Nick Carver Photography Blog

Photography Tips, Tutorials, & Videos


I Got Good Portraiture Chops

Most of you know me as a landscape photographer. It's where I devote the majority of my photographic energy, I'm very skilled and experienced at it and it's where my passion lies. But you might not know that I used to shoots portraits professionally. You also might not know that I've coached dozens of students on portraiture photography - including several that now do it professionally. And what you probably don't know is...

...I still got it, baby.

There's an awesome group based out of LA called GroupShoot that organizes fun photo shoots between photographers and models. Basically, a bunch of photographers get together with a bunch of models in a cool location, shoot all day, then share the results. There's no pressure, no fees and no stress. It's organized by some friends of mine and is open to all who are interested. Click the GroupShoot link above to learn more about it.

I attended the most recent GroupShoot meet this past Saturday at Orcutt Ranch in the San Fernando Valley and got some great portraits to share with you. Keep in mind none of these have ever set foot in Photoshop. I tweaked the levels and added a vignette to a lot of these using Aperture, but that's it. No airbrushing, no dodging or burning, no plugins or filters and, oh yeah, no artificial lighting. This is all natural light with just good technique and a sharp eye.

The following set of pictures are my personal favorites from the day. I really had a lot of fun playing with the backlight and letting the sun peek through just a bit between the models. It created a gorgeous glow around and behind them. This type of extreme back lighting is difficult to shoot without proper training in photography and without the full knowledge of how to use your camera. And these bad boys are practically straight out of the camera. All I did was boost contrast a smidge' in post.

That sunburst coming through the female model's hair on the left (Shannon) was achieved very carefully and all-naturally without filters. Gotta love that star shape.

If you want to learn how to take great portraits, too, check out my private lessons.

Jacqueline Corcos
Kelan Liparoto
Suzie Riemer
Katya Prinsterr
Stephanie Schafer
Jerome Garot
Shannon Rogers

December at the Beach

Whew! The past couple months have been busy as hell! That's good news because there's nothing I hate more than being idle, but that also means I'm building up a hefty backlog of image editing. Luckily I had some time today to at least get through a couple days of shooting from back in December. I have pictures here from 2 different beaches (Crystal Cove State Park and a beach in Laguna).

The first set is from Crystal Cove taken on December 23rd. This was actually during a lesson with a student of mine, Kim Murphy (her work is awesome).

We started the evening photographing the gorgeous clouds reflected in the wet sand. Ahh, gotta love that blue sky. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll tell you I did remove some of the lens flare on the following picture once I got it in the computer (shame on me).

Once the sunset rolled around, I continued playing with the reflections and the motion of the waves. Couldn't decide which of the following 2 I liked better, so I posted both.

Then twilight rolled around and the blues in the sky made for a good, cold mood - perfect for December at the beach.

The second day was at a little beach in Laguna...not sure of the name...on December 29th. We'd been having heavy storms here in SoCal and the skies were breaking up into some pretty dramatic clouds and light. I rushed down to the beach and got there just in time for a few good shots.

Strong winds and passing rain made the job extra difficult, but also extra fun. I had to juggle holding an umbrella, wiping down my filters and avoiding the waves throughout the shoot. I loved it.

The waves were so choppy and tumultuous, I decided to make that the communication in these shots. I made the motion of the water the focal point in these compositions by using slower (but not too slow) shutter speeds. I also slightly under-exposed the pictures to add to the stormy feel.

And lastly, a panorama just as the sun was peeking out from behind the clouds. Click it to see a bigger version.

Thanks for viewing!


Well, I got some new pictures of hummingbirds for you guys.

...that's right, hummingbirds.

I had a private student this morning in Laguna Beach and during the lesson, he snapped some amazing pictures of hummingbirds while I stood by to lend my expertise. There were tons of them! It was the first sunny day we've had in awhile here in So Cal and I think they were out in droves gorging themselves after fasting through the days of rain.

I had some time to kill after the lesson before my next student's appointment, so I thought I'd try my hand at photographing some hummingbirds myself. I haven't done wildlife in awhile and I definitely don't consider myself a wildlife photographer, but his shots got me all jazzed up to break out the telephoto. One of the perks of being a photography teacher: inspiration from my students.

Best I can tell from some online research, the hummingbirds I had in my sights were Allen's Hummingbirds (selasphorus sasin). The coloring on the males is absolutely stunning. The iridescent copper coloring on their throats glowed like a beacon in the daylight. It would even shift to a rich, red color depending on how the light hit is. Beautiful contrast with the green on their backs and white on their chests.

I thought this above shot was kind of funny with him looking right at me, but it also shows his color the best.

Compare the coloring of the male above to the female below.

Hummingbirds are tough to photograph because they move so quickly. The good thing about them, though, is that they are pretty fearless. I guess knowing you're the fastest gun in the west can make you pretty confident. This fearlessness means I could get pretty damn close to them with my 200mm lens without scaring them off. The auto focus on my 5D (mark I) is pathetic, so I ended up manually focusing for most of the shots. Worked much better than I thought it would...

So there you have it! Thanks for stopping by!