I have officially moved this blog onto my own servers. Please refer to www.nickcarverphotography.com/blog in the future.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Well I finally got through editing my pictures from Sedona, AZ! I took a little trip there a couple weeks back and it was really awesome! The trip was just 4 days including travel time, so I only had 3 sunsets to work with, but it turned out great anyway. I'm pretty pleased with the results (especially considering the strong winds I had to contend with). Below are the results along with some notes and experiences in getting the shots.
The sunset of the first day was the only day we had clouds - thanks to the strong winds I would guess. I had just arrived in Sedona a few hours before sunset so I wasn't able to get to any prime spots, but I did manage to snap a few shots from outside my hotel and at the Coconino National Forest Visitor Center. I used my 70-200mm to crop out the surrounding buildings and trees so I could focus on the red rock at sunset.
The next day my brother and I drove north a little bit into Oak Creek Canyon to see what kind of fall color was available. There was definitely a lot more color than south of Sedona, or near my home in Southern California for that matter, but it was no East Coast display. I really enjoyed the backlighting of the sun on the yellow and green leaves and tried to take advantage of that. Oak Creek proved to be a great subject. I hadn't photographed any creeks in awhile - been mostly beaches for awhile - so it was real nice to do that again. My Singh-Ray warming circular polarizer was on my lens most of the time.
I went to a scenic spot near my hotel for sunset later that day. Yeah, it was touristy, but it served up some great shots of Courthouse Butte at sunset. This little sunset sesh destroyed my neck for some reason. I was in excruciating pain for the rest of the night. Still worth it, though.
My brother, my dad and I went to the Palatki ruins the next day to check out the old dwellings and petroglyphs. I was pleasantly surprised by this place. I was a little put off at first because the ruins and petroglyphs were heavily protected by ropes and rangers, so I didn't have all the freedom I would have liked. I guess that's the price we all have to pay for jackasses that decide to add their own "petroglyphs" and think it's fun to destroy historical landmarks. But after hearing all the enlightening data the rangers had on these ruins and petroglyphs, I was really glad they were there. Some of the information they offered regarding the petroglyphs was intensely interesting. It really made me appreciate what I was looking at.
The petroglyphs pictured above are estimated to be over 10,000 years old!
After Palatki, we headed over to Red Rock Crossing to photograph Cathedral Rock over Oak Creek. Yeah, this is easily the most photographed scene in all of Sedona, but I still had to check it out. This place was a lot of fun. I took off my boots, rolled up my jeans and spent most of the time photographing knee-deep in Oak Creek. The water was freezing and I really had to fight to keep my balance on the slippery bottom, but it made for a little more unique shots. My Gitzo tripod held up like a champ in these conditions, too. I would have really liked to have had my photo vest and I wished I had worn convertible pants, but live and learn.
On a side note: We rented a Nissan Xterra for the trip and I am officially back in love with that car. I wanted one for awhile and changed my mind to a Subaru for the better mileage, but I don't care anymore. That Xterra was way too sweet. I can't wait until I can afford one...
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Took a little 4-day trip to Sedona over the weekend with my dad and brother. Sedona is gorgeous. I think it'd be even more beautiful without all the human development, but the red rock formations, ancient petroglyphs and Indian dwelling ruins still made for amazing photo subjects. I'll be a doing a full-length post with all sorts of details and tidbits about my trip, but I wanted to post one picture up partly as a little teaser but mostly because it's been way too long since I've posted anything on my blog.
Enjoy and keep an eye out for the next Sedona post!
Sunday, September 14, 2008
The PhotoShelter Collection closed its doors on September 11. This date is turning out to be the Friday the 13th of the 21st century.
I was a recent convert to PhotoShelter. I learned about it through Chase Jarvis and finding it was like experiencing a heroic rescue from Batman. I felt like I could finally tell my microstock agencies to (insert f-bomb here) off so I could start supporting a stock agency that was out to make the industry better and actually make it possible for photographers to buy more than half a bag of M&Ms with an image sale. I was so jazzed to shut down my accounts with iStockphoto and Shutterstock and move my portfolio over to this gallant lionheart of stock. I knew it was the best thing for me, for the industry and for photographers everywhere.
Unfortunately, PhotoShelter broke the news on 9/11 that they'd be closing their doors on their Collection. They're still in business and will still be offering their Personal Archive services, but this is such a horrible loss for photographers everywhere.
PhotoShelter Collection, you are a fallen hero. Thank you for your efforts, honesty and integrity. You will be missed.
For more information on this announcement, read their blog about it and check out the FAQ.
Also, please read this blog by Vincent Laforet about the close of the PhotoShelter Collection and his thoughts on microstock. We share similar viewpoints on this matter.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
I've been wanting to post a blog about microstock agencies for awhile. I have some very strong opinions about microstock, and well, I guess I'll just feel a little better if I know I've put them out on the web for others to read. Maybe some photographer will come across this post and it will help them keep their integrity when deciding whether or not to join up with iStockphoto or Shutterstock. Then again, maybe I'll just piss off a lot of people and sound like a ranting idiot. Either way, I think I'll sleep better tonight.
I am ashamed to admit that I was with iStockphoto and Shutterstock for several months. I joined because I was uneducated on the photography market and what pictures are really worth. I would justify it with things like "there's no way to compete with microstock" and "that's where the industry is headed" and "the number of downloads makes up for the horribly low commissions." I used to liken it to iTunes. "iTunes sells songs for $0.99. I'm sure a lot of musicians aren't happy with that, but that's where the industry is headed. Same thing for stock photography. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," I'd say. I knew deep down that iTunes was selling songs for $0.99, but if you purchased a 12-song CD at Best Buy for $14.99, you were only paying $1.25 per song. So given the lack of CD production costs, selling a song on iTunes is right about on par with what the industry has always been collecting. Not to mention the fact that the songs on iTunes come with very limited rights!
Meanwhile, stock photos that used to sell with limited rights to a buyer for hundreds to thousands of dollars were now selling with unlimited rights for $1.00. I remember getting a raise at Shutterstock from $0.25 commission per download to $0.33! I couldn't believe the enthusiasm in the forums! They were excited about $.08 more per image! I find more than that in my couch cushions.
Shutterstock also offered extended license options to buyers. This is where a buyer can use more of their "credits" (or however the hell their system works) to buy an image that offered them more usage - billboards, multiple ads, anything. Earned me somewhere in the neighborhood of $20. Think about this: That would be like a movie production company purchasing a CD for $20 from Virgin Records and using a song on it, with no further royalties, in a multi-million dollar grossing movie. A musician and a record company wouldn't allow that in a million years - why are we?
I think photographers are doing this for a couple reasons.
The first is that a lot of the people signed on with these microstcok agencies aren't, in fact, photographers. Sure, they have a shiny new DSLR and they took a pretty good picture of their kid for which they will sign the model release, but they don't give a shit about the photographic community, the industry or what's fair. They make their living from a 9-5 and do this microstock stuff on the weekends. They have no reason to demand a fair compensation for their pictures - they're happy to get anything from their snapshots that they would have taken anyway. Their day job (or parents) pay their bills.
The second reason is because so many amateurs are suddenly "pros," the real pros feel like they have to sacrifice their integrity and what they know is fair compensation so they can compete with them. Rights managed agencies have been dropping like flies, so they feel they need to protect themselves by joining up with the microstock agencies. But if no self-respecting pro ever supported microstock, then the micrstock agencies would be flooded with so much crap and nothing of any real value, they'd all go under. People want quality - if the microstock agencies didn't have any quality to offer, they'd burn like the horrible garbage heaps they are.
There is some amazing work on these microstock agencies sprinkled in amongst all the crap. Here's an example search for "Half Dome". Both images are from Shutterstock. Clearly one is a much higher quality image. Why are they both getting the same shitty $0.33 commission?! If you have better work, you should get paid more!
And another example for "sunset."
And another example for "Golden Gate Bridge."
Now I'm not one to blow my own whistle and go around touting my pictures as the best thing since sliced bread. I don't claim to be a veteran or to know the ins and outs of this business. I've been taking pictures for 7 years, but hell, I'm only 21 and I've only been doing this full-time for a year now. I do, however, have the power of observation. I can see when a business model is ruining an industry. I can see when a picture is crap. I can see when something is unfair. And I can see when photographers worldwide are bent over with their pants down around their ankles.
YOU DESERVE MORE THAN $0.33 FOR YOU IMAGES. LET THE AMATUERS COLLECT THE $25 WEEKLY PAYCHECKS.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
I made myself a DIY ring light over the weekend that I wanted to share with everyone. Its design is inspired by the Ray Flash and its materials are inspired by this DIY ring light tutorial. Truthfully, I'd much rather own a Ray Flash, but $35 and a little elbow grease looked much more appealing than $300.
Sorry, I didn't take pictures of the building process, I don't have diagrams and this isn't a how-to post. Why? Partly because there are about a billion DIY ring light tutorials on the internet already that are probably easier than mine, but mostly because I am way too impatient to stop and take pictures throughout the building process. If enough people really love this design and need to know how to make it, I'll do another how-to post in the future. But unless I get bombarded with requests, I wouldn't count on it. It's that I'm selfish, it's just that I'm impatient.
But to give you a short description of it's design, I used galvanized rain gutter pipes (the kind that are really shiny) to reflect the light from my on-camera 550ex down into a clamp light reflector diffused with a store-bought cutting board mat. I think the picture of it on my camera is pretty self-explanatory, but let me know if you have any questions.
Here are the results of my first tests on my niece and sister-in-law. Took some time to figure out how to use this thing with good results...never worked with a ring light before. All pictures are shot with a 1/2 CTO on the flash.
Sorry for the poor image quality of the picture showing the ring light attached to my camera. My 5D is my only DSLR, so I had to use my little point and shoot Casio to get that shot.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
As (primarily) a landscape photographer, split neutral density filters are my bread and butter. I have 5 in all plus a solid ND and a polarizer. Split NDs are virtually useless in screw-in ring form, so I opt for the Singh-Ray rectangular filters with Cokin P series holders.
I've gone through several different filter cases from generic to name brand to custom to different custom, etc. There were some specific points I needed in a filter case that none of these fulfilled entirely. I wanted it to be small enough to fit in a camera bag and in a photo vest pocket, I wanted it to be able to attach to my belt or belt loop, I wanted it to be entirely enclosed when shut, I wanted no velcro closure (too loud) and I wanted it to adequately protect my filters without overkill.
Now I'm sure it's no secret among photographers that a CD wallet is a great option for this (if it is news to you - hooray!). The materials used to protect CDs are generally on par with materials used to protect photo equipment so there's no worry there. The sleeves are in a convenient binder-esque arrangement for easy browsing. It's small in width and length and relatively thin. The only problem I kept running into is I couldn't find a blasted CD case that would lay flat when opened. They all had this wrap-around design on the binding that would cause it to shut on itself like a new paperback novel.
Well this post is about a great case I found for this application as well as some of my modifications that make it the ultimate filter case.
First off, the brand of case is Case Logic and it's a 24 CD/DVD CD Wallet. It's great because it lays completely flat when opened - no spring return - and it's covered in this somewhat rubbery outer that has stood up excellently to the elements for me. It features a full zipper that is smooth and has a rubber-tipped zipper pull. It is the smallest CD wallet I have found that will still fit all my filters and its rounded corners and edges make for easy storage. I like it so much, I got two in case they discontinue it. I bought mine at Best Buy - not sure if they still sell them or not.
Now onto the mods to make it even better. I wanted to be able to attach it to my hip belt loop, so I needed to add a carabiner in the upper left corner. I did this by taking some strong string (I used a sunglasses cord I bought at REI), threading it behind the sleeves and wrapping them around the binding pegs (see picture). I then tied it at the top with a slight loop hanging over the edge at the end of the zipper. I recommend melting the ends of the cord with a lighter to avoid fraying. This made it so a small loop of the cord would hang out of the wallet in the upper left corner when the zipper was completely shut. I then attached a small carabiner to this loop and presto, you got yourself a wicked side filter wallet.
To make it even better, I put labels on each sleeve indicating the filter. I did one horizontally on the opposing sleeve for viewing horizontally and a smaller one vertically on the filter's sleeve. The vertical label makes more sense when using the wallet when it's hanging from your side. I then put little squares of thin cardboard on the opposite side of each filter sleeve. This keeps the sleeve rigid when the filter is removed making it much easier to slide it back in later.
I found this setup to work great for me. I just attach it to my right hip belt loop when I get my camera out and start shooting. I have every filter right at my fingertips in a completely sealed wallet (not water PROOF of course, but water resistant nonetheless). I can remove a filter and let the wallet drop to my side with no worries. It has stood up perfectly to many harsh conditions (especially sand and sea spray). I've never had a filter break in this wallet, it's easy to store and transport and it's cheap!
Monday, August 25, 2008
I took a little day trip to Bodie State Park with my brother and his fiance to get some portraits about a week ago. I needed to blog about it because this place is insane with awesomeness. Seriously, it's out of control. There is no other place like it on the planet. It's a ghost town. But not like one of those Knott's Berry Farm going panning for fake gold after eating your funnel cake type of ghost towns - this place is legit. It's tucked away in these gorgeous rolling hills right near the just as insanely gorgeous Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. It's not restored, it doesn't have any novelty gift shops, there are zero modern structures (except the bathrooms) and no paved roads. It's in a state of "arrested decay." Think "There Will be Blood" frozen in time. There's a crazy-looking church, houses, a mill, a saloon - utter craziness. Check out Bodie.com for more information.
So anyway. We went there to get some engagement shots for my bro's wedding coming up in November. Now the thing about my brother and his fiance, they're olde tyme (that's "old time-ee"). In fact, as my brother has so accurately put it, Carver's are built to be olde tyme. Now when I say olde tyme, I don't mean we won't use cell phones or we think camera's steal your soul. We just appreciate the music and the culture of the late 19th century to early 20th century. And let's just say I look smashing in newsie's hat. Hell, my dad can play the banjo like nobody's business! So basically, this was the perfect backdrop for this couple.
I think the pictures turned out pretty great and my bro and his fiance were stoked with them (which is the most important part). Plus, I got an unexpected benefit from this trip. We drove through Bishop (Galen Rowell's stomping ground) and right past Mono Lake on the way to Bodie. I'd never been in this area before. I'd been to Lone Pine to the south and I've backpacked through the Eastern Sierras, but nothing beyond that. I am so glad I drove through Bishop and around Mono Lake that day. I was having eyegasms left and right. I couldn't get over how beautiful it was up there. The scenery is unbelievable. It really rekindled my fire to take a photo trip. I can't wait to go back to Bishop for a few days to shoot Mono Lake, Yosemite and Bodie. Just goes to show how beneficial scouting can be!
Enjoy the pics!