Header image for Jay Patel interview showing reflection of sky in lake.

Explore with Any Camera You Have: An Interview with Landscape Photographer Jay Patel

Jay Patel’s appreciation for beautiful places began early in childhood during numerous trips to some of the most breathtaking locations on the Indian subcontinent. His passion for magnificent places now manifests itself in a continuous search to capture nature’s majesty with his camera. Jay’s career in photography began in 2001 when he purchased his first digital SLR. He has since spent time reading photographic articles and studying the styles of great landscape photographers. He has had no formal education or training in photography. He hopes to provide inspiration for others who may also try to capture the nature of light through workshops, eBook, and tutorials he teaches with his wife, photographer Varina Patel.

Valley of Shadow of Death, Death Valley National Park, CA by Jay Patel

Valley of Shadow of Death, Death Valley National Park, CA © Jay Patel

BL: What is your photographic specialty and how did you become interested in it?

Patel: I never really took photography seriously until late 1999 when digital cameras were just coming onto the scene. I purchased my first Nikon 990 in late 1990, and fell in love with photography (something I always wanted to learn). I purchased my first DSLR in 2002 and started seriously pursuing landscape photography.

Slow shutter, silky smooth waterfall landscape photograph of Aldeyjarfoss in Iceland

Aldeyjarfoss, Iceland © Jay Patel

BL: How long have you been teaching and/or writing about photography and how would you describe your teaching/writing style?

Patel: I started teaching photography in 2005. My teaching style is very casual. When I am teaching, I attempt to strike a balance between simplicity, creativity and technical aspects of photography. I try to tailor my teaching style to match the student’s expectation and their abilities. Some students will come away with more technical knowledge while others are able to explore creativity offered by bad light or difficult-to-compose terrains.

Slow shutter waterfall showing smooth water. Gljufrafoss, Iceland. Photo by Jay Patel.

Gljufrafoss, Iceland © Jay Patel

BL: What is your single most depended on photographic item–aside from your camera?

Patel: I have to say that I use my Induro CT113 with a BHL1 Ballhead for almost every single shot I take.

Pink sky over ice in Jokulsarlon, Iceland. Landscape photography by Jay Patel.

Jokulsarlon, Iceland © Jay Patel

BL: What type of gear, new or old, are you most interested in experimenting with?

Patel: I strongly believe that photography is less about gear and more about your ability to use it effectively. I often select my crop-factor Canon 7D over a Canon 5D Mark III if the situation demands it. I also love to explore the creativity with my smartphone’s camera.

White flower in foreground with silky slow-shutter waterfall in background by landscape photographer Jay Patel

© Jay Patel

BL: What are some additional resources that you recommend to others getting started in photography?

Patel: There is only so much you can learn from reading an eBook or watching webinars or attending Photoshop training. The best way to learn photography is to pick up a camera and do it. This is particularly true about landscape photography where terrain, weather, climate, location, light and local events are likely to pose challenges that are seldom found in educational materials.

Mystic Light, Olympic National Park, WA by Jay Patel

Mystic Light, Olympic National Park, WA © Jay Patel

BL: There are a lot of little rules in photography, such as the Rule of Thirds and the Inverse Square Law. Describe a photography “rule” that you use the most or find most valuable.

Patel: The rule that I find most valuable is that “all rules are meant to be broken”. Blindly using the rules is not going to make you an effective photographer. I am not just talking about the rules of composition. I am also talking about rules such as “a pro always shoot with a full frame camera” or “never shoot under harsh light” or “using Photoshop is cheating”.

Pink and orange sky over barren landscape. Landscape scene by Jay Patel.

© Jay Patel

BL: Anything new on the horizon that you are working on?

Patel: We have already been committed to teaching in several locations until the end of 2014. We will be teaching in Hawaii, Nicaragua, Canada, Virginia, and the UK. We are also currently working on yet another eBook and exploring ideas of new product offerings.

Alexandria Huff's photography and lighting tutorials can be found on 500px and her blog. See her lighting tutorials here. She is a Marketing Associate Manager at BorrowLenses.com. She learned about lighting and teaching while modeling for photographers such as Joe McNally and has since gone on to teach lighting workshops of her own in San Francisco. Before focusing on studio portraiture, she shot motorsports for X-Games, World Rally Cross, and Formula Drift. See her chiaroscuro-style painterly portraits on her website.

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