Nick Carver Photography Blog

Photography Tips, Tutorials, & Videos


Car Mods and the View From Santiago Peak

Well this is going to be a little bit different kind of post than my usual new pics, how-to's, announcements or testimonials. This one is about my truck...

Wait! Come back, ladies! I'll be brief about the truck and then it's on to some pretty pictures that I was able to get because of the truck! I promise.

2000 4Runner with Gobi Stealth Rack

Okay, so I recently completed a big project on my Toyota 4Runner in order to make it more capable for the type of work I plan on doing and the types of trips I plan on taking. First, I installed a sweet roof rack from Gobi that replaces my factory roof rack rails with a very handy basket-style rack. It'll make it easier to carry big loads of gear and anything I don't want to keep in the car, like gas cans and/or my mountain bike.

After the rack, I personally installed 8 auxiliary lights for nighttime off-roading and camping. There are 4 lights up front, 2 in the back and 1 on each side. The lights up front pierce through the darkness as I travel through new territory. The lights in the back will serve as reverse lights as well as utility lights for when I need some illumination as I pack up gear, cook a meal or even help someone change a tire in the darkness (which already happened). The lights on either side can serve as utility lights as well, but also are great for illuminating the inside of hairpin turns going up and down switchbacks.

2000 4Runner with Gobi Stealth Rack

Installing the lights took a total of 30 hours over a very, very hot 3-day weekend last month. Totally worth it. I'll be taking a trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the next month or two where they will really come in handy.

Alright, enough about my truck...

Yesterday, I decided to spend my labor day off-roading up to Santiago Peak in the Cleveland National Forest. For those of you outside of Orange County, Santiago Peak is the highest peak in Orange County (actually, I'm not even sure it's technically in Orange County or Riverside County). It's the taller of the 2 peaks of Saddleback Mountain, the tallest and most prominent geographic feature to the east.

Basically, if you were driving from inland towards the Pacific Ocean, this peak is the last peak over 5000' before you hit the beach.

When I reached the top, I could see all the way out to Catalina Island off the coast and up to Long Beach in the north. The east and south were blanketed mostly by a late-summer storm, but still had great views. Actually, that summer storm made for a very interesting sky.

Here's the view looking south:

Looking South from Santiago Peak, Orange County, CA

Looking west towards the Pacific Ocean with Rancho Santa Margarita, Mission Viejo and others in the foreground:

Looking West from Santiago Peak, Saddleback Mountain, Orange County, CA

Here's a panoramic view of Orange County to the Pacific Ocean. Be sure to click the image for a much, much bigger version!

View from atop Saddleback Mountain overlooking Orange County

Anyone living in OC will recognize those radio towers atop Saddleback Mountain:

Radio Towers atop Saddleback Mountain

Here's the view looking west again. Notice Catalina Island off to the right:

Looking West from Santiago Peak, Saddleback Mountain, Orange County, CA

One of these days, I'm going to make this long drive to the top of Saddleback for sunrise or sunset. With the lights I installed on my truck, the dark trail will be a cake walk 😀

Algae and Rocks in Crystal Cove

Rocks in Crystal Cove State Park, CA

In this past summer session of my Landscape Photography Class in Irvine, I took my class down to Crystal Cove State Park for the field shoot. We lucked out with a super low tide at sunset, but the sunset itself wasn't anything to write home about. No clouds made for a lackluster sky - typical of July in SoCal.

But with the tide so low, we had access to tons of rocks that were absolutely blanketed in bright green algae, which made for great foreground subjects. My best results came from the light a few minutes after sunset. The purple tones in the sky at this time of day complemented the green algae well.

Rocks in Crystal Cove State Park, CA

Rocks in Crystal Cove State Park, CA

And just a quick reminder that registration is open for the next session of my Landscape Photography Class, which starts October 6th. Info on that here.


A Couple New Pics

As I've mentioned recently, summer isn't exactly peak season for landscape photography here in So Cal. The beaches are packed and the hills are dead. But in my Landscape Photography Class in Irvine this May, we were lucky enough to get a pretty decent sky and empty beach for the field shoot.

The tide was very high that day and the sand was littered with seaweed and other debris, but in between helping students with their manual metering and filter use, I was able to get a few decent shots. I picked the two "cleanest" compositions to share with you here.

Crystal Cove State Park, CA

Crystal Cove State Park, CA

I'm really looking forward to fall. That's when the skies start to show some color again and the beaches clear out.