I see a sign!!

By Rick Sprain

If you’re a photographer, then you must love to travel. Especially here in the state of Arizona. No matter where you call home here in Arizona, you’re only minutes from someplace spectacular that’s deserving to be photographed. Having lived in Prescott for a few years now, I would make the trek to Yuma to visit family as often as

Old hotel sign in Wickenburg

possible. Highway 60, the highway traveling between Wickenburg and Highway 10 near Quartzsite, was once the main road connecting Los Angeles and Phoenix. Small towns such as Agulia, Wenden, Gladden, Harcuvar, Brenda, Hope and Salome became popular rest stops for the weary traveler.

Salome definitely had its share of characters over the years, from the towns co-founder Dick Wickenburg Hall to brothers Russell “Bus” and William Sheffler. Hall (born DeForest Hall) was a humorist who lived in Salome and wrote the towns newsletter The Salome Sun. One of his many characters  he developed was the Salome Frog. The frog was a seven-year old bullfrog weighing 18 pounds who never learned to swim because the lack of waterholes in the desert.

1940s postcard of the Sheffler’s Motel

Current sign for Sheffler’s Motel

The Sheffler’s  moved to Salome in 1939 after California outlawed gambling from ships anchored off the coast. The brothers supplied slot machines to the mob that were using on the boats as flouting casinos. With the intent to create their own resort in which Californians would flock to, the Sheffler’s constructed the Sheffler’s Motel and purchased Van’s Cafe. Although appearing legitimate, the business were a front for the brothers  real interest, which was gambling and prostitution. The cafe building is now home to the Salome Restaurant and the Cactus Bar. The Shefflers Motel is still in business and appears today as it did back in the 1940s.

As you travel up and down Highway 60, you can’t but help to notice the old hotel signs along the way. In the 1940s and 1950’s neon signs were all the rage. Hotels and motels all across the county were placing these bright signs along the highways as beacons for their establishments.

The old Sunset Motel in Wendon has
been beautifuly restored and is now used by
local artests to sell thgeir work

The Saguara Motel sign in Aguila






Quite a few of the old signs are still visible today. Most are no longer operational, but still serve to remind us of days when signs could be a work of art. As you drive along on Highway 60 or Route 66 or any other of the old highways, take a look at the history you are passing. Stop and take photographs of the relics from the past. Some will still have their bright colors reflecting the

1940s postcard of the Blue Star Motel

afternoon sun while others are barely readable.  If you are traveling at night and you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a

1950s postcard of the Ambers Hills Motel and Cafe

working neon sign, pull over to a safe spot, set up your camera on a tripod and snap a few shots.

Current sign of the Amber Hills Motel

Rick Sprain is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

Concert iPhoneography

By Jeff Insel

I am a very lucky guy, in my semi-retirement I found a job at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) as a driver for the Theater department (and now also a p/t Artist Coordinator). I am a very lucky guy because I’ve always loved live music – of all kinds. I get to meet and talk with the Artists and get to know them a bit. And, having an interest in photography, I sometimes get to take some photographs of the artists performing with my iPhone.

The biggest challenge is the lack of good light on stage, the second challenge is that the artists are almost always in motion. Most of the artists allow patrons to take photos during the first few songs and always without flash. I usually take photos from the wings at the side of the stage and sometimes from behind the stage if the stage door is open – usually because they’re using a sound monitor there and I have access backstage. It’s almost impossible to get good photos from the very back – 70 feet away – do to the concert lighting, though I often try.

The most rewarding part is often times, after the show, artists will be out front signing CD’s and posing for photos – which anyone can participate in so I often do as it makes for a fun collection, such as with Laurence Juber and Keiko Matsui below.

It’s fun to post the photos on Instagram and sometimes email them to friends and family who are usually envious of my opportunity. Sometimes I make collages and try different filters as with the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Del McCoury Band. Mostly it’s just fun to do and once in a while I get an interesting photo out of it.

Jeff Insel is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Get off the trail and into the water!

 By Rick Sprain

Taking your camera on a nice trail is fun and good exercise but how about seeing the world from a entirely new perspective?  On the water. With all the rain we’ve had this winter it’s the perfect time to hit the lakes. Here in Prescott as with many of the lakes and  reservoirs around the state the rain has filled the lakes to the brim.

Since most of the small lakes prohibit motor powered boats, canoes and kayaks are a perfect remedy. If you don’t own one, many locations have concessions that will rent a canoe or kayak by the hour. By now you’re thinking there’s no way I’m taking my $3000 camera or smart phone anywhere near the water. If you just want to go out and enjoy the sites and tranquility that’s fine, but  you’re missing a perfect opportunity to photograph something that most people won’t be able to see.

To help with this problem, I have a number of items that can help you keep your camera safe and dry while still able to capture that perfect picture. You don’t have to spend $3,000 or even $300 on a waterproof housing for your camera. Most remedies range from about $15 to about $50. For you phone and point and shoot  photographers out there, there are a number of products that are available for under $15. The bag shown here is a perfect example. The cost is only about $15 and it lets you shoot right through the bag. There are similar products for phones. Even a tightly sealed freezer bag may protect your camera or phone  from a quick dunk or splash of water from an ore.

Personally I use a water proof bags shown here. There are many styles and sizes available that will accommodate just about any camera. Most range from $15 to $50. These are the same type of bags used by rafters in their boats as they go down the Colorado River. When used correctly they are totally water proof and will float if they end up in the water.

I also take along a towel to set the camera on along with a lens cleaning kit just in case a few drops get on my lens. I’ll take the camera out of bag, check it for water spots and to make sure the setting haven’t changed and take the picture. I then place it back in the bag and paddle to the next spot. Warmer weather will be here soon so get out and get on the water.

Rick Sprain is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

On the Street

Author: David Halgrimson

While on an AHPW to Missions and Pueblos of Santa Fe and Taos, I had the great experience and idea of taking portraits of people on the street or at events we visited and attended.

For many, taking pictures of strangers, especially if you have to ask them, is a bit daunting, scary, nerve wracking, you name it and it is for me as well. You have to get in a mindset that when you see someone who has a great look you are going to do what you have to to get the shot. There are more than one way to get candid street shots, one is to be try the shot without the person knowing, a bit sneaky, and another is to walk right up and ask. The behind the scene shots can be a bit more candid but are more difficult as you can’t just stand in front of them and hold the camera to your eye. The directness of asking will give more control, at least a little, of the shot, yet it is not as candid. Whichever you choose get out of your comfort zone and do it, it can be very rewarding.

On this trip I choose both ways but mostly to walk up and ask. Most of the responses from the people were, “what for?”, “why”, “who are you?”, “where are you from?”, “what are you going to do with the pictures?”, “what do you want me to do?”. My answers were simply, “I like your look”, “your hat is great”, “you have great eyes”, “just because”, “my name is”, “I am with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops”, “I love taking pictures”, “great shots might go in competitions”, “just do what you were doing” etc. No one turned me down and we had some great conversations.

1) The first gentleman I met at Pueblo of Acoma and he agreed without question. The sun was behind him and I used a Canon 5D Mark II with a 24-105 lens at 75mm.


2) The second gentleman was walking along the street in Madrid NM, he was a bit shocked but agreed. The hat the beard the rough face all worked great. Canon 5D Mark II with a 24-105 lens at 75MM.


3) Next up was this girl, she was looking in some shops in a small part of town and when I first spotted her I thought, “there’s a great look wonder if she would let me take her picture” then chickened out. Saw her again later and kicked myself in the posterior and asked. Once again a shock, “why?”, “great eyes and the hat.


4) This woman was selling hats in Santa Fe and the person I was with was buying. When I asked she was surprised and not so sure but agreed. I had to shoot fast as I knew she would not pose long. Canon 5D Mark II 24-105 lens at 105mm.


5) Next up, we were at the Taos Pow Wow and I saw her a couple times and finally decided to ask, again, “why?”, who are you with?”. I loved the light spots coming though the hat onto her face and the great eyes.


6&7) The next two were a little tougher, they were standing together I decided to shoot them from afar, that was almost a big mistake. For my first attempt I used my Canon 7D with a 70-200 lens so I could shoot far across a field, whoops, got caught.  One of them put feathers up in front of his face then lowered them and motioned to me with a stern looking finger, no not that one, to approach him. So I did, he asked who I was what I was doing and what was I going to do with his pictures. I told him who I was, who I was with and that I wanted the pictures for personal use. He then asked if I was going to sell the pictures and that he was looking for a photographer from a previous time who was selling pictures of him and he was not happy. I assured him I was not going to sell his pictures and after some more discussion he and his partner agreed to let me take their pictures. It was a bit intimidating but all worked out and I later found out he was the Warrior Chief.

8) This lovely lady was watching the Pow Wow dancers and I first took a shoot from her side but decided I wanted a more frontal shot, so once again decided it would be better to ask. Same reactions along with “what do you want me to do?” and I said just do what you are doing and ignore me. After taking the shot I talked to her and gave her my business card and told her to email me if she would like a copy of the image. Never heard from her but love the shot. Canon 7D with 70-200 lens at 200mm.


9) This shot was taken at the Taos Pueblo in one of the Indian homes where they were selling art crafts created by the local Indians. I was buying a turquoise ring and this gentleman  was giving me a critique of  the ring. We had a long discussion, too long for this article, and then I asked if I could take his picture. The lighting was the best of all as it was coming in from a doorway camera left but it kept changing because clouds were passing by. Canon 5D Mark II with 24-105 lens at 73mm.


10) Finally this interesting guy, he owned an old defunct gas station on highway 68 along the Rio Grande river between Taos and Santa Fe. The place was great, full of old gas station memorabilia inside and out and he was supper interesting. I wanted to catch him in his environment so we shot outside with a background full of his stuff. Canon 5D Mark II with 24-105 lens at 24mm.


David Halgrimson is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Black & White Photography: Top 10 Tips & Techniques

Author: Joel Wolfson


I just finished conducting an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop entitled See The World In Black and White. We had a great group with a lot of talent and a broad range of styles. We covered a lot of information and did a lot of shooting and processing but below is a condensed version of the top ten tips and techniques. Try these and if you want to explore it further join us next year.

1.    Shoot raw  Except for compact point and shoot cameras, most digital cameras allow you to capture raw images.  This gives you the widest range of tones and colors possible.  It also requires some post processing but if you want the best image possible, use raw capture.  When you shoot in raw you will also be shooting in color (see tip #3).  This may not immediately make sense but most software uses the original color information while you’re optimizing your black and white image.  For example, if I’m using Topaz B&W Effects, I can lower the blue values (Color Sensitivity sliders) in a black and white landscape which has the effect of darkening the grays of the sky.  Likewise I can brighten the gray tone of leaves on a tree by increasing the green values.
•    If your camera isn’t capable of being set for RAW, shoot in color for the reasons just cited.
2.    Shoot with the intention of creating black and white images.  The best black and white images are generally those intended to be that way from the beginning.  If you’re not an old hand at black and white photography then it’s important to train yourself to think and visualize in black in white and shoot specifically with that in mind.  Of course you can discover an image that looks great as a monochrome after the fact but your rate of successful black and white images will be much higher with that intention behind them.
3.    Set the LCD screen on the back of your camera for Monochrome.  Most cameras will allow you to shoot raw and also be able to view the images on the LCD in black and white/monochrome.  This helps you to visualize in black and white as you’re shooting.  Canon calls it “Picture Style” and Nikon calls it “Picture Control”.  You’ll want to set your camera to shoot RAW + JPEG- meaning it will shoot both of these at the same time and what you will be viewing on the LCD is the black and white JPEG. You want the raw image too for optimum conversion to black and white later.
•    A word of caution here.  The LCD on the back of your camera is NOT very accurate whether you view in color or black and white.  If you treat it as a general guideline it can be helpful but don’t try to judge nuances from the LCD.
4.    Compose without color.  This is a mental challenge.  When you’re looking at or thinking about a scene, subject, or moment to capture, ask yourself: Will this image tell the the story best in black and white?  This means trying to think about the lighting, subject, and tonal values over any influence from color.  Look for images you can create that are compelling without color.
5.    Shoot on overcast or rainy days.  For color photography many photographers will avoid shooting on overcast or rainy days.  I think such weather is great for black and white (I could make the same argument for color but we’re talking monochrome here.)  There are all kinds of subtle tones that might otherwise be lost on a sunny day with harsh shadows. It’s also great light for portraits and photos of people.
6.    Think about the non-color visual design elements of your image.  Without color the components of visual design become that much more important.  Look at the lines in the image.  Are they horizontal? Vertical? Diagonal? Do they form a pattern?  Rhythm or repeating elements in a photo are interesting, with a break in the repetition being even more interesting.  Also look at the texture, shapes, and forms in the image.  Concentrating on these will take your mind off the color and enhance your ability to “see” and think in monochrome.

7.    Use a calibrated monitor and neutral viewing environment.  A properly profiled monitor is essential to making any judgements about, or adjustments to, your images.  This may be even more important for black and white where the subtleties of tone are critical.  Also best to keep your viewing environment as neutral as possible.  White walls are better than bright red and even subdued neutral clothing helps because your clothing will be reflected back into the monitor. I usually wear a gray or black shirt or sweatshirt when I’m adjusting images.
8.    Train your brain for black and white by comparing the same images in both black and white and color.  Most photo software lets you go back and forth between images or look at them side-by-side.  A good way to teach yourself how to visualize in black and white is to look at the same image both ways.  Do this with as many images as you can.  I would include images that you initially intended to be black and white as well as those that were not intended that way.  Sometimes you will discover great black and white images that weren’t shot with that purpose.  More importantly it will ultimately help you be able to look at a color scene in the world and visualize it as a black and white image.


9.    Crop your image before doing adjustments to it.  If you’re looking at a lot of extraneous information that will be cropped out eventually anyway, you don’t want it to influence your adjustments to the image (which it will if you leave it there). Our eyes and brains look at things relative to what’s around it- so don’t let irrelevant information get in the way of fine tuning your image.
10.    Before converting your color image to black and white make it a bit gaudy.  By this I mean make your image more contrasty and saturated than you would if the final image were to be in color.  Monochrome images are about the contrasts of tones and I’ve found that by exaggerating the contrast in color you end up with a better starting point when you convert to black and white.  This may mean using both contrast and saturation related controls in your software.

Successful black and white photography is a combination of both technical and artistic elements. Good camera equipment and software is only a starting point.  I hope that these tips will help those starting out and serve as reminders for those that are more experienced.  Most of all, have fun!

Joel Wolfson is a photographer/instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops
You can sign up for Joel’s email newsletter here.

See it, Feel it, Take the Shot

Author: Rick Jacobi

When doing street photography you cannot go looking for a photo, it has to come to you. You have to see it and feel it in a split second. That means your camera has to be ready at all times.  I don’t always  know when a photo opportunity  is going to happen, it just happens.
I was sitting at a bar and all of sudden three glasses appeared. I was not looking for three glasses to shoot. They came to me. My camera was ready and was able to get the shot.
In this next  image, I was admiring the beauty of the bar, but wasn’t compelled to take the shot until the bartender showed up in the middle of the bar. The scene came to me, not me to the scene.  My camera was ready and I got the shot.   With most street photography, I saw it, felt it and took the shot.
Rick Jacobi is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Angle of Light

Author: Amy Horn

adams - Pumice & PinesRecently, I came across a 1947 Arizona Highways portfolio of photographs by Ansel Adams captured at Sunset Crater. The most interesting photo to me was “Pumice & Pines” with its strong use of shape and form. So, I jumped in the car and drove to Sunset Crater to capture the late afternoon light. I definitely had trees in my mind so when I came across this large snag (standing dead tree) a few feet off the trail. I was inspired. I treated this

Final image with B/W processing

Final image with B/W processing

tree like any other subject and walked around it to find the best angle and light. As the sun was lowering in the sky I didn’t have much time and didn’t have much access to front light so I evaluated side and back light.

The first image is of the tree with warm, side light showing the strength of the snag and its isolation from other trees. It reminded me of a figure guarding the walkway. Then, I moved around to the East to capture back light and was intrigued at how the branches created such a different image. Now, I had a silhouette of this guardian and knew this was my shot. I quickly adjusted my position to capture more of the tree and stopped down my lens to capture a “sunburst.” The sun lowered to a perfect spot on the snag and I captured the image with my Nikon D600, 24-120mm lens at 48mm, 400 ISO, 1/640 and f/14. For variety, I converted the image in post processing to a black/white and added a little vignette for drama. I enjoy looking at photographs from the masters and from my students. Evaluating light and getting inspired is all part of the journey.

Amy Horn is a professor of photography at Northern Arizona University and instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops. To see her current schedule view ahpw.org or horndesigns.com.