Lori Carey Photography

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What makes me smile

The last half of 2014 has been crazy. I've slacked off on blogging and on all my social media accounts because I've just been too darn busy. I honestly don't understand how many photographers keep up with social media and blogging (I do know that many high profile photographers hire someone to do it for them!), especially when they have a presence on just about every social media platform out there.

This time of year most photographers do some kind of recap of their achievements and highlight their "best" photos of the year. I've been home miserably sick with a cold the past few days and haven't had the energy (or brain) to put together a meaty post or sort through a year's worth of images to choose favorites, but I did want to get one last post in just to let people know that I'm still alive.

All of the accomplishments and sales and yada yada are great (they truly are because without them I couldn't keep doing this full time so please understand that I am very grateful), but what really made me smile a few weeks ago is when fellow adventurer Brett Heimreich shared this photo to my Facebook page (used with his permission) -

Last year Bill and I spent Thanksgiving at the Crusty Bunny Ranch and we strung Christmas lights in a Joshua Tree so I could do a Christmas shot for my holiday trail article on DrivingLine.

Holiday Joshua Tree in the eastern Mojave

In the follow-up story here on my blog I mentioned how the lights were tangled in the tree and we forgot to take them down before we left the next morning.

Brett wrote to let me know that one year later, my lights are still there in the tree! How cool is that? Not just that my lights are still there, but that Brett had read my articles and actually took the time to contact me! We had a great conversation, sharing stories about places and adventures we had in common, and hopefully we'll meet in person out on the trails one day soon.

An upcoming article in DrivingLine will mention a couple we met on the Mojave Road during this year's Thanksgiving adventure. Alisa is a motorcycle photojournalist so we had a lot in common and exchanged contact information. She's the kind of fearless woman who rides solo through Central and South America, India, Israel and all over Europe. She's also preparing to race in a motorcycle rally in Morocco. Seriously! I think I should convince my editor to let me do a profile piece on her.

I get to meet, sometime just virtually but often in person, so many wonderful and interesting people while doing what I do. It's those personal connections that mean the most to me.

Happy New Year everyone! Here's to meeting even more wonderful and interesting people in 2015!

(And if none of this makes any sense, blame it on my cold!)

Monday, September 29, 2014

National Preparedness Month - Gear Review: Biolite

Biolite Steve and Kettle
Biolite Stove and KettlePot

When I was planning out my article series for National Preparedness Month for DrivingLine, I put a lot of thought into problems I had personally experienced or seen while venturing off road. When I talk about "off roading", I'm not just talking about hard core rock crawling on technical trails. I'm including traveling off pavement in remote areas, something that landscape, nature and wildlife photographers do on a regular basis. When something goes wrong in a remote area, it could be days before help is able to reach you.

One of my biggest challenges when packing for a trip is the balancing act between bringing enough gear to be ready for anything with being able to fit it all in a 2DR Jeep and still have room for my photography gear. That's why I love gear that is multi-functional, it makes packing so much easier! One of the toughest decisions is how much fuel to bring for the campstove; the (propane in my case) canisters are bulky and take up a lot of room in my camp box. I always try to bring only as much as I need, and since I always have several partially empty canisters I sit there shaking them trying to evaluate how much fuel is left in each one to determine which ones I should take. I did run out of propane once, and that got me thinking that if I were forced to spend an unplanned night or two out in the wild, I would have no way to heat water or cook food. All the freeze-dried emergency food in the world isn't going to do me any good if I have no way to prepare it. In the desert environment that I spend most of my time in, there are very few (if any) trees and there is no firewood lying around!

I started researching options and became fascinated by the Biolite Stove. Not only did it claim to boil water with just a handful of twigs, it also claimed it could charge a cell phone with that same handful of twigs! I may not be able to find wood for a campfire in the desert, but I can always scrounge up some twigs or other small biomass. And although I can charge my electronics with solar, not everyone has that option. I contacted Biolite and they graciously agreed to send me a Biolite CampStove and KettlePot to put to the test.

I am so incredibly impressed with this system and everyone who has seen it in action has been equally impressed. The Biolite Camp Stove uses thermoelectric energy to convert to heat to electricity. The generated electricity powers a fan that makes the fire more efficient by improving combustion, so it requires very little fuel. Surplus energy can be used to charge small electronics like a cell phone through a USB port. It uses biomass for fuel - any small twigs, pinecones, wood chips - and it doesn't need much.

Biolite Steve and KettlePot
Biolite Stove and KettlePot

The first time I tested the Biolite Stove we used a couple pine cones and a handful of pine needles. The pine needles burned hot and fast, maybe a bit too fast for practical purposes because I did have to keep resupplying the fire, but I heated a half liter of water in less than three minutes and brought a dead cell phone to half charge in less than twenty minutes (we forgot to keep a good eye on the clock). The next time I tested it I used a handful of small twigs and they made a perfect fire. I didn't even need to use all of the twigs you see in the top photo. It is amazing how well this stove works with just a small bit of biomass fuel!

Biolite states that the stove will boil one liter of water in 4.5 minutes and my tests were consistent with that number. They state that twenty of minutes of charging an iPhone 4s will provide 60 minutes of talk time, and again my tests were consistent with that figure although I used different phones for testing purposes.

Biolite CampStove charging a cell phone

If you want to play it safe and not worry about having to scrounge up twigs or other biomass, you could always buy wood chips and pack a small quantity with the stove (mmmm mesquite!). I also recommend carrying some kind of fire starter, either store-bought or home made such as dryer lint soaked in Vaseline (the stove ships with an initial supply of fire starters). After filling the stove with twigs you will be lighting the fire from the top of the stove and it takes some practice to get the hang of it. Fire starters make it much easier to get a good flame going right away.

The 1.5 liter stainless steel KettlePot makes it a complete cook system. You can cook inside the pot or use it to boil water which you can easily pour through the spout. The stay-cool handles mean that no pot holder or cloth is required to pick up the pot, and it even comes with a bowl.

It gets even better - the CampStove packs up inside the KettlePot for a complete cook system that also charges small electronics in a package that is 10.2 inches tall and weighs just over three pounds. The CampStove also comes with a pot adapter so you can use other pots on the stove if you don't have the KettlePot.

Biolite Stove and KettlePot

Biolite also offers a really cool grill that attaches to the CampStove so you can use the stove to grill dinner over a wood fire (mmmm burgers over a wood fire, guess what's on my Christmas wish list!). If the CampStove is too small for your needs, the larger BaseCamp might be a better fit.

I love that I don't have to depend on fuel canisters when I'm out on the trail and the Biolite CampStove is perfect for emergency situations, on or off the trail. You could even use it to make s'mores on the beach or in your backyard! It's good for the environment because it uses a renewable fuel source, it's non-polluting and it doesn't add more trash to landfills.

All of my friends who have seen this stove in action have wanted one. It really has become a favorite piece of gear. It's not just extremely functional, it's actually fun to use!

I have been challenged by a few friends to see if I can find enough biomass in the Sonoran desert of the southernmost portion of California. Desert season starts next month and I'm looking forward to seeing how well I do finding enough fuel to boil a liter of water and charge a cell phone.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Stop The Madness People!!

I was going to leave this as a Facebook post but when I saw people posting on LinkedIn that National Parks are going to start charge smart phone users to take cell phone snaps I lost it.

Several people have asked me why I wasn't in an uproar about the "news" that is spreading like wildfire throughout the internet that it was going to cost me $1500 for a permit to shoot on public land. Well that's because I knew that there was a lot of incorrect information being spread around. In this day and age of citizen journalism, very few people take the time to verify information and fact check. If they see it on the internet they figure it must be true, even if it was originally posted by someone who has no clue what they are talking about.

Fact is, permits for commercial photography (as defined) have long been required on federally owned land such as National Forests, and any responsible professional photographer is aware of the permit requirement. If you are doing a commercial shoot with models, actors or props, require access to an area where the public isn't generally permitted, or will cause additional administrative cost (think of the work required for a large movie film crew or to shoot a car commercial) you must get a permit to film. The proposal in question is to extend the same guidelines to congressionally designated Wilderness areas that are currently in place on National Forest lands. The current directive expires in October and only covered still photography, the proposal is to also include commercial filming (as it is on other federally owned lands). Designated Wilderness is not the same as National Forest, National Park, National Preserve or National Monument, and it's important to understand the different designations. Most designated wilderness areas do not even have motor vehicle access other than perhaps one main access road to a staging area/trailhead and the occasional legal cherry stem. Motorized/mechanical transport is not permitted in designated wilderness, not even bicycles.

The Forest Service issued a news release yesterday to help clarify all of the confusion which stated:

"The proposal does not change the rules for visitors or recreational photographers. Generally, professional and amateur photographers will not need a permit unless they use models, actors or props; work in areas where the public is generally not allowed; or cause additional administrative costs."

"Currently, commercial filming permit fees range around $30 per day for a group up to three people. A large Hollywood production with 70 or more people might be as much as $800. The $1,500 commercial permit fee cited in many publications is erroneous, and refers to a different proposed directive."

If you're still worried that this might affect you, I encourage you to take the time to read the directive yourself so you know the facts, not the hysteria. The public comment period has been extended to December 3, 2014.

(For what it's worth, you also need a permit for commercial photography on most California beaches, and Laguna is one of the most expensive. If you do portrait or wedding photography I hope you know that!).

Do your homework and check the facts before you add to the spread of bad information. Most bloggers, even on well-known photography sites, aren't paid enough to be bothered with fact checking and apparently editors don't care anymore. All they care about is getting people to click their link. Even mass media reports incorrect information when they "report" on topics for which they have no background knowledge.

These days you need to be more careful than ever before and verify information before you get caught up in the hysteria.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

National Preparedness Month - Gear Review: Goal Zero

Since September is National Preparedness Month, I wrote a two-part series on DrivingLine that covered some important items that everyone who ventures off the beaten path should consider carrying in case of an emergency. My word count is limited in those articles and I could only give some brief information about the items, so I'm going to provide more detailed reviews here on my blog. Although the articles on DrivingLine were targeted to off roaders, being prepared for outdoor emergencies is important for everyone who ventures into the wild, including landscape photographers who travel into the backcountry in SUVs or on foot and even families visiting National Parks. Last year a couple died in Joshua Tree National Park because their vehicle broke down on a remote park road and they were not prepared to be out in the harsh elements overnight.

What I really hate is when magazines and blogs publish a list of "must-have" gear that is nothing more than a list of expensive and fancy gear and it's obvious that the person who put the list together has never even touched any of the gear (Outside Magazine I'm thinking of you as one of the biggest offenders!). I am brutally tough on my gear, I spend days at a time in remote harsh environments where my life literally depends on my gear, and I don't believe in overpaying just for a popular fancy brand name. I do a lot of research before committing to gear because I don't have money to burn (that starving-artist self-employed photographer thing). If I recommend gear, it's because I've field tested it and have verified that it can stand up to my level of abuse.

Goal Zero Yeti 150 Solar Generator and Nomad 20 Solar Panel charging electronics in the field.
Goal Zero Yeti 150 and Nomad 20 charging electronics in the field

Even in non-emergency situations I have a lot of electronics I want to keep charged out in the field - a gps, cell phone, ham radio, lights and camera batteries at a minimum, and often a laptop or tablet. In an emergency situation it becomes vitally important to be able to charge communication devices and your gps if you forgot to bring a paper map and compass. Many people who regularly travel into the back country have solar panels permanently installed on the roof of their vehicle, but that's not an option for everyone. In my case, I prefer my Jeep's soft top over the hard top so I have no way to mount panels. And because I prefer gear to have multiple functions (let's face it, self-employed photographers aren't exactly rolling in cash and what we do have usually needs to go toward photography gear), portable solar seemed to be the best way to go.

When I talked to Goal Zero about my articles for National Preparedness Month, the type of emergency situations that could be encountered while off roading and what gear I needed to be able to charge, they helped me calculate my needs and provided me with a Yeti 150 and Nomad 20 Solar Panel to test and review. The products can be purchased individually or as a kit.

The Yeti 150 is perfect for vehicle travel into the back country because at 7.75 x 5.75 x 6.75 inches it's small enough to fit into a tightly packed vehicle (photography gear plus camping gear means there isn't room to fit much more!) but provides sufficient power to keep vital electronics and communication devices fully charged. Although I do have an inverter in my Jeep, I'm concerned about possibly running down my Jeep's battery if I overuse it even though I have a deep cycle battery. I already did that once, thankfully it was at home during a multi-day power outage. I don't even want to think about what I would do if my Jeep battery failed in the middle of nowhere! Installing a second battery is an option, but if your vehicle breaks down in the back country and isn't running, or you have no way to call for help, or it will take days before help could reach you, charging your electronics off your vehicle battery isn't a viable option.

Goal Zero Yeti 150 Solar Generator
Goal Zero Yeti 150 Solar Generator

I will warn you that it is heavier than it looks. It has a full size AGM Lead Acid battery inside and weighs 12 pounds, not a deal breaker but it's not exactly light weight.

What I love best about the Yeti 150 is the variety of charging ports to cover all of my needs. A key requirement for me is an AC port because some of my electronics only have AC (wall plug) chargers. A 12 volt auto port is also vital in case my vehicle is not running and I can't use my Jeep's accessory port. And if you're anything like me, you probably have a variety of chargers for each of your electronics, which means you have so many that it's a challenge trying to keep them all organized and some times you get caught without the one you need. I have chargers in my home, in my home office, in my Jeep, in my backpack and in three different camera bags so I am always scrambling to find the right charger! The Yeti 150 has two USB ports, two 12V ports (one is an auto accessory port) and an AC port for wall plugs.

Goal Zero Yeti 150 Solar Generator
Goal Zero Yeti 150 Solar Generator

In between outings you keep the Yeti fully charged by plugging it into the wall. You can also charge it using your vehicle's 12V accessory adaptor. The Yeti is a solar generator; it contains a battery that stores the charge which can then be used to charge your electronics. When you are off the grid the Yeti can be charged with solar panels. Goal Zero makes several different solar panels that are compatible with the Yeti. The Nomad 120 is a great match for off road exploring. The solar capacity is 20 watts and it can fully charge the Yeti 150 in 17-34 hours, depending on how much sun you get. If you want to be able to charge the Yeti faster, you can buy a Boulder 30 or 90 solar panel, or chain up to four smaller panels.

Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Panel
Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Panel

You can also charge electronics directly from the Nomad solar panels. The Nomad 20 has a USB port and solar ports to connect to power packs and generators. The Nomad 7 has both USB and 12V charging ports.

Goal Zero Nomad 20 charging ports

Goal Zero states that a fully charged Yeti 150 will charge a smart phone fifteen times, a tablet six times and a laptop two times. Adding the Nomad 20 Solar Panel increases the number of times you can charge your devices because the solar panel will keep the Yeti generator charged. I left a cell phone, ham radio and gps charging all afternoon while the Nomad 20 was charging the Yeti, and the battery indicator on the Yeti never dropped below full. (A word of caution - make sure to keep your electronics in the shade while charging, not the blazing desert sun. I learned that the hard way when my ham radio shut down because it overheated. I really should have known that would happen!)

What if you don't get as much as sun as we get here in sunny Southern California? When I returned home from field testing I left the Yeti unplugged, no wall charger and no solar panel to see how well it would hold the charge. After three days of light usage the battery indicator still showed three quarters full, plenty of staying power to make it through a few overcast days.

Goal Zero Nomad 20 and Nomad 7 solar panels
Goal Zero Nomad 20 and Nomad 7 solar panels

If you'd rather leave your vehicle behind and explore on foot, a smaller Nomad panel might fit your needs. The Nomad panels are very sturdy and fold up into compact units. I have a Nomad 7 panel for my backpack/camera bag for charging my USB devices. It is only nine inches long when folded and weighs 16 ounces, the perfect size for carrying in a pack. It provides 7 watts of power, enough to charge most smart phones and gps units. It can also be used with the Guide 10 Plus Recharger to keep your AA and AA batteries charged.

Don't get caught off guard without power! Goal Zero products are designed for active lifestyles. They are rugged enough for me and they are beautifully designed. In addition to the many power packs, generators and solar panels they offer, they also have many accessory products like solar lanterns and flashlights, speakers, and trickle chargers in every size from ultra compact to heavy duty. You are sure to find something to fit your needs!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Bench with the words A Great Love Story

Wow this summer just flew by! I've been so busy the past couple months that I haven't even had a chance to do much personal photography. I never even made it out to the desert to shoot the Milky Way which breaks my heart, but I'm still holding out hope that I'll be able to fit it in this month...if this record breaking heat wave ever breaks!

Working with clients and sponsors requires a tremendous amount of behind the scenes work that most people can't even imagine. A lot of people think it's just a matter of showing up with a camera and clicking the shutter and have no idea of the planning, coordinating, scheduling and rescheduling, researching, phone calls, e-mails, making contacts and building relationships, and trying to figure out what to do when a wildfire is actively burning the trails on which I had planned to shoot that is involved, not to mention all of the work that comes after the shoot. But I love every minute of it, even when it means I have less time for social media and my house is a disaster!

Since most of my writing (and much of my photography) about off road adventures, including trail reviews, has been published on Nitto Tire's DrivingLine instead of my own blog, I've created an index of my articles to make them easier to find. The index also includes trail reviews I've shared on my blog over the years, and you can check it out at Lori Carey - Published Articles.

Articles recently published on DrivingLine are:

Off Road in the Santa Ana Mountains
A wildfire is currently burning in the Santa Anas and the four main trails through the mountains are closed. At one point the fire was at the intersection of Main Divide and Bedford Canyon, the trails mentioned in this article. These are my close to home, "backyard" trails and I'm saddened to think that it will probably be several years before they are open again. At least I was able to get out there one last time before the fire.

Big Bear's Holcomb Creek Trail
Climbing Up Big Bear's John Bull Trail

I had an awesome time in Big Bear with 4 Wheel To Heal and the Misfits Offroad Club in July. We did two Black Diamond (most difficult) trails and I reviewed both of them. I really count on my husband as co-driver when I'm photographing trails because I end up walking most of the trail while he wheels my Jeep (a good trade off for him!). These steep rocky trails gave me a good workout!! I love my SpiderHolster when I'm doing this kind of shooting! Having the weight of my cameras on my hips make such a big difference in this terrain. I had sprained my ankle right before the trip, so even though I had it wrapped well all of the scrambling on the rocks was brutal. And to top it off I got stung by a bee! But we got some kickass wheeling shots, those Misfits really know how to have fun!

Preparing for Off Road Emergencies - Part 1
Preparing for Off Road Emergencies - Part 2

September is National Preparedness Month and I did a two-part series on being prepared for off road emergencies. This is such an important topic; every season we hear tragic stories of people who weren't prepared when something went wrong in a remote area. Even a casual day trip with the family can turn deadly if your vehicle breaks down in a remote area with no cell phone signal to call for help. If you do any technical wheeling the risks are even greater; over the past few years I've seen two deaths at off road events and came across one guy whose bike went off a cliff on a steep canyon trail where there wasn't even room for a helicopter to land. A few years ago a friend snapped an axle on a flat easy desert trail and we had to McGyver the axle well enough to be able to tow his rig out, another time a friend got two flat tires at once when we were exploring an area with sharp volcanic rocks hidden under the sand...there are too many things that can wrong out there. You need to be self sufficient and ready for anything for out there. Don't get caught off guard!

The day after Part 2 published I received this note from one of my followers:


What Would Lori Do?

I read every article you post. I even remember the story you shared where you were out on another adventure and your water pak leaked. You thought you were a gonner... I remember you mentioned something to the effect of you can never have enough water.

The Tuesday right after Labor Day weekend I decided to hike Granite Mountain Lookout up here in Snoqualmie, WA. I knew it was over eight miles roundtrip of steep, rocky, punishing terrain. This time I carried a gallon of water in my pack; I never carry anything more than two 20oz containers for shorter day hikes. Anyway, on my return I came across a 14 or 15yr old kid that was doubled over and complaining of cramps. His face looked green (remember the Mr.Yuck Mouth stickers?). He was completely out of water. He told me his friends took off without him. I really don't know if he had anything other than his iPhone... I stayed with him for about 10 minutes to assess his condition. The good news is I still had a lot of water in my reserve one gallon so I filled his empty container. I nursed that kid back to health by giving him my Tums, an energy bar, and even my crackers spread with Nutella haha.

So thanks for your tips. Thank you for reminding me to plan for the unexpected.

That note made my day! The story he is referring to is one I posted on GooglePlus last summer, The Day I Almost Died, when I talked about the time my hydration sprang a leak on a long desert hike and I fought a dangerous battle against dehydration and heat exhaustion. It is scary how quickly things go downhill without water in the desert. Many others chimed in on that post sharing similar experiences and their stories are worth reading.

There's so much more going on but I don't want this blog post to become a novel (and I need to get busy!) so I will save the rest for next time!

The first and last photos on this post are from Cachuma Lake in Santa Barbara County. Not my typical place, it was very crowded and I'm not big on organized campgrounds but I was up there to shoot for the SURTHRIVE+THRIVE article. I managed to sneak away on my own one night and one morning. During my scouting in the evening I had decided that the best shots were going to be in the morning and I had my locations all picked out. It's always fun heading out in the dark, never knowing exactly what you'll see when the sun rises. I wasn't expecting the heavy fog that didn't burn off until midday but it wasn't a complete disappointment as I loved the way the earl morning sunlight broke through the fog and reflected on the lake.

Lake Cachuma at Dawn

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Article in July CORVA newsletter

It was a great honor to have CORVA (California Off Road Vehicle Association) request permission to reprint my Off Road Basics: Trail Etiquette article in their July newsletter Off Roaders in Action because it gives me credibility in the off road community, especially when I see an article written by Tom Severin, who I hope to profile later this year, in the same issue. The article was originally published in DrivingLine (thank you to Nitto Tire for allowing the reprint) where it caught the attention of Kim Carpenter, CORVA's VP of Education. CORVA is a non-profit organization that works with land managers throughout California such as the BLM and the NFS for responsible off-highway vehicular access and recreation opportunities, as well as educating members on rules and regulations, promoting cleanups and trail maintenance projects. Just about everyone in the California off road community is a member of CORVA.

But I have to admit that it feels strange to see one of my articles without the photos. After all, I am a first and foremost a photographer. I enjoy writing the stories that accompany my photos and I never honestly thought about writing as a stand alone pursuit. At times I've even wondered if Lori the writer/author/journalist was detracting from Lori the photographer, especially when I'm busy chasing photos for a story instead of photos for the sake of art. So I wasn't quite sure what to think about having an article published without the accompanying photos. But on the same day my article was published in the CORVA publication I happened to listen to an interview with David DuChemin on Faded and Blurred. Jeffrey Saddoris asked DuChemin about how he felt when he realized that he was becoming as well known for his books as he was for his photography and the effect of adding the title of Author to his C.V. on his career trajectory. DuChemin responded that "I sometimes think that people can peg that about us before we're willing to say so about ourselves."

Listening to the DuChemin interview made me realize how insanely blessed I am that people are willing to pay me to share my experiences and stories about something I enjoy so much, whether in photos or in words. If sometimes it is in words only, that's perfectly fine with me. It's an endeavor that I hope will continue to evolve.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Big Wik of SURTHRIV.com

Had a fun shoot last night with Big Wik of SURTHRIV. The word is a combination of Survive and Thrive and the site has articles and a forum about preparedness, wilderness survival, camping and other outdoor activities. Check it out if you're into those kinds of things (and most Jeep/off road people are).

We were doing the shoot for an upcoming article I'll be doing on off road trailers because Dan has a really cool off road trailer he custom built. Since it's too hot in the desert this time of year we went to one of the local foothill canyons so we could get the trailer off camber and show off its capabilities. In the canyons you lose daylight long before actual sunset when the sun dips behind the mountains. As soon I noticed that we were about to lose the light I convinced Dan to let me get a shot of him in front of his Jeep. I didn't want to ask him to re-position his Jeep and trailer yet again because he had already done so many times for me, and anyone who tows a trailer knows that turning it around isn't the most fun thing to do. So I had to balance some tricky light, with Dan and his Jeep in the shade and the hills brightly lit him. I was using my quick-and-dirty one light set up. It took a few tries to get it dialed in but in the end I managed to pull off the slightly edgy hard look I wanted. It's not a lighting situation that I recommend though!

I love the fact that my 7D can wirelessly trigger my flashes because it makes it easy to use off-camera lighting in the field (or my studio lights) whenever I want with minimal set up, it's perfect for the fast-paced shooting I typically do. But truthfully the whole line of sight thing with IR triggering is getting old, especially when I'm shooting things like the interior of a vehicle and I don't have an assistant. I really need to get radio triggers. A few years back I was using the (cheap) Cactus triggers in studio, and while I never had any reliability problems with them, they just aren't sturdy enough for the type of abuse my gear is put through out on the road (jammed in the back of the Jeep). I've seen good reviews of the Yongnuo triggers, but I'll probably end up going straight to Pocket Wizards unless someone/something convinces me there is an acceptable reliable substitute. I don't care about E-TTL because I always use manual flash settings, it needs to work with a mix of different strobes as well as my Broncolor studio lights, and I sure don't want something like the Photix Strato Multi a friend has which requires her to put the strobe on her camera first to start the communication process, then remove the strobe and attach the transmitter, and repeat the process any time they stop communicating (which according to her, they do often). I do not have the patience for that!

Anyone have any input on recommended radio triggers besides Pocket Wizards?

Monday, June 30, 2014

Abandoned Car, Carrizo Plain National Monument

Abandoned automobile, Carrizo Plain National Monument

What photographer doesn't love to shoot old abandoned cars? This beauty was in the Carrizo Plain National Monument, not far from some old farming equipment. There is no badging left on it so I'm not even 100% sure what it is, but someone on G+ had mentioned that it would make a great rat rod and I agree.

I took so many photographs while I was at Carrizo Plain at the end of April (was it really that long ago?? May and June have flown by!) that I'm just slowly working my way through them whenever I get a chance and I've hardly made a dent. My story about that three day off road trip kicked off the Ultimate Road Trip monthly series at DrivingLine and can be read here The Ultimate Road Trip: Off-Roading at Carrizo Plain. I know that rain, wind, and sand storms isn't exactly everyone's idea of the ultimate road trip, but for an adventurer who loves to explore like I do, this was definitely one of my all-time favorite trips and I can't wait to go back. Not to mention that stormy skies are great for photography! It's a lot of fun if you do it with others who have a great attitude. Like my favorite saying goes, "The only difference between an adventure and an ordeal is your attitude.".

My other recent photos and stories on DrivingLine are two more articles in my series of Off Road 101 for beginners Off Road Basics: Trail Etiquette and Off Road Basics: Post Trail Vehicle Maintenance, and photos and a summary of the 2nd Annual Asuza Canyon Family Fun Day which featured some insane rock crawling competitions.

July is shaping up to be a busy month of shooting for me and I find myself already wondering how to fit it all in, but I have some really fun stuff coming up (even if it is work). I think I'm due for another escapist weekend soon so I can shoot merely for pleasure, just need to find time to fit it in.

Abandoned car, Carrizo Plain National Monument

Monday, June 9, 2014

Carrizo Plain - I come to speak for your dead mouth

Abandoned farmstead, Carrizo Plain National Monument

Whenever a writer I like quotes another writer, I always try to find some time to check out their work. I think it was Edward Abbey who led me to the powerful words of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, which perfectly expresses the feeling I have as I wander around these old places...

"Rise up to be born with me, brother...
Tell me, “Here I was punished,
Because the jewel didn't shine or the earth
Didn't yield grain or stones on time.”
Show me the stone you fell over
And the wood on which they crucified you,
Make a spark from the old flints for me...

I come to speak for your dead mouth. "

~From the Heights of Maccho Picchu
Pablo Neruda, as translated by Jodey Bateman

Prints available here

Monday, June 2, 2014

Carrizo Plain Grain Thresher

Grain thresher, Carrizo Plain National Monument

I can't help but think of ships every time I see these threshers, great giant ships sailing vast golden seas of grain.
I know that this one is currently sitting on a barren expanse of desert sand, but work with me here.

When I visited the Goodwin Education Center last month during my visit to Carrizo Plains I learned that all of the old farming equipment scattered throughout the area might not be there much longer because of the solar energy plan. As explained to us by one of the rangers, many of the old farms are located in areas that are protected for birds and wildlife, but there is no protection status in place for the historical cultural artifacts on the lands that are now owned by the solar company. At best, if someone wants to spend the money, some might be moved to exhibits, at worst they might be removed and destroyed. This breaks my heart because seeing something in a museum, or behind a fence with an interpretive sign nearby, doesn't compare to seeing it in situ and letting your imagination run free, envisioning what life was truly like back then and how hard it must have been to scratch out a living.

If you're truly in it for more than just the sake of making photos, if you care passionately about the subjects you photograph, it is a bittersweet feeling. There is a sense of honor and respect in knowing that you just might be documenting some of the final days of an important piece of our culture and history, and a feeling of profound loss knowing the same. It instills a sense of urgency.

That is why I like to create both documentary images and fine art creative images. This is what it looks like; I hope to return soon (under different weather conditions) to capture what it feels like.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

1951 Mercury Coupe Convertible

1951 Mercury Coupe Convertible built by Dick Dean. Icon Motoring showroom, Laguna Niguel, CA

I fell in love with this gorgeous 1951 Mercury Coupe Convertible built by Dick Dean that I spotted in the showroom at Icon Motoring in Laguna Niguel when I was there for 4x4s and Coffee last month. I grabbed a quick shot even though the light was absolutely terrible with harsh overhead flourescent lights and windows directly behind the car. Add in the fact that there were other vehicles everywhere and the reflections were hideous and you have extremely challenging conditions for decent photography. Since I was there to shoot the off road rigs outside the building I didn't have any of the gear I would bring for an interior shot. But how could I resist this beauty?

I spotted the shot on my hard drive this morning and decided to play with it a bit. I could work on cleaning up the reflections in the windshield and of the other car in the rear half, but the passenger side front bumper picked up a funky matte gray reflection that looked like it was painted on (I actually had to double check to make sure it wasn't a masking mistake on my part). There is no way I can make matte gray look like shiny chrome so I decided it wasn't worth the time to do any more editing. It's a practice image and nothing more.

The car is still a incredible beauty and a good example of how to create a gorgeous photo of an automobile even in the toughest shooting environment.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fire Rainbow Season

Iridescent clouds

No not that kind of fire, although we've had more than our share of wildfires here in Southern California the past few weeks (and thankfully everything seems to be under control now). I actually never heard the term "fire rainbow" until recently, but it seems it is now a commonly used term for iridescent clouds, coined by a journalist after a spectacular display in Spokane, Washington in 2006. A catchy name, but they have nothing to do with fires and they aren't a true rainbow, which is caused by refraction. Iridescent clouds can form when wispy high altitude clouds made of very tiny ice crystals or water droplets are perfectly aligned to diffract sunlight. They are most likely to occur in newly forming clouds when the droplets are most uniform in size.

Luminescent clouds that I've seen in the past have been the typical pastel pink and green at the fringes of the clouds. This is the first time I've spotted actual rainbow colors and I believe this was actually a circumhorizontal (or circumhorizon) arc, especially because of the shape of it when I first spotted it. Because the phenomenon only occurs when the sun is at an altitude of 58ยบ or higher they are considered to be relatively rare. For the US in general we're limited to about 6 weeks on either side of the summer solstice, which is June 21. Keep your eyes open and look to the sky over the next few months, especially around noon when the sun is highest in the sky.

By the time I spotted the beautiful colors, ran inside to grab my camera, changed the lens and ran back outside, the clouds had already moved enough that the rainbow colors were shifting and not as visible as they were when I first spotted them. I still wanted to grab a shot because it's something we don't see very often.

The world is full of beauty if we just take the time to look.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ghost House, Carrizo Plain

Abandoned house and tree, Carrizo Plain

I dwell in a lonely house I know
That vanished many a summer ago...

~Robert Frost

I just returned from spending a few days out at Carrizo Plain National Monument. It's up in San Luis Obispo county and is the largest native grassland plain remaining in California, the last of the grasslands that once covered much of California. It's located between the Temblor Range to the north and the Caliente Range to the south, with the San Andreas Fault running through the middle of it. It's home to thirteen endangered species It felt so good to have a chance to shoot for myself and see things I don't get to see down this end of the state. My friend +Marc Briggs, a wonderfully talented photographer, played tour guide and showed me the best of the landscape, wildlife - pronghorn antelopes! tule elk and a great horned owl, Native American sites and many old abandoned farmsteads with old equipment still in place. On the way home I took a detour to catch the wildflowers along 138. After all of the amazing, wonderful and beautiful things we saw and photographed, he'll probably scratch his head when I say that this is my most favorite image of the trip.

If I didn't get any other photos on this trip, I would be supremely happy with this one because it is so "me". This is the image that speaks to my heart.

...hmmm, and seeing it here is making me rethink the size of my watermark, something else for my to-do list.

Click the image to see it larger (or to purchase a print!)

More photos from Carrizo Plain coming soon...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blood Moon - Total Lunar Eclipse

I had to battle clouds and a lot of moisture in the air to photograph last night's total lunar eclipse so some of the frames aren't quite as sharp as I would like. When the moon first entered totality it went completely behind the clouds and I was afraid that was going to be it for the night, but all in all I'm fairly happy with how my sequence turned out.

Click on the photo to see it larger.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Shoot from the Hip: Spider Holster Review

DISCLOSURE: Spider Holster provided me with a Dual-Camera SpiderPro Holster system for testing and review purposes.

As soon as I learned that I was going to be spending a week covering the King of the Hammers off road race for Nitto Tire and DrivingLine I began planning what gear I would need to be able pull off a week-long shoot in the remote desert environment. The event is held in the Mojave Desert every February, in very extreme terrain and extreme conditions. There are races all week long leading up to the toughest one day off road race in the world, a 180 mile race course that includes high speed desert racing and rock crawling on some of the toughest trails that California has to offer. I shoot in the desert all of the time and I frequently shoot rock crawling, so I had a very good idea of what the job would demand. I knew I would be working very long days in very dusty conditions, would have to do a lot of hiking and would be scrambling up and down steep cliffs. The dust and wind meant that I couldn't change lenses out in the field but I would need both a wide angle and a telephoto lens. I knew it would be physically challenging, and I knew that I had to be able to keep up with the guys.

I was honestly dreading the need to carry two cameras all day every day while scrambling up and down cliffs and walking several miles a day, and I knew that once my back and shoulders started feeling the strain I would be done. I use Canon L glass and those lenses are heavy, especially my favorite 70-200mm 2.8 ISM USM beast. It's not a lens that you want to wear around your neck or even over a shoulder for more than a couple of hours. When I scramble up rocks with a camera over my shoulder the lens frequently bounces into rocks if I don’t hold on to it, and I really wanted to have my hands free for balance. When guys carry two cameras in the field they typically sling them across their chest, one across each shoulder, but that look is not at all comfortable or flattering for women!

I also knew that carrying a camera bag would be less than ideal for this job. Too much time is wasted taking cameras out of the bag and putting them back, the bag gets heavy after hiking a full day let alone an entire week, it throws off my center of gravity when I am climbing on rocks, and I don’t like leaving my bag sitting out in the open when there are other people around while I am off shooting. A backpack is good for hiking in but not good when I am actively shooting and moving around.

Specatator at King of the Hammers off road race, Johnson Valley
Johnson Valley, California, home of King of the Hammers off road race

I decided that moving the weight to my hips was going to be my best solution and I began researching belt systems. My biggest concern was that most of this type of gear is not designed for a woman's body, and what works for a 6 foot 200 pound male doesn't always fit and feel right to a 5'5" size 6 woman. I posted inquiries on social media to see if any women photographers had any recommendations but I couldn't find anyone who had even tried a belt and holster system. The Spider Camera Holster had caught my eye for several reasons and I tagged them on GooglePlus to inquire about the fit for women. They assured me that many petite women use their system and love it and offered to send me one to test out.

When I received my SpiderPro Dual Camera System I was immediately impressed by the build quality. I am very tough on gear and rely on products that can stand up to my level of abuse without falling apart. The stitching on the sturdy belt is very well done and the machining of the all metal holsters and plates is beautiful. I suspect the belt was adjusted before it was sent out to me because it was a perfect fit right out of the box. I strapped the belt on and put my cameras in the holsters and cautiously ran around the house to test how secure the cameras would be. I was impressed by how well the cameras remained close to my body when I ran, that they didn't interfere with walking and I immediately loved having the weight on my hips instead of my shoulders. It only took me a few minutes to get the hang of quickly holstering and re-holstering my cameras without looking.

Me wearing Spider Holster

The true test was race week. I hit the ground running as soon as I arrived and headed out to cover the Backdoor Shoot Out, an extreme rock crawling competition in a canyon (and up a waterfall) Monday night. I immediately realized the benefits of my Spider Holster as I cautiously navigated my way through rocks up and then down into the canyon in the cold darkness to get into position. I watched three men slide several feet down the hill when they lost their footing and I was glad I had my hands free for balance because it was treacherous. I kept the holsters in the locked position and never once had any concern about my cameras dislodging. Here is a grab shot I took as I worked my way down to give you an idea what it was like out there.

View from the top during Back Door Shoot Out, King of the Hammers

After five hours of shooting in the 25°F darkness I went back to my trailer and stayed up all night processing photos so we could upload daily content. I had a short one hour nap before I was back out at 6am for the daily media briefing and more shooting. I had just started my week and was already suffering from sleep deprivation. Heading out the trailer door the next morning I was so relieved that I didn't have to lug around a camera bag or sling cameras over my shoulders.

A typical day would start with something like a 6am photo shoot with the entire Nitto Tire race team at the bottom of Backdoor Canyon, then jumping into my Jeep and heading out to the lakebed for some high speed racing in time to catch the first rigs coming through, then back in the Jeep to navigate the rough desert terrain to one of the remote rock crawling trails. After finding a place to park my Jeep I’d hike into the canyon to find a good spot from which to shoot. Mixed in were press conferences, media briefings, driver interviews, long nights spent in my trailer processing the day’s shots and very little sleep. I was physically drained but never once worried about how much heavy gear I would need to carry around. I hardly noticed the weight at all with my cameras on my hips.

Me shooting high speed racing on the lake bed during King of the Hammers. Even in a kneeling position the Spider Holster kept my 70-200mm lens in a safe and comfortable position well off the ground. Photo courtesy of Doug Dienelt of DRD Images.

I didn't remove the straps from my cameras because at times I was shooting from precarious perches on the rocks and I wanted the security of having the strap around my neck while shooting. This meant that the straps were hanging loose when the cameras were in the holsters but I would usually just tuck them up. I like my holster so much that I am seriously considering changing to a wrist strap.

My first day of using the holster in the field I found myself constantly checking my cameras to make sure they were secure but by the second day I had learned to trust the system. After six days of hiking, climbing, kneeling, sitting and even running for safety when the dust cloud suddenly overtook the area and we needed to get to a clear area ASAP, everything on my Spider Holster was still tight and secure. I kept the lever in the locked position when I was hiking and climbing and in the unlocked position when I was actively shooting. I made sure to check and tighten the camera plates every night as part of my regular gear maintenance, but other than that I hardly even gave it a thought besides how wonderful it was and how much I loved the sense of freedom!

I feel a bit like a gunslinger, ready to shoot anything (with my camera of course)!

Before I started wearing the Spider Holster I had some concerns about having heavy cameras banging into my hips and thighs as I was walking and leaving sore bruises. I had no reason to worry; the cameras are held securely and do not bounce around. The SpiderPro Holster Pad also helps protect your body (as well as your clothes), making this a very comfortable system.

Like many people, I was under the impression that the Spider Holster is not compatible with Really Right Stuff L-brackets/plates. That was true a few years ago, and when I did my research on the internet I found a lot of forum posts discusses the lack of compatibility. I mistakenly thought that the Spider Holster Arca-Swiss compatible clamp was just for compatibility with the Arca-Swiss quick release on my tripod ballhead and that it would still require me to remove my RRS L-bracket, so I didn’t worry about obtaining the clamp. Apparently enough of us weren't willing to give up our L-plates for the convenience of a carrier system and SpiderPro designed their Arca-Swiss clamp to work with the L-plate a few years ago. It seems that many photographers are not aware of this because people were giving me suggestions for workarounds (which were too cumbersome for my practical use). I know that L-bracket compatibility is the biggest thing preventing many photographers from switching to a carrier system and I hope to be able to review the Arca-Swiss compatible clamp soon.

Not knowing that option was available to me, I figured I would just need to use the Spider Holster plate when I was shooting the races, and switch to my L-bracket when I was shooting anything that would require a tripod. During race week when I needed to use a tripod to do the Nitto race team shoot in the dark at Backdoor it was very easy to swap the plates out because Spider Holster brilliantly designed the plate to also store the allen wrench. If you've ever spent time hunting for the correct allen wrench, or like me tend to lose small objects, you’ll appreciate the genius of this design. When we finished the shoot it took me less than a minute to swap them out again. Having the allen wrench handy also makes it easy to re-tighten everything when doing your routine daily gear check and maintenance out in the field.

You do need to be careful when laying your camera down on a surface because the pin(s) protrude from the bottom so the camera doesn't lie flat. The pins also mean that your camera will need a little more room in your camera bag. That's a small price to pay for the freedom you'll gain.

I know that I never would have been able to keep up the crazy pace throughout King of the Hammers week without my Spider Holster. It let me work longer and hike farther with less fatigue. I used my holster again while covering the Tierra del Sol Desert Safari a few weeks ago. When I “lost” my ride in the mudhills and had to hike up and down a series of very steep hills to catch up, I again realized how much easier and more comfortable it was with the weight on my hips instead of on my neck and shoulders. I know that I am going to love using it when I am hiking for landscape photography too.

The Spider Holster system handled everything I could throw it at during the toughest shoot I’ve ever done and performed like a champ. I can’t even begin to explain how liberating it is. It is truly a game changer for me and I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Goodbye March!

Ever have one of "those" months? That's how March was for me and I'm happy that it is finally over.
I just realized that I haven't posted all month and I really want to get something posted before the month is over...three hours and counting as of right now so here goes:

March started with torrential downpours the first weekend of the month. Of course that's when I had to cover the 52nd Tierra del Sol Desert Safari and as I drove through flooded roads and saw a half dozen overturned vehicles I thought I must be out of my mind. But the weather was better in Ocotillo Wells...at least there was no rain. The wind was brutal and with all of the vehicles out there the dust storms had the area in white out conditions at times. Not my favorite conditions for shooting! And once again I lost my ride through the mud hills when I got out to shoot (note to self: if I ever shoot at the mudhills again bring a flag for the Jeep or at least remember to grab the handheld radio and a couple bottles of water before jumping out to shoot) and I ended up hiking at least a mile up hill down hill up hill down hill before I hitched a ride with a very nice man in a sweet no-doors 2DR through some wicked stuff (thank you soooo much!!) and made contact with my husband via radio to arrange a meeting spot. All in all the trip went fine and the sun even managed to show up for a while during the trail run.

Almost white out conditions at the Truckhaven 4x4 training facility in Ocotillo Wells during the 52 Tierra del Sol Desert Safari

But I did some damage on the trail. A few months ago I had a problem with a rear spring failing on the trail and had to replace that. Everything seemed fine on my last few trips but this time we got into some super off-camber sections and my rear track bar bracket started smashing into my left rear shock and crunched it. That put an end to any serious wheeling. I had several people look at it and no one was able to figure out what caused the problem. The only suspension component I've changed in the past six-seven years has been the rear springs. So I had to rearrange my schedule a bit and get the Jeep in to Rebel. They said my rear track bar is too short and my axle isn't centered properly. I still don't completely understand why that hasn't been a problem in the past with all the wheeling I've done, but now I'm waiting for a new track bar and new rear shocks to come in. I'd rather spend $1000 on upgrades to my Jeep than on repairs to my rear suspension(or put toward photography gear) but it is what it is. One by one I'll just keep replacing the original lift kit parts. If I sound a little cranky it's because there's more to the story and I've had my fill of it.

While dealing with all of that it seems that I was one of the accounts compromised in the recent Yahoo security breach. I was on-line when I got hit and immediately shut down, then started taking all security precautions but it was too late. Yahoo claims that a third party database containing user names and passwords was hit with a coordinated attack. They refuse to tell me why a third party was in possession of database containing user names and passwords, and they have refused to tell me who the third party is. I have reasons to believe it is Facebook and that's why they are being so quiet about the incident. I think the damage was limited to the hacker obtaining all of the contacts in my address book, and they are now spoofing my e-mail address to send spam to everyone, including many .mil addresses. I am extremely cautious about internet security so this whole thing really makes me mad.

I was running multiple virus scans using multiple products to make sure my machine was clean and I kept having problems. My anti-virus software would suddenly shut down, quick scans were clean but deep scans would stop running at a certain point. I couldn't run a root kit scan. I had to seek expert advice and we spent days working on it, and along the way my hard drive decided to give up! I had just run a chkdsk on my hard drive the week before because it was almost full so I did some clean up andran through some standard maintenance and it was fine, so of course it would die at the worst possible time for me. I keep multiple backups of everything so that wasn't a concern, but reinstalling an OS, all of my software, digging up license keys, and then remembering all of my user preferences was not something I was in the mood to deal with at this point. It took fifteen hours and I was holding my breath the whole time, but fortunately I was able to clone the drive onto my new drive. Then back to virus scanning to make sure I didn't clone a virus onto my new drive. I lost two weeks of productivity dealing with all of the associated problems.

So now my machine is clean, I didn't lose anything, my yahoo account is still spamming thousands of people on a regular basis, the parts to fix my Jeep will be in Wednesday, and I am really looking forward to April.

Tierra del Sol Desert Safari
This is how it looked when we started the trail, and yes I was shooting through the windshield!

Tierra del Sol Desert Safari trail official Jeep
My husband thought it was funny that the trail officials had the most beat up Jeeps. That's because they are well used! I want a trail guide with experience, not a clean shiny Jeep.

I just love checking out all of the different Jeeps and the way people customize them. It's a great way to get ideas.

There were lots of trucks on the trail run but many had a hard time because the long wheel base wasn't well suited for the trail conditions.

My coverage of Tierra del Sol Desert Safari is on DrivingLine and there are even more photos in my gallery.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How did I get such an insane point of view on Wrecking Ball?

Jake Hallenbeck on Wrecking Ball, 2014 King of the Hammers
Jake Hallenbeck on Wrecking Ball, 2014 King of the Hammers

How did I get such an insane point of view on Wrecking Ball during the ULTRA4 King of the Hammers race? I tucked myself into a spot that usually only Go-Pros go! Seriously! The course safety officials knew where I was and were okay with it, although they were keeping a close eye on me to make sure I stayed safe. But the BLM came to do a site visit to make sure everything was safe and they weren't exactly excited about where I was. I wasn't ordered to move, I was asked politely to reconsider the safety of my spot because the BLM wasn't comfortable with it. I didn't want to be the source of any tension between the BLM and Hammerking that might jeopardize the future of the race so I moved to higher ground. I won't say exactly where I was, there are a few people who saw me (and I know that Levi Shirley's co-driver spotted me because he pointed right at me in the shot). I will say that the safety personnel and the recovery team out on Wrecking Ball were the coolest guys ever; they knew I was getting some wicked shots from down there! At least I got most of the leaders from that position before I had to move. Thanks guys for helping me climb back up quickly when I needed to move.

Randy Slawson on Wrecking Ball, 2014 King of the Hammers
Randy Slawson on Wrecking Ball, 2014 King of the Hammers

Erik Miller on Wrecking Ball, 2014 King of the Hammers off road race
Erik Miller on Wrecking Ball, 2014 King of the Hammers

Derek West on Wrecking Ball at the 2014 King of the Hammers off road race in Johnson Valley, California
Derek West on Wrecking Ball, 2014 King of the Hammers

More insane shots from Wrecking Ball in my 2014 King of the Hammers - Wrecking Ball gallery.

Still processing photos and uploading as quickly as I can, the LightRoom workflow is throwing me off pace a bit. I've been using Photoshop for 17 years and my workflow was second nature. I have to think too much with LightRoom, but I know that once I get it down pat my overall workflow will speed up tremendously. At least my web host finally worked out their problem and more than twelve photos show up now!

Monday, February 10, 2014

All in a Day's Work

Lori Carey in a helmet

How do you dress for work haha? To interview the youngest competitor at King of the Hammers, 15 year old Melvin Wade IV, I put on a helmet and went for a ride in his UTV racing rig! He's an awesome kid and I had so much fun riding out to the lakebed in Johnson Valley for a mini photo shoot for our story. The clashing bright yellow vest is my hi-viz media vest. (Thank you to his Mom, Lisa Wade, for grabbing this photo of me looking so stylish!) Check out my story and photos Meet the Youngest KOH Contender: Mel Wade IV on DrivingLine.

Wow was King of the Hammers crazy!! I worked 18 hour days out there, everything from the Backdoor Shoot Out Monday night in 25 degrees perched on the side of a cliff of loose rocks (I watched quite a few people slide several feet down the side but drinking may have been a factor) to a 6am photo shoot back at the bottom of Backdoor with the entire Nitto racing team (6 cars and drivers/co-drivers), a few trips out to the lakebed for high-speed desert racing then jeeping through Johnson Valley to get to obstacles that other media couldn't reach, and time on the short course to cover Qualifying, Power Hour, and race starts and finishes. And then up all night processing photos to provide daily content for DrivingLine.
It was a brutal schedule and by Saturday morning I was exhausted, but I had a fantastic time because I was doing what I love best to do!

In addition to catching up with some old friends I met many fantastic new people out there. On Wednesday I shot Qualifying next to Chris Collard, the Editor-in-Chief of Overland Journal (swoon) and got to chat with him for several hours. Shooting for Overland Journal one day is an aspirational goal of mine of course! They have the most gorgeous imagery, and Chris was a super nice guy. On Thursday and Friday I teamed up with the awesome Doug Dienelt of DRD Images because we both wanted to avoid the media crowds and I had the vehicle to get us where ever we wanted to go. Doug is a great co-pilot/navigator, a fantastic race photographer and an all-around super guy. Doug was also one of the "strangers" I was sharing a trailer with. Thank you for making the week so much fun (AND productive) Doug!

Also got to spend a little time Friday night hanging out with the crew from 4 Wheel To Heal, the organization I volunteer with. They brought eleven wounded warriors out to King of the Hammers for the week. Thanks to the support of the off roading community they were able to get the guys out on the trails a few times and I could tell by the smile on everyone's faces that they had a fantastic week. Thank you so much to everyone who gave them help and support. I was feeling guilty about not being available to help out but they had no shortage of love and support, and even a few minutes on the main stage in Hammertown!

What else....? My head is still spinning. I shot about 10,000 photos during the week and am still working on finishing up the processing. My webhost is having issues and even though I am uploading to the galleries only twelve or so images are showing. Not happy about that one bit. And this was my first time using Lightroom on location. When I imported the catalog to my main computer it seems that I lost the edits I had made on several images that were posted on DrivingLine throughout the week, so I have to re-edit all of those.

And of course a big congratulations to Loren Healy, winner of King of the Hammers. Loren is one of the Nitto drivers so it was a very exciting (and busy) day for all of us. Nitto had three drivers in the Top 6, so it was a fantastic week for my client. Here's a shot of Loren at Wrecking Ball.

2014 King of the Hammers winner Loren Healy on Wrecking Ball

More coming soon...

Sunday, February 2, 2014

King of the Hammers

I'll be heading out to spend a week photographing the toughest off-road race, King of the Hammers in Johnson Valley, tomorrow morning for title sponsor Nitto Tire and the automotive enthusiast publication DrivingLine. King of the Hammers combines high speed desert racing with technical rock-crawling in a 165 mile long course. It's in the middle of the desert...no electricity, no internet, no running water. Preparing for a week of shooting out there with the expectation of creating daily digital content for DrivingLine is a story in itself and after I return I'll share some of the logistics in a post.

If you want to get an idea of just how hard core this race is check out this video:

To learn about the history of this race check out my latest story on DrivingLine. It's a bit different than my usual story...this time the photos are not mine and I got to play investigative journalist! When I was asked to write about the history I didn't want to write the same old wikipedia blurb that everyone else writes so I started digging around for the real story. Hope you like it!

Race photos will be posted to a special King of the Hammers 2014 event gallery that will allow people to select and collect their favorites. It will be my first time trying the event function so I hope it works as expected. As long as I have internet I'll be uploading from the race, but there's no guarantee. The rest will be posted when I return.

Right now it's in the 40s and windy out there, possible rain forecasted for Thursday and Friday. Should be an interesting and challenging week!

Monday, January 20, 2014

4 Wheel To Heal and Paralyzed Vets Association

4W2H visit at Spinal Cord Injury Unit, VA Hospital, San Diego

Yesterday I spent the afternoon joining Mark and Jen Schultz of 4 Wheel To Heal and Peter Ballantyne of Cal-Diego Paralyzed Veterans Association on a morale visit at the Spinal Cord Injury Unit of the V.A. Hospital in La Jolla, California. Both of these non-profit organizations do wonderful things for wounded and disabled Veterans, getting them out to enjoy activities that they might not otherwise have a chance to enjoy such as off-roading, camping, golfing, scuba diving, motorsports and much more. (Full disclosure - I am a volunteer with 4 Wheel To Heal.)

I had a great time meeting some of our country's Warriors and getting to spend some time talking with them. We had originally planned to take some photos inside the hospital, but after thinking about it, it didn't seem right to give them gifts (we brought them T-shirts as well as survival bracelets with thank you notes that people had purchased for them at the 4W2H booth set up at events) and then ask for permission to take their photo. We didn't want anyone to feel obligated. These guys have been through enough and I would never want to do anything that might make them feel uncomfortable.

They wanted some shots taken in front of the hospital with their vehicles. We had to move fast because we were blocking the entrance a bit. I love it when people are willing to have some fun with group shots, there is nothing more boring than a static shoulder-to-shoulder posed shot!

Then I set up the lights for some shots of Mark and Jen Schultz. Here's Mark Schultz, co-founder of 4 Wheel To Heal, looking pretty badass! Mark is active duty Navy and a real-life badass. This is a great example of what a huge difference you can make by bringing in off-camera lighting. All of these photos were shot at midday in a parking lot with the sun coming from the same direction, but the natural-light-only shot doesn't have real depth because the light is flat and harsh. Bringing in off-camera lighting gives me more control of the scene.

Mark Schultz of 4 Wheel To Heal with his Jeep

I didn't want to go quite as dramatic for the shot with his wife Jen. I love the hard light look for guys but it's not always the most flattering look for women. For her I opened up my aperture a bit to lighten the background and brighten up the image a little more.

Jen and Mark Schultz of 4 Wheel To Heal

All of these shots were done very quickly with minimal set up because Peter had to leave and the rest of us were STARVING! We just needed a couple quick shots for social media posts for the organizations. Thank you Mark and Jen for buying me lunch before I passed out!

These are both fantastic organizations that are worthy of your support. If you follow me because you are into wheeling and off-roading, 4 Wheel To Heal will be bringing ten disabled Vets out to King of the Hammers in two weeks. Look for their booth and stop by to check them out. If you donate $10 or more toward Operation KOH they will send you some awesome stickers for your rig. Donations can be made on their website 4W2H.org. Funds goes towards the cost of the motorhomes to house the vets, their travel expenses, food and entry to the event. They also have some great merchandise for sale on their website. I love the hoodie I bought!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wind, Palm Trees and Big Dipper

Wind, Palm Trees and Big Dipper

I've been fascinated with the idea of photographing the wind. The wind haunts my dreams. I think some images should be viewed while listening to the sound of the wind. That's probably what I love so much about Dianne Best's video Cadiz, the wind soundtrack constantly in the background. She understands. Anyone who has spent a lot of time in the desert is haunted by the wind.

The Santa Ana winds were blowing last night and the moon was full. I absolutely love shooting at night under a full moon, it's my favorite time for creativity. When I saw how the Big Dipper lined up in the frame I knew it was meant to be.


Did you know that clicking on the image above will take you to a larger hi-res version in my Lightbox? Closing the Lightbox will take you to my gallery of Nightscapes where you can see more of my night photography and purchase prints.

I have so many adventures to write about, just haven't had time for lengthy posts lately. Soon!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Jeep Night Photography

Jeep at sunset on desert playa

My silver Jeep photographs well under a full moon because it picks up the light well, but it's nice to be able to bring in some details aren't always visible under moonlight alone, especially if I want to keep the ambient light low. I like night shots to look like night shots and I'm not a fan of moonlight photos that look as if they were taken at midday.

These two images were taken during an impromptu session on a dry lake bed on a very cloudy summer night. The first was done just after sunset with a single pop from a strobe. The second was done after dark with the full moon hidden behind the clouds. It is comprised of multiple layers of light painted frames. I used a strobe to pop a flash of light where I wanted and then combined the frames in Photoshop using layer masks. It's a great technique that allows for a lot of creativity and it's fun playing around with different ways of lighting a vehicle. I had done a few with the interior of the Jeep lit up too, but my soft top windows have taken such a beating and are so scratched up that they really looked pretty bad. The trail racks, winch hoop and extra lights all cause crazy reflections and shadows so next time I plan to do this I need to bring something that will allow me to flag the lights better.

Jeep on desert playa at night under full moon, lightpainting