Saturday, January 26, 2008


This has been a funky day and I finally decided to drive up to Tehachapi to go to StarBuck Coffee.  On the way back I made a few detours to try and make some photographs. Because of the wonderful weather we have been having lately Tehachapi was covered with a bit of snow. I traveled a few different routings trying to find a good location but these were made when I finally gave up, got back on the freeway and started heading home. I pulled off the side of the road and was able to make these captures.

Once I got back on the road and down past the snow I came across this lone Joshua Tree so I turned around, pulled off the road and made some images.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Second Day (Death Valley)...

So this day was spent going in the opposite direction! After a nice lunch at Furnace Creek we headed our toward the South (I think) toward The Devil's Golf Course, Bad Water and Artist Drive/Pallet. Devin wasn't really sure about it at first and couldn't really understand what I was trying to describe to him. So our first stop was Devil's Golf Course and he was truly amazed by that. The ground is really impressive (and dangerous). He decided he wanted to walk around it a bit so we venture out and then I thought it would make a really neat photo so I threw him over my shoulder and walked out a little ways and found a "nice" spot for him to sit. So while he sat there and explored the unusual landscape I went back to the truck and grab my camera. It probably wasn't the smartest idea but he seemed to really enjoy it.

From there we went to Bad Water and just walked around a bit. We then drove down Artist's Drive and both of us just took in the amazing landscape. The sun was starting to set so it was truly an amazing sit. We took the right toward the end to stop at Artist Pallet and at first Devin said he wanted to stay in the car. However, once he saw people walking up the hill he decided he wanted to do that too. So we slowly made our way up the hill and it was pretty precarious but he did incredible and a couple of folks comment on that to him when we got up there. The return trip wasn't as hard because we found an "easier" path. All I can say is I was really impressed with him and all the walking (and not falling) that he did. Granted we were stuck together, there is no way with the terrain that I would have just let him go on his own, but it was really cool.  When we arrived back to the truck the moon just crested the mountain and I quickly made the capture to right.  It was truly an amazingly beautiful site to see.

When we arrived back at camp we lit a fire and made a really nice dinner that included hot dogs and pot roast (thanks Denise). The fire was going good enough that we just played Super Tic-Tac-Toe for about an hour until we headed in. The scene was neat and I needed to bring the cameras in from the truck so I make this capture at right.   Oh by the way, he smoked me in the game too.  It was really a lot of fun and we both really enjoyed it.  It also helped with the moon being out so we could see what we were doing!

For the most part I didn't take or make many photographs on this trip. We spent most of the time together and as such it didn't lend itself well to photography. However right behind our camp site was this really interesting outcropping of a hill. The moon was almost full and the lighting on it was really amazing. So after we finished up with Devin's bath and he was getting dressed I grabbed a camera, tripod and cable release and made this capture.

All in all it was a really wonderful trip and we both had a really great time. For some crazy reason I truly enjoy the peace and quite found out in Death Valley. For instance at one point everyone at Devil's Golf Course left and it was basically just the two of us and not being able to hear anything and to just experience it is really amazing.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

First day... (Death Valley)

Our trip started out pretty good and keep on going that way! It was a long drive out to Death Valley and we left a little late but we did hit our first destination right on time. The only problem is that everyone else had the same idea we did, leave on Friday to get a full-hookup site! Needless to say everyone else made it there before we did so we had to switch to plan B. So we headed farther in Death Valley to go to the Furnace Creek Camp Ground. The only problem it seemed that everyone had THAT idea too! When we arrived at Furnace Creek it was also FULL and we could only stay for one night! Needless to say, Devin was NOT happy about that! So we switched to plan C!

On the way out we asked a Park Ranger and she said our only option to say the weekend was to head across the street to the other camp grounds. So there we went and there we pitched (you kind of pitch a trailer don’t you) our camp! So it was a good trip out here and everything is going fine!

On Saturday we headed out to Scotty’s Castle which I have read about but never been too. It was a LONG drive out there but it was pretty darn neat. It was amazing to think about folks building that place so many years ago. The Park Service performs “Living Tours” so our tour guide was in period clothing and acted as if it was 1939. She talked about what was going on in the world and all the “current” marvels that the castle had. It was a LOT of walking but Devin did an outstanding job and didn’t fall, lean, or touch anything he wasn’t supposed to.

The neatest part of the tour was the organ room. The guide turned it on as we were entering the annex of the castle and it resonated throughout the entire building. It was truly amazing and we both really loved it. So if you head out to Death Valley you need to set up some time to head out to Scotty’s Castle and take the tour. Just make sure you get there early or plan to eat lunch there because they only take 16 (I think) people per tour. So if the next group is already full then you have to wait. However there are other things to do in the area so if you plan it right it’s no problem! Well, we didn’t plan it right, but it did work out!

So today we are going to go look at some other sites and probably try to put some more water in the trailer (we ran out this morning!).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Death Valley - revisited...

This is a quick one. Tomorrow Devin and I leave for a long weekend trip to Death Valley. I am going to load everything up in the morning, pick him up out of school and hit the road. My goal is to be there by 1600 hrs tomorrow. We will spend Saturday and Sunday there and head back on Monday. I think we will also try to go to Scotty's Castle on one of the days. For the most part we are going to just hang out, visiting a couple of places, and play some games. All in all I am really looking forward to this trip!

Interesting note: Okay, so Denise gets this call from her younger brother Brian today. I guess after some small talk he tells her he recently moved out of state... Okay, that's cool, she figured it was Oklahoma or maybe Arkansas? Nope, he moved to Van Nuys California! So she now has family only 98 miles away... I would have NEVER guessed that would have happened! Anyway he has a bit of a cold so we aren't connecting up this weekend (with the DV trip I am kind of glad) but hopefully we will soon. Heck, he is closer than Samy's Camera...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Jerry Ellison...

Well, funerals appear to be occurring with more regularity. Today was the funeral for my Uncle Jerry Ellison. He passed away on Sunday January 6th. The memorial service was today so I took the day and went to Bakersfield. The funeral home was actually only three blocks away from my grandmother's house so at least it was easy to find. It seemed like a lot of people came to offer their support and it was kind of weird not really knowing many people there. I obviously had the chance to see my cousins Randy and Rhonda and my grandmother again. Randy's work put on a very nice reception after the service and we all caravanned over there after the service. One thing I didn't realize today is that his birthday was a day after mine, he was born on 8 August 1939 in Madera California. I also didn't realize that he was born in California, I always thought he was born in Oklahoma.

On the way back from Bakersfield I was able to pull off the freeway as I was going up toward Tehachapi and made the photograph above. I think it worked well for this posting...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Desert road test...

I have had an idea to do some "lost businesswoman" shots along one of our many deserted desert roads here in town. The problem has always been trying to figure out what to do with the kids. So today we decided to give it a go and loaded everyone (and everything) into the van and headed out. The plan was to set the kids up with a movie in the car while we tried to do a shoot. It actually worked out very well and I think this might be a good way to start getting some of the images I have been thinking about. We shot quite a few images (about 240) and I used a reflector on a stand to provide a bit of fill. I would have lighted to shoot when the light was a bit better but for a test I think this was perfect and we got some usable shots out of it. The image above is one of twelve that we submitted.

I also spent some time today updating my Model Mayhem account. I am trying to change it up a bit in hopes that I can attract some models. I am also going to go through another attempt to recruit some new models. There are also some new people listed in town so I have some more local opportunities that might pan out.

I also had an opportunity to meet Denise's favorite person at Circuit City in Palmdale. Nick has been an outstanding source of information on everything from movies, music and games. So today we met up with him and got some more advice on games and music. We got to talking today and I found out (Denise did mention it before) that he was a musician and into various style including goth. If anyone knows me they know that for some strange reason I am really fascinated with that. We got to talking and I mentioned that I do photography and have been waiting to photograph goth type images. So HOPEFULLY he will connect up and we can create some images. He sounds like he has some pretty darn cool ideas for photos and I think it would be a blast to make them. So dude, if you're reading this, drop me a note and let's connect up! [duane (at) duaneellison (dot) com] Oh and that album rocks!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Return updates!

First, I may try to find an image for this post tomorrow, but as it stands right now this is going to be a text post.

V-Moda: Okay, these guys are awesome! They have a wonderful product, although pricey, in their V-Moda Vibe-Duo which is a in-ear headphone designed specifically for the iPhone. The sound is great and they appear really well made. I had a problem with a broken cable where the right side went out. I contact the company via email and they were very responsive, polite and professional in their communication. Now, had I known where the receipt was when I first contact them I would have resolved this issue much quicker but as you may remember I didn't find the receipt until I went looking for the light meter receipt. I sent the broken set back and they quickly sent me a new (in the box) unit. They were VERY responsive in their emails and quick to return my new set. So, major kudos for their customer support! V-Moda, you guys rock!

Sekonic: These guys were pretty darn awesome too! The only issue I would say is that had I not called them I would not have known the status. It would have been nice had they either called or sent an email. Now I have been having spam deletion problems so it is possible (unlikely) that they did attempt to send an email. But, they quickly repaired the unit and replaced the dome (I had some grit in mine from the Death Valley trip). Basically they got it Friday (their closed on the weekends) and fixed and shipped it the following Monday. When I called for an update (to make sure they received it) on Monday they had already fixed and shipped the unit. I received the fix (and working) unit today! So tomorrow I should be able to use it with my pocket wizards! That is going to be REALLY nice! Again, they are a company that stood behind their product and quickly repaired the product and got me up and working again! Hmm, so I guess I could say, Sekonic, you guys flash!!! (I think you get the idea).

Photoflex: I have commented about them before and I am not thrilled with their customer support. As you may recall I ripped off one of the wheels on my lighting case. They have taken care of me and if everything went well my new case should have shipped today. I did not, however, receive an email or anything indicating that it shipped so my gut feel is that it did not. After communicating back and forth and checking with them about shipping the old case back they decided that I didn't need to do it. So here is the deal, in my opinion they should have made that determination right off the bat. I mean we are talking about a large case that would be difficult and cumbersome to ship. Had I not asked the question (again) I would have paid to ship this back. So in the end they are standing behind their product and I must say they never questioned if they should replace it so kudos to them for that but the process was a bit more difficult than I felt it really should have been. I assume I will have the new case sometime next week and I will be able to close this item out. Bottom line I am still happy with Photoflex but I wish they would look at customer service just a bit more and take a little extra effort to make their customers happy.

NOTE: I will add links and such tomorrow!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Drive Thru Coffee Shop

The other day we drove into Tehachapi for dinner. On the way back home we drove through the town and I ran across this neat scene of a closed coffee shop. The lighting was really neat so I parted the car and pulled myself out into the cold to make the capture. It was really a neat quite scene.

Update: I called Sekonic today to check on the status of my meter. They informed me that they did receive it, fixed it this morning and shipped it back out today. So I should have it by the end of the week! I was a bit surprised and potentially very pleased with their customer support. Hopefully everything will be working well when it arrives. Photoflex also sent me an email saying they should have the new case in this week and that I should send my case back to them. Since that one is LARGE I am still trying to figure out how to send it back. The post office just says to tape the label to it and ship it back...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Concepts - Valentine Day

Today I setup the new roll of red seamless paper and pulled out the Valentine Day hearts I bought a couple of weeks back. I have had some ideas with the girls to photograph with the heart and today I was finally able to put that plan into motion. As always it is an interesting experience trying to direct you kids when trying to photograph them doing something but I think we got some really neat shots. Not sure how well they will do but one this is for certain, they will be cute photographs of the kids! Both Desirae and Deanna were very good about it and they had fun.

Other than that it was a fairly lazy day with the exception of a Pampered Chef party that Denise went to. It sounded like she had fun with that as well.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Pelican New Year!

Okay, so I had to work Happy New Year into the post because this is the first blog post of the year and it is already the 4th! All I can say is that it has been a busy week, even though it has been a short week.

But let's move on to bigger (literally) and better (I hope) things! My debacle with defective equipment (light meter, Photoflex case, v-moda headphones, etc) caused me to re-think my storage/protection of my studio strobe equipment. I have had such good luck with Pelican cases in the past that I decided to purchase a case to hold my strobe equipment. Now there was no way that I was going to put all my light stands and such in a single case but I figured if I could at least provide maximum protection to my electronic equipment that would probably be a good thing.

So today this huge box for my brand new Pelican 1630 arrived at the door. The box is MUCH larger than I anticipated (wanted to believe) but all my calculations worked out and I was able to pick-n-pluck out the new home for:

  • Photoflex StarFlash 1600 stobes
  • Alien Bee AB800 strobes
  • Speed rings for Photoflex
  • Speed rings for Alien Bee
  • Reflectors for Alien Bee
  • Pocket Wizards
  • Power & Sync Cords

    I still have room for my Sekonic L-358 (when it returns) if I decide to put it in the box.

    As is very typical with Pelican cases it went together pretty quickly. It features a "pick-n-pluck" system so you don't have to manually cut out the foam to put your gear in. Everything is pre-cut in little squares and you just pluck out your design. This particular case is pretty darn deep and for the equipment on the right I didn't even do into the bottom layer of foam in the case. I did have to do it for the Photoflex speed rings which are underneath the strobes.

    Just as an aside note, when I was thinking about doing this I pulled out my Pelican 1650 to see if that size would work. It was too small for the photo equipment but what was interesting is that everything looked brand new in the box. All that equipment has been stored in the garaged for a LONG time and it was in perfect condition. So with that I figure it would make a safe and secure home for my lighting gear!