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Camping Essentials: ARB 2000 Awning

Camping Essentials: ARB Awning
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I love camping. Aside from the solitude, quiet, and photo ops it affords, I also just love the gear. A good, reliable product that makes the adventure more comfortable, easier, or safer is worth its weight in gold. Because if I'm honest, camping can be a huge pain in the ass. Setting up camp, tearing it down...trying to cook with bugs all around...the heat, the cold... There's a reason most people would rather stay in a hotel.

As a resident of Southern California, I do much of my camping in the local deserts. My proximity to them has fostered a deep fondness for the arid landscape. And when you're out in the desert, your biggest enemy is the sun and the heat. That's why some good, quick shade is a must for desert traveling.

Enter the ARB Awning.

ARB 2000 Awning Review

This style of awning is a camping essential in the world of overland expeditions (4x4 camping). It attaches to the roof of your 4x4 and sets up quick for when you need shelter from the elements. As a landscape photographer, I find it invaluable at camp or when I'm stopping for photos along the journey.

Aside from shade, this awning would be invaluable in the rain. One of my favorite things in the world is to sit out and listen to a rainstorm. Get me out to the desert in a steady rain and I'm in hog heaven. Throw in some scattered thunderstorms and I might never leave. In the past I've always been stuck in my driver's seat to view it through my windshield, but with this awning, in just a few minutes I can have a shelter set up that will not only allow me to soak in the desert sounds while staying dry, but I can even take pictures from underneath it.

Overall I'm very impressed with the quality of this ARB 2000 Awning. I'm actually surprised it's not a more expensive item. The tarp is heavy duty, waterproof, and UV protected...it would take a lot to damage this thing. The support poles are lightweight aluminum that lock with a simple twist to the proper height/length. I was very pleased to see just how stable this awning is once set up. With how lightweight the poles are, I wasn't expecting it to be super strong, but I think it could hold up to some tough weather. With the legs staked down and the guy wires attached, it feels incredibly rigid.

Set up is a piece of cake. ARB claims it can be set up in 30 seconds. With 2 people I actually believe that figure, but doing it solo is a little trickier and will take a few minutes. I've only ever set it up solo, which can be a bit awkward and unwieldy to do, but it's not too difficult. I imagine the 8-foot version (the ARB 2500 Awning) would be nearly impossible to set up solo for many people. The 4-foot version (the ARB 1250 Awning) would be a breeze. Each awning model extends away from the truck about 8-feet.

ARB 2000 Awning Review

ARB 2000 Awning Review

When the awning is rolled up, there is really no "wiggle room" to cause rattling. It's held in tight with 2 velcro straps in an impressively small package. The rolled up awning stays protected under a strong nylon reinforced PVC bag closed with thick zippers. The protective bag is actually one of the most impressive aspects of this ARB awning. You can tell they didn't cut corners here at all. It's going to experience more punishment from the elements than any other part of this awning, so they made sure it was heavy-duty and built to last. I drove around in the rain quite a bit at highway speeds and not a drop of water got past the protective bag.

ARB also makes some awesome accessories for the awning like a mosquito net, a sidewall, and an enclosed room. I have the enclosed room to serve as a kitchen and/or tent which I'll be showing to you in a future blog post and video.

ARB 2000 Awning and ARB Enclosed Room

So if you have a truck or SUV and you like to get out into the elements with it, check out the ARB awning. Camping essentials like this make the journey so much more enjoyable. And with the way it's built, I'm sure it'll last for years to come.

Helpful Links:
- ARB 2000 Awning
- ARB 1250 Awning
- ARB 2500 Awning
- Rhino Rack 31103 Awning Mounts

This blog post and video were not sponsored or endorsed by ARB 4x4 Accessories or any other company.

New Photos: Top of the World Laguna Beach

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop
Top of the World Laguna Beach

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I held a workshop last night at Top of the World in Laguna Beach, CA. Eight of my wonderful students and I ventured to this high-point overlooking Orange County to see what we could capture. Seeing as how it's "June gloom" season, the marine layer was out in full force.

For those of you outside Orange County, the marine layer is a thick blanket of clouds that keeps the beach cities in a perpetual state of overcast skies throughout June. It's a real bummer for tourists who plan their SoCal summer trip expecting that classic California weather. Take it from a local: you're better off coming in August or September.

Top of the World Laguna Beach is one of those places where the beautiful compositions don't immediately jump out at you. When you head down to a beach with some epic tide pools with an epic sunset and epic waves, let's be honest, it's not difficult to get an epic shot. Just throw on your wide angle lens and get low. But Top of the World doesn't offer such easy ingredients for a good shot. You have to work harder up here. You have to look for the subtle beauty - soft colors, layers, patterns, lines...

Everyone wants those "punch you in the face" landscapes. You know what I mean - super wide angle, bold colors, epic light - the kind of stuff that racks up the likes on Instagram. But it's good to try something else. It's good to try muted colors for a change and see what you can do with a telephoto lens.

I could tell when we arrived to Top of the World many of my students were skeptical about getting good shots up here. But once they found their groove and saw what kind of subtle beauty could be captured, I was proud to see them come up with stunning compositions! Some were thrown out of their comfort zone, and they came through like pros.

I'm sharing my pictures here because I just loved the light and scenery we had that night. The marine layer rolled in, filling in the nooks and crannies between the hills, providing some of the tastiest layers I've ever seen. We were pretty much eye level with the top of the marine layer, which was awesome! You could see the top of the "blanket" and the sky above, which resulted in some seriously stunning light. Plus, at Top of the World Laguna Beach, you have, hands-down, the best view of iconic Saddleback Mountain.

I took all of these shots handheld with my Canon 5D (original version). No filters were used, although I did get creative with the white balance to get some cool color casts. I was looking to capture lower-contrast, more muted, simplistic compositions. I was after subtle beauty, not the "punch you in the face" compositions.

If you'd like to join me on a workshop like this, check out my full schedule here.

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Top of the World Laguna Beach photography workshop

Making a Fine Art Photography Print

Making a Fine Art Photography Print (2 Part Video)
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I'm a big advocate of printing photos. I urge my students to do it whenever I can. And that's because my sense of pride and satisfaction is at its peak when I create a fine art photography print to hang on the wall. There's something about it that feels so much better than just sharing it digitally.

I mean, come on, how good can it feel sharing a photo on Instagram? You spend hours and hours getting to a location, setting up a shot, and processing the image only to have it displayed on a 2.5-inch wide screen that viewers will swipe past in under 3 seconds. You get a few likes, and that feels good, but then the picture just disappears into "the cloud" forever. Digital sharing is "here today, gone tomorrow."

But printing...that's different. When you get a print made, you're making a bold statement. You're saying "I'm so proud of this picture that I'm willing to spend money to get others to see it. I want it around for years, maybe decades. I want it on display in such a way that people can't just swipe past it." When you get a print made, you're investing in your work. You're saying that it's worth the effort and expense. And that does wonders for your self-esteem.

Fine Art Photography Wall Art

Think I'm overstating it? Get a big ol' print made and get it framed up real nice. Then tell me it feels about the same as posting them on Facebook. The tangibility of a print creates a sense of fulfillment that 1's and 0's just can't. For me, it's about the same as emailing a friend vs sitting down with them face-to-face. Sure, both are the exchange of ideas, but I'm betting you have many more memorable face-to-face interactions than memorable emails.

So that's why I decided recently to make a new fine art photography print. And the image I chose was one I took in Joshua Tree National Park on black and white film. I actually took this picture during an on-location video I made awhile back (check that out here). I love the vibe of this photo and it's something I've wanted hanging on my wall for awhile now because Joshua Tree is a very special place to me. I'm utterly in love with the desert and I've had some of my most incredible experiences in this part of the country. Also, what can I say, I just like the photo!

Whenever I set out to make wall art from one of my photos, I envision the finished piece as my very first step. I picture the framing style, the type of paper, the size - I get it all worked out in my head until it looks perfect. Things will get tweaked here and there as I go through the steps of it, but for the most part, I know the vibe I want and how to get it.

For this piece, I wanted a rough, old-timey vibe with a lot of texture and depth. I'd never used watercolor paper in a framed photo before, but I knew from previous samples that watercolor paper would provide the texture I was after. The only problem I have with watercolor paper is that it's for inkjet style prints and, generally, I hate inkjet prints. They are far inferior in overall look to Lightjet prints, which is what I typically get. But I really wanted that texture, so inkjet it would be.

So what's the difference between inkjet and Lightjet? Inkjet is ink on paper, like what you do at home. Lightjet is photosensitive paper (like in the darkroom) that's put through a machine that exposes your digital image to it with light (like in the darkroom) and then puts the paper through developer and chemicals and such, just like traditional darkroom prints. The end result is a true photographic print baked into the paper itself with a superior look.

I wasn't looking forward to inkjet printing on this piece, but luckily, watercolor paper absorbs ink differently than typical gloss paper, which results in better prints than I'm used to seeing from inkjet. And the technicians at Pro Photo Connection in Irvine (www.prophotoirvine.com) did a superb job on the print as always.

To add some more texture to this piece, I created a deckled edge on the paper, which is where the paper looks torn rather than clean-cut. The process for this is simple and is described completely in part 2 of the video series linked at the top of this post.

Then, to get my depth, I opted for a float-mount in a shadow box. This lifts the print away from the backer board and creates lovely shadows in the frame. The framing was done by my framer of choice: Salamon Art in Fountain Valley, CA (www.salamonart.com). They always do a perfect job.

When getting prints this big, it's a good idea to get a proof first. As you'll see in the video, a proof is an 8x10 snippet of the full print that you can use to verify the look before giving the go-ahead on the full-size piece. This is a great way to ensure there are no unpleasant surprises in the full-size print.

The finished fine art piece came out great. I got the vibe, the texture, and the depth I was after. It's a really cool style overall and I plan to do many more in this fashion.

If you're interested in purchasing this fine art photography print from Joshua Tree National Park or if you'd like to get a similar piece made, please drop me a line here.

Fine Art Photography Wall Art

Fine Art Photography Wall Art

Fine Art Photography Wall Art

Fine Art Photography Wall Art

Fine Art Photography Wall Art