Thursday, January 31, 2008

No update...

Sorry everyone. I couldn't update my website today. My system has been running very slowly and it was necessary to transfer a large chunk of data to my external hard drive and back up my system. I've cleaned off my hard drive as much as possible so that I can work more effectively, and as soon as I defrag, I'll be ready to get back to work. Sorry for the delay...

But there's going to be another one. Our Sunday photo shoot was canceled, so we have the weekend free - and a free weekend means travel. We'll leave for Florida tomorrow afternoon, and we'll return Monday. This will be a short trip, but I'm looking forward to it. Warm sunshine sounds fantastic right about now. I'm fighting a series of colds that won't quit - maybe a few days in a warmer climate will help. We'll shoot as much as we can, and with any luck I'll have a few more shots to add to my portfolio when I return.I'm sorry to keep you all waiting, but it can't be helped. I did work on a shot whenever I had a moment during data transfers - this one took several tries. I wanted to eliminate reflections to a certain degree, but that can be difficult. I don't have a good light tent right now, but I finally came up with a setup that worked. I made a hood for my camera - shaped like a cone - from white fabric. I needed fabric that would allow light to pass through - but not harsh glare. I wanted soft, directional lighting, so I used a single flash bounced off an umbrella. I'm happy with the results.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A quick shoot

I did a quick photo shoot the other day. Pretty little girl, pretty yellow dress, soft light... she's a great model. It's always fun to shoot with her, but this time, she was ready to run off and play after only a few shots. I don't like to keep kids longer than they are willing because they won't want to model again the next time. So, we'll try again another day.

I've been processing my shots from Utah and Death Valley over the past few days. I have a few that are ready for my website, and I hope to get them online tomorrow. I've also been uploading shots to stock agencies. That's a time-consuming process (key-wording, categorizing, and preparing images for ftp upload) so I haven't had as much time for my website. I've finished two batches, and the next batch isn't ready for upload, so I'll have a bit of time for other things.

I am badly in need of a good workout. We ran about 8 miles last week after we returned from our trip, but we haven't made it to the gym since. Tomorrow, we'll do another long run - and with any luck we'll get to the gym twice more this week.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Flare

We drove to the dunes under absolutely beautiful skies last week. They were moving slowly, but we were concerned that they might clear up before the sun rose. We headed out to search for good locations on the dunes, and I took a few shots of the pre-dawn color. As the sun peaked over the horizon, I took this small-aperture shot in order to create a flare. I took three bracketed shots in order to capture the entire dynamic range of the scene, and then combined the images manually in Photoshop. It's a complicated process, but I'm happy with the results. What do you think?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Frozen river - wet feet.

Paria River Canyon is one of my favorite places to shoot in Utah. The windows in the rock are absolutely beautiful. One shot I took last year has taken more awards in shows than any other piece I currently have. The textures here are just beautiful - cracked and rippled mud, striped sandstone walls, deep "windows" in the high walls of the canyon... It's incredible. This time, the river was frozen. We have neoprene water shoes that keep our feet warm (but not dry), so we were able to cross the river several times even though the ice broke under our feet with every step. We were standing in icy water up to our knees in some places, but we never felt particularly cold. I love those water shoes - they've been in waterfalls in France, rivers from Utah to West Virginia, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans... they do their job very well.

We loved shooting the amazingly intricate patterns in the ice. It was truly beautiful - and entirely different from our last trip. What a place!

We met up with a startled coyote on the way back to the car. He thought he was being pretty stealthy about crossing the river near us... until he fell through the ice with a loud crack... the poor bugger was scared out of his soggy wits and darted up the hillside like a bat out of hell. Probably scarred for life. :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

3 cars, not so much Arizona, and Storm Chasing

We started this trip on the wrong foot – or rather, the wrong wheels… The rental agencies put us in a 2WD vehicle. No way. So we changed it for a 4WD – which was great right up until we hit the freeway. A sudden slow down meant Jay had to hit the breaks hard, and the car behind us slammed into our rear end. Luckily, no one was hurt. The other car was totaled, and ours had a dangling muffler – so after filing a police report, we headed back to the rental agency for vehicle number three. This one served us well for the remainder of the trip, and we made it to Kanab none the worse for wear.

I know I told you we were headed for Arizona – and we did drive highway 89A just to check out the view – but we ended up staying in Utah… and then booking it to California when the weather shifted. We’ve spent a lot of time in Utah over the past 12 months – but the landscape is so varied that we aren’t likely to get bored with the area anytime soon.

The 4WD vehicle proved invaluable, since we spent hours on dirt “roads”… really just tracks over deep sand and rough stone. The Vermillion Cliffs area proved to be absolutely spectacular – and we only got lost once. Of course, getting lost in this region isn’t exactly a bad thing. It’s good to be prepared, though – a flat tire or two would be enough to mean a night in the wilderness.

Utah was fantastic - and I promise to get some photos up soon - but we chased a storm across Nevada to Death Valley, CA on the final two days of our trip. We got there ahead of the storm clouds, so we checked out the salt flats (last time the salt formations were less pronounced than usual and we wanted to see what our options were when the skies were right) and then hiked out to Darwin Falls (yep – there’s a waterfall in Death Valley.) The storm clouds arrived just in time for a quick morning shoot on the day we left, and we got some fantastic shots of the dunes. The textures were gorgeous… it almost hurts to walk on such amazing beauty and ruin it with your footprints. The next wind storm will erase the damage, though – and the photographs are worth it.

I’ll put some time into processing some photographs this week – once I catch up on everything that I put aside for the past five days. My website will be updated as soon as possible – check out the new gallery for frequent visitors… you’ll find my most recently added images all in one place. People were asking for that – and your wish is my command… within reason, of course.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Frozen Desert

I'm writing this in a hotel room in Kanab, Utah. It is 7am here. I got up around 5 this morning to take a shower, but we decided against shooting this morning since the skies are unimpressive. Yesterday, we shot Zion in the morning and then hiked out to Wire Pass. We hiked through the pass to Buckskin Gulch, but were unable to get too deep into the slot canyon because of water and ice. We did try, though. Jay broke through the ice in order to stand on solid ground - under about three feet of freezing water... but in the end we decided it was too slippery... and entirely too dangerous to try to go further. I chose to stay dry this time, since I have a rather nasty cold that I can't seem to kick.

Ah well - we'll come again. We did get a few nice shots from Zion, and I'll post when I get home.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

An excellent model - size small.

First - Thanks to all of you who have sent me comments lately. I appreciate the feedback from people who have seen my work. It is great to hear from you, and it means a lot to me that you would take the time to drop me a note. I think I've responded to everyone who emailed me or left comments here on my blog... but if I've missed someone, please let me know.

I finished processing several shots today... here's one from a shoot earlier this year. This little guy has a fantastic variety of excellent facial expressions. He can go from grumpy to excited in 2 seconds flat. I love shooting him because it's always so much fun. He follows my directions beautifully - but I never know exactly what I'm going to get. I asked for "grumpy" and boy did he deliver! :)
I've uploaded the shots to a couple of my stock sites, and they are awaiting review.

I will be on my way to Arizona on Thursday, so you can expect to see a bit less of me until next week. We hope to shoot some of Northern Arizona - an area that is absolutely packed with photographic opportunity. Unfortunately, I have a nasty cold - I hope to get a bit of extra sleep before I go, but it's not likely. :) Too much to do. Speaking of which... I'd better get to it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Back Online

Photography by Varina was down for a good part of the day. Sorry for the inconvenience. It seems the server was on the fritz. They've fixed the problem, and my site is now back online.

This past week, we shot food. The main course:
And dessert:

And wine - which I posted last time. Actually... it was grape juice. Why pay for wine when you're just going to throw it around? Grape juice will do. :)

I've decided to give up landscape photography and make myself into a food photographer. You can't eat a landscape, my friends. And that was some seriously good cake.

Monday, January 7, 2008


People sometimes ask if my photographs are manipulated. This time, the answer is obvious. :) This was a fun shoot. We covered the living room carpet with shower curtains, set up our table and lights, and then started throwing grape juice around. It's easy enough to capture the splash once the lighting setup is done. That's the hard part. In fact, we'll shoot a second round this evening, since we're not quite happy with the final lighting effect. Still, I had a good time creating this image.


Outback Photo

In November, I posted a comment on my blog under the title "Seeing the Light". That post turned into a short article which I posted on my website. Per the request of Uwe Steinmueller - editor of Outback Photo - I expanded and updated the article. The new version is now available on the Outback Photo website and, of course, at Photography by Varina as well. I have also written a second part to the article, which will be available on Outback Photo at a later date.

I'd like to welcome Outback Photo readers to my website and my blog. I hope you all enjoy my work. I am always interested in feedback from new and old visitors. Please take the time to post a comment or send me an email. Comments and critique are always enormously appreciated.
In other news, The Dreaming received a perfect score (27/27 points) at the Cleveland Photographic Society nature competition on Friday. Two of Jay's photos also received perfect scores (they tell us no other photographer has received two perfect scores in one night in the history of the club). Not bad, love. :) And Paria took second place with 26 points - a good night, overall.

The Photographic Society club room is our favorite place to be if we're not shooting. It is a great camera club with an amazingly active membership. Actually, Jay and I met at the December meeting two years ago - and were married about a year later. We can't get to as many meetings as we'd like - life tends to get in the way - but we go as often as we can.

I have a series of articles to write and a whole lot of images to process, so I'd better get back to work.

Friday, January 4, 2008

New Gallery

I added a new Showcase gallery to my website, today. Along with several images that have been waiting to take their place in other galleries. The showcase gallery will automatically load when someone visits my site, and it contains my most popular photos - and the ones I like best. :)

We have about ten inches of snow on the ground today - most of it fell earlier in the week. It has been VERY cold, here, so I don't mind working at my computer today. I spent some time outdoors yesterday, and I'll get a good workout tonight... before heading to the Cleveland Photographic Society meeting. I am entering two photos in the Nature competition tonight - and Jay is entering two as well. We don't get to go to the meetings as much as we'd like, but we go when we can. we're looking forward to seeing lots of friends there tonight - I hope people don't stay away because of the cold!

I've also finished up a new version of my Seeing the Light article for Outback Photo. It is not yet available on their website, and I'll post it on mine when it appears on theirs. The original version - which is much shorter - can still be downloaded as a PDF from my website.