Tell us a little about yourself (who you are, where you are based, what you shoot, etc.)
I'm based in Orange County, CA and I've been taking pictures for about 17 years, 11 of those years I've done it professionally. I shoot primarily commercial architecture (for work) and landscapes (for pleasure). I shoot exclusively with analog film for my personal work and digital for my professional work.
How did you get into landscape photography?
I've had since childhood a strong affinity for the great outdoors, which was nurtured by my dad and his love for hiking and camping. When I first got into photography at the age of 13, I was primarily interested in photographing wildlife, but the cost of equipment for wildlife photography helped steer my attention towards the more affordable avenue of landscape photography. I fell in love with landscape photography pretty quick from there.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography, to me, is a method to communicate something for which words would be insufficient.
What do you wish to convey with your imagery? How do you make sure your images convey this properly?
Certain artworks I've seen throughout my life have had a powerful impact on me. When I look at a painting by Kenton Nelson or a sculpture by Michael Heizer, I feel something deep in my psyche that I can't put words to. I can't describe the feeling, but I know I love the effect it has on me. I hope that my photography can have that effect on other people.
How often do you go out shooting?
Professionally, quite often. Personally, not nearly as often as I'd like. I go on commissioned shoots about 2-4 times a week and I make it out to shoot my personal work maybe a couple times a month if I'm lucky. That's partly because the only things I feel like shooting lately are relatively far away and would require time away from home and work.
How do you recommend getting over G.A.S.? (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)
I'll let you know when I figure it out.
Do you feel social media has a positive or negative effect on (new) photographers? Please elaborate.
It depends on the person, I think. I believe it has a negative impact on me, but some seem to really benefit and grow from it. I get jealous of other people's work pretty easily and it doesn't take much to make me feel like my work should be better. So, for me, viewing other people's work on social media often leaves me feeling inadequate. Also, social media makes it seem like everyone but me is out taking amazing pictures and doing things they love all the time while I'm grinding away every day at work. I know it's not the truth because it's just that nobody posts pictures of their cubicle or their laundry day, but this false image of our lives we all portray on social media can really wipe away the gratitude I have for my own life.
What’s your favorite camera/lens setup? Why?
That changes on almost a monthly basis. Right now, I'm really obsessed with my Polaroid SX-70, but some of my other favorite combos are the Mamiya RZ67 with 110mm f/2.8 and my Shen Hao TFC 617-A with Nikkor-M 300mm f/9.
Where do you find inspiration to keep shooting, even when things get tough?
I get my cleanest and most unadulterated inspiration from simply being out in the desert. But sometimes it's really difficult to find. Sometimes everything is right – the light is good, the subject is beautiful, the gear is ready, but I just can't find my “mojo” and everything falls apart. Those times are deeply frustrating.
Should artists sell prints? If so, do you have any recommendations for printing?
If it makes them happy, absolutely. I find immense satisfaction in making physical prints, so I always encourage that.
My advice is to only do limited editions. You'll never sell as many prints as you think you will and making each a signed and numbered limited edition really increases the perceived value over an open edition.
At what point do you feel a photographer is experienced enough to run workshops or teach other photographers?
It's different for every person, but I personally wouldn't listen very intently to anyone with less than 5 years shooting experience and at least a couple years teaching experience. Some people are naturally great teachers and they can jump into it pretty quick, while some should never be allowed to teach. The skill of teaching is very different than the skill of being a photographer and there's much more responsibility that comes with it. If you're a terrible photographer, it doesn't matter because it doesn't affect anyone else. But if you're a terrible teacher, you're actively making life more difficult for your students and you're likely turning them away from photography. This is why I get so irritated by photography “teachers” who don't take teaching very seriously or they don't feel much responsibility for doing it well. Just because someone is a good photographer, doesn't mean they will be a good teacher.
Do you have any advice for photographers in terms of licensing their images?
It's a different world today than it was 20 or even 10 years ago. The days of strict image licensing with huge royalty fees are gone for the vast majority of photographers. My advice on this is to be brutally honest with yourself. If you have a picture of Yosemite Valley and you're trying to license it to The North Face for $2500 for a 6-month limited print run, good luck. There are a billion photos of Yosemite Valley they can get for much cheaper. Analyze your competition and be honest about how much your picture is really worth. Just because you think your photo is the best doesn't mean it's worth a lot of money.
Do you derive any income from landscape photography? In what ways?
No, I don't. I sell prints now and then, but not nearly enough to qualify as income. Landscape photography is not in high-demand at all and there are a ton of people doing it. It's simple supply-and-demand. My income comes almost entirely from commercial architectural photography and teaching.
Who are some of your biggest inspirations? What is it about their work that inspires you?
I'm a huge fan of Gregory Crewdson for the originality and lighting in his images. His photos really make my mind work trying to figure out the story, which I enjoy. I also admire the images of Andreas Gursky because they are both simple and complex at the same time. They often tell a powerful story, too. And the works of the aforementioned Kenton Nelson (painter) and Michael Heizer (sculptor) inspire me to create better art.
If you could only take one more picture, what do you think it would be of? How would you begin to make that decision?
This answer may be a little bit of a cop-out, but it's the truth. If I knew I could only take one more picture, I would never take it. I would rather forever have one more picture in me than to have none. Plus, I would way over-think my last photo, anyway, and I would drive myself nuts trying to figure out what to shoot.
If you enjoyed this interview with Nick, be sure to check out his website (www.nickcarverphotography.com) for more of his beautiful work.