Roadtrip report and a bit more


A road trip is awesome, but when I can combine work into the mix as well, that’s just awesome.

Links this episode:

Exposure Averaging video:

Segmentation process video:

Online print related videos:


Today we’ll be focusing mostly on my recent family road trip. We spent 3.5 weeks on the road and drove over 5,500 miles, my wife drove about 15 of those. It’s all good, I do like to drive.

Basic Itinerary: Boise, ID; Salt Lake City, UT; Denver, CO; Lincoln, NE; Hannibal, MO; Chicagoland, IL; Council Bluffs, IA; Kimball, NE; Salt Lake City, UT; Boise, ID; HOME!

Boise area: my folks live in the area so we spent a few days there. This is also where I had one of my print workshops for the Boise Camera club. More on that in a bit.

Utah: We then drove to the Salt Lake City area and just spent a night there. We wanted to have a place to spend the evening on the way to Denver so we drove to Layton, stayed the night, swam in the hotel pool and moved on the following day. The drive to Denver was about 8 hours so we started early and just pushed forward.

I was rather busy in Denver. This was a family vacation after all, but, I worked with photo clubs in the Boise area and Denver to host a print workshop. I brought my printer to both locations and club members supplemented with their own printers too which was great. I’d hoped to get even more printing done, but with 18 attendees at the Boise workshop and 12 at the Denver workshop printing was slightly crowded. It was an absolute blast though. Being able to share and teach one of the great things I love about photography is just so cool. And I should probably put a call out there, if you have a photo club and you’re interested in either a lecture at your club meeting or a workshop for your members please reach out. I’d love to make this happen again and again.

In Boise the extra printers were the Pixma Pro 100, and I have the 10. They’re virtually the same printer, but the 10 uses pigment ink and the 100 uses Dye ink. So I went through the lecture and discussion part where we talked all about color spaces, proper file setup and challenges we face when we try to get “perfect” color out of our prints. Then we had a short break for lunch and then we spent the rest of the time answering questions and trying to keep things moving forward. Things were a bit more manageable in Denver since we had six less people but it was still busy.

Additionally, in Denver, one printer we had was using a different inkset. It was very interesting to me to see the results of that inkset. I’ve had a lot of inquiries about third-party inks and I usually have to say that long ago I tried it, it failed and I never looked back. But third-party providers have gotten a lot better but I have not had any recent experience with any of them until now.

First off, I noticed a phenomena called metamerism that was very evident to me when I looked at the print. It’s something that you notice on pigment inks if the print is held in the light a certain way because the color is a particle and not part of the ink liquid itself . In the Canon inks it’s hardly noticeable at all unless you use the photo black ink on matte paper. But this was visible for all papers. And, we had a fella that experienced a few challenges with the processing of the images and then when it came to print it looked nothing like what was on screen. I was like, “hmmm, OH, you’re using a printer that doesn’t have Canon inks, but you’re using the profile that is made for Canon inks.” He moved to my printer and it came out looking perfect. That was cool, to see how far off things were, and to see the smile on that fella’s face once it looked like he expected it to.

But not all was daisies and roses. In both workshops I also brought my calibration device to calibrate screens. We didn’t get to calibrate all screens, but we got several of them done.

There were some folks though who had rather old notebook computers. Usually, the Mac screens are quite good, and PC screens can be awesome, or cheap, just depends on your computer model. These were PC models that were at least six years old. And the color was so washed out, It was crazy how washed out it was. We did the process anyway, but they were too far gone. There’s just some things that can’t be fixed I guess. They understood, and they still learned the theory but it’s difficult when you want to see the good results happen and you’re just hampered by the equipment.

I also had some folks who, even after calibration the color was just not coming out right. We got it improved but there was still more to do. In that short amount of time I was unable to get it working perfectly for them, but at least we did have improvement and we had an opportunity to learn what’s going on and how the process is done so they can take things further on their own. I made a print process guide for these workshops and you too can download it from my website. Head on over to look for the download called “printing workflow.”

I also had a commercial shoot in Denver. A private aircraft charter company needs a new website and a few weeks before our trip we finally inked a deal that would have me redevelop their website and do some new photos of the aircraft. We originally were going to have me do new headshots but when we looked at the scheduling it just wasn’t going to work out. So I spent Friday morning from about 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. out on the tarmac having the lineman move these multi-million dollar aircraft around so I could get the “perfect” composition. Many of them were terrible, but the lighting was great and I was able to get the mountains in the background. I was even able to get into a bucket truck about 30 ft off the ground and shoot with my 70-300 for a compressed shot of three jets together. I then did interiors as well. It was a blast and such a cool way to spend the morning. I then spent the rest of the day with the family.

This brings me to a few points listeners have often been interested in and have asked me about. That is, spending time shooting while on a vacation and how do people make money at this stuff.

Well, the making money part is something I continue to try and work on. I have a full-time job. Sometimes I wish I didn’t like my job so I could be more motivated to do more photography, but it’s a good mix. Anyway, I rarely do a commercial shoot like this though. And when I was bidding I didn’t really look up any other photographers and see what their rates are. I just established a rate that I knew would get shot down if I were bidding a job here in Walla Walla, or that I felt would get shot down, and went with it. I also had the website job secured, so the photography was in addition to that work that I was able to sell since I was going to be in the area anyway. Plus, I wanted to see the company and its operations so I could build a better website. But, back to money.

All my travel and stuff I do is 100% funded by my photography efforts. I don’t dip into the family budget, which is my income from the school, at all for my stuff like this. When I don’t make a sale I don’t get to do things. I’ve also gone the traditional route of offering educational opportunities whether it’s my online course in printing or in-person workshops. Like any businessman, I’d like to sell more, but I’ve certainly found that if I focus on selling things tend to go dry for a bit. But I’m also still learning my niche in the photography education space. I’d love to create an online community with tons of lessons, challenges, assignments and the like. A place where feedback would be readily available but it wouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg so to speak. I’ve got two more online courses planned, one geared towards beginners and one slightly more advanced. I also have a book outline already made. I just need to do it.

One thing I know that works for me is your feedback. If these are things you want let me know. I’ll hopefully be able to make it happen sooner rather than later.

Anyway, that was a bit of a derailment, let’s get back on track. I was talking about making money and then family time and shooting time while on vacation. With this trip the family knew that it was not possible without my ability to work and do these two workshops. In fact, I had a bit of a “stepping out in faith” type of experience. As we’re looking at the budget for the trip the funding just wasn’t matching. We left town knowing that I’d have four people at the Denver workshop. That was the minimum I agreed to host the workshop for. I was working with club officials and then I received an email that I didn’t read right away. I read it the Friday before the workshop which was on Sunday. And I had 12 people attending! I was quite relieved actually. We were counting on this revenue and it ended up being there. We could continue the trip without fretting about the budget anymore. It was such a blessing.

Back to the point though, that is, shooting while on vacation. I’ll often head out early and shoot, but this trip was a bit different. Since I had such a huge amount of work I decided that for the remainder of the trip I would shoot very little. This is where I was really wishing the Fuji camera had worked out for me because I could have easily taken it and one lens out with me when we were in Chicago and a few other places. But alas, it was nearly 100% family time until we got to Kimball, NE. And it was great. Re-solidifying the family connections was needed and was wonderful.

After Denver we drove to Lincoln, NE, for the night. It was a long drive and we were just firing through. We didn’t do anything interesting, just slept and moved on. We chose Lincoln over Salina, KS, because the hotel was something like $100 cheaper. It did add a total of about 30 minutes to our drive time as we were heading to Hannibal, MO. In Hannibal we saw a lot of the Mark Twain interests, and we also went to a homesteaders conference with YouTubers Offgrid with Doug and Stacy. My wife follows them and it’s our goal to get a piece of property and start a small farm.

After six nights there we moved on to the Chicago Suburbs. My wife’s best friend lives there and teaches at College of DuPage. I took the older boys into the city by riding the train. They really liked that part. We saw a few items downtown and then largely took it easy the rest of the time there. We were visiting friends after all. I grew up in the area but as we only had three nights there I was unable to visit any of my child-hood locations. Oh well, maybe next time.

Then we started the trek home, staying one night in Council Bluffs, IA, and then two nights in Kimball, NE. I chose Kimball because just north of there is Scottsbluff, NE. I wanted to visit that and “do it right” this time as I was there four years ago but we arrived about 20 minutes before they closed. Scottsbluff did not interest my wife at all even though it’s part of the Oregon Trail and the Pony Express line. We have an Oregon Trail national historic site about five miles from where we live so I liked the connection. But the biggest problem was that the visitor center was closed and they had a temporary one that we actually ended up not visiting. I did, however, get to walk down the trail from the top. That was really cool. I totally enjoyed the relatively few moments there. I did get up for one sunrise but the light didn’t really do anything exciting.

We then had another night in Salt Lake City area on the way home, another night in the Boise area at my parent’s place and then on home. It was certainly good to be home.

Really quickly I want to talk about my recent rental acquisition. I rented the Olympus E-M1 mk2 camera and the 7-14mm lens. I almost rented a prime but figured the flexibility would be good here. What I’m really impressed with is the quality of packaging that has nowadays. It came in a standard box, but inside was a hard plastic case, it’s like a Pelican case but some other brand. Then inside that was a LowePro case that held the camera and lens, and the lens was in a separate lens case all by itself with additional foam around the lens itself. So it was very well packaged for sure! And the tape on the outer box was delightful, it said “release the happy, open here” on the top and “yeah, not the happy side” on the bottom. Then they also include two strips of tape so I don’t even need tape to ship the box back. That’s amazing. But there’s a crazy “story” of sorts on the tape itself. It talks about using the tape and they kinda write it as if Mark Twain were writing. In describing the removal of the tape from the backing they say “Once you have successfully achieved this disengagement, you can proceed with the taping of your package.” Then they advise not to stick the extra piece of tape to a cat, no matter what the internet tells you as to how funny it will be. And then they end with a Back to the Future movie reference. All in all, they have certainly done their homework in making the rental experience enjoyable. I’ll talk about the camera in a future episode for sure. I’ll be taking it to the Oregon Coast on my workshop next week.

So let’s now talk about the near future and what’s happening. By the time you hear this I’m preparing to head out to Oregon for my Oregon Coast shoot-n-print workshop. I have six days planned shooting the wonderful Oregon coast and two of those days we’ll be in the hotel conference room going through the printing process. There’s still a few spots if anyone wants to jump in last minute. That’s totally fine. Take a look at the website for details.

Also, this show is about a week late. I’ve been doing weekly shows pretty much all summer. So for the next few shows I just wanted to share what I have cooking.

  • My latest YouTube Videos

Ordering and File Prep for Online Labs, mPix

Exposure Averaging with windblown foreground elements

Segmentation at Scotts Bluff

Print Review, mPix

I plan on talking about the Exposure Averaging in the next episode as well as the Segmentation item. But if you want to get a sneak peek you can watch those videos. The print review videos are part of my larger research I’m doing into online labs. I have five more to go and then I’ll have a big episode all about my findings and the experience of printing with online labs.

One that I just published today is all about color expectations and surprises we run into when printing.

I do have some interviews getting lined up. I have an Olympus Visionary scheduled for some time in October, a former Bay Photo night shift lab manager to talk about preparing files for online print labs, and I have a new book that was recommended by a listener, “Zen Camera, Creative awakening with a daily practice in photography.” It’s by David Ulrich. If you’ve read it let me know. I may do a book review on this one.

School is starting up soon, September 23 is the first day of instruction and with two course rewrites and our need to recover from and replace a colleague that left us this summer for a job in the industry,,,  well, thing will be very busy for me over the next month.

Things also look promising for me to head off to India this December. The aforementioned website redevelopment job will fund my time there. And I’ve got a mountain of airmiles so hopefully things will work out there. I usually have used my academic breaks to create things like my online course and such, but this time I’ll hopefully be traveling. If it doesn’t work out then I’ll still go somewhere I’m sure.

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