Nick Carver Photography Blog

Photography Tips, Tutorials, & Videos

CONTACT
 

New Work: Sequoia National Park – Part 1

Sequoia National Park in winter Tree Trunks, Sequoia National Park, CA
Mamiya RZ67 on Ilford Delta 100 film

1/2 at f/16

- Click Any Image for a Larger View - 

I spent the first weekend in March in the beautiful Sequoia National Park to try my hand at photographing these majestic trees. Nestled on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, this region played an important role in the creation of the national park system as we know it today.

It was in the shadow of these giant trees that naturalist John Muir and the great president Theodore Roosevelt slept under the stars after sneaking away from the president's cavalcade of security and advisors. Roosevelt wanted to spend time in the woods that Muir's writings made famous (along with Yosemite Valley) to see for himself what made them national treasures worth protecting. He wanted the solitary experiences that Muir described, unspoiled by his staff and modern amenities.

After several days in the wild with Muir, Roosevelt's passion for protecting these treasures, like the Sequoias, burned with an intensity like never before. This single experience served as a catalyst for an already growing national movement for environmental protection and began a series of historic events as Roosevelt set aside more and more land for public appreciation and recreation.

When you're amongst these giant Sequoias, it's plain to see how they could have such a profound impact on Muir and Roosevelt. They are truly amazing organisms. One can't help but feel like little more than an insignificant blip in the history of this planet when standing with these enormous trees. They sprouted long before you arrived, and they will stand long after you're gone.

Sequoia Trees in Sequoia National Park in winterBig Tree Trail, Sequoia National Park, CA
Shen-Hao HZX-45IIa on Ilford Delta 100 film

1 second at f/40 - Red #23A filter with 1-stop split ND
(See the bench at the foot of the tree?)

I planned this trip with hopes of photographing them in fresh snowfall. But as all nature photographers know, getting the weather to coincide with your hotel reservations is the biggest challenge of it all.

Although I arrived to plentiful snow on the ground, it was old, dirty snow that just didn't highlight the beauty of this place like I'd hoped. I tried my best using my large format and medium format cameras with black and white film, but it was tough to capture what I envisioned. If only the clouds would have granted me a gift of just a few fresh inches of snow...but alas, it was not meant to be.

Kaweah River in Sequoia National Park, CAKaweah River, Sequoia National Park, CA
Mamiya RZ67 on Ilford Delta 100 film

1/8 at f/16 - Polarizer and Red #23A filter

Big Tree Trail in Sequoia National Park, CABig Tree Trail, Sequoia National Park, CA
Shen-Hao HZX-45IIa on Ilford Delta 100 film

1 minute at f/22 - Red #23A filter

I managed only a few photos in the snowy areas that I'm proud of. I worked hard to find spots with clean, uncluttered and un-trampled snow, but there just weren't many areas that worked. Plus, with the majority of roads closed for the season, I was quite limited on where I could go.

After all was said and done, I found my favorite compositions at a beautiful overlook called Beetle Rock. Those pictures will come in Part 2 of this post. So stay tuned!

Private Workshop in Death Valley: Part 2

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at sunrise in Death Valley National Park, CA

View "Private Workshop in Death Valley: Part 1"

For sunrise of the second day of our trip, my student and I visited the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. These dunes are gorgeous and easily accessible (relatively speaking), which, unfortunately, means they are quite popular. And popular sand dunes mean foot-printed sand dunes.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Sand dunes are one of the toughest locations to shoot. Climbing up them is like going up the wrong way of an escalator, and before long, 35 lbs of camera gear starts to feel like 50. But that's not the worst part - that's just physical exertion. The real tough part is the footprints. They are damn near impossible to avoid, your own footprints included.

But we went off to a lesser-visited section of the dunes to capture some pristine spots. Of course, the next guy will have to frame out the holes from our tripod legs...

This was my first time photographing dunes at sunrise. I normally catch them at sunset, but the morning light here was gorgeous. I loved the dark, curvy shadows the dunes casted on themselves. And the ripples in the sand...it doesn't get much better than that. The moon even came out to pose for me.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at sunrise in Death Valley National Park, CA

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at sunrise in Death Valley National Park, CA

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at sunrise in Death Valley National Park, CA

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at sunrise in Death Valley National Park, CA

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at sunrise in Death Valley National Park, CA

After a much-needed nap for me, we ventured out into Panamint Valley to photograph the Panamint Mountains at sunset. We camped out near the dry lake bed there to catch the cracked dirt, sand, bushes and all the other weird formations there.

Panamint Mountains at sunset in Death Valley National Park, CA

Panamint Mountains at sunset in Death Valley National Park, CA

Panamint Mountains at sunset in Death Valley National Park, CA

Before heading home on the last day of our stay, we hit Devil's Cornfield at sunrise. Devil's Cornfield is an interesting area where tons of arrowweed bushes dot the landscape - some over 7 feet tall - like stalks of corn (I suppose). They remind me less of corn stalks and more like strange bushes that have been pulled up out of the ground and then set back on the sandy floor of the desert.

Devil's Cornfield at sunrise in Death Valley National Park, CA

Devil's Cornfield at sunrise in Death Valley National Park, CA

Devil's Cornfield at sunrise in Death Valley National Park, CA

And to seal off the trip, I did a quick self-portrait with my student, Kim Murphy. Check out that "stalk of corn". I'm 6'2" and that bush is taller than me!

Nick Carver & Kim Murphy at Devil's Cornfield in Death Valley National Park, CA

I had tons of fun taking Kim out on this private workshop. Her work is phenomenal and she's an incredibly talented photographer. Be sure to follow her blog and visit her website here. She also posted a blog entry about the trip, so check that out to see her beautiful photos from Death Valley.

Private Workshop in Death Valley: Part 1

Salt Flats at sunset in Death Valley National Park, CA

Last week, I met a student out in Death Valley National Park for a 3-day, 2-night private, one-on-one photography workshop. We stayed in Panamint Springs and spent the trip photographing hot spots like the salt flats, sand dunes and Devils Cornfield. 2 sunrises and 2 sunsets later, we'd seen and photographed some of the most unique landscapes this country has to offer. If you'd like information on planning your own private workshop, drop me a line.

Day 1 brought us through Artists Drive, which is a short one-way tour through a section of the Amargosa Mountains that is stained with colors from various mineral deposits in the rock. Truthfully, this area is tough to photograph because the colors are pretty faint pastels. In midday, the light is harsh and washes out the colors. At sunset, the yellow light blends all the colors together. Great clouds, though. That being said, we did the best we could with what we had.

Artists Drive in Death Valley National Park, CA

Artists Drive in Death Valley National Park, CA

Artists Drive in Death Valley National Park, CA

Artists Drive in Death Valley National Park, CA

The real fun came from the salt flats at sunset. The polygonal shapes of this dry lakebed is unlike anything else on earth. I've been to the salt flats twice in my life and being out there is truly the most surreal experience I've ever had. It's a truly magical place.

Salt Flats at sunset in Death Valley National Park, CA

Salt Flats at sunset in Death Valley National Park, CA

Salt Flats at sunset in Death Valley National Park, CA

Salt Flats at sunset in Death Valley National Park, CA

Salt Flats at sunset in Death Valley National Park, CA

Stay tuned for Part 2!