San Francisco Behind-The-Scenes Trip Report

I saw this comment regarding my blog post on Friday about Photoshop’s 20th anniversary party:

How about a trip report from AFTER the festivities? Who you hung our with, where you ate, and what you reminisced about? Inquiring minds want to know!

So, I thought I’d give a little behind-the-scenes look, but I have to warn you up front; you’re going to be incredibly jealous of the bling-bling, glamorous lifestyle we experience during high profile events like this (wink). ;-)

Now Boarding: Coach Passenger Kelby
We started our trip on Wednesday morning, getting up at 5:00 am so we can catch the first of our two flights—-the first departing at 7:05 am. The plane was packed—there wasn’t an empty seat to be found (in Delta coach), and I got pinned in a window seat on the 5-hour leg beside two people who have bladders like a camel, because they never left their seat. I had to beg them for a bio-break.

Here’s a few shots of the crew in transit:


iPhone photo above: Corey and RC, my Coach class flying buddies.


Dave Cross snagged a bulk-head seat with plenty of leg room. Matt sat two seats to the right. I was about 20 rows behind. I wanted to fire them both. ;-)


Larry Becker ensuring that the drink carts were not to be used at any time.

Your car is in Spot 41B
Once we landed, we picked up our sweet ride—-a Toyota Camry rental car. Yeah baby—that’s how we roll!


Above: NAPP’s Nancy Massé and Dave Cross livin’ that high life in the back of our Camry. Matt was driving. We all were scared.

Fine Dining Ahead
After we got all situated, we split up in different cars, because Matt, my buddy Dave Moser (NAPP’s Chief Operating Officer), Paul Wilder (NAPP’s head of IT) and I wanted to make the 140 mile trip up to Big Sur to try and fit in a sunset shoot. First stop—-In & Out Burger in Burlingame. Of course, we missed the exit, so we had to wait until we reached Palo Alto to catch the one there. The car smelled like a giant onion for the rest of the trip. It was totally worth it.

Big Blur
As we were approaching Big Sur (near Carmel), we noticed this giant cloud off the coast. Matt called it “Marine Layer” which is California code for “massive fog bank.” Within a few minutes, it engulfed us, and we never saw the sun again. In fact, it was so foggy we never took our cameras out of our camera bags. The iPhone photo below (taken by Paul) does not begin to show the amount of fog that surrounded us. It’s wasn’t like there was a lot of fog. It was more like we drove into a cloud, which didn’t go away until (wait for it, wait for us….) we actually got back on the highway.


The weather looks not all that bad in this shot, right? Multiply the fog by a factor of 10 to get what it really looked like. You had to drive with your headlights on at 4:00 pm.

On the Road Again
After our busted shoot, we headed back to a restaurant in Burlingame that is a favorite of Dave and mine from our trips out to Adobe (it’s right close to SFO airport). It’s called Il Fronaio—a friendly Italian restaurant with a great atmosphere. By the time we were done with dinner, we were beat, but we were still about 45 minutes from our fabulous Sheraton hotel room, so we hit the road again.

Dawn shoot at the Golden Gate Bridge
Since we missed our sunset shoot, we get up at 5:00 am again for a dawn shoot. We’d try and catch sunrise coming up over the Golden Gate Bridge, but shot from up high in the Marin Hedlands, hoping to catch the clouds over the top of the bridge. If it was possible to have more fog than we did at Big Sur, we had it. It was so dense, we couldn’t even make out the outline of the bridge, even though we were so close we could hear the cars. We waited in the Camry until 1-hour past sunrise, then we went back to the hotel.

Breakfast with Adobe
We all met for breakfast at 9:30 am with some of our friends from the product marketing team at Adobe. We were going to have breakfast in the Sheraton, but some of video crew had eaten there the day before and warned us off. So, we went across the street to iHop (Oh yeah. Living that glamorous life!). A few of us did impromptu interviews into Flip Video cameras (for that ‘live on the scene” feeling), and then Dave and I headed out to a meeting with Peachpit Press about the upcoming iPad launch (hey, I want to make sure some of my books are on there, right?).


Above: That’s Nancy, our Social Media Ninja, Tweeting from iHop.

OK, Back to Work
After that meeting, we piled in the Camry and drove to the Palace of Fine Arts theater, where we accidentally parked as far as humanly possible from the entrance to the theater. We got inside, took a quick look around, and then I had to meet with the video crew, the band, and all the presenters to make sure everything was falling into place. I wound up sitting backstage, among the shipping boxes and cables, to create some slides we realized were missing, while Scriv edited some last minute video.

My assistant Kathy Siler was there (she put all the logistics together for this, and worked with Adobe to make this whole thing happen, and she did a marvelous job. She’s used to it—she does the same gig for all the Photoshop World keynotes, so she’s an old pro. I mean—“a pro.” She is NOT old!). She was even busier than I was the whole time, but I think she likes it that way.

I spent the whole time working in the back until Kathy showed up with box lunch for Scriv and I, with a roast beef sandwich, a pickle and a Diet Coke. Mmmm. Pickle. Anyway, it was about 90 minutes from the start, and the whole crew from Adobe had arrived, and we started loading the presentation files on the laptop, while Russell Brown finished setting up for his part of the presentation.

Cocktail Party Minus One
Adobe threw a welcome cocktail party in the theater lobby for all the guests, and I had planned to go out and visit with everybody, but we had a couple of issues with the AV stuff, so I wound up working backstage with the video crew until we opened the doors 15-minutes before showtime. I did a quick clothes change, and started going over my notes for my hosting duties, and then it was showtime, so I let our director know to start the opening movie (which we had filmed on location in Tampa a week earlier).

Teaching Photoshop is a blast for me, but hosting something like this, with me on stage without a computer in front of me, is pretty nerve-wracking, so as the pre-recorded voice over introduces me, I take a big breath and walk out trying not to look as nervous as I really am. As the night goes on, I get less and less nervous, but I’m never comfortable until I get to show some Photoshop tricks—then I feel right at home.


Russell Steals The Show
Once NAPP’s part of the show was over (a little over one hour into the evening), I introduced Adobe’s Photoshop evangelist Russell Preston Brown. I’ve known Russell for years, and he’s a not only a really great guy, but a teriffic presenter, so once I introduced him, I snuck out through a side door so I could watch his presentation from the audience. I have to say, Russell’s presentation was nothing short of brilliant. It was so incredibly clever, funny, wild, and just fun, that if there were an award for live stage demos, Russell would win it hands down for his presentation that night.

If you haven’t watched our rebroadcast of the night (link), you need to watch it for Russell’s presentation if nothing else. Yes, it was that good (ask anyone who saw it). People will be talking about this one for a while (that shot above, by RC Concepcion, is Russell during his presentation).

The Party’s Over. Time to Call it a Day
Right after the show, I finally got to meet some of the audience members (the first time since I got there), and I saw some old friends, and friends from Adobe, but then I got called away to pose for some group shots, and then everybody left, and we started packing up all our gear and stuff. At around 10:40 pm, Dave, Matt, RC, Corey and I piled in our trusty Camry and headed for the In & Out Burger near our hotel. We had a couple of burgers, but we were all beat, and headed back to the Sheraton.

There’s a reason why they call it “Fog City”
Our whirlwind trip is just about over, but Dave, Matt and I met in the hotel lobby to catch a quick breakfast bagel at Noah’s New York bagels on Chestnut street, not far from the hotel (awesome bagel place by the way).

Matt got up at dawn to try the Golden Gate dawn shoot from the Marin Hedlands again, and didn’t want to wake Dave and me up, so he headed out there by himself, only to be totally fogged-in once again. Then it was off to the airport for our sold out Coach flights home. I wrote as much as I could on the plane (I’m working on a book, as always), but I took a nap on the 2nd shorter leg from Atlanta. We left the hotel at 9:30 am, and I got back home in Tampa at just after midnight, tired as I could be, lugging all my camera gear which never, not once, came out of my camera bag. Every photo I took was with an iPhone. :(

The Glitz and the Glamor
Well, there’s a look into the glamorous lifestyle of the “Photoshop Guys,” filled with luxurious rental Camry’s, Sheraton hotel rooms, fast food, box lunches, and packed full coach flights.

Although this probably isn’t as glamorous of an experience as you might have imagined, I will tell you this—-we laughed our way from coast to coast. I am truly blessed to work with such a great crew of people, who make all the traveling like this an awful lot of fun (even in coach. OK, especially in Coach), so between all the work, and box lunches, we’re all just cracking up all the time.

I think that’s what makes the whole thing work. None of us take ourselves too seriously, so when things go wrong, or take too long, or we’re sitting on a dirty old couch backstage trying to make up some last minute slides—-it’s all good. We pretty much have fun no matter what the situation, or accommodations, so basically—-that’s really how we roll.

  1. Sounds like everything went like clockwork. (can’t never find the fog when you want a little). i bet those passengers had a great time with you guys. It’s a wonder you didn’t have an emergency landing to throw someone off. Sure wished I had been there. Congrats to Dave and his Canadiens getting gold in ice dancing (we beat you in hockey). I just had to get that one in.

  2. Hi Scott,

    I like how you stated: that Dave, Matt, RC, and Corey piled in your trusty Camera (I think you meant to say camry). Must be one big camera. LOL. Now, that just tells me how much you love photography. Thanks for sharing. PS see text from the blog below.

    “At around 10:40 pm, Dave, Matt, RC, Corey and I piled in our trusty Camera and headed for the In & Out Burger near our hotel. We had a couple of burgers, but we were all beat, and headed back to the Sheraton.”

    1. Raf-

      Even though I corrected Scott’s typos early this morning, I too thought it was pretty darn funny that he typed camera instead of Camry twice. You think this guy is into cars or photography more? ;)

  3. It was indeed a great trip. Whenever I told anyone about the 6 hour round-trip to Big Sur they said “Awe, I’m sorry”. I told them we had a great time anyway. Lots of stories and jokes that probably wouldn’t have happened had we just gone to the hotel and slept (which is what we really wanted to do).

    Oh and for the record. I didn’t make up this “marine layer” thing. Just turn on the news in the morning in California and you’ll see that’s what they call it. Everyone else in the world calls it fog though :)
    And why do they put “the” in front of their interstates. Well call it I-4 here in FL, but they’d call it “the” 4. Very puzzling ;-)

    – Matt K

    1. The marine layer is the official term for “fog so bad you can’t can’t see spit”
      Trust me I live at the beach.

      Glad to see you had your In and Out fill.
      Lets me off the hook for bringing out a cooler full of double doubles to PSW

  4. In my second life I want to come back as Scott Kelby :) You captured it all. The fun you have with your buddies, the passion you have for your craft and to be able to make a wonderful living in the middle. “Priceless” Rock on Sir! I love your work.


  5. Scott and crew: On behalf of Midwesteners everywhere, thanks so much for going to In and Out Burger for us! I still feel full from that vicarious eating experience. It just so happened to be my comment that started off this excellent post, so thanks for that. When my wife and I went to Point Lobos last July, land of Ansel and Edward, the fog rolled in from the time I paid my ten bucks to get in to the exact second I pulled back out on the highway.:) I know exactly how you feel!

    All that highfalutin’ traveling stuff was fascinating, and I know everyone who reads this blog appreciates the work you and the crew put in to bring us all that you do. Thanks for letting us take a peek inside “The Life!” By the way next time out, eat a Double Double Animal for me!

  6. Scott, it’s sad to hear after so many tries, the weather was still not in favor. But thanks for honestly sharing with us all these attempts so we don’t think we are the ones that are always getting bad weather! :) I guess these are true experiences that every photographer have to live through in order to get the great moments and capture great photos!

  7. Two comments… One almost couldnt tel it was Dave without the manditory maple leaf somewhere on his cloths. 2nd How could you put all of the staff on one plane heaven forbid it had trbl and we lost everyone who would be leftto teach of photoshot Brad?

    Just kidding sounds like you had a good time

  8. If you guys think that’s awesome.. its just exponentially multiplied during Photoshop World!!! The great part about that is that the stories include as many fans as possible..

    It was a great trip… I am blessed beyond measure to be doing what i love with my friends..


  9. I was at the show. Great job all. Just seeing Scott retouch in Camera Raw was worth the entire trip to SF from Sacramento. Had a great time speaking with Kathy Siler (I’m pretty sure that was her) before the show. She of course crowed about how great her job was. My only complaint… what’s up with large T-Shirts? I haven’t been able to wear a large since sometime in high school. I love the design, but will never be able to wear it. (If you’ve got any XXL laying around, let me know.) Thanks for the behind-the-scenes look. Keep up the good work. You give us all something to dream about.

  10. A note about food. Any time you’re traveling for work, it’s easy to fall into a “path of least resistance” mode for dining, especially when you’re on a tight schedule. But San Francisco is one of the greatest food cities in the country. It makes me cry a little bit to know that you ate at IHOP and Noah’s, although Il Fornaio was a good call.

    So, let me help you out. It sounds like you we’re staying in the Marina, maybe somewhere along Lombard. In itself, this is a great neighborhood for food. Next time around, try one of these:

    Squat & Gobble (on Chestnut at Scott)
    Grove Cafe (also on Chestnut, near Scott)
    Ella’s (on Presidio and California; my favorite, a bit further, but includes a drive through the Presidio)
    House of Bagels (Geary at 15th Ave; legit bagels)

    Pluto’s (on Scott, near Chestnut; awesome salads, sandwiches, etc. and cheap)
    Q (on Clement at 3rd Ave.; mac ‘n cheese with tater tots!)
    Park Chow (on 9th Ave. near Judah; right next to GG Park)

    NOPA (on Divisadero at Hayes; my favorite)
    A16 (on Chestnut; Italian done right; go for Meatball Mondays)
    Garibaldis (on Presidio at Sacramento; neighborhood favorite)
    Patxi’s (on Fillmore at Lomabard; best deep-dish pizza in the SF Bay Area, Zachary’s notwithstanding)

    That’s just off the top of my head. This really is an amazing city for dining. Please never go to IHOP again. I’d be happy to show you around next time you’re in town. Take care.

  11. I told Matt last year that it was a SWEET job that he has and this just confirms it! It is not often that you find a group of people who work and play so well together. You are all blessed! Enjoy the ride as long as you can. Here’s to a long ride! Larry

  12. Being from the Bay Area–currently at school in Salem, OR–I wanted to share something that might make your next trip out to the best place in the country even better next time:

    Personally, I really enjoy shooting star trails and the city at night; I can’t tell you how many times I went out and then got pissed off when I couldn’t see anything. Then I found that website and life got a whole lot easier. Having visited other cities, I know that several other places also have similar websites.

    And on restaurants: Pluto’s is unbeatable! They’ve got sites in SF, Palo Alto and Berkeley. Everyone that comes and visits me at home goes to Pluto’s and becomes upset afterwards that they don’t have one closer to them. Paxti’s is also incredible–there’s SF and Palo Alto locations. Also, In-N-Out tip: 800/786.1000. Tell them where you are and they’ll stay on the phone, giving you directions, until you’re in their parking lot. Lastly, if you’re looking for more food on the Peninsula, try Zibbibo in Palo Alto.

  13. Sounds like a great trip with great friends/co-workers. Scott, if it makes you feel any better about the fog, I just got back from Tampa last week. Decided to take a week to get away to Florida to escape from the cold & snow in Iowa and Tampa was experiencing 15-20 degrees colder than average temperatures. I still spent a couple days on the beach and caught the sunset one night even though my fingers were icy by the time the sun went down.

  14. Didn’t some of you photographers say never let bad weather stop you from photographing? Took the ferry to Alcatraz Thur morning & couldn’t see a darn thing except when the seagulls got closer to the ferry but photographed anyway. The images came out pretty cool because they had a nice creepy effect to them. Went to shoot the GGB a few minutes after you guys checked out of the hotel & to my surprise the sky was all cleared & the sun even came out at some point. If only you stayed a little longer :) Thanks for a great show!

  15. Just got home to Maryland from the PS20 event. You guys did an amazing job as always. Took the PCH all the way down to Santa Monica (after the event, not as foggy as what you all ran into). Managed to get a few shots. Big Sur was beautiful. Thanks again for inviting us all to participate in the celebration. It was amazing looking back at what an incredible product PS1 was and how far it has come.

    P.S. Looking forward to reading your books on my iPad.

  16. Scott and Everyone –

    Great to hear your trip report to our City by the Bay. This time of year the weather is unpredictable as you might expect. As someone earlier pointed out, the restaurants in the whole Bay Area and particularly SF are incredible, I just bust up knowing you guys are eating at iHOPs, now In-N-Out I totally understand. Thanks for coming out and putting on the show. It was fun to be in the audience. I was just telling a friend today that he had to go check out Russell’s performance. It was completely unleashed. I was one of the lucky few who will get to play with Ps 1.0 on the iPhone and can’t wait to play with it soon.

    By the way Scott, I was in the 4th row and you didn’t look a bit nervous at all.

  17. Thanks for the honest travelogue!!!! And for letting me know you drug all your camera equipment along and never got it out of the bag! I thought that only happened to me….Great post….

  18. Scott, big thanks for the sharing some insight into the ‘behind the scene’ activities that takes places in your ‘Photoshop’ work life.

    For me the most interesting insight though was in relation to your nerves in hosting the show. I’m someone who gets nervous just doing PowerPoint presentations at meetings, so heck I would’ve thought that for someone of your experience regularly presenting to large trainee audiences, this was just par for the course. Guess we all have comfort zones!
    I have to say though that if you felt your nerves were showing – don’t fret. All I saw, via the webcast over here in England, was the normal zany humour from the guy we’ve all come to know and love :-)

    BTW As you rightly inferred, Russell ‘Doc Emmett’ Brown’s presentation was just soooo amazing, cool, funny, unbelievable and any other superlative you care to throw at it.

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