'Twixt Autumn and Winter by Varina Patel, a solo leaf on a frozen pond.

Break the Rules: An Interview with Landscape Photographer Varina Patel

Varina Patel is a freelance wilderness and landscape photographer. She is drawn to the challenge of finding her next photograph and mastering the skills required to capture it effectively. Her photographs have been published in various magazines, calendars and advertising materials throughout the world. She teaches landscape photography and processing along with her husband and colleague, photographer Jay Patel.

Meander by Varina Patel, landscape photograph.

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

PatelI am a wilderness and nature photographer. I love brilliant light, minimalist compositions, and macro photography but as long as I can shoot outdoors I’m happy. I started shooting as a kid and learned to develop film in a darkroom in middle school. By the time I reached high school, I knew I wanted to go pro and I did so in 2005.

Waiting by Varina Patel, a wilderness photography scene showing the tree tops in fog.

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

PatelI’ve been writing eBooks, and teaching on-location workshops and classroom seminars since about 2006. When I’m teaching in a classroom or on location, I am very hands-on. In my eBooks, I provide lots of examples and explain the thought process behind the workflow. I try to simplify concepts and share lots of tips and tricks to make even the most complicated workflow accessible to everyone who wants to learn.

Individuality by Varina Patel. Yellow bokeh behind an Aspen with eye-like markings in the bark.

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

PatelMy tripod. I use an Induro CT113 with a BHL1 Ballhead. I use it for almost every single photograph I take.

Blinded by the Light by Varina Patel. A very yellow landscape shot showing fog and a few leafless trees.

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

PatelI am open to just about anything. I love trying new gear and new ideas and techniques. That’s a big part of what makes photography so interesting to me. I will never run out of new challenges!

Kilauea Lava Flow, Big Island, Hawai'i, USA by Varina Patel.

BL: Describe what prompted or inspired you to create your eBooks?

PatelWhen I speak, people have so many great questions but there’s never enough time to answer them all. Writing eBooks lets me share what I know even if I can’t be there with you face-to-face. I love to teach and writing eBooks is an extension of what I can do in a classroom or in the field.

Iceberg by Varina Patel, landscape photographer.

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

Patel: The internet is an amazing resource. You can start on my blog and in the Learn section of my website. There you’ll find tons of free tips and tutorials, questions and answers, videos, reviews, and so much more.

Varina Patel's closeup of a drop of water leaving a fall color leaf, taken in Ohio.

BL: In what ways do you expect readers to improve after reading your eBooks?

PatelMy goal when I write is to help my students feel more confident with their own photography. I try to make sure that every page provides information and inspiration.

Metlako Falls by Varina Patel

BL: What is something YOU learned during the process of making this eBook?

PatelI learn something from every book I write. I research everything extensively, of course, but I also learn a lot from sharing my own experiences. I think that teaching is the best way to learn.

'Twixt Autumn and Winter by Varina 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.

PatelMy favorite rule is this one: “It’s ok to break the rules.”

Paria by Varina Patel, a black and white landscape scene.

BL: Anything new on the horizon that you are working on, either photography-wise or eBook-wise?

Patel: We always have a lot going on. In the next twelve months, we’ll be teaching in Hawaii, Nicaragua, Canada, and the UK. We are also currently working on yet another eBook and we have a whole collection of other ideas in the works!

The Pearl and the Storm by Varina Patel.

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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