Nick Carver Photography Blog

Photography Tips, Tutorials, & Videos


Octopus Agave, Puffy Clouds, and Fuji Velvia 100 Film

Octopus Agave on Fuji Velvia 100 Film

Octopus Agave on Fuji Velvia 100 Film
Shot with a Fuji GA645Zi Camera

Click Images to Enlarge

There are three things I love - succulents, puffy white clouds, and Fuji Velvia 100 film. And when they all come together at the same time, that’s a perfect storm of good vibes.

This year’s El Nino has brought some great things to southern California. Of course, the extra precipitation is a godsend with the ongoing drought, but there are certain other side effects to El Nino that I’ve really enjoyed. First, this spring we’ve had a higher-than-normal share of days with what I call “the perfect sky.” It’s that crystal clear blue color behind a sea of fair-weather cumulus clouds - those herds of puffy cotton balls gently migrating across the sky. And second, El Nino has coaxed out some impressive spring blooms.

Back in March I found myself with some spare time on one of these “perfect sky” days, so I grabbed my delightfully fun-to-use Fuji GA645zi camera, loaded it up with Velvia 100 film, and ventured out to the Jeffrey Open Space Trail in Irvine. I went out with no plans of what exactly to shoot. All I knew was I wanted to incorporate the sky in some way.

The Jeffrey Open Space Trail is a developed walking trail with landscaping that features some very impressive succulents. As I ventured along the trail, I came across a cluster of Octopus Agave plants - an agave from Mexico with fleshy leaves that twist and crawl out from its core. Shooting up from the center of each plant was a long, slender spike about 15 feet tall, each wrapped in countless green-yellow bulbs. They were stunning. The flowers were not in full bloom on this day, but still, the unique shape and design of these plants were begging to be photographed.

I decided to concentrate my compositions on these alien-like spires shooting up into that Monet sky because I loved how unusual they looked. I excluded the base of these plants from my compositions to preserve the bizarreness of what stood before me. With no base to provide context, these spikes became even more curious. I kept my aperture relatively wide open to let the background blur out ever so slightly, further drawing attention to the plants against their backdrop. And that color palette of green-yellow, sky blue, and white…man, oh, man…Mother Nature really knows how to pair colors, doesn’t she?

Octopus Agave on Fuji Velvia 100 Film

Octopus Agave on Fuji Velvia 100 Film

Octopus Agave on Fuji Velvia 100 Film

For the film geeks out there, I want to tell you a little more about the camera. I bought this Fuji GA645zi off eBay as my “walking around” camera. My main landscape photography cameras are so big and slow to set up (a Shen Hao TFC 617-A and a Mamiya RZ67) that I decided I should carry a lightweight, point-and-shooter to fill in the gaps. This old camera has a lot of modern amenities including auto focus, auto exposure modes, flash, exposure compensation, and even a power zoom lens (albeit not a very wide focal length to work with).

Fuji GA645Zi Medium Format Camera

I have to say, I have fallen in love with this camera. The size is just right, it’s easy to use, and the power zoom function is great for fine-tuning composition. I use this camera most often in Program (P) mode or Aperture Priority (A) mode instead of full manual so I can concentrate on the composition instead of metering. The auto exposure meter has been very reliable. Exposures are often perfect and the exposure compensation lets me sway it when I know it’s going to make a mistake. This camera is flat-out fun to use, which might be the best reason to own a camera.

I learn something new or am reminded of an old lesson every time I take out my camera. On this occasion, I was reminded that I need to get out with my camera in-hand more often - no plan, no preconceived ideas of what to shoot - just get out with my camera and see what the world shows me. Because who knows when you’ll find a 15-foot tall alien plant against a perfect sky?

Octopus Agave on Fuji Velvia 100 Film

Octopus Agave on Fuji Velvia 100 Film

Agave on Fuji Velvia 100 Film

Agave on Fuji Velvia 100 Film

Octopus Agave on Fuji Velvia 100 Film

More Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA
More Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA
Please Click an Image to See it Bigger

My obsession with palm tree pictures continues, apparently. As I covered in a recent post, palm trees have dominated the majority of my photography lately. And I'm not getting tired of them. They have become my muse. It's as if within the past couple years I suddenly realized how special they are to me and my location. I guess I took them for granted my whole life having grown up in southern California, and now I'm catching up for lost time - giving them the appreciation they deserve.

I mean, come on, check out these amazing facts about palm trees:

  • There are around 2,700 different types of palm trees in the world (source)
  • The tallest palm tree can grow up to 197 feet tall! (source)
  • The coco de mer palm tree has the largest seeds of any plant on Earth - as large as 20 inches in diameter and as heavy as 66 pounds (source)

But aside from these fun facts, what other plant has such a recognizable and iconic silhouette? What other plant simultaneously conjures images of both the desert and a tropical beach?

Am I starting to sound crazy? Okay, okay. Enough about palm trees. Let's talk photography.

The more I grow and evolve in my photography, I notice 2 things:

  1. "Different" is about a thousand times more important to me than "good"
  2. I'd rather my pictures do the talking


I spent a couple hours trying to write this blog post - writing, re-writing, undoing this, changing that... Then I realized those two points and scrapped the whole rough draft. So with those two points in mind, here's all I want to say:

I've been working hard lately to shoot things differently and to develop a style that stands out from the rest - a style that's both beautiful and uniquely my own. I have a long way to go, but I think I'm on the right track. On that note, I am really proud of these pictures (especially the first one at the top of the post). Whatever you take from these pictures, good or bad, I hope it's at least different and I hope they communicate something to you my words wouldn't be able to.

Thank you, and please click the pictures to see them big!

Technical Notes:

All of the palm tree pictures shown here were made on 6x17 film with a Shen-Hao TFC-617A camera on Fuji Velvia 100 film. The first and last pictures were made at Heisler Park in Laguna Beach, CA. The second from bottom was made in Dana Point, CA.

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

Orange County Photography Classes: 2015/2016 Winter Schedule

2015-2016 Winter Schedule
Orange County Photography Classes

Field Workshop:
Crescent Bay Sunset

November 7 - 3:15pm-5:15pm in Laguna Beach, CA
Practice the skills you learned in the classroom at one of the most sheltered beaches in Orange County. Work on exposure, filters, and composition with Nick by your side in this single-evening photography workshop. - 1 day (2 hrs) - $49
Get More Info About This Class

Popular Beginners Photography Class:
Understanding Exposure for Beginners

November 14 & 21 - 10:00am-12:30pm in Tustin, CA
Perfect for beginning photographers, this class is designed to make exposure easily understandable to even the greenest students. Learn what shooting modes to use, how to get correct exposures, and what the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are. You'll leave this class knowing what the f-stop is, how to get blurry backgrounds, how to avoid totally blurry photos in low light, and much, much more! - 2 days (5 hrs total) - $75
Get More Info About This Class

Composition for Dramatic Landscapes

November 17 - 6:30-9:00pm in Irvine, CA
Composition is what will make or break your landscape photographs. Don't get so caught up in the technical stuff that you forget to give due attention to the artistic side of landscape photography. - 1 day (2.5 hrs) - $39
Get More Info About This Class

How to Shoot in Manual Mode

December 1 & 8 - 6:30-9:00pm in Irvine, CA
Learn the correct way to shoot in manual mode in this very affordable single-evening seminar. Nick will demystify the process with his easy-to-understand and fun-to-use technique for manual metering. - 2 days (5 hrs total) - $79
Get More Info About This Class

Field Workshop:
Long Exposures at Little Corona

December 12 - 3:00pm-5:00pm in Newport Beach, CA
In this single-evening photography workshop, you'll join Nick to practice long exposure photography at some of the most interesting rock formations in Orange County. - 1 day (2 hrs) - $49
Get More Info About This Class

Field Workshop:
Heisler Park Sunset

December 19 - 3:00pm-5:00pm in Laguna Beach, CA
Heisler Park is one of the most beautiful cliffside parks in all of Orange County. The beach below offers unparalleled beauty and unbeatable accessibility for sunset landscape photography. Join Nick this single-evening workshop as we photograph the sunset at this landmark park! - 1 day (2 hrs) - $49
Get More Info About This Class

Adobe® Lightroom® Class

Jan 13 through Jan 27 - 6:30-9:00pm in Tustin, CA
In this class you'll learn everything from import to export, including proper file management, how to adjust images for maximum impact, how to set up an efficient workflow, and more. This class will teach you how to use Lightroom like a pro to cut down your time at the computer and create better results. - 3 days (7.5 hrs total) - $85
Get More Info About This Class

Field Workshop:
Sunset/Twilight at Top of the World

January 16 - 3:45pm-5:45pm in Laguna Beach, CA
In this single-evening workshop, you'll join Nick to capture the sunset over the ocean in a stunning panoramic to the west before turning your camera east to photograph Saddleback Mountain and the city below at twilight. - 1 day (2 hrs) - $49
Get More Info About This Class

Filters & White Balance for Digital Photography

February 6 - 10:00am-12:30pm in Tustin, CA
Don't be fooled by the marketing of software companies - filters are just as useful in digital photography as they've ever been! Find out what filters Photoshop can never replace and which filters are most important to keep in your bag. - 1 day (2.5 hrs) - $39
Get More Info About This Class

Field Workshop:
Sunset at Cress Beach

February 20 - 4:00pm-6:00pm in Laguna Beach, CA
In this single-evening Orange County photography workshop, you'll join Nick at one of his favorite beaches for photographing the sunset - Cress Street Beach in Laguna Beach. - 1 day (2 hrs) - $49
Get More Info About This Class

Includes a Field Shoot!

Landscape Photography

March 3 through March 24 - 6:30-9:00pm in Irvine, CA
This class is 1 evening per week for 4 weeks. It covers everything from how to shoot in manual, to using filters, to composition, to final output and much, much more. And this class is my one and only class to include a field shoot! - 4 days (10 hrs total) - $99
Get More Info About This Class

Only Offered Once a Year

Macro Photography

March 12 through March 26 - 10:00am-12:30pm in Tustin, CA
This class is 1 saturday per week for 3 weeks. Learn how to improve your macro photography with your DSLR camera, what equipment you should invest in, what settings to use, how to frame a shot, how to find good light and more! Includes an in-class shoot. - 3 days (7.5 hrs total) - $85
Get More Info About This Class


Don't wait, sign up before these orange county photography classes fill up!
More information and enrollment details
can be found here.