Blog to Book

Not too long ago I found myself revisiting blog posts from the past year and thinking it would be fun to turn the posts into a book. To that end I asked my wife Joann if she would be interested in tackling the project. We started with a few posts from early 2018 and used those posts to put together a “proof” to see how the process would go. From there we decided to break the posts for 2018 into two volumes, each about 50 pages.

We looked at several options for creating the book and decided that Shutterfly seemed to be well suited to the task. We’ve used Blurb for past projects but the book building tools for Shutterfly are easier to use. We also looked at some of the options that let you import your blog content directly into a book, but those platforms seemed to compromise on the quality of the photos and have limited options for formatting. We wanted a book that would represent the content of the blog with high quality photos and the flexibility to deal with some complex formatting issues. Some blog posts have only one photo some have a dozen or so. Sometimes a post would just have a short paragraph and sometimes they’d ramble on.

Needless to say after two and half months of massaging text and pictures we hit the “publish” button. Two weeks later the books arrived. They are now on the coffee table, and it’s a treat so be able to pick up a book and revisit past adventures. Amsterdam, Africa, Santa Fe, Chicago, Frank Lloyd Wright, Kayaking around the San Francisco Bay Area.

I’m not sure if the books will be something the grandchildren find years from now when they’re sorting through dusty belongings, but I expect the books will outlast the bits and pixels of the blog once those have evaporated into the ether.

Alamo Canyon

February 3. We woke up to rain. After three nights at Twin Peaks Campground in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument it was time to move on. Our plan for the day was to check in to the visitor center to see what the road conditions might be for the Puerto Blanco Drive, a 41 mile loop drive on a one-way dirt road. We were advised that the road might not be passable due to the rain and opted for the suggestion to drive as far as the Red Tank Trail Head and take a short hike.

When we got to the trail head, Joann set off to hike the one mile. I popped the top up on the camper and pulled out my laptop to edit photos and write. Again, with Carson, our dog, we were obligated to take turns hiking. Dogs are not allowed on the trails. When Joann returned I grabbed my rain coat and struck out on the trail hiking in the misty rain.

While I was gone, the carbon monoxide alarm in the camper decided to malfunction sending off a false alarm. The sound was too much for Carson and Joann ended up abandoning the camper and walking Carson up and down the road on a leash.

When I returned, we hit the road again, this time looking for a campsite in Alamo Canyon. Alamo Canyon is a primitive camp with four sites, first-come-first-served. We were happy to find a site open. Two of the sites were occupied with pop-up truck campers like ours, so we felt right at home.

As we were setting up camp the clouds parted and the sun shone through providing some dramatic afternoon light for some landscape photography. The next morning we took turns hiking the 1.8 mile trail up the canyon beyond the campground. More photos of the day’s adventures are available here.

Arroyo Salado

January 31. We are camped at Arroyo Salado Campground on the eastern edge of Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Arroyo Salado is a primitive camp. Pit toilets and that’s about it. No water although we’re well provisioned with our camper. Our campsite, while in the middle of the badlands of the Anza Borrego Desert, is a garden of wildflowers. It’s unusual to see so many wildflowers this early in the year and given the rains of mid-January the expectation is for a spectacular display in March and April. I had been following the DesertUSA wildflower report and came here hoping to find desert lilies. Some years ago when we were living in San Diego we would come out to the desert with hopes of finding desert lilies. They can be elusive, and the blooms depend on rain. I find the lilies to be quite striking, sending up stalks of white lily flowers that just seem out of place in the desert. This year the lilies are everywhere. Hundreds of plants in bloom and hundreds of new buds popping up.

We were up at 6:30 before sunrise. The sky was showing some signs of sunrise color and having gone to bed early it was easy to get up, although even with the mild weather it’s a challenge to climb out of a warm cozy sleeping bag. Temperature was about 54 F when we got up. At 9:30 it’s 60. You can see more photos of Arroyo Salado here. Once we had finished our wildflower explorations it was time to hit the road for Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a 300 mile drive.

Borrego Springs

On the evening of January 29 I decided I wanted to check out some of Ricardo Breceda’s sculptures, While Borrego Springs is notable for spring wildflowers in the surrounding desert, it’s also home to a collection of amazing sculptures, called the Metal Sky Art Sculptures. There are more than 130 sculptures here that represent everything from a 350 foot serpent that crosses the road, to dinosaurs and historical figures. I was hoping to find an opportunity to photograph a few of these on this trip. After a quick visit to a few of the sculptures the previous morning, I decided that afternoon or night time might afford some interesting photo opportunities. Our timing was a bit off though since we reached the serpent just as the shadows from the mountains were creeping across the valley floor. We only needed to wait a few minutes for sunset though which lit up the sky with color that seemed appropriate for a fiery serpent.

The sculptures were part of the vision of the late Dennis Avery, heir to the Avery Dennison label fortune and a self-made success on his own. Mr. Avery envisioned ‘free standing art’ on his property, Galleta Meadows Estates,. The steel welded sculptures were created by ‘Perris Jurassic Park’ owner/artist/welder Ricardo Breceda.

The sculptures are spread out around the north end of Borrego Springs. I had to search on-line for a map to help me locate them. They are all easily accessible and there is no fee to view them.

We noticed that bikes seemed to be quite popular in Borrego and I discovered a couple of places you can rent bikes including electric fat-tire bikes you can ride up the some of the sandy dirt roads. There are also tour operators that will take you on an off-road adventure.

You can view more photos here.

Two Weeks in the Desert

Alamo Canyon. Organ Pipe National Monument.

We’re on our return trip from two weeks in the desert. Our adventures have taken us through Red Rock Canyon State Park, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the Mojave Desert Preserve. Organ Pipe represents the Sonoran Desert with the iconic Saguaro Cactus, while Joshua Tree stands as the icon of the Mojave Desert. In Organ Pipe I was hiking in shorts and T-shirt, while in Mojave we woke to snow and 22 degree temperatures with howling winds.

We have WiFi access at the moment, so I thought I’d put up a short post to give you a preview of what to expect as I cue up the posts for the various segments of our trip. We’ve been traveling in our Four Wheel Pop-up Camper which has proven to be a comfortable way to travel. Stay tuned as I cue up more photos and stories about our trip.

Mount Whitney

On December 28 it was time to hit the road for the journey home. I was at the end of my Eastern Sierra holiday trip, exploring photo locations and visiting with family. My destination for the day was the Alabama Hills with the intent of finding a camping site with a view of Mount Whitney as the sun was rising.

Sunrise on Mount Whitney

I spent some time looking for a camp site, knocking about on dirt roads and putting my four wheel drive to use. While there were plenty of camping sites, I did not find one that had the vantage point I wanted. Those sites were claimed. I decided to go to “Plan B.” To camp in the rocks just off of Movieland Road and get up in the morning for a 15 minute walk to a vantage point that would give me the view I was after. This was just as well since there was a fierce wind blowing and the rocks provided some shelter.

Camping in the rocks in the Alabama Hills

I set my alarm for 6:00 and at 6:30 I had my camera and tripod in position. It was a glorious event to watch the sun come up and strike the mountains.

While the Alabama Hills are an exceptional destination, there are also a few other interesting places to explore on the drive from Big Pine to Lone Pine include the Manzanar National Historic Site. A former concentration camp where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II.

Here are a couple of more images from the morning dawn photo shoot; Lone Pine Peak and a detail of Mount Whitney.

Rust in the Desert

Today’s adventures didn’t take me far. I walked out the front door of my son’s place in Big Pine, walked the short distance to the end of the road and out into the desert. My goal was to walk the dog. There are plenty of trails and open space where Carson can run off leash here. Instead of walking the dog though, I got fascinated by some junk in the desert. Carson was on his own while I explored the junk. I like to think I can find interesting photos just about anywhere. I think photography is about seeing what’s in front of you. Hitting the road for a grand landscape destination is one thing. Creating interesting photos in the local junk yard, or your own back yard is a different sort of challenge.

I’ll be back on the road looking for more photo opportunities in the Eastern Sierra and the Highway 395 corridor shortly. Today is’s about junk. Let me know what you think.