Nick Carver Photography Blog

Photography Tips, Tutorials, & Videos


Orange County Photography Classes: 2015 Summer Schedule

2015 Summer Schedule
Orange County Photography Classes

How to Shoot in Manual Mode

May 26 & June 2 - 2 Tuesdays 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. - 1 day (2.5 hrs) - $79
Get More Info About This Class

Filters & White Balance for Digital Photography

June 6 - Satuday 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

Popular Beginners Photography Class:
Understanding Exposure for Beginners

June 13 & 20 - 2 Saturdays 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

Field Workshop:
Sunset/Twilight at Top of the World

June 17 - Wednesday 6:45pm-8:45pm 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 total) - $49
Get More Info About This Class

Composition for Dramatic Landscapes

June 23 - Tuesday 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

Includes a Field Shoot!

Landscape Photography

July 9 through July 30 - 4 Thursdays from 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

Macro DSLR Photography

July 11 through July 25 - 3 Saturdays 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

Adobe® Lightroom® Class

Aug 6 through Aug 20 - 3 Thursdays 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:
Long Exposures at Little Corona

July 21 - Tuesday 6:15pm-8:15pm 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 total) - $49
Get More Info About This Class

Field Workshop:
Sunset at Cress Beach

Sept 2 - Wednesday 5:30pm-7:30pm 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 total) - $49
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.

Digital Photography Tips: Why Shutter Priority Mode is Useless

Skill Level: Intermediate

Aperture Priority ModeYou know all those shooting modes on top of your camera? Well here's the deal: most of them are useless. In fact, once you know what you're doing, pretty much all but 2 of them are useless. Once you get a good handle on shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, the only modes you need are Aperture Priority Mode ("Av" or "A" mode) and Manual Mode ("M"). All the full auto and "Scene" modes don't give you enough control, so the creative decisions are in your camera's hands, not yours. That's not good. Same with Program Mode ("P"). Sure, you can control the ISO and the exposure compensation, which is a huge improvement over full auto, but the camera is still taking care of the all-important aperture and shutter.

So then what about Shutter Priority Mode ("Tv" or "S" mode)? Yep, that's useless, too.

Okay, okay. This is where some advanced amateurs throw up their hands in protest. "How could shutter priority mode be useless? What about when you want to control the shutter? How about when you want to freeze action with a fast shutter or get that silky water looks with a slow shutter? You need to be able to select the exact shutter speed you want."

I hear what you're saying, but Shutter Priority Mode is still useless.

So here's the deal with Shutter Priority looks good on paper and it's easy to make it sound useful, but it just isn't. In fact, camera makers know Shutter Priority Mode is useless. That's why they didn't even put it in cameras until quite a long time after they invented Aperture Priority Mode. They had the technology to do it once they invented Aperture Priority Mode, but they just didn't put it in their cameras because they knew it wasn't a logical way to adjust your settings. This is also why you'll rarely find a pro using Shutter Priority Mode.

Alright, quick disclaimer: I'm sure there are one or two really rare and ultra-specific exceptions where using Shutter Priority Mode would work just fine. But I promise you that in these rare instances you could just as easily get your settings in Aperture Priority Mode, and these instances are so uncommon that it's not even worth addressing. Actually, I can't even think of an example, so that should tell you something.

So let's look at why this mode is so useless:

1. The shutter doesn't need to be that specific

Here's the number one reason Shutter Priority Mode is useless: the shutter speed just never really needs to be that specific. It's not logical to put in an exact shutter speed in 99.9% of situations because there's just no reason for the shutter speed to be super specific. Often times the shutter speed can fluctuate hugely on a given subject and the picture will look no different.

Let's consider a simple landscape. You're on a tripod photographing a mountain. You're not going anywhere and the mountain's not going anywhere, so it doesn't matter if your shutter speed is 1/8000 or 30 seconds - nothing's moving and so nothing will look different.

Alright that's an easy one, but what about sports?

Same deal. Let's say you're photographing a soccer game and you've decided that 1/1000 will freeze your athletes. Well what happens if you use 1/2000 instead? Of course, they'll be just as frozen. And what if you use 1/4000? Yep, still frozen. 1/8000? Frozen.

Okay, so then it's not that you need 1/1000, you need 1/1000 or faster. You don't need an exact shutter speed, you need a range of shutter speeds.

Shutter Priority Mode is Useless

This was taken at 1/2000, but it would
look no different at 1/1000 or 1/4000

How about doing some portraits with a 50mm lens? Well, your model is posing nice and still for you, so all you need to freeze is your camera shake. On a 50mm lens, camera shake is frozen at 1/50 or faster. So again, what happens if you use 1/100 or 1/250 or 1/4000 instead? Everything will be just as frozen. You don't need 1/50, you need 1/50 or faster.

See the thing with motion and the shutter speed is it's just like water. Once it hits a certain limit, it's frozen. Once water hits 32-degrees Fahrenheit, it freezes. It's not any more frozen at 10-degrees or 5-degrees or -20-degrees. Once it's frozen, it's frozen - same goes for moving subjects and the shutter speed.

Then what about when you want to blur motion, like getting that silky effect on a waterfall? Same deal here. The waterfall will look completely silky at about 1" (1 second). So what if you use 2"? Still silky. What if you use 10"? Yep, still silky. Once motion is frozen, it's frozen, and once it's moving, it's moving.

Shutter Priority Mode is Useless

This was taken at 2.5 seconds, but it
would look no different at 1" or 10"

Even when you're going for specific effect on the motion, like trying to get some motion blur, but not too much motion blur. In that case, it still doesn't need to be exact. Typically a range of shutter speeds will create virtually the exact same effect on motion blur.

Shutter Priority Mode is Useless

Like in this photo of a helicopter, I want some motion in the blades, but not too much. I used a shutter speed of 1/160. But the motion would have looked nearly identical at shutter speeds from 1/80 to 1/250A minor change in the shutter speed equates to a minor change in how motion is rendered.

2. The aperture is too important to let the camera control

If you're controlling the shutter speed as you would in Shutter Priority Mode, then the camera is controlling the aperture. The aperture affects depth of field (background blur). So as light fluctuates and the camera adjusts the aperture to compensate, the background blur on your images will fluctuate, too.

Let's consider the soccer game example again. And let's say I put in a shutter speed of 1/1000 using Shutter Priority Mode. As I point the camera up the field, my camera chooses an aperture of f/4.5. Then I follow the action down the field where the light is a little different because of the angle of the sun. In this new light, my camera chooses f/8. F/4.5 creates a smaller DOF than f/8, so now all my pictures pointed up the field have blurrier backgrounds than my pictures pointed downfield.

But let's try the same situation in Aperture Priority Mode instead. I decide that I want a blurry background, so I put in f/4.5. When I point my camera upfield, wouldn't you know it, my shutter comes out to 1/1000. Good - I need 1/1000 or faster to freeze the action. Okay, now I follow the action downfield again to the different light. My aperture won't jump to f/8 this time because I have it locked in at f/4.5. Instead, my camera adjusts the shutter for the changing light, bringing it up to 1/3200. No problem there, 1/3200 will freeze the action just as good as 1/1000. So the result is a consistent background blur (because the aperture didn't change) and consistently frozen motion (because the shutter speed stayed above my threshold of 1/1000).

By controlling the aperture directly in Aperture Priority Mode, you're not leaving the all-important DOF up to the camera. Background blur is simply too important to let the camera control! Because after all, a small change in the aperture can dramatically alter the photo, but an identical change in the shutter speed often results in no noticeable difference in the image.

3. The shutter is less likely to hit a "dead end"

Let's look at the entire range of available shutter speeds:

30   25   20   15   13   10   8   6   5   4   3.2   2.5   2   1.6   1.3   1   0.8   0.6   0.5   0.4   0.3   1/4   1/5   1/6   1/8   1/10   1/13   1/15   1/20   1/25   1/30   1/40   1/50   1/60   1/80   1/100   1/125   1/160   1/200   1/250   1/320   1/400   1/500   1/640   1/800   1/1000   1/1250   1/1600   1/2000   1/2500   1/3200   1/4000   1/5000   1/6400   1/8000

Now let's look at the entire range of available apertures on a typical pro lens:

f/2.8   f/3.2   f/3.5   f/4   f/4.5   f/5   f/5.6   f/6.3   f/7.1   f/8   f/9   f/10
f/11   f/13   f/14   f/16   f/18   f/20   f/22

You can see that there are many more shutter speeds available than apertures. But in every situation you take pictures, there needs to be an aperture to match your shutter speed. So here's an all-too-common problem with Shutter Priority Mode: often times you'll pick a shutter speed that has no matching aperture. In other words, you've selected a shutter speed that is too fast (lets in too little light) or too slow (lets in too much light) and there is simply no aperture to match it. The aperture hits a dead end.

The camera warns you when this happens, by the way. If you choose a shutter speed that's too fast or too slow for the apertures to match it, the camera will flash the aperture number at you or indicate "HI" (for "high light") or "LO" (for "Low Light") where the aperture number should be. This is the camera telling you that it's trying to find an aperture to match your shutter, but it hit a dead end and can't go any further. As a result, your picture is going to come out too bright or too dark.

But if you shoot in Aperture Priority Mode instead, you're controlling the variable with fewer options (the aperture). And so the camera will pretty much always be able to find a shutter speed to match your selection on the aperture. In other words, the camera won't hit a dead end because there are just so many shutter speeds available.

4. You have just as much control over the shutter in Aperture Priority Mode

This is where beginners ask, "Then what about those times when the shutter speed is your top priority, like when shooting sports or wildlife? Shouldn't you be in the mode where you can control the shutter so that you can ensure it's correct?"

No. You don't need to control the shutter speed directly in order to make it come out right. Sure, Aperture Priority Mode doesn't let you control the shutter speed directly, but that doesn't mean you can't control the shutter speed (wow, man, that's deep).

Here's what I mean: so long as you're in control 2 of the 3 exposure variables (shutter speed, aperture, and ISO), you essentially have control of all 3. With 2/3 control, the camera will be forced into a corner on the third and you can get what you want out of it. So, if you don't like your shutter speed in Aperture Priority Mode, just do what you would do in any mode: change the ISO and/or the aperture. Need a faster shutter? Just raise the ISO or open the aperture - that's what's going to have to happen anyway, regardless or what mode you're in.

So bottom line is this: don't bother with Shutter Priority Mode unless you have a really good reason to do so. Aperture Priority Mode is a much more useful mode and will afford you all the same control over the shutter as Shutter Priority Mode. And don't let anyone try to convince you of the usefulness of Shutter Priority Mode...that's a red flag that they might not know what they're talking about.

To learn more about shutter speed, aperture, ISO, exposure, and much more, check out my Introduction to DSLR Photography Online Course for beginners and my Understanding Exposure for Beginners Photography Class in Orange County, CA.

Fog at the Quail Hill Trailhead in Irvine

Fog at Quail Hill Trailhead, Irvine, CAFog at Quail Hill Trailhead, Irvine, CA
Fuji Velvia 100 film, Shen Hao TFC 617-A camera
Click Images to Enlarge

I should probably move to Northern California, because I'm in love with fog. Waking up to that enveloping haze gets me all excited, like I'm seeing my lovely lady for the first time after months apart. And it should come as no surprise that I love fog. After all, I'm in love with clouds, and fog is nothing more than a cloud coming down to our level to say "hello." But we just don't get enough fog down here in Southern California, and when we do, it doesn't stick around long.

Oh, Fog, you're such a tease. Always playing hard to get.

Luckily for me, my muse - Fog - paid me a visit recently. She popped in to greet me several mornings in a row last week. Maybe she knew Valentine's Day was just around the corner. She wanted to surprise me. That's so cute. She knows me so well...

On Friday of last week, I seized the opportunity to spend some quality time with Fog. I woke up before dawn and packed up my panoramic camera, drowsily loaded up my truck, and headed to an old photographic stomping ground: Quail Hill Trailhead in Irvine. I fired off 3 rolls of Fuji Velvia 100 film over the course of a few hours, playing entirely with compositions involving dirt roads vanishing into the mist. The whole beauty of fog, after all, is the layers and depth she creates. With a road winding into the distance, I was able to show this layered effect.

Things didn't go well when I first arrived. I couldn't find a composition that worked, I felt rushed, I began to feel frustrated. It had been so long since Fog and I last spoke that it was just...awkward. But soon she'd be gone, and if I didn't turn on my A-game I'd have nothing to show for it. I was blowing my chance with Fog! Then, after taking the time to get reacquainted with each other, I finally found my groove and it was just like old times.

Quail Hill right now is beautifully lush from the rains this winter and I've been spending a lot of time lately at Quail Hill and the Irvine Open Space Preserve trying to capture this verdant landscape. Fog, though, mutes colors and casts a blue tinge over everything. The green was strong enough to show through, but it definitely takes on a different hue under these conditions. I actually dig the bluish color cast and muted tones for these shots. I think it captures the solitude and moodiness better than warm tones would.

Well, after this rendezvous with Fog, she fled town like she always does. I'm sure she's off playing with some other photographer's emotions up north, making him feel like the most important guy in the world until she wads him up and throws him in the garbage like a used tissue. I should break it off with Fog, tell her it's over and I'm done with her teasing me like this. But who am I kidding? I'll be waiting by the window with camera in-hand until she finds her way back to town.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.

Fog at Quail Hill Trailhead, Irvine, CA

Fog at Quail Hill Trailhead, Irvine, CA

Fog at Quail Hill Trailhead, Irvine, CA