Nick Carver Photography Blog

Photography Tips, Tutorials, & Videos


Making a Fine Art Photography Print: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Making a Fine Art Photography Print: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
View on YouTube to see full HD

If you've spent any time around me or browsing through my blog, you know what a fan I am of printing your work. Digital sharing just isn't enough for me. It feels great to share your work on Instagram and to see your photos on a beautiful HD screen, but really, it doesn't hold a candle to getting a big ol' print made and hanging it on the wall. I think it's about the tangibility of it. A print is substantial, but a digital file seems to dissolve into the ether before anyone can get a real good look at it.

That's why I've been trying to get more prints made. But having recently gone through some storage to find a bunch of old prints, I've decided to be more selective about what images I print. See, these old prints I found...I couldn't care less about them now. But the funny thing is I remember how proud of them I was at the time.

You may be thinking, "Well this is why you shouldn't print. You'll eventually get over it anyway. Might as well not spend the money and just stick to digital sharing."

Valid point, but I see it a different way. The thing about those old prints is they all had one thing in common: They were heavy on the "epic" factor. I mean they were your typical super-saturated, wide-angle, maximum epic-ness type of landscape photos that are so prevalent in digital photography today. You know, those landscape photos that are supposed to make you go "Woah! That's soooo pretty! Can I get that for my desktop wallpaper?" The Peter Lik type stuff.

Much of my portfolio is in this style of photography because, to be honest, it's an easy way to "wow" people. Bright colors and epic scenes are impressive. But my more recent work has taken a turn for the more subtle, the more abstract. I've gradually moved away from those colorful scenes towards simpler color palettes and more simplistic compositions. Kind of like an oil painting more than a digital photo.

I've moved towards this more subtle style for a few reasons, the main one being that the super-epic colorful stuff doesn't seem to go well with most décor. I may be oversimplifying it, but when I look at my own home and when I study the interior design work of some of the best, I notice that subtle color palettes (especially earth tones) and subtle contrast tend to reign supreme. Unless it's a millionaire playboy's penthouse suite in 1989, I just don't think the vibrant colors are a good fit for most spaces.

That's why I couldn't care less about the old prints I found in storage. They eventually ended up in storage all for the same reason - they were too "in-your-face" to hang on my walls. Good wall art should mesh with the other décor in the room, not overpower it. It's no different for fine art photography. There are other things involved in a room - furniture, tables, wall paint, carpet, decorations - all these things need to jive together to create one nice unifying look. That's what successful interior design is about.

I designed this new piece with that in mind. The image is from Anza-Borrego Desert State Park on a solo camping trip I took a little while back (read about that trip here). When I took the picture I specifically had this goal in mind of staying away from that epic look with the super saturated colors. I chose Kodak Portra 160 film to render the image in a more muted color palette with softer contrast. Then, when designing the framed piece, I opted for a very simple float frame with a ¼" gap and some gorgeous wood grain. The piece screams simplicity and clean lines...just what I like to see in my own home.

Fine Art Photography Wall Art

Nick Carver with one of his Fine Art Photography Prints

As you'll see in the video at top, the image is from a 6x17 negative I scanned on my Epson V750 scanner using Silverfast software and it was printed by Pro Photo Connection in Irvine (check them out here) on Fuji Pearl paper. The print isn't inkjet (you know how I hate inkjet) but is instead a wet process C-type print for superior color, sharpness, and clarity.

I also had Pro Photo mount the print on ¾" gator board and laminate it with a luster lamination. This is an awesome presentation style I discovered with the help of the good folks at Pro Photo and I'm this close to trademarking it because I love it so much! The luster lamination takes the gloss out of the pearl paper which makes the print much easier to see but it still maintains that pearlescent glow. The lamination also makes glass unnecessary because the laminate protects the prints from most common sources of damage. No glass means no reflections, no light transmission loss, and a lot less weight. You really gotta see this in person to appreciate the look, but needless to say, I'm happy with it.

This piece will soon be on display and for sale in an art festival next Spring. So far the reaction has been excellent from those I've shown it to. And I have to say, it feels way better seeing this thing 72-inches-wide on my wall than on a 3-inch smartphone screen.

So get out there and make some prints!

Camping Essentials: ARB Awning Enclosed Room

Camping Essentials: ARB Awning Enclosed Room
View on YouTube to see full HD

In a recent blog post I showed you the ARB 2000 Awning - a fantastic addition to any 4x4 for some quick and easy shelter on the trail (read that post here). In this post I want to show you an accessory for the ARB line of awnings called the Enclosed Room (or the ARB Awning Room with Floor), which is essentially a tent that attaches directly to the awning.

ARB 2000 Awning and ARB Enclosed Room

The room shown here is for the ARB 2000 Awning, which means it measures about 6.5-foot wide. At full extension out from the truck, the awning is about 8-foot long, but with the protruding wheel wells on my 4Runner, the enclosed room offers about 7 feet of usable space on the long dimension. So I'm looking at a total footprint of about 46 square feet. Not too shabby.

This size room can really come in handy at camp. The most obvious use for it is a kitchen. That's one of the main reasons I got this room, because nothing drives me more insane than bugs getting in my frying pan when I'm trying to make fajitas. The large dual windows provide great ventilation and the walls provide all-important wind blocking for your stove.

But hey, who says you can't sleep in your kitchen?

That's right, the ARB Awning Room with Floor isn't designed to be a tent, but that's what I used it for on my most recent trip. It fits my cot and cooking station perfectly, so I can sleep and cook in a single bug-free space. I can see why ARB wouldn't explicitly state this as its purpose, though. I can imagine if you were in a very heavy rain or snow storm, the enclosed room may not be up to the task of keeping you dry and wind-blocked all night. I don't doubt the water-repellency of it or even the sturdiness of the materials, but I believe the perfectly vertical walls may cause too much wind-resistance for the awning to handle. There's a reason tents typically have a pitched roof to them, and for this setup you'd need to drop the far end of the awning quite a bit to create a sufficient slope for runoff. Definitely possible, but just not made exactly for that purpose. This thing is far from aerodynamic. But a light to moderate rain with manageable wind...should be no problem.

The room attaches to the awning with ease. The grooved channels at either end of the extended awning hold the room secure while the robust plastic clips keep it stable with the awning support poles. What takes the longest time in setting up this room is staking it down. There are many stake-down points, which is great for stability, but if you have hard ground like in the Mojave Desert, make sure you bring a mallet with you. You'll be doing a lot of hammering.

In terms of usability, I like the cubic shape of the enclosed room. The traditional dome-shape of most tents can make moving around in it a pain, especially when you're 6'2" like me. But the straight walls and flat ceiling make it more like a bedroom than a tent.

Inside the room are some convenient features. Two vents reside at the top of the truck-side wall that can be opened with velcro, and towards the floor are two small zip-open slots where you can feed in a power cord or propane hose. But possibly the most useful feature is a large zip-open door on the truck-side wall that can be opened and rolled up for quick access to the truck's door. Makes getting supplies in and out of the vehicle a breeze.

I also really appreciate just how big the two mesh windows are. The views from inside are stunning with the rain flaps rolled up and there is plenty of air flow to keep the room unstuffy in the daytime.

ARB Awning Enclosed Room with Floor

My only complaint so far with the enclosed room is that the material used for the floor is thinner than I'd like. I'm sure it's plenty tough to withstand sand and grass, but the rocky terrain of my local deserts may wear it out sooner than later. That's one reason I recommend picking up a tarp at your local hardware store to lay down as a footing underneath your enclosed room. Thinner materials like these are nice because they make the whole package lightweight and compact for easier packing, but in this case I'd take a little more weight and bulk for a tougher floor pan.

If you're a lone-wolf photographer like me and you're looking for a convenient one-man tent/kitchen for your photo adventures, the ARB Enclosed Room may be the right choice for you. It certainly beats sleeping in the back of your truck (you deserve better than that).

Helpful Links:
ARB Awning Room with Floor
- ARB 2000 Awning
- ARB 1250 Awning
- ARB 2500 Awning

This blog post and video were not sponsored or endorsed by ARB 4x4 Accessories or any other company.

ARB 2000 Awning Review

ARB 2000 Awning Review

ARB 2000 Awning Review

ARB 2000 Awning Review

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

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

I've become obsessed with palm tree pictures over the past couple years. I'm not sure why exactly; I've never really had strong thoughts about them one way or the other. But having grown up in Orange County, CA, they've been ever-present in my life. Perhaps they've burned into my psyche as a symbol of home and my childhood, kind of like the smell of mom's home cooking.

Thinking about this recent obsession two things come to mind. The first is an interesting tidbit that a good photographer friend of mine told me. He said that nature photographers typically organize their work by terrain - coastal photos, mountain photos, desert photos, etc. But that's not really what artists do. Artists often pick a subject to do "studies" on. They'll spend time focusing on a single subject or topic and really dissect it to get to the juicy meat. This subject might even consume their work for years. Just look at Andy Warhol and his Campbell's soup cans. So rather than avoiding this obsession in the interest of pursuing variety (as a younger Nick might have done), I'm letting this obsession guide much of my work. I'm letting my obsession play itself out until I feel a natural urge to move on. I'm trying to roll with it rather than fight it.

The second thing that comes to mind is a quote from the great Annie Leibovitz:

"I’ve said about a million times that the best thing a young photographer can do is to stay close to home... Discover what it means to be close to your work, to be intimate with a subject... Of course there are many good photographs that have nothing to do with staying close to home, and I guess what I’m really saying is that you should take pictures of something that has meaning for you…"

- Annie Leibovitz

Ms. Leibovitz here is not speaking of home in the literal sense, I don't believe. She's talking about working with subjects that mean something to you, subjects you can be intimate with. As a life-long resident of Orange County, palm trees are a subject I can really sink my teeth into because they are everywhere you look. And as I mentioned above, palms trees are meaningful to me in what they represent: home, growing up, building my career, and many fond memories of trips to Palm Springs, CA. To put it simply, palm trees have been a regular companion to many of my most important life events. They've often towered above me like gentle guardians as I've experienced the major milestones and memories in my life. I suppose that makes them worth obsessing over.

But beyond my own personal connection with palm trees there's something else I love about them. Palm trees embody the "dream" of Southern California. Think of every cheesy movie you've seen where the small-town girl with big dreams risks it all to come out to Hollywood in hopes of making it big. The first thing they cut to in the movie when she's finally made it to the city is a row of palm trees with the crisp California sun beating down on them. Palms trees and the Hollywood sign are the most basic symbols of "California Dreamin'."

And there's a special dichotomy with palm trees. On one hand they represent this ambition to reach greater heights, make it big, and find that elusive fame. While on the other hand, palm trees are a typical token of relaxation, vacation, and a slower pace of life. These palm trees with their unmistakable silhouette simultaneously represent ambition and taking it easy. I don't think you could make the same claim of the pine tree.

That California Dream doesn't speak to everyone and I'm not even saying it's a real thing, but what it represents is awfully romantic, isn't it?

Technical Notes:

All of the palm tree pictures shown here were made on 6x17 film with a Shen-Hao TFC-617A camera at Heisler Park in Laguna Beach, CA. The color photos were made on Fuji Velvia 100 film and the black and white photos were made on Ilford Delta 100 film. The black and white photos are part of The Palms Collection - a series I've been working on using multiple-exposure techniques to capture that "California Dreamin'" vibe. You can view more of The Palms Collection here.

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA

Palm Tree Pictures from Laguna Beach, CA