Tales of a Ghost Town: Llano Del Río

Llano del Río


commune (or “colony”) located in what is now Llano, California, east of Palmdale in the Antelope ValleyLos Angeles County.

Western Comrade

Recently, I moved to the Antelope Valley in California. Of course, the first thing I do is research the town, and it’s near by locations to find places to shoot. To my surprise, there are several great locations that yell out to be photographed. I’m inclined to capture the more eerie type of location, so the one place that I had to go first was Llano del Río.


To sum up the town’s story, the ruins are the remnants of a failed socialist commune that was officially launched on May 1, 1914. Colony grew in great numbers and was very productive the first 3 years, but then was threatened by the Board of Directors and the General Assembly. After some water shortages, false claims to potential buyers, and failed aspirations, the  colony decided to pick up and relocate to New Llano, Louisiana. In 1918, what was left of the colony in California, filed for bankruptcy – and now all that we have left is the decay of a failed colonial experiment.

I enjoyed exploring the ruins! I found a very interesting yellow flower bush, a well, as well as two under ground platforms. Rusty cans and old beer bottles (not from 1914) adorned the walls that seemed to have once supported a now long-forgotten stairway.  Definitely felt like an old ghost town.

Do you have any ghost town stories? Or better yet, have you ever photographed a ghost town before? Comment below! I’d love to hear all about it  – as always, I would love to see what you create. Please leave a comment with the link where I can follow your work.


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White Balance

white balance


in photography:

the global adjustment of the intensities of the colors (typically red, green, and blue primary colors).

title img

During my last shoot, the topic of “white balance” came up, so I decided to elaborate on the subject in this week’s blog.

Why is it important to know in photography? Well, you know that “WB” button on your camera? That’s referring to your white balance. And your white balance will determine if your images come out warm (yellow temperature), or cool (blue temperature).

Although our eyes are good at judging what is white under different light sources, our cameras have the tendency to create a different color cast when setting the white balance in “Auto White Balance” (AWB).

I briefly talked about it in Reina en Rojo Pt3: Color Tones: To understand white balance, I’ll have to explain a little about color temperature.

Color temperature is measured in units of Kelvin (K) – this will help when choosing the light bulbs for your shoot (and your light bulbs at home too!)


So how do you obtain white balance? Instead of appearing blue or orange, the whites on your images should appear white after correctly white balancing them.

Indoors – Next time you’re in a room, take a look at the lighting; Depending on the lighting, you should set your camera to that temperature. For example (look at the far left section of the graph), if the room is lit by common household tungsten bulbs, the color temperature is at  about 2700K – set your camera at that Kelvin.

I used two different color temperature light bulbs for this shoot. Take a look at the backdrop. You’ll see a yellowish tone on the left, and a blueish tone on the right – white balance on both images was set at AWB.


Outdoors – Now take a look at the middle section of the graph on the right. Set your white balance depending on the time of day, or if its cloudy or sunny.

WB Setting was at 5500K during sunset to balance the blue sky

White balance may seem a bit trickier than what it really is. All it takes is a bit of practice. I suggest you screen shot the chart above, and use it as a cheat sheet. I’m also including a picture of how your WB display balance looks like so you can match them both.





I am always here to answer any questions, so please feel free to comment below – and as always, I would love to see what you create. Please leave a comment with the link where I can follow your work.


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Meet the Artist Ep. 2: Tony Handley

Welcome to Episode 2 of Meet the Artist! This week I have the pleasure to introduce to you someone I always enjoy having a conversation with: A great friend of mine who is also a great human being, with an even greater story; A living example that it is never too late to follow your dreams, and like he says, “It’s never too late to teach an ol’ dog new tricks”.

Please allow me to introduce to you, Tony Handley!

-TH– Hi, my name is Tony Handley, and I’m an actor.  And welcome to ‘Meet the Artist’.


-DG– So, when did you start acting?

-TH- Um, my family owned a movie theater when I was very young…  I believe I was in the first grade.  The first you know, sort of experience of going to the movies or free, and all the popcorn and sodas I want.  Then watch THE MOVIE, and pretend that was me up there.  I knew then that I wanted to be an actor.

    (DG– That’s great!)

    Yeah!  Um, when I was in the fourth grade, I had a teacher who, uh, was very much of a free spirit herself.  And she allowed us, at a certain time of the day, to get up and tell stories.  And for those of us that had any kind of imagination, we became the class clowns, the class favorites.  And, uh, I ended up being one of those because I learned how to work the crowd.  I loved the laughs.

    (DG– That’s awesome!)

    Yeah, I loved it, uh but I didn’t start doing any community theater until, like, until the 1970’s, yeah.

-DG- That’s great.  …And what inspired you to begin your journey?

-TH- Um, I would say that, between my family having the movie theater and Saturday morning Westerns.  You know Gene and Roy and all the guys.  But being a character actor like I am, um, I have found it to be very rewarding not to have be me all the time.

   (DG- I like that.)

    Yeah, uh, when I was a kid, I would one week I’m watching this guy on the screen. This next week I’m watching this big guy on the, you know on the big screen.  And so, that was always a drive, to try to be somebody different, other than myself.  I mean I like me, but its fun not being me,(*wink) you know.
    (DG- Always a fun thing.)


-DG- How has acting affected you spiritually?

-TH- Um, by far it has made me a lot more in tune with, not only myself, but the universe itself and how the universe operates.

    (DG- Funny thing, huh?)

    Yeah, it really is, it really is.  It’s wonderful when we are fortunate enough to figure it out.

-DG- That’s true.  Very, very true.  Emotionally?

-TH- Well, I’m by far the most stable I’ve ever been in my life.

    (DG- Ah, that’s good.)

    It’s also made me extremely happy to be able to do, number one, do what I’ve always dreamed and wanted to do with my life.  To be able, at my age, to go and do what I wanted to do, has made me a very very happy person.

    (DG- That’s good.  Not a lot of people could say that.)

    No, and I’m very very blessed, very fortunate.

    (DG- That’s awesome.)

    Very fortunate.IMG_5077

-DG- Mentally?

-TH- Mentally, uh, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

    (DG- Oh, Really?)

    Yes, I found that out.

    (DG- That’s awesome.)

    Yeah, I, that was something that I was, I knew I was up against.

    (DG- Okay *chuckles)

    Because I hadn’t exercised this (points to head), in the ways I knew I needed to, as an actor….in a lot of years.  I took like twenty years off, you know.  And now I’ve come back and I’ve been at it for three years and I’ve been in more classrooms, workshops and so on, than I have in…

    (DG- That makes a huge difference.)

    Yeah.  You can work that muscle, and it will… it’s amazing what it’ll do.  Yeah.

-DG- What has been your biggest struggle?

-TH- Well, let me throw you for a loop here.  But it was getting into the second grade.

    (DG- Okay?)

    My parents were like Gypsies, and we were just all over, at that time and period in my life.  Went through a lot of schools, a lot of different cities and towns, and…

    (DG- A lot of different people, huh?)

    It’s happened so often that they put me back in the first grade.
    (DG- Okay.)

    And I had to take the first grade over.

    (DG- Aww.)

    So, my biggest setback in life was getting into the second grade.

(Both laugh)

-DG- So what are some projects you’ve worked on?

-TH- Um, did a Western last year, had a lot of fun doing that.

    (DG- That’s fun)

    Yeah, had a lot of fun.  Played Sheriff Tony.

    (DG- Oh great.  And there again came the Cowboys and Indians, and you got to…)

    Got to be right out there at Paramount Ranch, and play one of the bad guys.  You know, the bad guy Sheriff, you know… yeah.vengeance.002

-DG- That’s fun.  It was definitely fun watching you.  How about currently?

-TH- I’ve got two other Westerns, that are in development for probably 18 and 19.  2018 and 2019

    (DG- Okay.)

    Um, I’ve got a pilot that we’re gonna shoot in May.

    (DG- Okay.)

    Yeah, it’s written, produced and directed by ladies, females.

    (DG- Beautiful!)

    –TH- Yeah, and it is a Western, and it is a pilot for TV and I’m very excited about that.

    (DG- That’s exciting!)

    -TH- Yeah, it really is, and I just, uh, I play just a… The most lovable, rotten dirty character you could ever play.

    (DG- Lovable, rotten is great.  Must be a fun character.)

    -TH- Yeah, he will be remembered, yeah.

-DG- So I love ending with a quote.  What is your quote of all time and why?

-TH- “Lay in the weeds, and wait.  And when your chance comes for you to say something… say something good.”  Quote, Merle Haggard.

   (DG- That’s great)

    Yeah, I had the good fortune to work for Merle, years ago, when I was in the music industry.

    (DG- Oh, no way?)

    Yeah, and one night over beers, uh, and probably a few other things… uh, he shared that with me,  and ever since I have applied it to my life, and never so much as I have the last three plus years.

    (DG- That’s awesome.)

    I’ve based my entire career on those fine words.  I figure, if it was good enough for Merle, it was good enough for me.

-DG- That is so awesome.  And where can people find you online?

-TH- Uh, that’d be TonyHandleyActor.com, TonyHandleyActor, and Handley is like ‘hand’ (shows hand), ‘L’ (makes L with hand), E (makes E with hand), Y (makes Y with hand).  Tony Handley.

-DG- Perfect!  Thank you Tony.

-TH- Thank you, I’ve had a lot of fun.  Thank you very much

-DG- It was a lot of fun.

-TH- Thanks for havin’ me.

To see more of Tony’s work, follow him on social media:

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Basic Composition: Cropping

gerund or present participle: cropping
cut off
After derailing a bit from our Back to Basics: Photo Composition, I decided we should get back to our list.

To crop is to cut the image tight to eliminate any distractions so the viewer’s primary focus is the subject. It is a very powerful tool that, if done correctly, will create a greater impact in your images; it will strengthen your image.

Basic tips for cropping

Straight lines – Using the Rule of Thirds (Rule #1 on the Photo Composition post), I make sure my vertical and horizontal lines are straight. There are times though, that I prefer to have diagonal lines.

Open space – Eliminate it. By eliminating open space, you’ll make your subject is the focal point. Don’t be afraid to crop. The less open space, the more you’ll add dramatic feel to your image. Also, there will be a time when you can not get too close to your subject, so you’ll shoot from a distance – don’t you worry. Cropping will help you eliminate the unwanted space.

882954_10151528198783023_123871540_oLeading lines – I absolutely LOVE lines. They create an artistic feel to your images – especially when you’re capturing nature, buildings, bridges, or streets. However, leading lines sometimes tend to get lost in an image when capturing a person in action. Keep an eye out for leading lines next time you crop. It will help draw the viewer’s eye in a striking way.

Cropping is an artful composition. At the end of the day, these are just basic tips that will help you understand the world of cropping a bit better. If you want to break the rules to create better art, by all means, please do!

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

– Pablo Picasso

As always, I’d love to see what you create. Please leave a comment with the link where I can follow your work.

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Black & White: Absence of Color Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

black and white

ˈˌblak ən ˈ(h)wīt/


Displaying only black and white tones; without color, as a picture or chart:

a black-and-white photograph.


Black and white photography is an essential and significant part of the entire story of photography. Some of the greatest photographers in history, such as Diane ArbusAnsel AdamsBernice Abbott, and Elliot Erwitt (among other greats!), chose black and white photography over color because of it’s timeless, fine-art appeal.

I personally love black and white photography because the absence of color allows you to connect with the true essence of the subject – whether the subject is a person, a building, or just nature. I’m connected with the essence, the patterns; the light and shadows that create the image.


Here are 5 Tips on How To Create Stunning Black and White Images:

Shoot in RAW –  Shooting RAW allows better control in post production. You will not only be producing a quality image ready for printing, but you will also have a better capacity to correct some mistakes you may have committed during your shoot.

Look for Contrast – Contrast gives a more dramatic nuance to your images, and will intensify their feel. Remember, the point of greatest contrast should be the subject of the shot. By doing so, and giving a bit of open space around your subject, it will direct the eye to your focal point, and add a certain balance to your images.

Right Light – Lighting in a black and white shot can be very important. Direct lighting will often add to contrast. Side lighting will reveal any texture that a subject might have (and in portraits will accentuate features), and light from any one direction will create shadows. Find the right light that will help enhance your image, and remember underexposure is your best friend.


Pay attention to lines, patterns, and shapes –  Try to visualize in black and white before you shoot. Then take a look at the patterns and shapes that you’re about to capture. Because color tends to draw attention, patterns or shapes can sometimes go unnoticed in color, but can definitely come alive in a black and white shot – and can often take on an abstract quality.

Shoot on gray days – Remember my Today’s Overcast; Nature’s Reflector blog? Well, it applies best on black and white photography. Overcast skies create a beautiful gray tone that will help balance your shot, and the soft light will give your subjects a smooth transition.

Absence of color is not for everyone when it comes to photography. I know a lot of photographers who choose color over black and white. But, for those who do enjoy creating black and white images, you’ll have a lot of fun shooting and with post production.

“To see in color is a delight for the eye but to see in black and white is a delight for the soul.” – Andri Cauldwell


As always, I would love to see what you create. Please leave a comment with the link where I can follow your work.

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Because Dads Need Some Love Too

Every year I show my respect for all mothers who have done such an awesome job being wonder women. I usually skip to the grads, and congratulate them on all of their hard work and efforts. Come July, I realize I missed a date that is equally important: Father’s Day!


Well, this year, I made sure that changed. I have dealt with my share of fathers when it comes to portraits. The one thing they all have in common is that no matter how stoic they appear to be on the surface, or how cool they want to look in public, they are the cheesiest, sweetest goofballs, who melt at the thought of their children’s happiness. If that’s not worth capturing with your lens, I don’t know what is.
giphy (4)

Although it’s less common to think about dad (vs. remembering mom) for portraits, it’s always a good idea to capture the great moments with our dear fathers. I’m sure you’ll both enjoy taking a look at them in the future. Maybe both of you can even laugh at your future selves looking back and laughing at your present selves, remembering how good it is and was to laugh with your dad.

So this Father’s Day, grab your camera and make sure to capture dad’s best smile (or half smiling grin – which also makes great portraits). Don’t forget to show him extra love for being so awesome.

Cheers to you ol’ man – thank you for being so great!


“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it” – Clarence Budington Kelland

As always, I would love to see what you create. Please leave a comment with the link where I can follow your work.

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Meet the Artist: Shaun J Guzman

Welcome to the first episode of “Meet the Artist”! I am so excited to share with you a project that has been in the works for quite some time. I am extremely grateful to the team that helped me put this project together, and I can’t wait for you to meet all the great artists I have in line for this series.

Actors, directors, film makers, photographers, musicians, chefs, painters, and any other artists that have dedicated their lives to their craft – Meet the Artist is dedicated to you!

I wanted to start with a good friend of mine who is one of the most dedicated people I know. He is a unique person who is passionate, humble, and is not afraid to be different. What I admire the most about this man is his ability to overcome adversity, and his strive to make his dream come true.

And now, without further ado, “Meet the Artist” Episode 1 presents Shaun J. Guzman:

Click Here to See the Interview on YouTube

Interview with Shaun J. Guzman (transcribed 5-30-2017)IMG_4439

S.- Hello, my name is Shaun J. Guzman.  I am here at the studio with Dani Guerrero.  We’re gonna do a photo shoot and interview.  This is gonna be very awesome, and I can’t wait!  Now I’m gonna do a makeup so they can do some photo shots of me.

     First part of the process is that I’m going to do a makeup.  It’s a movie called “Fade to Black” starring Dennis Christopher, probably one of my favorites.  My friend introduced me to him.  I connected because, one, the character worked in movies.  I love movies and he was inspired by all the classic monster movies.  And I love classic monster movies as well, and that inspired me to love the movie as well.  So, I’m doing this makeup.

    As you can see, I am making it white. because that’s the poster of it, for “Fade to Black.”  Similar, I think the makeup is Dracula in a way.

    Usually, I took… Now we’re doing this one… really I think that took me, I would say um, an hour.  An hour and something to do this.  Not too long though.  The other makeups that I tried on… I would say sometimes it all depends on what it is and how fast you can do it.

    Like my brother.  He’s a makeup artist, Jimmy A. Guzman, and he did what he did for me.  He did a vampire thing, not like Dracula, but something like vampire.  And it took um, well, the process of that would be what?  Two hours, I think, but for him.  That he knew about it, the steps about it.  No more than… say ninety to an hour.  Just to do it fast, and he did it.


D.- What inspires you?

S.- (after a thoughtful pause) Courage… and motivation.

D.- Who inspires you?

S.- God, family, friends, and most importantly, fans!

D.- Why acting, directing, and screenplay?

S.- Acting, because it gives me that, it gives me that FUEL.  It gives me that burning desire.  It leaves me… breathless.  I just love it so much that I just continue on doing it every single day.  Whether it be at home, at a studio, or somewhere.  I just do it because, I, it gives me a kick.  It’s like a drug.  I put it in me and I just keep going, keep on going.

    For writing, I have so much ideas, so much story ideas that I want everybody to watch.  I want everybody to see my world through my eyes when I’m writing it.  I want that.  I want people to engage.  I want people to feel what I feel.  I want people to smile what I smile.  I want people to be sad when I’m lonely.  I want people to feel those expressions through my stories.

    For directing, I just get a… I know it was my calling card, as I wasn’t really prepared for it yet.  But I think I have a sense of what directing is.  How to go about it, how to go about the approach.  And I think, in my heart, I can actually do directing.  Give the fans, give everybody a chance to see what my directing style can be.  It can be from a crazy roller coaster ride.  I can give you something and then, boom, put you back.  Or I just can surprise you at the end of the directing reel.

D.- Advice for anyone who wants to start acting, wants to start screenplaying, or wants to start directing?

S.- For anyone who wants to start off with acting.  My advice to them… Watch classic movies.  That will be your starting point.  Don’t watch nothing that it is today.  You need to start watching history.  Learn the history.  You respect the history, and understand the history of motion pictures.  Back in Hollywoodland days where Bette Davis ruled the world.  Where James Cagney was in all of Hitchcock’s movies.  Where the day where Carlton Heston used to be a part of biopics.  Watch those.  If you don’t watch those, you might not have, you might not be able to understand the essence of acting.  That’s what it started from.  As it comes, everybody admires, enjoys, and respects Hollywoodland days, because it was just pure of acting.  That’s all it was, just pure of acting, at it’s best, at it’s finest, at it’s glorious moment, of that time and frame.

    For screenwriting, for everybody who really loves stories, loves creating stories.  My advice for them… Watch movies that is suitable for your stories.  If you love science fiction movies, go watch a science fiction.  And my advice, go watch a classic before you watch anything that is today.  Always start off with classic movies, with classic stories, because that will help your growth.  Make you understand you are as a screenwriter, and who you are as an artist, through your stories.  That’s all it’s going to take, to just watch classical movies.

    For directing.  It all depends on who you are as a director.  If you’re Stanley Kubrick, watch a Stanley Kubrick film, and get inspired by that.  If you’re a Martin Scorsese, go watch a Martin Scorsese film.  If you’re a Hitchcock, like me, watch his direction.  Watch his style of his format.  And there’s a reason why people are inspired by him, mostly because he can bring you in.  He can bring you out.  He can always bring you in, then surprise you at the very stop.  And that’s what I like, that’s my style on that take.  And Quentin Tarantino.  What can I say about that dude?  He, he will surprise you literally through a scene.  Then you may be surprised.  You see a scene continue on, continue, continue.  You see, and boom, he gets you like that, and he brings you back out, brings you back in.  He draws you in, he draws you out.  There’s emotions going through the scene, and it’s, it’s very beautiful.  So, that’s my advice for the directors, for any aspiring directors, to look at classical movies before you see anything that’s today.  That’s my advice.

D.- What are your struggles as an actor?

S.- My struggles as an actor… knowing that I am an actor, and knowing that there are lots of negative aspects around that area.  The only thing that I can really say to that, just shy away from all the negative aspects.  Just keep on going because there’s going to be hard knocks.  There’s going to be bad people.  There’s going to be a huge wall that you’ll overcome.  And all of those are factors while struggling as an actor.  And there are gonna be time where they’re gonna say ‘No.”  There are gonna be times when they’re gonna say “You don’t have the right look.”  There are times where they’re gonna say “Sorry kid.  Just not for you today.”  That stuff, those aspects.  And, um, and for any aspiring actor, just do what you can, just to overcome it.  Because you’re gonna have that.  Don’t feel bad about it.  It’s gonna be an experience for you, so just move on.  Keep on going.  Whoever gives you a ”Yes,” go to that person.  Someone offers you an opportunity, just go for it.  Just wing it to see what can happen.  You’re taking a risk as you go.  You’re taking major big steps as you go, and you’ll be surprised, you’ll be really amazed to the risks you go to.  Because you’re gonna say “Damn, I made a right decision”, because you didn’t think you suffered that”.

To see more of Shaun’s work, follow him on social media:

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