Nick Carver Photography Blog

Photography Tips, Tutorials, & Videos


Low Perspective at the Beach

Crystal Cove State Park

I have some new beach landscapes to share with you. I'm going to talk a little more than I normally do about how I captured these pictures because it was something I'd never done before.

I've been a little burned out lately on Southern California beach landscapes. I'm kind of bored with the scenery and I feel like I've taken so many similar pictures that I have a hard time creating something fresh. I know, I readers out in the central and eastern parts of the country are trying to strangle me through your computer monitor right now.

Yes, it's a little embarrassing to say because I know how lucky I am to live in Orange County, but I do get burned out with seascape photography. So when I went out last month to Crystal Cove State Park, I decided to break out of this creative slump by doing something I'd never tried, read about or even thought of before. I needed a new perspective. Something different. Something uncomfortable. So I came up with the perfect solution...

Seascapes from just an inch or two off the ground.

Crystal Cove State Park

I'd done pictures this low before in hillside landscapes with good results, but I wondered how it would make the beach look. Getting that close to the sand and water might show it in a way you couldn't see otherwise. It was sure to create something fresh. And since I'd never done it before, it was sure to get the creative juices flowing.

The only problem was getting my camera that low. I could splay out my tripod legs and lay on the ground with it, but that would make dodging the incoming surf a stressful endeavor...and I'd have sand in all sorts of uncomfortable places by the end of the night. Instead, I opted for a much safer but much less precise method.

I dropped my tripod to about 2 feet off the ground. Then I flipped around my center column so my camera was hanging upside down underneath my tripod. I estimated where to aim it, did a test shot, fine-tuned it, then did a couple more test shots. Once I had the placement right, I picked out my split ND filters and estimated where to put them, again doing test shots and fine-tuning. Once I had everything locked in, it was time to shoot. You can get an idea of how low my camera really was with this shot that included my tripod leg.

Crystal Cove State Park

One of the nice things about this set-up is it allowed me remain standing, firing the camera with a cable release, leaving me free to grab my tripod and camera off the ground in a split second when the waves came rushing in.

I took tons of shots, getting more and more brave with the advancing tide as the night wore on. I'd wait until the very last second to fling my tripod up into safety before the water engulfed it. I took several pictures with the goal of capturing the little bubbles left behind by the receding sea.

Crystal Cove State Park

Crystal Cove State Park

Crystal Cove State Park

Then, when the clouds really flared up with color, I took a more typical standing-height shot of these rocks.

Crystal Cove State Park

All in all, this new shooting technique was a ton of fun to experiment with and it did clear up my "photographer's block" a bit. Go out and give it a try! Just don't get too brave...

Some New Beach Pictures

Still chipping away at my backlog of pictures from the past couple months. I just finished 2 shoots from January, both at the beach, and here are the results.

This first one is from Crystal Cove State Park.

The rest of the pictures are from a beach in Laguna. I had a lot of fun shooting them because the clouds were awesome all evening. A passing rain cloud gave me a bit of a shower, but I love it when that happens - makes me feel like I'm actually working for my shots.

Laguna Beach, CA

These rocks were absolutely crammed full of mussels...

Laguna Beach, CA

Laguna Beach, CA

I could see some rain falling over the Pacific way off in the distance. When the sun dropped low enough, they lit up orange and pink. It was really gorgeous.

Rain in Laguna Beach, CA

Click image for larger version

Still got 1 or 2 shoots left in my backlog, so more to come soon!

I Got Good Portraiture Chops

Most of you know me as a landscape photographer. It's where I devote the majority of my photographic energy, I'm very skilled and experienced at it and it's where my passion lies. But you might not know that I used to shoots portraits professionally. You also might not know that I've coached dozens of students on portraiture photography - including several that now do it professionally. And what you probably don't know is...

...I still got it, baby.

There's an awesome group based out of LA called GroupShoot that organizes fun photo shoots between photographers and models. Basically, a bunch of photographers get together with a bunch of models in a cool location, shoot all day, then share the results. There's no pressure, no fees and no stress. It's organized by some friends of mine and is open to all who are interested. Click the GroupShoot link above to learn more about it.

I attended the most recent GroupShoot meet this past Saturday at Orcutt Ranch in the San Fernando Valley and got some great portraits to share with you. Keep in mind none of these have ever set foot in Photoshop. I tweaked the levels and added a vignette to a lot of these using Aperture, but that's it. No airbrushing, no dodging or burning, no plugins or filters and, oh yeah, no artificial lighting. This is all natural light with just good technique and a sharp eye.

The following set of pictures are my personal favorites from the day. I really had a lot of fun playing with the backlight and letting the sun peek through just a bit between the models. It created a gorgeous glow around and behind them. This type of extreme back lighting is difficult to shoot without proper training in photography and without the full knowledge of how to use your camera. And these bad boys are practically straight out of the camera. All I did was boost contrast a smidge' in post.

That sunburst coming through the female model's hair on the left (Shannon) was achieved very carefully and all-naturally without filters. Gotta love that star shape.

If you want to learn how to take great portraits, too, check out my private lessons.

Jacqueline Corcos
Kelan Liparoto
Suzie Riemer
Katya Prinsterr
Stephanie Schafer
Jerome Garot
Shannon Rogers