Varina Patel – Photo Talk #21

December 3rd, 2010 |  Published in PhotoTalks, U-Z  |  Subscribe to Comments

This week’s interview is with Varina Patel. This interview is first, in what I hope, is a series of interviews with women photographers who are into landscape, nature, travel photography. Varina Patel, graciously agreed to be my first interviewee for this series.

Some of Varina’s photographs which I love are these gorgeous landscape photographs. You can check out her website photographybyvarina.com for more of her work. Varina and her husband Jay, whom I have interviewed previously work as a team and teach workshops. I had the pleasure of attending their IHDR seminar in the bay area earlier this year. Here is a link to their upcoming workshops. They are really good, patient teachers and I learnt a whole from them. Varina provides very interesting insight and explains the technical aspects of photography very clearly.

Oct 20th Update: Here is another interview of this amazing photographer: http://www.photobards.com/interview/varina-patel-11.html

Anyways, on to the interview:

Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get into photography?

VP: I am 33 years old, and Photography has been a part of my life since I was very young. I took my first photography class in 7th grade, and by the time I reached high school I was sure I wanted to become a professional photographer. I majored in art when I started college, but I changed my major after a short time – photography seemed an unrealistic and impractical career choice. In the end, I graduated with a degree in Information Technology… which has been extremely useful now that photography has gone digital. I use the knowledge I gained in all those college classes to build my websites and handle the technical side of the photographic business.

I went pro in 2005 – shooting stock images for several agencies, and taking occasional jobs shooting hotel interiors for Marriott. I still shoot for stock regularly, but my focus is now on wilderness and landscape photography. I process all my images with Photoshop, which I’ve been using since 1994.

Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: How did you get into landscape photography, your primary interest? What keeps you interested?

VP:During my first two years in college, I spent hundreds of hours in the darkroom trying different techniques – and inhaling noxious fumes. I started shooting landscapes with my black and white film camera in 1994, but it wasn’t until I met Jay in 2005 that I began to shoot landscapes primarily. I attended one of his early workshops in Death Valley that year, and I’ve been shooting in the wilderness ever since. Jay and I were married in 2007, and we now teach workshops and seminars across the U.S. together.

Maintaining an interest in landscape photography is easy. I am very lucky to be able to shoot with Jay, whose passion for wilderness photography matches mine. We travel together as often as possible – usually about once a month. Furthermore, because I work freelance, I am not bound by the rules of anyone else’s game. I am in this simply because I choose it – and that goes a long way towards keeping it fun.

Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: What do you look for and what are trying to convey when you make your lovely landscape photographs?

VP:More than anything else, I am in pursuit of perfect light. As I stand behind my camera, it is my goal to capture each location in a completely unique light or from a different angle. I want to present the location to the viewer in a way that makes them long to break away from the moment and stand where I stood. Some of the locations I photograph are visited by hundreds of photographers each day – so it’s a real challenge to present something new and different each time. I research each location extensively so that I know where the sun is going to rise and set, and what the weather will be like. I watch humidity levels and cloud cover, and I pay close attention to storm fronts as they move through. I try to be prepared so that I am in the right place at the right time… and once I’m there, I look for an interesting foreground object, and plan my composition.

Because I can’t stay in a location as long as I’d like, I try to know as much as possible before I get there. I check tide charts, fall foliage and spring bloom dates, and topographical maps before I travel. I don’t choose a location and go shoot – instead, I choose the best conditions and position myself so that I have the best chance of capturing that perfect shot.

Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: As one of the few women in landscape photography, can you talk about your experiences & unique challenges you face?

VP: My biggest challenge as a woman is balancing my responsibilities as a mother with the demands of my job – a challenge that millions of women deal with every day. I am extremely fortunate to be able to stay at home with my children most of the time. I can process and print my photographs from my home office, and my children know that they are always my first priority. I am out of town for a few days each month, and I enjoy my time away – but I always look forward to coming home to my kids. Jay and I have six children between us – four are mine, and two are his. We spend all our free time with them – swimming, fishing, sledding, riding bikes, playing soccer, camping, hiking, and traveling. We are a very active family, and although I am completely exhausted at the end of every day, I truly love spending time with the children.

Another challenge for female landscape photographer is the physical aspect of the job. I am much smaller than most men, but I have to hike just as far and carry just as much heavy gear. I train year-round so that I can handle any trip. Each week, I run about twelve miles for cardio training, and spend a few hours in the gym doing strengthening exercises. It’s hard to fit this kind of training into my already busy schedule, but it’s essential if I’m going to carry heavy camera gear fifteen miles into the desert, or hike a trail at ten-thousand feet.

Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Do you have any suggestions, opinions and/or words of advice for other women in landscape photography?

VP: Women around the world grow up believing that they aren’t strong enough or smart enough. I don’t believe that. If we can get beyond the stereotypes we’re raised with, we can do anything. When you are doing something you love, motivation comes easily… and hard work pays off a thousand times over.

Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Are you working on any project right now? Can you talk more about it?

VP: Jay and I are currently working on several new ventures. First, we’re preparing a series of webinars (online classes or seminars) for those who are interested in learning more about our techniques, but can’t join us for on-location seminars or workshops. We’ve had many inquiries about online courses, and we’re pleased to be able to offer classes that will meet the demand.

Additionally, we are in the process of building an entirely new website that will provide a wealth of information for photographers and fans. The site will offer articles, free wallpaper downloads, and information on upcoming seminars, workshops, and webinars… and we have a few surprises planned as well. We are very excited about this newest project, and we can’t wait to get it up and running.

Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Any recommendations? (like Photographers, Photo techniques, Music, Books, quotes, food..anything?)

VP: Although I’ve read hundreds of books and thousands of articles in magazines – the internet has been my greatest resource by far. Websites like NaturePhotographer.net and OutbackPhoto.com offer fantastic articles for beginners and professionals alike. Sites like FredMiranda.com allow photographers to post their photos and exchange critiques with others. We all learn from each other on these sites, and even the most inexperienced can participate. I’ve been posting my photos online for years, and I am enormously grateful to all those who took the time to honestly critique my work… my photography is much better because I listened.

Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Varina Patel, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Can you mention how people interested in your work can contact you?

VP: Just drop me an email anytime – varinac@msn.com. You can find my website at www.photographybyvarina.com or by googling my name. You’ll find a wealth of information on my site – galleries, upcoming classes, articles, free downloads, news, travel data, and more. My blog provides regular updates (though it tends to be a bit thin in summer, when my children are home all day) – you can check it out at http://photographybyvarina.blogspot.com. I can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Thanks Varina!

Comments are welcome!

Leave a Response