Nick Carver Photography Blog

Photography Tips, Tutorials, & Videos


A Year in Review – Best of 2012

Well, the Mayans were wrong. We made it all the way to the end of 2012 and a new year is on the horizon.

2012 was a milestone year for me. The year started off with a bang as I finally made my way into a gallery in Laguna Beach. My new relationship with Artist Eye Gallery has been a major boon for my fine art pursuits. I'm still building up my name in the art community and I have big plans in the coming year in regards to my new releases. This year also marked the move of my business headquarters out of my home and into my own office in Tustin, CA at the all-new Nick Carver Photography Learning Center (as I'm calling it). It's been quite a ride getting the walls painted, the rooms furnished, and the new classes organized. It's a very exciting step for me.

The past 12 months saw my highest ever online course sign-ups, website visits, and profits with my private lessons growing an unprecedented 62% over 2011 and my online courses growing by 76%! The fine art side of my business also grew by 34% thanks in no small part to my new presence in Artist Eye Gallery in Laguna Beach. Plus, my work appeared in Sunset magazine this year and I made the big decision to venture back into film - a very rewarding move for me.

It was a year for the books and it's going to be tough to top it in 2013 - but I will. Thank you all for your continued support, whether it's by enrolling in a class, taking private lessons or just visiting my site and enjoying my work, I truly appreciate your contribution. I am very grateful to have so many followers, fans, viewers (or however you want to word it)! Thank you!

I thought I'd start 2013 with a blog post featuring my 5 favorite pictures and my 10 favorite blog posts from 2012. Here they are:

My 5 Favorite Pictures from 2011

Click the first 3 photos to view larger

^ This is, hands down, my favorite photo from 2012. Taken on my visit to the White Mountains of California, I photographed this ancient bristlecone pine tree in the warm glow of the setting sun over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It's my favorite photo for a few reasons. First, visiting these ancient bristlecone pine trees was a life changing experience. I'm not going to bother trying to explain that fully in just a couple sentences - that'll come in a new blog post. Also, although this photo isn't my first 4x5 large format shot ever taken, I consider it my first truly successful 4x5 shot - the first one where I feel like I didn't mess anything up and I really did things right. 

Interior of an old barn in Utah - Ilford Delta 100 Film

^ I know this shot may not do much for most people, but it means a lot to me. Taken in my aunt's old barn in Utah, I really love this shot because of the memory tied to it and the fact that I shot it on 35mm black and white film. I spent time inside the barn, soaking up the rich textures and dramatic light with nothing more than my camera and a ladder serving as a makeshift tripod. Good times. See other photos from that shoot here and here

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

^ This is another one of those shots that didn't get a huge reaction out of people compared to my other pictures from this trip, but there's just something about it that I like. I took it during a one-on-one destination workshop with a student to Death Valley who was nice enough to bring some beautiful sunrises and sunsets with him. I made this picture on 35mm Provia 100F film at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. If you know me, you know how I love sand dunes and film. So I guess this picture just brought those two together perfectly for me. See the rest of the pictures from that trip here

Sunset in Crystal Cove State Park, CA

^ Taken with my trusty old Canon 5D, I liked this picture so much that I chose it for the cover of my 2013 wall calendar. If I'm honest, I don't remember taking this photo as well as I remember most shots I take. No special memory tied to it, no special feelings or emotions - the composition just worked out well and the waves came in at just the right angle. See more shots from that sunset here

Run-Down Houses Near Lee-Vining, CA off Highway 395

^ Yet another vertical photo. Hmm...I guess I had a thing for vertically oriented photos in 2012. Anyway, I was pleased with this shot because the clouds were kind enough to break at just the right time in just the right spot. The fresh snow of the incoming storm laid down a beautiful blanket of white to spruce up this old shack outside Lee Vining. I love me some inclement weather, so the memory of the storm alone is enough to put this image in my list of favorites, but I'm also happy with how the composition worked out and how the sky turned out with the use of my tried-and-true split NDs. No HDR here, just good ol' filters. See more photos from that trip here and here

Top 10 Blog Posts from 2012

10. Tips & How-To: Understanding Lens Names - view
Lens nomenclature is ridiculous. A lens name has more abbreviations and code than a Thomas Guide. This post should help. 

9. Video From Death Valley Trip - view
This video probably didn't impress my readers as much as it did me, but it gives a nice behind-the-scenes look at one of my trips to Death Valley.  

8. Choosing a Tripod - view
There are too many tripods out there. This article will help you sift through the options to find the right one for you.   

7. How Many Megapixels Do You Really Need? - view
With the release of the obnoxiously over-megapixeled Nikon D800, I thought I'd give you the straight dope on how many megapixels you really need.   

6. What Lens Should I Buy Next? - view
Be wary of "Gear Acquisition Syndrome" (GAS) and buy equipment you really need, not what internet forums tell you you need. 

5. Choosing a Telephoto Zoom Lens - view
Here are my recommendations for telephoto zoom lenses organized by price. Buy the right one from the get-go.

4. Shooting Film in Death Valley - view
I've been to Death Valley many times, but this was my first with a film camera.  

3. Nikon is Backwards - view
The Nikon vs. Canon debate is stupid. That being said, let me tell you why Nikon is the backwards one.  

2. The Virtues of Film: Tangibility - view
This post has gotten a lot of response from my readers. I guess it strikes a certain chord with people. 

1. Venturing Back Into Film - view
This post may not be as informative as some of my other posts, but it marks one of the most exciting decisions I've ever made in my career. 


So there you have it. Goodbye to 2012. You've been good to me.

I hope 2013 brings you, me and everyone in between all the prosperity, joy, and growth we can handle. Stay positive and stay grateful. 

A Year in Review – Best of 2011

Happy New Year!

The holidays are over, the new year is upon us and tax season is right around the corner. But before we leave the stress of the holidays and return to the stress of the daily grind, I'd like to look back on the past 12 months and all that happened in 2011.

I'm happy to say that 2011 was a year of major growth for me personally and in my business. With a completely redesigned website, the launch of 2 new online courses, 4 online course discount packages, my first ever wall calendar and the continued success of my private lessons and group classes, my numbers were nearly twice that of the previous year! My private lessons saw a 31% increase and my online courses grew an astounding 161% over 2010! Plus, my work appeared on 2 magazine covers this year (Coast and, I was published in Travel + Leisure magazine for the first time ever and my fine art was on display at the high-end Bistango restaurant in Irvine.

All in all, it was a fantastic year and it's going to be tough to top it in 2012. Thank you all for your continued support, whether it's by enrolling in a class, taking private lessons or just visiting my site and enjoying my work, I truly appreciate your contribution. I am very grateful to have so many followers, fans, viewers (or however you want to word it)! Thank you!

I thought I'd start 2012 with a blog post featuring my 5 favorite pictures from 2011, my top 5 trips and my top 5 blog articles. Enjoy!

My 5 Favorite Pictures from 2011

Click any photo to view it larger

Spruce Trees in Fog - Cleveland National Forest, CA

^ Taken in April along the Trabuco Canyon Trail in the Cleveland National Forest. I chose this photo as one of my favorites from 2011 for a few reasons. First of all, this photo, for me, signifies the start of new possibilities for local photography. Having just traded in my sedan for a 4x4 Toyota 4Runner, I decided to hit a trail that was previously off-limits to me due simply to an inability of my car to get me there. So this photo reminds me that hardly any location is off-limits to me now. Also, this was the first time I ventured deep enough into the Cleveland National Forest to see all the huge spruce trees out there. This photo is my introduction to a world of hidden beauty that was previously unknown to me. And finally, I just love fog.

Nurse Log in the Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

^ Taken in the Hoh Rain Forest on my trip to Olympic National Park in May, this photo pretty much sums up the Pacific Northwest. Although the sweeping vistas and picturesque mountains are the more common postcards of the area, I feel the real foundation of what makes the Pacific Northwest so breathtaking is the sheer abundance of life. Organisms are packed so tightly in this wet region that plants grow out of plants and death is nothing more than a new source of life. This nurse log and its colonnade of trees growing from it illustrates that idea perfectly. Click the photo for a larger view so you can enjoy the details in all their glory.

Bunch Falls in the Olympic National Park, WA

^ Also taken on my trip to Washington, this vertical pano of Bunch Falls is one of my favorites from the year. It reminds me of the 2 joyous hours I spent photographing these falls and the solitude I experienced in that time. The falls themselves are so beautiful and grand that I really could have spent an entire day in its presence. Looking at this photo, I can still hear the roar of the water and feel the cold touch of the air. I can't wait to go back. This photo also looks gorgeous framed up real big (check that out here).

North Lake at sunrise in Autumn - Sierra Nevada Mountains, CA

^ From my recent trip to photograph the fall color in the Sierra Nevadas, this photo of North Lake at sunrise was one of my all-time favorites from the second I clicked the shutter. I love the composition, but I loved the experience even more. The lake was beautifully devoid of any signs of human activity and the calmness of the scene on this freezing morning instilled a deep sense of serenity in me. I did some clever use of filters in this shot to get the perfect exposure across the entire scene, and I'm quite pleased with the results. 

Bishop Creek in Fall - Sierra Nevada Mountains, CA

^ Also taken on my trip to the Sierras in autumn, this picture of Bishop Creek has gotten a great response from my viewers. I love it, myself, because it is the result of a pre-visualized shot that I really wanted to get, but failed miserably at executing the first several attempts. From the very start of the trip, I envisioned a photo of the rich fall leaves enshrouding a rocky creek as it passed between the aspens. I tried 3 or more times to get what I envisioned, but faced poor lighting, impossible climbing and imperfect conditions. Finally, though, I took a chance on this location not knowing what I'd find once I got to the creek's edge. My persistence and determination ultimately paid off in the form of the photo above. 


2000 Toyota 4Runner with Gobi Stealth Rack and Off-Road Lights

^ Alright, this isn't really a favorite photo of 2011, per se, because it's not one of my usual scenics, but I love this photo because I love my truck and I put a TON of work into it this year. I undertook a huge project to install a heavy-duty roof rack and 8 auxiliary off-road lights - a project that was exhausting, frustrating, difficult, frustrating, fun and...frustrating.  The hard work and frustration, though, was ultimately well worth it. These lights have come in handy a lot already and I'm proud to say I installed them myself. You can read a little more about this project here

Top 5 Trips from 2011

5. Lunar Eclipse - view
Aside from the fact that it was an ultra-rare celestial event, the solitude at Torrey Pines was unforgettable.  

4. Corona Del Mar in February - view
I didn't have to travel far to get there, but shooting the beach during a rainstorm was so much fun that I just had to put it in my top 5.  

3. Death Valley Trip - view parts 1 & 2
First time to Death Valley. The surreal experience of being on the Badwater salt flats in gale-force winds was utterly amazing. 

2. Autumn in the Sierras - view parts 1, 2, 3 & 4
My timing couldn't have been better - I hit the Sierras at the perfect time to capture the color at its peak. Just beautiful. 

1. Washington Trip - view parts 1, 2, 3 & 4
I still think back on this trip and it just blows me away. I love me some Pacific Northwest!

Top 5 Blog Articles from 2011

5. Why Other People's Pictures Are Better - view
Technically from the fourth quarter of 2010, but such an important post that I wanted to share it with you again.  

4. Photo Books: Blurb vs. Adorama - view
See my in-depth side-by-side comparison of photo books from these 2 manufacturers. You won't be disappointed with my recommendation.  

3. Dealing With Criticism - view
We all have to deal with criticism at some point in our photography. Hopefully this post will help you keep criticism from affecting you. 
Full Frame Sensor Size

2. Tips & How-To: Do I Need a Full-Frame Camera? - view
Boy do I love talking people out of unnecessary equipment! This post sets the record straight on full-frame vs. digital format.

1. 5 Quick Bits of Advice for Beginning Photographers - view
Whether you're a beginning or advanced shooter, take a look at this post covering some advice I've cultivated from 12 years of shooting.