Learning Photoshop

Today, I began learning Adobe Photoshop CC 2017. I definitely have much work to do in acquiring some real skills with this program, as it has a ton of features! The tools alone take a couple days (or at least just a few photos to practice on) to get them down based on what I’ve experienced so far. In hopes of improving the quality of my photos that I post on my blog, I feel that becoming skilled in Photoshop will be key in making sure that happens.

Below are two versions of the picture I practiced on: the one on the top is the original copy and the one on the bottom is the finished one. As you’ll be able to see there will be several differences, and possibly not even for the better. But alas it’s a learning experience.



The bottom one has been cropped further, and has more color saturation. I also did a few spot repairs near the head of the swan; as well as additional adjustments. Comment below to tell me what you think!

~J. A. Ross


© RossJ781.com 02/02/2017


Solo Traveling Adventures Part 1: My Introduction Into the Hobby

Solo traveling. If there’s one thing that I’m getting known for among my readers, as well as friends and family, it would be is my hobby of traveling everywhere I possibly can. However, unlike the usual traveler you may talk to (excluding mandatory travel for business; for leisure only), I very much prefer traveling by myself as to with a party. Don’t get me wrong traveling in a group is fun, but going by yourself presents more challenges, and 100% forces you to get out of your shell… at least a little bit.

If you were to always keep away to yourself whilst solo traveling, you’re not going to get a truly life changing experience. Frequently it will force you to think outside the box; it’s not like there’s that group or friend with you to help watch your back the entire time. It’s only you, but this is what makes it so wonderful! You get to truly figure out what type of person you are and can be.

For instance, something I love doing… although may sound a bit foolish (and can be) is to frequently not book hotels in advance. This does many things for you, though it can go awry of course. The advantage it gives you is a chance to walk or drive around the city, town, etc; you’re visiting to really explore it. This way you’re not picking a hotel in one area and saying, ” I think I’ll mainly check out this area, and possibly a few surrounding sites.”

I did this in Europe and ended up finding a few sweet hotels and hostels to stay the night in. Not to mention places that are generally trekked through less often than a majority of main sites. Hell, a couple nights I slept on the train and would go to the next destination staying up a couple days straight. Traveling solo can get a little rough and isn’t for everyone, but it builds character and brings great experiences to share and learn from. It’s more expensive and you have to budget carefully, but in the end it’s something to be proud of with each new destination you go to.

The first real trip that immensely got me into this hobby was back in April 2014. I embarked on a completely spontaneous 3.5 day adventure to the Pacific North West and explored around downtown Portland, Seaside Or., a bit of Astoria Or., and Long Beach in Washington State. I fully decided to go on this trip literally 3-4 days before the date I left which was a rare 3 day weekend that was given to me. Visiting the ocean once more was determined mere hours before I left work early on that Friday afternoon to get on the road.

So much detail to go into with that trip… oh, but wait… I already have! (link posted at bottom of article in case you missed that tale).Anyways, essentially upon getting back to Utah I felt changed. I had entered a state in which I’ve never been to before, drove around 1900 miles solo which had been the most I’d ever driven period. Something clicked inside my head and show me all sorts of new possibilities. I’ve always loved traveling, but honestly thought that I couldn’t  afford to except with the military, or years down the road. That trip proved to me otherwise.

With articulate budgeting I decided to not concede to any thoughts of not being able to travel, or thinking that this trip had been a one time deal. Not even 5 months later I was at it again! I took on an even bigger challenge by going for around 6 or 7 days and adding a few hundred miles to the trip. I went back to the Pacific North West and made my first stop in Portland. This trip, I was a bit better prepared for and found a few campgrounds that I could stay at in my car a month in advance as I wanted this trip to be a bit more relaxing.

Leaving Portland, I made my way back into Washington State and explored the southern part of the state around the infamous Mt. St. Helens and surrounding forest. Later that day I made my way north to Seattle, onward to my next campground. First off, because something looks good on paper, doesn’t mean that it’ll always work out perfectly. The campground ended up being around 40-45 miles north of Seattle. Ouch! With the crowded traffic that took me aback just a bit. Nonetheless, I sucked it up and made it work. Sure, I may have taken 60-90 minutes out of my sightseeing each day, but I still managed to hit many popular sights in the city by car and much on foot.

I saw the Woodland Zoo, Space Needle (didn’t go to the top), Columbia Center (tallest building in Seattle; I did go to the top here). I went to the Seahawks Stadium as well as the Mariner’s stadium. I saw the old town, Pike’s Market place, the disgusting and interesting gum wall. I wandered around the downtown until late in the AM. The whole visit was great, and one thing was more certain than ever: it helped cement solo traveling into a main focus and hobby of mine. I passed this second test and hence forth would set out for more exciting destinations that I craved to visit.

One tremendous way  that I found easiest to fund my trips is to donate plasma. I highly recommend doing so, if you qualify of course, as it’s a great source of income for vacations and it creates medicine for sick people. I’ve said it already many times and I stand by it. The next major road trip I did was an 8.5 day trip down through Southern Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona where I hit 4 national parks, 4 corners, Albuquerque and various other sites.

In the next editions of this article you’ll get to hear more about the trip mentioned above as well as a minor trip through part of Nevada, and my 2 weeks in Guatemala (although this one wasn’t solo, and was military travel, it’ll still have it’s place). Also, not forget my return to Yellowstone National Park after a 5 years of not visiting; and topping it off with an entire article dedicated solely to my 22 day European adventure back in November.

As mentioned above, here is a link to the article that describes my first solo trip in more detail:


***I would like to leave a side note, the method of not getting hotel reservations isn’t recommended at all if you drive to a large and expensive city and can’t sleep in your car. Likely due to limited places to park, not having seats that can fold, or having simply to much stuff with you. It’s recommended for those who are flying in and traveling light, or going by train. Obviously if you got a lot of money, then you would be covered bringing a car without reservations. It may sound fun, but I don’t want to give anyone ideas in doing something that could end up being quite stupid.***

If you’re interested in more info on solo traveling, feel free to message me or comment and I’d be happy to share some additional tips I find useful. As always thanks for reading! Also, enjoy a small photo gallery with shots from various trips below!

~J. A. Ross

© RossJ781.com 01/22/2017

Driving in Utah 2017 Edition

It’s already deep into the Northern Utah winter and you know what that means: the god awful drivers and all of their glory are out of the roads. But this year isn’t like the past years; and with the amount of snow we’ve gotten compared to recent winter’s you better believe it!

This time, I’ve been stuck in it every day the last 2 weeks in a 60 mile commute (120 both ways). Now, the roads don’t have snow on them all of the time of course, that would be exaggerating, but typically in the early hours of the AM when I’m on the road they tend to be utterly hellish. For example, I don’t know why people do this out here on our roads, but when you’re in the passing lane, and a slow car is in front of you, they tend to not know when the hell to get over.

Say… you and the traffic in your lane is wanting to go around 80 mph, however the person in front of you only wants to go 7o mph. The speed limit is 7o so in any other lane that’s fine. Now when traffic wants to go 80, and everyone around you is tailgating you or passing you, and you’re still doing 70 or slower…maybe…… you should get the fuck in the other lane or drive faster! So I sit behind them as we’re slightly passing traffic in the next lane, and the asshole in front of me wants to keep holding traffic back, while I raptor screech at them from my own vehicle.

So, eventually the next lane clears up for a good stretch and the fool wants to keep going their snail speed. So, I say “to hell with it!” and take matters into my own hands proceed into the lane to the side of us to get ahead of them. Merge completed. I’m now filled with excitement; I’m going to pass these bastards! I speed up to get in front of this abomination in the passing (fast) lane next to me.

But hold up here; hold up… h-h-Hold up here! What in shit is this!? The slow car to the side of me is suddenly matching my speed? No, no, no! Why are they doing this, they’ve been doing 70 the last 4-5 miles and now they’re going nearly 80? That’s right, there seems to be some sort of mental disorder in our driver’s that they think they can’t allow people to get in front of or pass them.  Every other state I’ve been too, most people seem to know when they need to get over. In Utah, say adios to that logic!

So anyways, here I am sitting in my car wondering why the fuck this piece of work next to me suddenly wants to pull a different type of classic Utah dick move. Well wouldn’t you know it, a semi truck and another group of traffic are looming just ahead. So, I get back in the other lane to at least pass that upcoming cluster of vehicles. The car ahead is doing a cool 70 again… of course!

Eventually in this scenario I’ll manage to pass the moron, or they’ll miraculously catch the drift… after only 10-15 miles of holding up traffic in the lane, and get over whilst giving you the, “what did I do?” look as you pass them. Well, I’ll tell you what you did, not paying attention to your surroundings. Now Imagine this with snow, or very heavy rain. Fun, right?

Out of nowhere, all the same people that like going slow in general, always decide to go faster than what would be considered safe for these conditions. Granted, I avoid the fast lane, and often the middle lane in the crazy type of weather because you know, I like not dying and shit. And speak of the devil, What is that up the road? Oh, just the 5-6 car pile ups that were moved to the side of the road; or cars stuck in snow banks off the freeway. Even a few vehicles caught in more fatal accidents.

Well, it they’d have gotten their safety priorities straight, maybe they could’ve kept their happy asses alive on the road. It also doesn’t help that in this kind of weather you can barely see the white lines on the road you need to see to stay in your lane anyways. Going 80 mph through that certainly doesn’t help.

As mentioned earlier, most of this has in the AM going through the morning work rush past Salt Lake City and beyond. The way the freeway system and city layout is past there is certainly a major clusterfuck within it’s own accord which causes indefinitely more traffic, but more on that later. I’ve fortunately been getting off just early enough to beat the rush hour.

For now, we’ll keep seeing what more 2017 will bring to the table with our ‘wonderful’ drivers and if you ever have to come to Utah, or cut through, well…best of luck to you as always. Also, time it to where you’re nowhere near Salt Lake City, or the surrounding  valley during rush hour. If you are, you better have good car insurance!

To read the other articles in this series, click the following links below!

Original of the series:


Previous two:



Feel free to share and comment your opinions on the article. As always, I enjoy feedback from my readers!

~J. A. Ross

© RossJ781.com 01/21/2017