Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Getaway

Beavers Bend State Park

Those who know me, know I am rarely happy sitting at home on the couch.  I like the outdoors.  Correction.  I LOVE the outdoors.  This is only second to traveling, which ranks only slightly higher.  My only problem is by living in Texas, outdoor activities can be limited by the brutal heat of summer.  And since camping is one of my favorite outdoor activities, attempting to camp during the summer here in North Texas is a lesson in pain.  So, I wait till the spring and fall to get my camping trips in.

About a month ago I was talking to friend and fellow photographer Shaina and I mentioned always wanting to camp at a place called Beavers Bend, near Broken Bow Oklahoma.  It's a fairly secluded place, with rolling woods covered hills, a lake and an ice cold river full of trout.  Located about 4 hours from Dallas... this was the getaway I needed.  Shaina had been to this location before and insisted I needed to go there, so why not get some friends together and let's camp!

A week later we had all the details in order and had added another friend, Katy, to the crew.  Check lists were made, directions mapped and good camp food bought... this was happening!  We knew going into this trip that it could well be one of the best documented camping trips any of us had been on.  Myself and Shaina being photographers and Katy who also enjoys picking up a camera now and then were going to make sure there were photos of all of us and everything we did throughout the weekend.  To put icing on our adventure-cake, weather reports just before the trip showed absolutely perfect weather for the 3 day trip.  Mild days with sun and cool nights would provide great weather for day time activities and night time campfires.

We arrived that Friday evening and were greeted by this river side view at our camp site.  It was difficult not to spend the next hour shooting.  But we had to get setup and start cooking dinner.  We were in the prime color change week of fall.  This was just a perfect start.

With night setting, the campfire going and dinner cooking... we just relaxed and enjoyed the sounds of mother nature.  There weren't many people in the campground at this time.  So it was very remote and peaceful feeling.

After dinner Shaina and I grabbed our camera's and headed down to the dam in the river to get some night photos.  Although it was starting to get cold out, the air was still.  The river was perfectly calm and this location is so far from any major city, the stars were quite bright.  You could even see the Milky Way slightly.

The next morning we got up, made breakfast and headed up river so Shaina and Katy could do some trout fishing.  I just wanted to shoot while they fished.  It was Shaina's mission to catch us lunch/dinner.  It didn't take long before she caught one!  She named him Henry.  Unfortunately, they didn't catch anymore.  She hooked one more, but it got loose as she reeled it in.

That evening got quite a bit colder.  But, we were ready for it with lots of clothing layers and a good camp fire!  It was really nice to just sit around the fire and talk, tell stories and laugh.  This is what camping is all about.

The next morning was the start of our final day in this magical place.  None of us were really ready to go home.  I think all of us could have stayed another 2 to 3 days and been quite happy about it.  But, life in the real world called so we started our day off with camp chocolate-coffee (Shainas brilliant idea) and some amazing food cooked up by Katy!

As we packed up our tents and gear we all knew this campout was a complete success.  We were returning to civilization with great memories and great photos.  What more could we ask for?  And I couldn't have asked for two better camp buddies.  These two were real troopers no matter what challenge we ran into.

I'll be returning to you Beavers Bend.  This is probably one of the most scenic and beautiful camp grounds I've been to.  I felt like I barely scratched the surface of things to see there.  Next time I need to rent a canoe and go down the river and explore some of the hiking trails.  If you're looking for a real outdoor experience, you definitely need to check this place out.  And if tents aren't your thing, they also have cabins for rent.

I could I not return to this?!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Head West Young Man!

Fire in the Skies

The Great American Southwest has always been a region I knew I wanted to photograph.  After my trip out to Moab Utah, I knew there was so much more to see and photograph.  There are enough amazing landscape features and places to explore to keep a photographers attention for months on end.  I knew I wanted to see more, but I had no idea where to start.  So get comfy, this is a long blog post but will contain a lot of valuable information if this is the type of trip you're interested in taking.

That's when friend and fellow photographer, Stephen Masker, approached me about going to shoot the famous Antelope Canyons in Page Arizona.  Of course, I jumped at the chance.  Within a weeks time I had scheduled time off work and begun to research the details of the trip.  We quickly discovered that flying into Page was an expensive method of travel.  Being such a small town, there were no airlines flying directly in.  Most options had us flying into Flagstaff Arizona then taking a puddle jumper into Page.  Our trip was planned for the end of August and every airline search returned ticket prices of around $690 per person!  Well, we both knew we could a lot more with $690 than give it all to an airline.  So we decided to turn this into an epic end of summer road trip.  Stephen's car was practically new, so we'd have reliable transportation and we could switch off driving to make better time.  What this also did was open the door to MANY more photographic opportunities!  After just a bit more research, we began to find many locations along our route that would be incredible to shoot.  We sat down on Saturday and made a list of where we wanted to hit, where we would stay while traveling and how much everything would costs us.  Said and done, we were going to be able to take this entire trip for roughly the same price as the airline would have charge us just to fly there!

Our final location shoot list came down to; Cadillac Ranch, Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons, Horseshoe Bend, Four Corners, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and a location known as Navajo Bridge.  Because of our schedules, we couldn't leave until a Sunday morning, but we have a week to travel and make it home by the following Sunday evening.  We would leave Sunday, drive 9 hours to Albuquerque New Mexico, then finish the final 6 hours to Page by Monday afternoon.  We were able to reserve our lodging in Page as well.  While other hotels in town wanted $140 to $170 per night, Motel 6 was only charging $70 a night!  All we wanted was a place to sleep, shower and leave our suitcases while out shooting.  So we jumped on that price!

We loaded the car and hit the road at 8am sharp, Sunday August 18th.  Weather forecast for the week and our route was to be mostly sunny and clear.  Great!  The first few hours of the trip flew by.  Fueled by breakfast, coffee, snacks and road tunes, we made it to Wichita Falls TX quicker than expected.  It was there, while Stephen was driving that we got pulled over by a motorcycle cop for speeding.  Oops!  He gave us a seriously lame lecture about how today was a "no tolerance" day, so he had to write us a ticket.  Really?  A no tolerance day you say?  Whatever.  Back to the trip.

The rest of the drive that day was uneventful.  We decided against stopping at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo TX because it was on the East bound side of the highway and turning around was a hassle. So we bumped it on our itinerary for the return trip.  We arrived at the Best Western in Albuquerque at about 6:30pm and got all checked in.  The room and hotel were actually quite nice!  We grabbed some Mexican food for dinner and then hit the hotel pool and hot tub that evening.  Which felt great since we'd spent the entire day sitting still in the car!  I believe our room rate was $90 for the night.  We were told we were getting some kind of discounted rate because of the day and the room was normally $120.  The next morning we were up at 7am to get packed, check out and grab some food and coffee at Starbucks before hitting the road.  There was an excitement in the air as we put Albuquerque in the rear view mirror.  It must be noted that on this particular morning Stephen was suffering from excitement overload and sounded like a broken record and he repetitively made unintelligible sounds and yelled phrases that didn't make sense.  I just smiled and looked out the window.          

It was on this day things got a little interesting.  Our planned route has us heading West on highway 40 to Gallup NM, then heading North for a short time on 491, then West on 264 and North again on 191 until we hit 161 which takes us to highway 98 and into Page. While we had planned the route on Google Maps, we were going to be a long way from phone data service, so we couldn't use Google Navigation on our phones.  Our backup plan was a Garmin GPS unit for the car.  We believed it to be trustworthy.  Just after passing Ganado, NM, the Google route had us staying on 191 for a long time.  It was then the Garmin GPS tells us to head west out of Ganado and take a new route which could save us almost an hours time.  After a short discussion we decided to go for it.  We stayed on the 2 lane highway and headed West out of the little town.  Suddenly the Garmin tells us to turn right.  We look to the right and see a road that could be better described as a jeep trail.  A cattle guard separated the road from the start of this new dirt road.  We thought surely this must be a quick cut through to a new highway.  After more discussion we decided to take the dirt road and hope it was a shortcut.

Indian Route 52

After about 15 minutes of driving we stopped the car in the middle of the road and were faced with the scene in the above photo.  Later we discovered we were now on what was called Indian Route 52.  One of the many practically unmarked roads cutting through Navajo land.  Used mostly by locals... not by people on cross country road trips.  We had ventured too far to turn back, so we could only go forward.  Our only thought was, "Well... we wanted an adventure.  We got it!".  This "short cut" stretched on through a network of dirt roads for 40+ miles, adding an extra 2 hours to the trip.  Luckily weren't on a tight schedule.  And looking back, this detour gave me some really cool photos.  So in retrospect, I'm quite happy we veered off course... this time.

By 2:30 pm (Arizona time) we were rolling into the outskirts of Page.  We decided to head straight to our first tour at Lower Antelope Canyon since the light was good and we didn't want to waste anytime just hanging out at the hotel.  We found the entrance parking lot and bought "Photographer Passes" at the booth.  They run about $65 per person and give you 2 hours in the slot canyon rather than the normal pass which gives you just one hour.  You then meet up with a guide who takes you through.

Lower Antelope Canyon

The narrow swirling Navajo Sandstone of Lower Antelope Canyon is just an incredible sight!  Everywhere you look is an interesting photo!  At about 50 feet below the desert surface, sunlight turns from orange to deep purples and air is cool.  It's a really nice place to spend a summer afternoon!  The main difference between the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons are how they are shaped.  The upper canyon is wide at the base, where you walk.  The corridor gives visitors anywhere from 4 feet to about 15 feet to walk and is one constant elevation.  This means it's less physically demanding, hence more people.  The Lower canyon is wide up near the surface and becomes narrower near the base.  The path way in Lower is between 2 to 10 feet wide and has a number of near vertical metal steps you must navigate as you descend through the canyon.  The steps have guard rails to hang on to, but with a full load of camera gear and a backpack, it can be a challenge.  But it's nothing to be afraid of.  For example, my friend Stephen is in horrible shape.  Yet he was able to get through it with only some heavy breathing (sorry buddy! LOL).  Probably the most challenging part was the exit, where you have to climb a series of 3 near vertical steps/ladders and then hike up hill out of the canyon.  Stephen had to stop for a bit.  Something about not being able to feel his hands or face. Whatever.

Upper Antelope Canyon is just as beautiful, but in it's own way.

Upper Antelope Canyon

The most famous features of the Upper canyon are these beams of light.  But you have to get there for the mid-day tours to see them.  I believe it was the 12pm to 2pm tour we were on.  They also offer Photographers Passes.  I believe they were like $80 each.  By the end of the tour the beams were disappearing.  We hear other tourists who were just arriving at 2pm, asking where the beams were.  Too late... they were gone.  Just like Lower canyon the guides lead you, tells you about some history, the best places to shoot, etc.  The guides are all very friendly and knowledgeable.  At each open area where there is a light beam the guide will let the people who purchased photographer passes setup their tripods and get ready.  He (or she) will then throw some sand up into the beam of light.  Everyone snaps away and hopefully you get a good photo.  They are also kind enough to stop traffic both ways so no one enters the scene while everyone is shooting.  Our guide in the Upper canyon, Sonny, was even awesome enough to yell at some kids who were back tracking from another group and entered our scene.  Yeah, get'em!!

Sunset at Horseshoe Bend

After spending the afternoon shooting the slot canyons, we decided to head just a few minutes South of Page to the famous Horseshoe Bend.   Horseshoe Bend is a horseshoe shaped meander in the river and is about 5 miles South of the Glen Canyon Dam. Reaching the bend is a fairly easy 3/4 mile hike up and down a sandy trail. It's best to wear hiking boots or shoes because of the soft sand and loose rocks. And be sure to bring water. Once you reach the edge of the bend, use caution. There is no railing and it's a sheer 1500 foot drop to the Colorado River below, giving you enough free-fall time to fully ponder how you got yourself into this mess. But the view from this location is fantastic!  This location is totally free to visit.  There's a gravel parking lot just off the road to park in and the best time to shoot there is dusk because you're facing West.  I've seen a few sunrise photos take there.  They don't look bad, but the canyon has a lot of dark shadow during the morning hours.

By Wednesday we had completed 2 trips through Lower Antelope Canyon and one through the Upper and hit Horseshoe Bend a couple times.  We decided to head back 2 hours east on highway 161 to Monument Valley Utah.  Just the drive from Page to this location takes you through some of the most incredible terrain Id ever seen.  Make sure you fill up your gas tank before leaving Page.  There are no gas stations until you reach the town of Kayenta.  Running out of gas between the two places would be... not good.  At one point I looked out the window and saw what I thought was a bunch of little goats running near the road in the desert.  I re-focused and looked closer to see it was a wild dog pack, maybe 20 strong.  Probably not something you want to deal with in the dead of night.    

Monument Valley Highway

So, above is a location in Monument Valley known as Mile Marker 13 on US 163 Scenic.  This happens to be the same spot Forest Gump was running down in the movie when he stopped and said he was done running.  It's an often photographed spot, but I wanted to get the shot while there, since I may never return.  I'm really glad I did get this shot, I was really happy with how it came out.  Ideally I would have liked to have had a nice partly cloudy sky and the warm glow of a setting sun.  Instead we had these storms moving through.  Although I believe I would have rather had this weather than cloudless blue skies.  This is something I could work with!

With three days remaining in our trip and most the Page locations shot, we planned our final leg of this journey..... the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon Sunset

After roughly a 3 hour drive (we had to take a longer detour because hwy 89 South out of Page had been washed out in a recent storm) we arrived at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Words, nor photo's can fully describe the sight you're greeted with when you first roll up to the visitors center parking lot and see what's in front of you.  It's literally the biggest hole in the Earth I have ever seen in my life.  And a very beautiful one at that.  Staring into it, it's hard to comprehend how long it took to form.  We had one day at this location and got to spend a few hours shooting sunset and the dusk hours.  Just as we were finishing, a thunderstorm moved in and it started raining heavily.  We had planned on getting up and shooting sunrise before heading out.  But when we woke up the next morning, it was still pouring rain.  This is a location I could have spent a week at alone!  Guess I'll have to go back sometime.  We stayed at the Best Western Grand Canyon in Tusayan, just South of the South Rims park gates.  We called ahead before leaving Page to secure a room and they happen to have a one night rate (Friday) for $90.  I have a feeling this was a pretty cheap rate compared to normal.  This location is a Best Western "Premiere" and had lots of amenities, including a bowling alley on the first floor!  Yes, we went bowling.

We headed out early Saturday morning, driving South to Flagstaff Arizona.  From there we would turn East and have a straight shot home.  Well, a 9 hour straight shot.

The Big Bang

Located about 30 miles East of Flagstaff Arizona is this hidden gem.  About 50,000 years ago a meteor the size of a car struck the Earth traveling 26,000mph.  The result was this mile wide crater  which can be visited today.  This is one big hole in the ground!  If you look closely at the bottom right of the crater rim, you'll see the observation deck with 2 people standing on it.  They say this is one of the best preserved meteor craters in the world and has been used by NASA as a training location in the 1970's.  We had no idea it was even there.  As we drove down the road, we suddenly saw signs saying "Meteor Crater - Next Exit".  We had to see it and I'm glad we stopped.  Admission at the visitors center was $16 per person.  They have a gift shop which has all types of meteor and outer space related gifts and lots of historical items to look through.  Pretty cool!

We finally arrived home by Sunday evening, exhausted.  This is probably the most epic road trip I've taken to this point in my life.  We covered 3,300 miles over 7 days.  I shot around 1200 photo's using the Canon 5DmkII and the Canon 1DmkIV.  I only used 3 lenses the entire trip; the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L, the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L and the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L.  While both our camera's performed great in the blowing sand and occasional rain storm, they both needed a good cleaning once home.  I have a sensor cleaning kit and I'm pretty good at cleaning them, so I had everything back to new'ish withing a couple days.  It's taken me almost a month to get through all the images.  It was a lot of (fun) work taking this trip.  But the photo's and memories I returned home with made it all worth it.

Remember, never stop exploring.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Exploring Land of the Lost!

Land of the Lost

Castle Pathes

In Southwestern Oklahoma, near the town of Davis, you'll find an adventure just off the beaten path.      Exit off I35 onto highway 77 and follow it west.  You'll soon see the signs for Turner Falls Park.  It's about $12 for adults and I think about $6 for kids to get in.  Which really is a good value considering how much there is to do.  The place reminds me of what an amusement park would have been like years ago, before all the Six Flags and Wet-n-Wild's popped up.  The park is basically truly outdoor amusement park.  The primary activities are swimming, hiking, camping and of course, eating. By the photos above, you could say the primary activity for me was photography.  Which is my main reason for venturing north with my camera.

The centerpiece of the park is Turner Falls (photographed above).  A small stream called Honey Creek winds it's way out of the near by Arbuckle Mountains and creates the 77 foot waterfall and swimming pool that is Turner Falls. It's really a beautiful natural made structure.  I can only imagine how much fun someone must have had when they first found this location in the wilderness.  It really is a natural wonder and an unusual sight in this part of the country.

If you're a photographer like myself, this park really is treat to visit.  Not only do you have the water fall and swimming pool area to shoot, but there are nature trails to hike, a few small caves to explore and even a small castle structure built by the original property owner (also pictured above).  On this particular trip, I only spent about 4.5 hours shooting.  But it would be easy to get a camp site and spend a couple days with camera in hand shooting.

For this photo of Turner Falls, I shot it using a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens with a neutral density filter which allowed me to blur the water on the waterfall with a 1/2 second exposure.  I also removed a couple swimmers from the pool because I felt they were a distraction to the beauty of the scene.

I hope to return to this location in the Fall so I can explore and photograph it in more detail.  

Friday, July 05, 2013



There's a rather short two month window here in Texas, between April and May where the weather is bearable and the everything is starting to turn green.  Anything after this window is in the brutal heat that is the Texas summer.  All the stars aligned this past May and I had the opportunity to work with the wonderful Olivia for a portrait/fashion shoot.  I had wanted to shoot with her for quite a few months, but she first had to finish her deployment to Afghanistan with the Air Force.  Just to make sure my photo shoot requests weren't lost in the daily shuffle of life, I think I must have sent her "reminder" messages on a weekly basis.  Lucky for me, she wasn't completely sick of hearing from me and still wanted to shoot upon returning home!  Ha!

As you can see from the photos, Olivia is a very striking model.  It's her unique look which made me want to work with her for so long.  Now that she was home, we made the arrangements and planned our shoot.  We met at the location for the shoot around 10am.  It was already becoming warm and quite humid.  I wasn't too worried about the sun light being high overhead because our shoot location was nicely covered by a tree canopy.  I setup my lighting gear while she touched up her make-up.  Olivia brought her boyfriend along which worked out really well because it's always handy to have an assistant to put to work.  He helped me move lights, hold a reflector and keep an eye her to make sure hair and make-up were all looking good.

We shot for almost 2 hours and everything went really well.  I was really happy with the images we came away with.  Olivia was great to work with... a total professional, and I hope to work with her again on future projects!  

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Jones Family Farm

Paint it Black
Abandoned Jones Farm

Tucked back in the woods, in a secluded location of Lake Ray Roberts (just outside Sanger Texas) is an old farm house built in 1850 by Jackson Carroll Jones and his wife.  Common in those days were large families and at one time it is said there were 12 people living in this small four room house.  I can only imagine how cramped life there must have been.  But I suppose when you're living on the frontier, running a farm, the more the merrier.  This land was purchased in 1984 by the Corps of Engineers, which soon built Lake Ray Roberts.  Thankfully they kept this old farm house intact and even fenced it off from public access.  This has kept the house, barn and work shed in practically untouched condition!  While there is no furniture inside the house, it still has all the little details like door knobs, sinks and kitchen fixtures.  The barn and shed are still chocked full of rusted farm equipment and all the "junk" they seemed to save up over the years living there.  All this makes for some great photo opportunities.  

I was lucky enough to get this opportunity about a month ago when the Denton Camera Club took a field trip to this old farm.  About 20 of us were given access early in the morning.   We fanned out with our cameras and began to create our photos and document our findings.  It would be an amazing place to do a portrait photo shoot at.  But we kept it to just shooting the farm itself on this trip.  Although I did take a moment to use myself as a model (2nd photo above).  Like most old farm homes, they do have a certain amount of creepiness about them.  This one is no exception.  While alone in the house for a few minutes, you do get odd feelings of how much has taken place over the years, right where you're standing.  It's a very cool place to explore and it hasn't been vandalized with graffiti or looted clean like most abandoned farms.  I really hope it stays this way.  The place really is a photographic gold mine!   

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Shooting Fashion with Shelby

Shelby is a local model who I had been wanting to work with for sometime.  She's very comfortable in front of the camera and can easily pull off many different looks.  A few weeks ago our schedules finally matched up and we met up for a shoot.  The whole thing was on short notice, so I had to come up with a location fast.  I quickly opened Google Earth, where I put marker pins on locations I come across and want to remember later.  This is one of those times I was very happy I'd been doing this!  I was reminded of a spot I had found the previous winter and thought it would be a prime location for portraits once everything was green outside.  Behind the local dog park are a network of gravel trails which weave through the woods.  Perfect!  I loaded up all my gear and headed off to the shoot.

We started the shoot at 12 noon, which isn't ideal normally for a photoshoot.  But we had the advantage of shooting under the tree canopy of the trail, and this made it ideal since I could now control the light nicely with my camera and speedlights.  First thing I noticed was we were working with a bright background.  Sun light and green Spring colors was going give me an excellent contrast to Shelby's auburn red hair.  It was at this time I decided to go with a one-light setup.  In most portrait situations, I prefer to use at least two lights of one fill light and one at a back angle for rim/highlights.  This gives the subject separation from the background and, well just looks pretty cool.  But because of the natural light of this location, we had great light to work with.  Shelby and I quickly picked out a spot on the trail to work with.  I marked different spots on the trail where I needed her to stand to make the best use of the shade and ambient light.  This is the spot I would dial in my Canon Speedlight for.  I then setup one Canon 580exII on a light stand with a 32 inch white shoot-thru umbrella, to the left of my camera since the sun was coming from high and to my right.  And I was shooting this session with a 5DmkII and 70-200mm f/2.8L IS.  This lens has long been one of my favorite portrait lenses.  Some think it's just for sports/action.  But it provides excellent image quality, nice bokeh (soft background blur) and perfect image compression between the subject and background.  And on a full frame camera, you don't have to be 5 miles back to get them in the shot.

We began shooting and I mostly let Shelby pose how she was comfortable.  Only a few times I would have to have her adjust her hair or move a stray hair off her face.  Sometimes I would instruct her to angle herself to play to either my light or the sun light, depending on which looked best for the pose.  I do try to suggest and demonstrate a pose I want her to try (which Im sure looks ridiculous).  I kept the speedlight set on a fairly low power since I only wanted it use it as a gentle fill light.  I believe it stayed at 1/8th to 1/4 power at most.  And on a few of her shots we used a 5 in 1 reflector set to the solid white side, laying on the ground with my bag propping it up slighting towards her.  This would create the perfect fill light from below to brighten any shadows if the sun became harsher.  Thankfully Shelby showed up with perfectly done make up and hair.

We worked for about 1-1/2 hours and stopped as the sun began to take away most our nice shade.  But by then I had shot at least 15 "keepers" out of about 150 photo's overall.  This type of shoot is known as a trade, because it gives both the model and photographer material for their portfolios.  It was a lot of fun to work with Shelby, the images were a nice addition to my portfolio and I hope hers as well!    


Saturday, April 06, 2013

Into the Desert with the DCPT Gang!

Mesa Arch at Sunrise

Back in late 2011 I ventured to Jackson Hole Wyoming with a photography tour group called Dirt Cheap Photo Tours (, led by owner Jeff Clow.  It was an amazing trip and I returned with a ton of awesome photos.  I knew I wanted to go on another tour, but I wasn't sure exactly where yet.

Then last fall I received an email from Jeff informing me he was adding a new destination to his tours.  The Spring of 2013 DCPT's would be heading to Moab Utah and the surrounding National Parks.  I replied to his email within seconds to let him know I was IN!  He added me to the tour group list and gave me all the needed information.  The price had gone up a bit since Jackson Hole.  The tour now costs $600, up from $500 in 2011.  Perhaps inflation?  Or just the cost differences of the location.  Either way it was still a great value.  You see, if I was planning this trip on my own... I would have to research exactly where to go, how to get there, where to stay, rent a car and drive myself around.  Could I do all that?  Sure.  But it's much easier when you're with a group.  But Jeff makes it even easier.  He rents the cars, finds a good hotel for you to reserve a room at and drives you around each day.  Leave your maps and GPS at home... Jeff has it covered.  All you have to do is concentrate on shooting.  All day... each day.

So, lets start with getting there.  There are three ways you can get to Moab Utah.  Option one:  Catch a United flight into Denver, then a puddle jumper into Moab.  This is what I did.  We flew from Denver to Moab in a Beechcraft 1900 twin-engine, which I referred to as "the twin-engine lawn mower".  It was a fun experience.  You get a better view of the mountains below because the aircraft fly's at a lower altitude.  Turbulence wasn't bad at all and the flight takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes.  Now, if you go this route you'll find out the Moab airport is TINY.  And there are no taxi's or shuttles waiting outside for arriving tourists.  So be sure to call ahead and arrange your ride.  There are shuttle services which will pick you up.  But you have to schedule them.  We didn't know this and had to hang out in the "airport" for about an hour for them to find the right sized van to come get the 6 of us.  Anyhow, Option two: Fly into Grand Junction Colorado and rent a car.  Then drive the 90 minutes to Moab.  And option three: Load up your own car and make the road trip.  The latter seems to be the least attractive to me.  I just want to get there, shoot and get home.

My buddy Stephen Masker and I flew in the evening before the tour actually started.  Jeff's tour was to start on a Thursday evening and end the following Sunday afternoon.  We arrived on Wednesday night to get settled and explore Moab a bit.  We checked into the Moab Valley Inn and got settled.  There are not a lot of daily flights into Moab so if we had waited to fly in on Thursday, we would have arrived just a couple hours before the tour started.  I wanted to be fresh and ready to go, so Wednesday it was.  Thursday evening rolled around and the group met Jeff and each other in the lobby of the hotel.  From that point forward it's a whirlwind.  We loaded up the car with our gear and headed out for  a couple hours of evening shooting.

On this particular DCPT, we managed to hit 28 photo stops.  Spread that out over 3 1/2 days and that's a lot of time behind the camera.  Each stop is pretty much the same system.  Jeff talks about the up coming destination while driving.  Once we arrive, Jeff announces how long we have to shoot.  Usually it's somewhere between 45 minutes to an 1-1/2  hours.  Plenty of time to find the best shots.  Then, everyone gets out of the car and spreads out around the location finding their best photo opportunities.  Of course there's usually one or two "must have" views or rock formations everyone will shoot.  But after that, it's up to your imagination.

I do need to give one warning about the parks around Moab, which I didn't have to give about my trip to Jackson Hole.  It occurred to me on several occasions this is one vacation that I could actually DIE during.  You see, Moab is full of sheer cliffs and valleys.  They DO NOT put guard rails up at the edges.  So you really must use extreme caution while trying to get "the shot".  Because if you're not careful and you fall, it won't be a rescue mission, only a body recovery mission.  Those cliffs are 500 feet straight down.  No joke.  Now, don't let that scare you from going.  It's your choice how close you want to get to the edge.  Jeff doesn't force the tour group right to the edge at any time.  I made my own decisions to move my camera and tripod to within 2 feet of the abyss.  So... just be careful.

The shoot schedule for the tour can be a bit grueling.  Each day Stephen and I were up by 5:30am, eating breakfast by 6am and in the car with the group by 6:30am.  We arrive at our first location before sunrise and shoot all day till late afternoon, only stopping a couple hours for lunch.  It is exhausting.  But you'll come home with some amazing photos.  I ended up shooting somewhere around 900 photos.  I was a bit more selective in my shots that my previous tour.  And I was able to pack lighter than I did for the Wyoming trip.  Since there isn't really any wildlife to photograph in Moab, my gear was really landscape focused.  I packed one body, 3 lenses, my tripod and a few needed accessories.  Stephen put together an entire blog post about what he was packing.  It's worth a good read HERE.

So far I have to say this has been one of my top photographic journeys.  There is so much to shoot in the National Parks around Moab.  Jeff does a great job "chasing the light" as he likes to call it and seems to always know which location to be at and what time to be there.  Overall, this photo tour has been a great value.  My expenses were the following; $600 for the tour (he splits it into 2 payments), about $360 for my flight and $369 for my hotel (5 nights 4 days) plus a little for food/snacks.  All said and done I probably spent close to $1400.  But in the world of guided photo tours, that is "Dirt Cheap".  Normally something like what DCPT's offers would run over $2000.  A great value!  

I returned home exhausted and with a suitcase full of red dust and sand covered clothes and gear.  But it was all worth it!  I've made some new photog friends and added a bunch of quality images to my portfolio.  A big Thank You to Jeff Clow for hosting another memorable photo tour.  I appreciate what you do buddy!

You can view my images from the trip as I add them to THIS flickr photo set.  Enjoy.

Friday, April 05, 2013

The Comeback Kid

The Comeback Kid by Thorpeland
The Comeback Kid, a photo by Thorpeland on Flickr.

Life in Texas often brings quite a few mild days during the winter. Forget the heavy coats and snow boots. Just throw on a long sleeve shirt and some jeans and you'll be fine. My friend Rocky and I took advantage of one such nice February day to head out on a photo drive and create some fun and interesting photos.

This was an especially fun day for Rocky. About a year ago he had to sell a majority of his camera gear to help pay for school. Not being able to get out and shoot for so many months left him missing the days of driving down dirt roads looking for a great photo opportunity. Well he got that opportunity when I upgraded one of my camera's. Rocky immediately expressed interest in buying it and getting back in the game!

While at one of our photo stops, I asked him to pose in this hay field gate for a portrait. I jokingly said "this is your comeback portrait". But, I feel it really represents his return to photography and the adventure that comes with it.

Welcome back Rocky!

Portrait of a Skater

Portrait of a Skater by Thorpeland
Portrait of a Skater, a photo by Thorpeland on Flickr.

Back in February I had the opportunity to work with a talented young up and coming derby skater. She goes by the name 'Baby Hurl' and is getting sponsorship from Atom, a roller derby gear company.

I traveled to her home rink, setup a mobile studio and we spent about an hour shooting posed shots and later a few (staged) action shots. I was most happy with this image.

Baby Hurl skates for the Rolling Rebellion at the House of Quad, which is also the home of the North Texas Derby Revolution. The derby league of Denton Texas.