Cross-Country Move

Cross-Country Move, 6x9 photobook

Cross Country Move Photo Book: The Technical Design Stuff

This is the third post in a series about the photo book I made to document our cross-country move from Southern California to Indiana. You can view all of the posts in this series here.

Photoshop Template Design

Before I began building my photo book, I created a Photoshop file with a series of 6x9 inch master pages that I would use a template for all of the spreads in the book. 

Master page designs: day intros

For the purposes of the book, each day is a chapter and they all begin with the same layout design. I kept the left page pretty clean, with a circular-masked image, a day-number heading, and a sub-heading that lists:

  • the city we began the day in
  • the one we finished in, and
  • the miles in between


I kept the rest of the pages pretty simple, creating space to tell the story of each day (as documented my DayOne App) and to display large images. I wanted to tell the story of the day as a cohesive story, as I usually wrote it in a single setting after we checked into the hotel each night.

While I used image collages a few places in the book, I primarily chose to display my images at 6x9 (full bleed, single page), 12x9 (full-bleed, 2-page spread) and 9x9 (square-cropped image that is full-bleed on one page, only).

This is a photographer preference. I think images have an emotional impact that is proportionate to how large they are displayed. I prefer to collage images only when the grouped images tell a greater story together than apart. Usually, these are a series of images taken close to the same time:

Or, images connected in theme, color, tone, or texture:

A Look at all the Page Templates

Below, are screenshots of each of the layouts as they appear in Photoshop. 

You may have noticed two collage layouts toward the end. These are Press Plate 38 and 39 pre paislee press. I plan on doing a tutorial soon that explains how I use Photoshop's linked smart objects to incorporate templates that I purchase from other designers into my photo books. I'll update this page with a link to that tutorial when it's done.

Cross-Country Move

Cross Country Move Photo Book: Documenting on the Road + Picking a Book Size

This is the second post in a series about the photo book I made to document our cross-country move from Southern California to Indiana. You can view all of the posts in this series here.

Once we had decided that we would be driving cross-country for our move from Southern California to Indiana, I knew that I would want to create a photo book to document the trip. The fact that I would be taking hundreds of photos was a given. I needed a specific plan for making sure I got the details down of our day-to-day adventures. 


I tend to have a good memory, but I didn't want to do what I often do, which is use photos to jog my memory and reflect after-the-fact. I wanted a sort rawness that comes from experiencing new things, unexpected things. I knew that if I wanted accurate, soulful journaling in the finished book, I needed to keep notes on the road and commit to writing down and summarizing each day.

All of this probably comes easy to many people. Daily journaling is not rocket science. But there is something about recording my thoughts regularly and diary-keeping that has often appealed to me, but I've never been able to sustain as a habit. It's easy for me to do for a day or two, but 5 days in a row is usually impossible. I'm not really sure what it is, but ever since childhood, keeping a journal has been a struggle.


For this project, armed with a clear intention, I was able to commit to journaling each day.

Every night, as we arrived at a different hotel room, I wrote down everything that happened that day using an app on my iPad and laptop called DayOne. The fact that DayOne syncs with all of my Macs and my iPad was really appealing. It meant that when I went to build my photo book later, I wouldn't have to find some way to transfer my notes from my iPad to my computer. Granted, this isn't usually hard, but I can be easily discouraged from working on a project due to tiny obstacles. DayOne made this seamless.

My journal is password protected on every device I use, so I don't have to worry about letting other people using my iPad, and destroying and/or reading journal entries without my permission.

During the trip, if I snapped a photo using my iPad, rather than keep it only my Camera Roll, I imported the image into DayOne. Each entry automatically added location data and weather information, which is so helpful for documenting at a later date. I also added relevant captions or quotes that I could pull into my photo book later.

Here's a look at a series of DayOne entries from April 2nd:

And here is a look at this section of my finished photo book where the journaling and images were used:


Why I Chose to use a Blurb 6x9 Trade Book for My Photo book

I have built a few Blurb photo books, but have generally stuck either the Standard Portrait (8x10) or the Small Square (7x7).

The 8x10 size makes a beautiful book and I love this option for big stories, like my 2013 Family Album. While the story of our move is monumental and worth documenting in-depth, it took a short time span, just over 5 days. It's a tactile thing for me: smaller stories need smaller photo books. Over time, I've just come to realize that I don't like square photo books (in any size). Square books feel awkward in my hands. And the square crop can be quite hard to get right when using full-bleed images. So, for me, the 7x7 size was a no-go.

In my hunt for a smaller, non-square photo book, I researched a lot of different vendors online. I considered  Artifact Uprising, but I was once again thwarted by the lack of small, non-square albums. Then, a fortunate Pinterest search brought me back to a post from a few years ago by one of my favorite designers: this photo book documenting a Las Vegas weekend getaway by Liz Tamahana. 

Liz's photo book intrigued me because she mentioned that it was a trade book from Blurb. I had never looked at Blurb's trade options, because I assumed you had to order those books in large quantities and that the paper was thin and flimsy. But Liz's book was beautiful. She also mentioned the low price point of these books versus the 8x10 or 7x7 photo books (which have end-pages and a higher weight paper). Best of all, 

So, with how attractive Liz's photo book turned out, I thought there was a good chance I would be happy with mine. And, since the time of Liz's post, Blurb had introduced a premium version of the trade book with a higher-weight paper. If worse came to worse and I really hated the finished product, I knew could always scale up my finished layouts in Photoshop and just go with a larger 8x10 album at a later date.  

And the result? I LOVE this book. Absolutely love.

Yes, I can tell there are differences between the weight of the paper and the construction of the 8x10 Standard Portrait photo book. But, it's not significant enough to outweigh the price and the fact that this feels like the perfect size for smaller stories (think birthdays, holidays Week in the Life, December Daily, etc.).

Cross-Country Move, 6x9 photobook

Cross Country Move Photo Book: Introduction

This is the first post in a series about the photo book I made to document our cross-country move from Southern California to Indiana. You can view all of the posts in this series here.

I grew up in Southern California. My dad was in the Navy. Aside from the 5 years I spent in Seattle after I married, I lived in the San Diego area all my life. My whole existence has been on the West Coast and, like most Pacific Ocean snobs, I had long viewed the Midwest as some sort of curious wasteland. A place where people once lived, but moved on. I imagined it as one giant used car lot. A flat landscape of corn and wheat occasionally broken up by an abandoned factory, where things we once made were now being made somewhere else and the people who made them were desolate and lost.



Yes, there was Chicago (parts of it amazing—other parts war-torn, segregated, suppressed, sad). And maybe there was Minneapolis. But that's the Upper Midwest. That's different. That's not Cleveland. That's not Kansas City. St. Louis. That's not...Indianapolis, where I now live. (Okay, I live close. In a small city that sits on the northern border of The Big City. But work with me...).

I've never lived anywhere that feels this much like Home.

I don't mean home in the sense of where I come from. San Diego is that home. Adobe rooftops, marine layer, carne asada burritos, flip flops, jogging, traffic, beach cruisers, skateboards, veneers, implants, avenidas, mesas, and calles. That is home. But San Diego has never felt like a place I belonged to. It felt like a place I came from. It's as familiar as the mole on the back of my left hand, but feels no more a part of me than a glove covering it.

No, I mean the sense of Home in that I have arrived at a place where it feels like I've always belonged. The chattiness of the people. The old and worn things. The history. The green, everywhere. (In all my life I have never known there was so much green in the Midwest. From the fastidiously manicured lawns to the canopy of trees enveloping the streets, green is everywhere here. San Diego is blue and brown. Green is hard to find.) This place, from the moment I stepped off the plane to visit last fall, has felt like a perfect fit.

And it didn't let me down when we sold our home and moved across the country to live here. Nine months in, our circumstances have changed more than we could have imagined, but that hasn't stopped this place from wrapping its arms around me and pulling me in tighter.

Mushrooms in Indiana Somewhere in Kansas |


We came here because I had a job. And that job was moving. The opportunity came. I explored it. 

I said yes. We prepped. And prepped. And staged and prepped. We sold our house in a day. We packed.

Papaya Way House 2014 | Somewhere in Kansas |

We visited Indiana for the second time last February. Five inches of snow fell that first night. We found a home to rent. We got ready. We packed. We drove. We moved. We saw so much. I documented it.

Nine weeks after my arrival, the circumstances changed. I no longer had a job. I can't talk about it. Priorities shifted. I was expendable. Papers signed. Desk packed in boxes. Security badge turned in.

I went Home.

Two weeks late, I had a doctor's appointment to investigate some changes I was noticing in my body. Eventually, I'd learn that I need surgery.

I have had surgery before. That is why I need surgery, again. Complications. The body, like life, is complicated.

But, the story of my body is still writing itself. I don't want to dive into it in this post. Instead, I want to share with you the ways I documented and created a photo book about our cross-country move from California to Indiana.

Here's a few images from the finished book. Up next, I'll walk you through the initial design and talk about why most of my photo books will be 6x9 trade books from Blurb for the foreseeable future.