Nick Carver Photography Blog

Photography Tips, Tutorials, & Videos


Apr 10 Crystal Cove Workshop Results

I held a workshop out in Crystal Cove State Park on April 10th with a great group of students. The marine layer prevented a the sunset from showing any real color, but nevertheless, we made the most out of the scene. Here are my shots from the day. The first one is looking away from the ocean - something I don't often find myself doing at Crystal Cove, but these flowers were begging for a shot. It was taken with a circular polarizer to richen the sky.

This next one is more like one of my classic Crystal Cove shots. It was taken with a 2-stop hard transition split ND and a 1-stop hard transition split ND (place at different "heights").

Thank you to my wonderful students for attending! I hope you all learned a thing or two!

Joshua Tree National Park

Back on the 29th of March, I met a student out in Joshua Tree National Park for some 1-on-1 tutoring (Hey, Kim!). The hope was to capture some wildflower photographs but the bloom wasn't quite out just yet. There were some Desert Dandelions blooming along the side of the road, but nothing amazing. So instead, I led us out to Arch Rock and then the Cholla Cactus Gardens for some shots.

I wasn't jiving too well at Arch Rock, so I didn't bring anything home from it. The light was no good and I felt like I already got the best angles of it in a previous trip (you can see one of those shots here). But the Cholla Cactus Gardens turned out to be much more fun. I started out trying to capture the sheer denseness and expansiveness of this amazing wild garden by using my Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS to zoom into the landscape and get some pictures that highlighted the texture, shape, form and patterns of these cacti. I positioned myself so the sun would act as backlighting, giving the cacti a nice halo.

Then I put on my Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens to capture some more intimate, abstract views of these "Teddy Bear" cacti.

Then, when sunset rolled around, I switched to my wide-angle Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L and started working some more classic landscapes.

Click for a larger version of this panoramic

As I was doing some of these shots with my camera pointing southwest, I happened to glance over my shoulder towards the east to see the most stunning view of the full moon rising over the Colorado Desert. So, in a mad dash to beat the moon before it rose too high above the horizon, I called out to Kim to point her camera towards the moonrise, I switched out my lenses, framed up a quick composition and started firing away. The lesson here is never forget to look around when you're out in the field - sometimes the best shot is behind your back.

On our way out of the park, the full moon was shining so much light on the landscape that I just didn't feel right not stopping to get some nighttime shots. The following were taken at night under moonlight. You can see the constellation Orion if you look closely. The following shot was illuminated by nothing more than moonlight.

In this last shot, the rock formation in the background was illuminated solely by moonlight, but I "painted" the Joshua Tree in the foreground with a few sweeps of my LED headlamp throughout the 20-second exposure. I think it turned out quite well if I may say so myself!

Well there you have it. I hope you enjoy the pictures - I know it's a lot this time, but I just couldn't leave any more out! All in all, the trip was a blast and it was great taking my very talented student, Kim, out there to teach her a thing or two about shooting in this great park! Until next time...

Mar 27 Chino Hills Workshop Results

Had another workshop this past Saturday. I forget what it's like having Saturday off from work...hmm. I imagine it's nice, but I can't complain for getting to take some great people out to beautiful locales to teach them photography!

This past Saturday's workshop was in Chino Hills State Park - I love this park. The scenery is classic California and its rolling green hills never fail to relax a worried mind. After giving a few lessons about manual exposure, filtration, focal length, histograms and all that jazz, I thought I'd try to get a shot or two myself. The breeze was moving the grass a fair amount and I wanted to use a small aperture for the large depth of field, but that small aperture slowed my shutter down to something a little bit too slow with my polarizer on. I was about to raise the ISO up to compensate, but then I figured "why fight nature?" The grass blowing in the wind was actually quite beautiful, so why not communicate that in the image?

So instead of increasing the ISO and shutter, I kept the ISO low and slapped a 3-stop solid ND filter on the front of my lens and went for a long shutter to capture the movement on film (card?). This was my favorite composition for this effect. My settings were 0.3" at f/18 and ISO 100. I also had a circular polarizer, a 3-stop solid ND and a 1-stop split ND on the front of my lens.

To my students: You guys were a lot of fun to take out there! I hope you enjoyed the scenery, the knowledge and the company. Thank you all for coming and I hope to see you again soon!

For more information on all of my workshops including other Spring Wildflower Workshops, visit!