we do know is that Karen and I both like a darker cherry finish with little to no contrast in the wood grain. Simple and sleek is good. We didn't come to a final decision on this, but narrowed it down to two or three different veneers. Considering there were dozens to choose from, we definitely made progress. You can see us debating on veneers in the first photo of this post.

VBus-shopping-14The leather store where we found the hides for the sofa, booth and drivers seat.

For the sofa on the bus, as well as the booth seating and driver's seat, I decided to go with leather. Since leather is usually crazy expensive, Craig did a lot of research to find a place that wouldn't cost me an arm and a leg. When we first pulled up to this place, Karen took one look at it and gave me the hairy eyeball. I couldn't blame her. From the outside, it didn't look like much... at all. However, I trust Craig, so we went in. Luckily we were all pleasantly surprised. It was a no-frills kind of store, but the hides were high quality, and there was a lot to choose from. Call this place a little gem that will go into my mental roladex. We spent about 15 minutes searching around until Karen came up with a hide that was without a doubt the right one for the bus. It's a nice dark brown with a hint of red mixed in, and it's a soft, matte leather. We weren't into anything hard or shiny. Luckily, the place had plenty of it, and I ended up buying the equivalent to five hides. This should be more than enough for my project.

VBus-shopping-24The leather store didn't look like much from the outside, but it sure did house some high-quality hides.

I want the vintage bus to have a lot of unique accents, so we went to a funky antique hardware store that was loaded with fixtures... everything from light switches to chandeliers, to toilet paper holders. You name it. It was here. I ended up buying a sleek little chrome handle with a red stripe going down the middle. This will go on the outside of the sliding bathroom door. I also got a funky little door, about 3" wide and 9" tall, that has a vintage "Sparton" logo on it. I have no idea what I'll use it for, but I'd love to build it in somewhere. It's just fun and unique.

VBus-shopping-28Craig and I search for fixtures at a funky antiques place.

Our last stop was a linoleum place. I am considering using this for countertops, inside drawers, etc. To be honest, nothing really jumped out at me here, and we're considering using stainless steel counters, wood tables and other textures in place of linoleum. We'll see how things go before I make any decisions there.

Planning ahead for life on the water

Nordhavn47-2Jim steers the boat out of the marina as I watch and take in the scenery.

As I mentioned earlier, after I'm done living on the road, I would like to live on the water. Since a boat would be a very serious (and expensive) undertaking, I want to start planning, preparing and feeling out the lifestyle early. Even with the vintage bus project still in the works, I've been doing a lot of boat reasearch for the future. After looking at a lot of options, one of the major contenders for me, when it comes to boat brands, is Nordhavn. They make extremely high quality trawlers that are not only beautiful but extremely seaworthy. These are some of the only small powerboats in the world capable of crossing oceans. 

While we were parked in San Diego, I had been communicating with my friend Jim, who lives in Dana Point. I had met Jim during a few recent photography workshops and had recently started talking boats with him. He owns a 47' Nordhavn and offered to take us out on it. Karen and I were totally psyched about this, and the 47' is the size I find to be ideal for me.

Nordhavn47-47Jim and I, in front of his Nordhavn trawler.

We met Jim and his wife Linda at the marina one night. They gave us a nice tour of the boat and we shared drinks & snacks while we chatted about boating. It was great to talk with folks who have been doing it for a while and have really spent a lot of time on the water. Jim and Linda frequent Mexico and most recently spent several months up in Alaska. We loved hearing their stories!

Nordhavn47-45
Karen takes in some sun after we dock back at the marina.

On Friday morning, we met them back at the marina again, and they took us out on the boat for several hours. It was excellent! Karen and I both had a blast, and I have to say it probably fueled our desire for one of these boats even more. The weather was beautiful and the ocean was rolling a bit. When we were heading back to Dana Point, a half-dozen porpoises found us and started riding the current at the hull of the boat! We all got a kick out of this, and it just added a little sugar coating to an already perfect morning.

So as you can tell, we've had a lot of wheels turning, and have a lot to think about in the future... both in regards to the vintage bus (near future) and the boating lifestyle (distant future).

BenKarKyle
Karen, Kyle and myself at a place called 25 degrees in Huntington Beach.

As if this week weren't full enough, I was really thrilled to also be able to meet up with my friend Kyle. It had been at least two years since I'd seen him last, but when I remembered that he works in Huntington Beach, we made a point to get together and catch up. I first met Kyle at a workshop I was teaching at in Hawaii. It's a funny coincidence that I'll be heading back to Hawaii to teach in a few weeks! We met at one of my favorite places in town, 25 degrees. This place has a good happy hour and some of the best burgers I've ever had... ever.

Tomorrow, we leave Huntington Beach and head toward Las Vegas, where we will be spending a lot of time with dear friends and preparing for a two week trip to Hawaii (for both work AND pleasure!)

Author: "Pixelhead"
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Date: Monday, 06 Feb 2012 09:20

RedCountryman
A MINI USA image of the new Countryman.

That's right. We are no longer carless. If you have been keeping up with the blog, you know that for the past several months, Karen and I have been without a car. Back in October, we sold the Mini we used to tow to our friends Chris and Cherie, of Technomadia, and ordered a new Mini Countryman. The new car, however, would take nearly three months to be built and shipped to our dealership in Las Vegas. Those have been a long three months!

During our stay in San Diego, my friend Misty loaned us her VW Van (named Vanna White) so that we would have some mobility. This was great. We kind of had our freedom back. Vanna was quirky, but she got us where we needed to go.... that is until she decided not to. While I was off teaching at FOTOfusion in Florida, Vanna stopped running for Karen and we towed her to a shop when I returned. (It was a minor fix involving the fuel filter. No biggie at all.)

VannaTowedVanna White had to get towed to a shop because she would start but would only run for about a second. It turned out to be a huge leak near the fuel filter.

I'm happy to say that on Feb 2nd, our new MINI finally made it to our dealership and I flew from San Diego to Las Vegas and picked it up. It had been built in Europe and then shipped on a cargo vessel to the U.S., through the Panama Canal, and up to a port in Los Angeles, where it was picked up and taken to the Vegas MINI dealership. This car traveled far before 10 miles was even put on it!

RED-dipticA few angles of the new Countryman. We'll get much better photos soon.

After I picked it up, I drove right back to where the bus is parked in San Diego, where Karen was anxiously waiting to meet the new "baby." She named the car "Red," which was inspired by the red pill in the film, "The Matrix." So far, we are both thrilled with it. The power is great, the stereo sounds amazing, and it's loaded with fun little bells and whistles. For example, the headlights actually turn in the direction that you turn the wheel. We also both adore the matte white wheels, though we're not looking forward to keeping them clean! The only thing left out was the white bonnet stripes that were supposed to be installed. They will get put on sometime this week.

RED-TpwplateThe base plate was installed and that's what will make it possible for us to tow it with the bus.

The day after I picked up the car, we had an appointment to get the new base plate installed. This is the plate that is necessary for the bus to tow the MINI. The work was done at San Diego Trailer Supply in La Mesa and I was REALLY happy with their work and attention to detail. They knew that I was concerned about the aesthetics of the installation and they took a lot of care to make everything perfect. If you're in San Diego and need something like this done, go to these guys. You won't be disappointed.

Karen wrote a really great post about both the new Mini and the old Mini over at her blog, The Pixel Diaries. She's always been a MINI enthusiast, was very attached to the last one (and now the new one) and tells the story very well. It's called "A Tale of Two MINIs."  Check that out HERE.

This week, we will most likely head north by about an hour or two and perhaps make it to the Los Angeles area. After that, we'll be heading to Las Vegas to spend time with friends and prepare for a trip to Hawaii! More to come...

Author: "Pixelhead"
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Date: Monday, 30 Jan 2012 13:40

FotoFusion2012
While the bus (and Karen) stayed in San Diego this past week, I've been all over the place! I first flew to Oklahoma City to present my From Focus to Finished Kelby Training Seminar to a lively and enthusiastic crowd. Many thanks to the Oklahoma gang for making it such a fun day of training.

After the 1-day seminar, I flew right to West Palm Beach, where the annual FOTOfusion conference was already in full swing. I taught three classes there, one of which was a 3-hour hands-on class on directing the viewers' eye. This event is always a lot of fun because of all the friends I get to connect with. Lots of my photographer/digital artist friends come together here every year and it's great to catch up and socialize after the conference hours. Among the many instructors who gather here are my friends Lee Varis, Lewis Kemper, Dan Burkholder, Ross Whitaker, John Reuter, Vincent Versace and more.

As I mentioned in previous posts, we recently ordered a new MINI and have been [not so] patiently awaiting its arrival, as it has been travelling on a large cargo ship from Europe. The other day, however, we were happy to see that the ship finally docked just north of Los Angeles, so as soon as it makes its way to the Las Vegas dealership, we can go pick it up.

While I was off teaching seminars, Karen hung out with the bus in San Diego and has been immersing herself in both digital projects as well as a slew of cooking classes. Culinary technique is her new thing... and you don't hear me complaining! You can read about her week over at her blog, The Pixel Diaries.

More to come...

Author: "Pixelhead"
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Date: Saturday, 28 Jan 2012 00:58

Hi everyone! I've got a lot of great workshops and events going on in 2012 and would for you to join me on some. Here's what's coming up:

 

Iceland-SingleSlide

Discover Iceland: A Photographer's Paradise

June 24-30, 2012

Get ready to discover one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Iceland features black sand beaches, waterfalls, geysers, volcanos, geothermal features, glaciers, icebergs, lighthouses, turf houses, storybook horses and interesting architecture, all packed into a country that is 1/95th the size of the United States. Its unspoiled countryside offers breathtaking vistas, dramatic weather and such a diversity of subject matter that after a week’s time, you will feel like you’re just scratching the surface. You’ll see so many waterfalls (including the largest in all of Europe) that they’ll become ubiquitous enough that you might even start to ignore them. This will be my fifth visit to Iceland in the last seven years!

Click HERE for more information and to register.

 

HawaiiFeb2012

Photoshop Mastery: A two-day workshop in Honolulu

February 25-26, 2012

Master the creative tools of Photoshop . . . in Hawaii.
In the first day, gain a deep understanding of the fundamental foundation of how Photoshop’s adjustments work. See how you can substitute curves for almost half of Photoshop’s adjustments since many of them use curves behind the scenes. Learn what’s special about camera raw and find out how to best apply adjustment layers and layer masks to make your adjustments more versatile.

In the second day, learn how to creatively alter your images to make them look more appealing. Topics covered include blending modes, working with color globally and selectively, colorizing B&W photographs and learn to apply antique color, soft contrast and painterly effects. Learn how to Influence what a viewer is attracted to within your image, stylistically unify a group of photos, and apply certain tricks to help your viewer stay with your image longer. Employ unique effects to help develop your own personal style.

Click HERE for more information and to register.

 

PeoriaCC
The Peoria Camera Club: From Capture to Wow

March 17, 2012

Learn to make better captures - starting with equipment choices and camera settings. In this jam-packed day of photography and Photoshop, I'll share my techniques for quickly evaluating shooting locations and creating compositions that are dynamic and interesting. You will learn how to think about post-processing techniques in the field to capture the most ideal images for later digital enhancement. Then, I will demonstrate my favorite post-processing techniques for enhancing and fine-tuning images on the computer. You will learn how to use digital processing tools to create images with more visual impact so you can develop your own style and take your creativity to the next level.

Click HERE for more info and to register.

 

PSW-March2012

Photoshop World

March 24-26

The must-attend conference for photographers and Photoshop Users
Designed to help you boost your skills, Photoshop World offers three days of pulse-pounding training with classes from renowned experts in the fields of Photoshop, photography and lighting and a once-in-a-lifetime experience guaranteed to enhance your skill set and help your work soar to new heights!

My Photoshop World sessions are: Mastering Adjustment Layers, Understanding Color Adjustments and Panorama Stitching.

Click HERE for more info.

 

PageAZ-May2012

Page, Arizona

May 10-13, 2012

Page, Arizona is a little-known spot with great photo opportunities. This small town, located on the Colorado River and overlooking the Glen Canyon Dam,  will be base camp for our photo adventure. During the course of the workshop, we will photograph the Slot Canyons, Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend and Lake Vistas, just to name a few.

Our location is ideal for exploring many of the American Southwest’s renowned national parks and monuments, and discovering the unique culture of the Navajo Nation.

UPDATE: As a special bonus for attending this workshop, OnOne Software is giving each participant a FREE copy of their award winning software, Perfect Effects! (a $99.00 value)

Click HERE for more info and to register.

 

BalloonFiesta2012

The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Oct. 4-7, 2012

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a world-renowned attraction and destination for balloon pilots and photographers. For more than three decades, the first week in October brings the smell of roasting chiles and the beautiful, magical moving picture show of hot air balloons sailing silently through the crisp fall air.

The colors and textures will boggle your senses and you will come away with some of the most incredible images you have ever taken. We’ll throw in enough HDR training if you want to get a bit crazy with your creativity.

Be overwhelmed by this seldom experienced spectacle and you’ll be amazed at the photos your creativity will find.

UPDATE: As a special bonus for attending this workshop, OnOne Software is giving each participant a FREE copy of their award winning software, Perfect Effects! (a $99.00 value)

Click HERE for more info and to register.

 

Zion-Oct2012

Zion National Park

October 18-21, 2012

Massive canyon walls ascend toward a brilliant blue sky. To experience Zion, you need to walk among the towering cliffs, or challenge your courage in a small narrow canyon. These unique sandstone cliffs range in color from cream, to pink, to red. They could be described as sand castles crowning desert canyons. We will be experiencing the beauty of this tranquil place when the trees are the most colorful.

UPDATE: As a special bonus for attending this workshop, OnOne Software is giving each participant a FREE copy of their award winning software, Perfect Effects! (a $99.00 value)

Click HERE for more info and to register.

Author: "Pixelhead"
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Date: Monday, 23 Jan 2012 20:25

MiniMiraflores

A screen shot of the live web cam at the Panama Canal. We tracked the ship our new Mini is on.

This past week has been pretty low key here in San Diego. We're still waiting on the arrival of our new MINI Countryman, which is currently on a ship heading our way. In the photo above, you'll see a screen shot from a live web cam of the Panama Canal. We found out that our car is on a ship called "Morning Composer" and we've been able to track it when it gets close enough to land. When the ship got close to Panama, Karen started searching for web cams and was thrilled to actually be able to see our Mini going through the canal. The current ETA for the ship to the west coast is the 28th. Then it will still have to make it to the Las Vegas dealership.

Most of the week has been spent getting work done. There are a few of big projects that we've been putting the finishing touches on, one of which is a complete revamp of my website. I currently have three different sites: one for training, one for my photography, and this blog. The new site will incorporate all three and it will have a much fresher look to it. Getting that set up has been a lot of work, but when it's ready (and that should be any day now) it will be a great improvement on what we have now.

Digital Mastery
Here is a little teaser of what the new site will look like. The fonts might still change, but you get the general idea.

We're also putting the finishing touches on a new e-book about light painting. It's nearing completion, and just needs a few more images and editing before we can roll that out. I'll definitely let everyone know as soon as it's available.

We did make it out once or twice last week and we checked out the Museum of Contemporary art here in San Diego. I learned that on the third Thursday of every month, admission was free for a few hours, so that's when we went. There were a couple of interesting installations there, but overall, the contemporary art isn't exactly our thing. To us, the gift shop had the most interesting things to see! If you get a chance to go, be sure to walk through the very tight green hallway installation, which will get your brain to set its visual white balance to correct for the extremely green light, which will make it look like white light. When you exit the hallway, the room you end up in will take on an extreme magenta color cast even though the walls are painted white.

Overall, that has been our week! Like I said before, it's been low-key and for good reason. More to come...

Author: "Pixelhead"
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Date: Monday, 16 Jan 2012 13:38

The "wheels" part of that title might sound odd, but I'll get to that soon. This past week has been quiet, for the most part. As I mentioned before, we are car-less. The new MINI we ordered is currently on a ship, slowly making its way to the CA coast, where it will disembark and make its way to our dealership. We are parked next to a train station, so we have access to downtown, but it's been far from convenient. It's a hassle just to get groceries.

We did make as much of the train as we could though. Karen found a great place for taking cooking classes and signed up for a 1-night course on Thai curries. (The class has paid off ridiculously, because the two dishes she's made since were awesome! She even made the curry pastes from scratch!)

Photo
As you can see from the above image, our waitress was NOT a photographer. But you get the idea...

We also got to meet up with my friend Misty (a San Diego local), and her mom Beverly, who you've probably heard me mention in several previous posts. She lives in Las Vegas and was our neighbor for several weeks in 2011 (meaning we parked the bus in her driveway). We met them for dinner and drinks in Old Town San Diego, which is a pretty quaint place with lots of little food joints, bars and shops.

Ben-Misty-Van

Misty was so great to loan us "Vanna White" while we are car-less in San Diego!

Speaking of my friend Misty, she was a savior this week. She has an adorable old VW van that she uses for camping and such, and she loaned it to me and Karen so we could be a little more mobile while we wait for the new Mini to arrive. The van's name is "Vanna White," and from the picture above, you can see why that's so appropriate! She's definitely got her quirks, but she's given us a new freedom! (Though Karen was nearly peeing her pants watching me trying to parallel park with no power steering near a restaurant in downtown SD)

377153_3083496285240_1198838190_3329467_994719297_n

From left, Yair, Sam, me, Tracy, Ayo, and Karen. We're just finished watching the parade in downtown San Diego.

Yesterday, we also had a surprise meet-up with some other technomad friends. Sam and Tracy (who you've seen on this blog before) were parked nearby and came into town for the Martin Luther King Day Parade. Yair and Ayo also had their RV parked in town and joined us for some festivities. We had met them at Burning Man, but it was nice to get to know them a little better here. There's a good chance the six of us will meet up again, as it sounds like our paths might cross before the end of the winter. More to come...

Author: "Pixelhead"
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Date: Monday, 09 Jan 2012 04:30

DaBus-SD

This week, we've pretty much been laying low in San Diego. We still dont have our new car (though the Mini is on a ship heading our way!) so we're parked close to a trolley station that makes it easy for us to get downtown, to grocery stores, etc.

For the holidays, Karen stayed in NJ longer than I did and she flew in early this week. Needless to say, she was very happy to come from 25 degrees and snow flurries to 85 degrees and sunny... and she was even happier to discover that our RV park has a beautiful, large heated pool with whirlpool!

Since we dont have a car yet, we have been spending a lot of time on the bus, working, grilling and enjoying the weather. We did get out a few nights though. On Friday, we took the train to downtown, explored the local restaurants/bars and found some really unique places.

We found a place called the Salt Box and, though we weren't planning on going there, we couldn't resist going in because the place just looked well-designed with hundreds of candles and the largest door I've ever seen. They had a great happy hour, and we would highly recommend their veggie flatbread.

Thanks to Yelp.com, the night just kept getting more interesting from there. Our next stop was a place called Vin de Syrah, and it had a VERY unique vibe. The door is almost hidden because it's covered in fake greenery so you have to search for the handle. The interior was very eclectic, with funky high-backed booths and umbrellas hanging from the ceilings. It's quite hard to explain, so you can check out the tour on their site HERE.

SecretDoor

Our last stop took the cake. We found a place on Yelp that was called The Noble Experiment. It had amazing reviews so we decided to go. But here's the thing. We couldn't find it. We found the address and went back and forth in the general area of this place but it just wasn't there. After doing a little on-the-fly research on my iPhone, I started reading about strange directions for getting there. It turns out, this bar is actually a HIDDEN bar that is located inside of another bar. You have to go through this place to the hallway where the restrooms are and look for a wall of kegs. If you happen to push on this "wall" it will make way, like a bookcase in an old-fashioned mystery movie and reveal a hostess in a nicely lit hallway. We learned that the standard way to get a seat in this bar was to send a text message to their number and they will let you know when they're ready for you. Once we knew this, we did just that and waited in the Neighborhood for a while. Sure enough, we got a text, headed in and were directed to two seats at the bar. The place was small, big enough to fit about 30 people, 40 max. On one wall was the bar and the opposite wall was a row of booths underneath a wall made completely out of gold skulls. This place is pretty much a live re-enactment of what it was like during prohibition. The bar served only cocktails (no beer or wine) and no vodka (that wasn't around back then). This might sound restrictive, but there were actually 500 drinks to choose from and the bartender did an amazing job of crafting drinks to our personal tastes. I had just recieved a bottle of St. Germaine from Karen's brother for the holidays and I had never tasted a drink made with it. I told the bartender and he made me an amazing drink using that. We hung out there for a while and actually missed our last train back to the bus and had to take a cab!

On Saturday night, my buddy Mike was having a party at his place and invited us to go. I have known Mike since I lived in Minneapolis, so we go way back! It's always nice to catch up with him and his wife, Vivian. They had a great catering service that brought in a cart full of excellent taco mixin's and a nice little fire pit where everyone cuddled up to on the somewhat chilly night.

BenMike-SD

The next morning, we had went for a nice, scenic walk by the beach and Mike took Karen for a ride in his Tesla roadster. She said that her innards were left at the entrance to the highway! (This thing goes from 0-60 mph in just 3.7 sec)

We should be hanging out in San Diego for a while, so there will be more to come from sunny CA!

Author: "Pixelhead"
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Date: Monday, 02 Jan 2012 12:00

2011Book-005
Our 2011 travel map. This is one of the first pages of our yearbook.

Happy new year everyone! I hope you all enjoyed the holiday season as much as we did. As I mentioned in my last post, I spent xmas in New Jersey with Karen's family and stayed there for several days after. We spent a lot of time relaxing, playing with new toys and getting some work done.

Miketesla
My friend Mike took me for a ride in his electric Tesla the other day!

The other day, I flew back to San Diego (where the bus is parked) while Karen hung back to spend more time with her family. When I returned to CA, I got to spend some time with my great friend Mike and he even took me for a ride in his Tesla. It's amazing how fast these powerful electric cars are!

2011Book-001
The cover of our 2011 yearbook

It's also been fun reflecting on everything that's happened in 2011. We really filled the year with a lot of fun stuff and made some excellent memories. Just as she did last year, Karen created a book that documents our entire year. She designed the whole thing herself, adding pictures, graphics and blog posts from all our experiences this past year. So instead of reminiscing in words, I'll send you to the digital version of our 2011 yearbook. Check it out HERE...

And cheers to 2012!

Author: "Pixelhead"
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Date: Monday, 26 Dec 2011 05:36

BenKarenXmas

Happy Holidays everyone! When I left off last week, we were just arriving in the San Diego area and getting ready to fly over to New Jersey for the holidays with Karen's family. Karen flew out a few days before I did, and I literally dropped her off at the airport in the bus on my way to a San Diego RV park.

Prior to flying out myself, I spent a lot of time getting work done and planning for the new year. Unfortunately, I was stuck in the bus because we still have no tow car. We recently sold our last MINI, and are waiting for the new one to arrive from Oxford, England. The last time we checked, the new Mini had finished production, and was just waiting to get on a ship.

I flew over to NJ on the 22nd, to spend the holidays with the Nace fam. We had an amazing dinner on Christmas Eve that was made by Vera, Karen's 89-year-old grandmother. She cooked 8 or 9 different types of fish, which were paired with some excellent wines. Not a bad way to bring in the holidays! Christmas morning at their house is somewhat of a gift marathon. There were eight of us total, and everyone took turns giving and opening gifts. It went on so long that we had to take a brunch intermission and a bloody mary happy hour!

Karen's parents got me a GoPro camera, which I'm totally psyched to try out. We had been talking about getting one of these for some timelapse things as well as really unique videos. Karen gave out a lot of fun book gifts that she made with Blurb. If you're not familiar with them, Blurb is a pretty great way to create nice-looking one-off books. We also received our 2011 yearbook, which Karen spent 80+ hours on the past few weeks and ended up being over 200 pages long. The yearbook is something she creates at the end of the year which literally chronolizes everything we've done, with pictures, blog entries and graphics. We'll post the entirety of it come new years. She, of course, used Blurb for that as well. Karen also gave her sister a beautiful image that she had printed on acryllic. It's a new way to present photos, and the results are stunning. She used mpix pro for this.

I also wanted to mention a pretty funny gift that I gave Karen, and she LOVED it. It's called the Alien Abduction Lamp, and it's literally a space ship with a beam of light coming down (the beam is the lamp's light source) that is sucking a cow up from a round astroturf lawn. Seriously. This is what my girl wanted. Check out the lamp HERE.

We wrapped up the day enjoying some spirits while watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. We still have some festivities to go and I'll be in NJ until the 30th. After that, it's back to San Diego (and hopefully warmer weather).

_ Mpix.Com

Author: "Pixelhead"
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Date: Monday, 19 Dec 2011 13:13

HuntingtonBeach-1The view out the front window of the bus in Huntington Beach.

In my last post, we were wrapping up a five-day class with the Light Workshops near Morro Bay, CA. Since then, we've started to meander south toward San Diego. The first two days were pretty quiet. We stayed in Ventura, CA, spending a lot of time getting work done and preparing for the holidays.

We then headed toward Huntington Beach, but not without a few stops on the way. First off, we got to meet with my good friend Eric Magnusson, who lives in the greater LA area. I hadn't seen Eric in years, so it was great to meet for breakfast and talk about color management (his speciality). After breakfast, we headed south a bit and then met with fellow photographer Ed Freeman, who has a gallery in the Chinatown area of LA. Two friends within three hours ... not bad!

When we arrived at our RV park in Huntington Beach, we were delighted. The view was gorgeous. Not only were we right on the beach with a perfect view of the ocean, but we were also a 2-minute walk from the Huntington Beach Pier. Since we dont have a car right now (the new one should arrive mid-Jan) this spot was perfect in that it was a 5-minute walk to town.

Photo copy 2
Me and Russell Brown at the Digital Darkroom event.

It turns out, we arrived in the area with perfect timing! Adobe's Russell Brown clued me in to an event that was going on called the Digital Darkroom, in the Annenberg Space for Photography. It's a gallery that features a wide array of digital artists... everything from compositing to 3D imaging. The whole thing was inspired by Jerry Uelsmann, who was creating incredible composites in the darkroom long before digital photography came about. The event was actually a pre-opening, so we were really lucky to get in. The work was excellent, and they did a great job of presenting it all. After the gallery event, we met up with my friend Jeff Dunas, who now runs the Palm Springs Photo Festival. I'll most likely be teaching there this spring.

Photo copy
Me and Lee Varis at Huntington Beach after breakfast.

So let's just tally things up here. I had been in Huntington Beach for about 24 hours and I had already met up with three friends, plus the whole gang at the Digital Darkroom event. As if this weren't enough, there were more friends to meet. My great friend and fellow photographer Lee Varis met us for breakfast one morning. We ate at the diner located on the very end of the pier and had a perfect view of the ocean. Not bad! Later that evening, our friends and fellow RVers, Sam and Tracy, rolled in to our RV park. They were in town for a SantaCon event, and stopped by to see us on the way. The fun part about this was that I didn't even tell Karen they were coming, so it was a total surprise when they showed up! We had dinner at a place called 25 Degrees. They specialize in burgers, and I think I had the best burger of my life there. I kid you not!

Photo copy 5
A [bad] iPhone shot of me and Craig Dorsey working out the interior of the vintage bus.

The next day was full of vintage bus planning. In case you dont know of the project, in addition to the bus we currently live in, I own a vintage bus that is currently in Ft Worth getting the engine and transmission work done. After that part is done, the bus will move to Craig Dorsey's place in Nova Scotia, where the interior will be done. Craig just happened to be in the LA area this month, so he was able to stop by the bus to go over some of the interior design and planning. We spent nearly eight hours talking about the project!

Before we left Huntington Beach, we met with Colin Smith, of Photoshop Cafe, for dinner. It was nice meeting him out of the tradeshow realm. He showed us a bit of the old town in Orange County... a place Karen and I would both love to revisit.

After we left Huntington Beach, we headed south toward San Diego, stopping at Stone Brewery on the way. Stone is one of our favorite places in the San Diego area, and they have easy parking for the bus. While we were there, my friend Robin Bjorklund, who I grew up with in Minneapolis, stopped by the brewery. He and his family just moved to the SD area and have started to grow an affinity for Stone as well.

As of right now, Karen is getting ready to fly out to NJ, and I will follow in a few days. We'll spend the holidays there with her family and then fly back to winter in San Diego. More to come...

 

Author: "Pixelhead"
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Date: Monday, 12 Dec 2011 17:58

_MG_4141-Edit
A light painted shot I got at Sunny Acres during my 5-day course with Light Workshops.

The past week was full of intensive photography and Photoshop training. I started the week in Fort Lauderdale, even though the bus is parked in Morro Bay, CA. I flew out for a one-day Kelby Training "From Focus to Finished" seminar, which went really well. An extra treat to this short trip was that I was able to meet up with Bruce and Judy, a couple who joined us on our recent African photo safari trip!

Untitled-2
We spent a lot of classroom time going over Photoshop techniques and helping students with their images.

As soon as I flew back, we moved the bus to Los Osos, CA to be close to the photographic center for the Light Workshops. I taught a five-day class, from Wednesday to Sunday, on Shooting for Photoshop. It was a small, hands-on class, and the students were great. We spent a lot of time in the digital lab, going over Photoshop and photography techniques, and giving one-on-one advice. Then we would go out shooting, with specific techniques in mind. One of our shooting destinations was a place called Sunny Acres, which was full of old cars and some buildings with a lot of detail. We first went during the day to practice some HDR photography and then we returned in the evening to do some light painting. It was fun seeing the students getting really into it! On another night, we went out to the coast to shoot the sunset at the bluffs. We shot some long exposures as well as some time-lapse photography. Overall, the whole event went really well.

TheGang-1
At the end of the workshop, Karen and I had to get a group shot with Hal and Victoria.

It was also great to catch up with Hal and Victoria. They run the Light Workshops and they really do an awesome job, doing their best to make sure everyone gets the absolute most out of the experience... both students and instructors. If you're not familiar with them, check out the site HERE. They do lots of workshops, both on site at the center and at incredible destinations like Alaska.

From here, our plan is to head south. Neither of us like the cold, so we'll probably be spending a lot of time in San Diego this winter. I'll also be flying out with Karen to spend the holidays with her family in South Jersey. More to come...

Author: "Pixelhead"
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Date: Monday, 05 Dec 2011 13:05

Xmas_tree2011
One of the week's projects was putting up the Xmas tree on the bus.

For the past several weeks, we have spent a lot of time exploring and shooting. This is pretty normal for us, but sometimes we need some quiet time to focus on work and reboot, so to speak. That's what we've been doing over the last week. We left Napa Valley and headed in the direction of the Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo area. Our location is great because we are right near the water and within walking distance to the marina area (we are still in between cars, with our new MINI Countryman on order). The main reason we chose this location is to be near Los Osos and the San Luis Obispo airport. This week, I am flying to Fort Lauderdale to present my "From Focus to Finished" one-day seminar. Then I am flying back and teaching a five-day course at the Light Photographic Workshops (located in Los Osos).

We've spent a lot of time working on projects and making travel plans for 2012. Of course, any "planning" for us is more of a loose idea of where we want to go. We give a new meaning to the word "tentative." I also got to spend a day with my old friend Brian Lawler, a photographer and graphic arts professional who lives in the area. It had been over two years since we last met up!

VBus_engine
The Creative Cruiser's engine now boast a nice fresh coat of paint.

The past week also marked a lot of new progress on the vintage bus project. While I wasn't there to see it in person, the person who is working on it (in Ft. Worth, TX) has been sending lots of photos and detailed updates. The support system for the frame has gotten a pretty big overhaul and the engine has been removed, cleaned and freshly painted. Check out the Creative Cruiser's Facebook page to follow all the progress.

More to come...

Author: "Pixelhead"
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Date: Tuesday, 29 Nov 2011 06:09

GearTips
If you're out shooting in the field a lot, you know that changing lenses can be a hassle, especially when you use a heavy backpack that you have to take off and on repeatedly. My solution for this is to shoot with no camera bag at all. Instead, I use the Modular belt-based storage system, by ThinkTank Photo. I've been using ThinkTank products for years and I absolutely love them. The Modular System is a series of lens and accessory pouches that attach to a special belt. This system makes changing lenses a breeze and makes my gear much easier to manage.

In an earlier video, I detailed the general setup I like to use and I'm posting an update to show how I've changed my setup in the video shown below.

FYI: It looks like ThinkTank has renamed their belt-based product line from Modulus to Modular.

Check out the components to the Modular System HERE

For the Tamrac Filter Pouch I use with the Modular System, click HERE

For the suspender/harness system I'm now using, click HERE.

Watch the original video on the Modular System HERE.

Receive a free ThinkTank item on my Equipment Discounts page HERE.

Author: "Pixelhead" Tags: "Gear, Photography, Technology"
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Date: Monday, 28 Nov 2011 19:02

NapaValley-397
We have been wanting to explore California wine country for a while, and with the Africa trip over and a few weeks to go before some December workshops, this was the perfect opportunity. It was a two-day drive from Las Vegas to Napa Valley, and when we arrived, we parked at Skyline Park, which is near the southernmost point in the valley.

LewisMarv
Me and Karen with my friends Marv Miller and Lewis Kemper.

Before we even got to exploring, I was meeting up with friends! My great friends Lewis Kemper and Marv Miller happen to live not too far away, so they both dropped the bus to catch up and grab lunch. I had been to Iceland with Lewis and Marv, and it was one of those trips that resulted in a lot stories, so it was fun to reminisce about the adventure.

NapaValley-375Karen got this shot of me at Raymond, a winery in the Valley. They have a bunch of picture frames just hanging in their vineyard. Pretty cool!

When we finally went out to go shooting, we started driving up Silverado Trail Road. There are two main roads that go up and down the valley, Silverado Trail Road and St. Helena Highway (29). We would often drive up one and down the other. Silverado Trail was more of the backroad, and was usually less crowded than the other. It was easy for us to travel at our own pace and pull over whenever we saw something we wanted to shoot. We got a lot of vineyard shots here, but struggled with the weather during our whole stay in the Valley. We had few opportunities to shoot in truly good light. The good news is, when the light was blah, there were other things to do in Napa... like drink wine!

NapaValley-468-EditA photo Karen got at Kunde Family Estate, which is the Sonoma winery where much of the film "Bottle Shock" was filmed.

We did several tastings during the course of our stay, some standing out more than others. With many places, you can just walk in and do a tasting, and with others, you might need to book a tasting or a tour. We did two tours and the first was Castella di Amorosa. This was an actual castle built in the Valley and made into a winery. The tour was very cool, because hey, it's a castle! The guide had us weaving around the underground wine cave and tasting rooms, and we got to do a barrel tasting in the cellar. Now as I said, the atmosphere of this place was pretty interesting. The wine, however, was not. It wasn't bad, but Karen and I both thought it was quite overpriced for what it was.

KarenMontelenaA very happy Karen at Chateau Montelena

The other tour we did was Chateau Montelena. Karen was NOT leaving Napa without going here and she even signed us up for the "Bottle Shock Experience." If you're not familiar with Bottle Shock, it's the name of a movie that was recently filmed about Chateau Montelena and the famous 1976 Judgement of Paris wine tasting that helped put Napa Valley on the map. The movie is not a documentary. It's a fictionalized account of what went down there and I'd recommend it if you haven't seen it. After this tour, we even went to another winery in Sonoma, where they did a lot of filming, and then to a local dive bar that's in the movie.

Some of the other highlights for me were the tasting at Ehlers winery (I actually bought a couple bottles there) and Seghesio, where I not only bought a case, but we signed up for their wine club. It was also nice to visit Charles Krug, which was the first winery to start up in Napa and is still going strong, with Peter Mondavi at the helm.

Ben Tastingcar
Here I am in the tasting car on the Napa Valley Wine Train. It's not the best iPhone shot, but you can see how nice the interior is.

Since we were in wine country for Thanksgiving, we wanted to do something special, so we managed to snag reservations on the Napa Valley Wine Train. The train runs up and down the valley, you are served dinner, and are free to roam around the train and visit the tasting car, where you can create your own flights of wine. The food was excellent, and we couldn't have thought of a better way to spend the holiday.

On a totally different topic....

While this is completely unrelated to our stay in Napa Valley, I just couldn't leave it out. Before we left Las Vegas bound for wine country, we ordered a new Mini Cooper to tow behind the bus. We had been towing Karen's Mini for a while, and had been talking about switching to a Mini that was a little larger and that would also match the colors of the vintage bus. We ended up ordering the new Mini Countryman, which is the 4-door version, in red with white roof and bonnet stripes. Before leaving for Africa, we sold the current Mini to our great friends Chris and Cherie, of Technomadia. They recently bought their vintage bus, which just happens to match the Mini! They were in need of a tow vehicle, aka a toad, so the timing worked out perfectly. The only negative is that there were no Countrymans that matched what we wanted, so we had to order one. This will leave us carless for a few weeks (we rented a car in Napa) but should be worth it in the end.

CountrymanHere is a pic of the new Mini we ordered. Should be arriving mid January!

Author: "Pixelhead"
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