Carly Tabak always wanted to be a photographer; there is no question about that. “My camera is always around my neck. As a little girl, I was always the person capturing photos at the beach or birthday parties,” she says. One thing that was never quite in her road map, though, was to be a landscape/seascape photographer. It happened gradually and then all at once.
“I’ve always been really inspired by the ocean,” says Carly. The ocean is ingrained in her DNA: She grew up in Miami before moving to Northern California. Even as she pursued a profession as a family and wedding photographer, she would return to the ocean as a source of constant inspiration. Family trips would often devolve into impromptu shoots, as Carly would clamber up a dune to get the best angle or image.
When quarantine began, Carly found a new opportunity. “During COVID, the other photography business really slowed down, and it sparked my creativity,” she says. She now had the time to dig into all those landscape shots that had been sitting in her portfolio, untouched. “I was able to sit in front of my computer and edit them.” Turning her raw photos into works of art was a creative outlet that Carly had missed and was excited to jump back in. She began to curate her collection, and the landscape arm of her business was born.
The ocean is something of a duality. It can appear calm, or it can thrash about with a sort of primal violence that speaks directly into the soul. It’s a fickle creative partner, but Carly feels she has an innate connection to it. “Beauty is hidden and can be discovered in so many different places,” she says. Her collection spans the cliffs of Mendocino, the beaches of Hanalei, and the bustling docks of San Francisco Bay. Regardless of the subject, Carly’s work comes off as soft and serene.
When she isn’t taking overhead shots with her drone or climbing around the beaches of Corona del Mar, Carly finds beauty in small moments where shadow and light play wildly. “I find inspiration everywhere, from the trees in my backyard to a reflection in a swimming pool.” Her studies of palm fronds and spiky succulents offer an up-close look at the flora of coastal living, all tied together by her signature approach to washed colors. While her palette is similar across collections, her composition style is constantly shifting. “I’m inspired by light and the subject,” she says. “I’m able to transform my style to capture the moment as it appears.” The moments she captures are dreamlike, evoking a oneness with nature. Carly is an explorer at heart, and her work is an extension of that quest for beauty.
We sat down with the photographer to ask her some rapid-fire questions about everything from her favorite time to shoot to her go-to gear.
Favorite place to photograph: “Mendocino, California, is a favorite of mine. I used to summer there.”
Go-to camera: “I use a combination of my Cannon and my new drone.”
Biggest inspiration: “Definitely the ocean and the water.”
Sunrise or sunset: “Both, but I particularly love the solidarity of sunrise.”
Favorite photograph in your portfolio: “There are so many that I love. It changes every time I shoot a new collection.”