Friday, October 31, 2008


I got a call the other day from a representative with Animoto. She found my portfolio online and asked if they could use some of my images to create a video for the "case studies" section of their website - in essence a showcase of short photographic videos set to music. Since they were offering to include a link to my website from Animoto, I agreed. The video they created is not exactly what I would have chosen if I'd done it on my own, but it's a new and interesting concept. I think I'll play with the free 1 month membership they gave me for a while and see what I think.

To see the video - click here, and scroll to the bottom of the page. The "Nature" video is a selection of my images set to music chosen by the Animoto team. I'll create a few videos of my own and let you know what I think once I've had some time to experiment.

We are getting ready for our next trip. Next Wednesday, we'll head for Utah and Arizona for a few days of shooting in the Southwest. This is the part of the country we've explored the most, and yet, we've hardly scratched the surface. Something new and beautiful lies just around the corner no matter where we go.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Paria wins "Your Best Shot"

I'm very pleased to announce that my Paria Canyon photograph has taken 1st place in the December "Your Best Shot" contest for Popular Photography Magazine. The next issue will be out in a few weeks time, and my photograph will be featured there. I'm looking forward to seeing the photo in print. It is an older image, but one that I've always loved.

I've also been working on a collection of autumn leaf photos. Rather than focus on the color of the leaves - as beautiful as those colors may be - I've chosen to put the emphasis on texture and detail. Although fresh, Spring leaves are perfect and beautiful, the signs of age you'll find later in the year are sometimes intriguing. Here's a sample shot from this most recent collection. The images are not yet online anywhere else. Maybe I'll post some more here soon.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Here's a shot I took at Infirmary Mound Park in Granville, Ohio. The sun was near the horizon behind me, and the golden light outlined these beautiful seed pods against the shadowed field. The beautiful cloud in the foreground was lit up as well, and I liked the way it balanced the composition - soft lit clouds in the upper left, and spiky thistles on their slender stems in the lower left.

This is an example of contrast of form and texture - rather than color or tone. When you think of contrast, you are often thinking of black vs. white, or bright vs. dark. In this case, I couldn't help but notice the contrast between soft and prickly - which is highlighted by the more ordinary contrast between light and shadow.

We came out of this field covered in poky little burrs, but it was worth it. The park is absolutely beautiful - I look forward to shooting there again sometime.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Back in Ohio

We photographed the grist mill at Babcock State Park in West Virginia this morning. We've been here once before, but we wanted to return when the colors were at their peak. We did get some nice color over the river. It rained all morning, so we took turns holding an umbrella over our cameras so we could both get the shots we wanted. I don't generally shoot buildings, but this one has a bit of character that makes it a bit more interesting to me... you'll find a few lighthouse shots on my website too. :)

The skies cleared very quickly around mid-day, and by sunset they were nearly cloudless. Rather than shooting, we drove to Athens Ohio and checked into our hotel early. We've been working on our websites for the past couple of hours. Tomorrow, we hope to shoot the sunrise before meeting my sister for lunch near Columbus.

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Friday, October 24, 2008


We drove down to Hocking county this afternoon - it's been raining since we left. We didn't expect to catch any good weather today, but we did have a chance to explore some locations we hadn't visited yet. The colors are beautiful in places, and completely gone in others. After spending some time hiking in Ohio, we drove on to West Virginia. We'll be shooting here tomorrow and then heading back to Ohio for a Sunday shoot.

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West Virginia and Ohio

With any luck, we'll be shooting more fall color this weekend - in Southern Ohio and West Virginia. We expect to see colors at their peak in some of the most beautiful locations in these states. We've scouted these areas in the past, so we know where we'd like to be - but we'll be watching the skies carefully for clues to the best shooting locations. I'd love to see some color in the sky like our sunrise this morning - it was absolutely spectacular... bright reds fading to pink and taking over the sky as the morning progressed.

We're looking at overcast skies in the region for the next day or two - perfect for shooting waterfalls all day long... and there are so many falls to choose from. We hope to get a nice sunset on Saturday evening as the skies begin to clear up a bit. I'll try to keep you posted from hotel rooms along the way.

Here's a shot from our last trip to West Virginia - Left Fork Holly River - Holly River State Park, WV.
I spent a good part of the week processing, key-wording, uploading, and categorizing stock photos - and working on my website. I am working to create individual web pages for my articles, so that it is no longer necessary to download them to your computer. Jay and I generally work together on our articles, so these pages would be available from both our websites.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Plug Me In

Yesterday morning, I had fun doing a photo shoot all by myself. I had an idea I wanted to work with, and I planned to be my own model for it. This shot will be sold with several different agencies for stock. It's a combination of photography and PhotoShop work - not my usual style. It's fun to do something a bit different now and then.

The image is a comment on the fact that we all seem to be plugged in most of the time - ipods, laptops, cell phones, video games... etc. Generally, the subject looks into the photograph - in this case, I chose to place my face at the edge of the frame. I've tried to look disengaged from my imediate surroundings. My attention is elsewhere... certainly not on the viewer. Better plug me in. :)

Slef-portraits aren't difficult. My camera was on a tripod and I used the ten-second timer to allow me to get into position before the release of the shutter. It's important to check your focus carefully, since you aren't looking through the view finder when you shoot.

The photoshop part of things wasn't too difficult either. I photographed the USB cable seperately and combined the two photos. I used a series of masks and filters to create the effects I wanted. The most difficult part was getting the cord to seem to pass through my hair.

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Canon 50D

We did our long run yesterday evening - I ran for about 90 minutes. I took a few weeks off because of a hurt ankle, so it was great to be running again. Afterwards we came home an ran a few tests on our new camera...

After quite a lot of searching, Jay and I finally found a Canon 50D body yesterday afternoon. We checked for hot or dead pixels, checked the focus, and checked out the new high ISO capabilities. We're very happy with the results. This is an excellent camera. I'm very happy to have the higher resolution as well - I've been waiting for that for quite some time. :) The sky was tempting this morning, but the clouds moved on before I could really give the new camera a try. I did take a shot of a nearby lake. We'll see how it comes out.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

New Hampshire

I hope I can spend more time in New Hampshire very soon. This shot is from the White Mountain region at Crawford Notch State Park. We were only in New Hampshire for a few hours, but we found some beautiful locations at this park. After sunrise, we passed this beautiful grove of trees and decided to pull over and take a few shots in the river. I cleaned out some of the dead leaves caught between the rocks, and put my camera down low on my tripod. I was able to get very close to this rock since I was using my wide 10-22mm lens. The inherent distortion makes the rock and the leaf seem large, since they are close to the lens. It exaggerates the distance between the foreground objects and the trees on the other side of the river. I love the depth I can create in an image with this technique, and you'll notice it in many of my photos.

I used a circular polarizer filter to cut through the reflections on the water and let me see the rocks underneath. The filter also enhances the color a bit, but I try not to let that get out of control. I can tone it down a bit in PhotoShop if necessary, but in this case, I was comfortable with the finished product. I used a long exposure to blur the water in the foreground. I wanted to capture the light coming through the leaves in the background, and also through the red leaf in the foreground.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008


A few days ago, on October 14th, I posted a shot from Maine that was quite similar to this one. I'm wondering what you which you will all prefer. This photograph was taken just a few seconds before the other - and a few meters away. I kept jumping from one spot to the next in order to try out different angles and compositions. I won't tell you which I prefer for now. :) I'd love to hear some of your opinions.

I love the bright, back-lit leaves in both photographs, but sometimes it's hard to decide which image should make the final cut. In this case, I needed to process both images in order to compare the finished products. I have a few others waiting in the wings as well - but I think the contest will be between these two.

I hope you are all enjoying your weekend! We've had perfect weather here in Ohio.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I have a request for more information on that last shot, so I'll add it for those of you who are interested. The skies were heavily overcast - perfect for a detail shot like this one - however, these flowers stand on tall stalks that sway constantly in the wind. Although the wind was light, the flowers were moving too much to capture a decent image. I took two flowers indoors and used a tripod to make sure everything was steady. In this case, I chose to use natural light from the window, since I wanted that soft, even lighting.

I needed a wide aperture to get as much depth of field as possible, so I shot at f/32. That meant a longer shutter speed as well - 1.3 seconds. Without the wind, that wasn't a problem.

Processing a shot like this one is very easy because the range of light is very small. I'm not dealing with any of the complex lighting situations that landscape photography presents. I kept my contrast relatively low so the flower would remain soft. Also - I usually sharpen an image before printing or posting on the web, but in this case, I chose not to do that.

For the shot you see here, I let the petals of two flowers overlap. After following the same steps as for the last shot, I chose to convert to black and white to accentuate the detail in the contrasting petals.

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Perfect Beauty

I had planned to process photos this morning, but when the sky is as beautiful as it was this morning, I simply can't stay at home. I ended up taking only a few shots at a local park before the sky quit putting on its show. I haven't processed this morning's shots yet - I want to finish my Northeast shots first. (I'm always behind!) I did take a few minutes to process an easy one, though. This flower has such a soft color to it.

I also took the time to put my latest Maine photo up on Fred Miranda and NPN. These are some of the best critique sites on the web.

And now - back to processing Maine and New Hampshire!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blaze of Color

This is Camden Hills State Park. We weren't expecting any clouds that evening, so we were very happy to see these. I took this shot as the sun touched the horizon. I wanted to capture the light shining through the leaves, the soft color in the sky, and the flare from the sun. This is one of those shots you have to do a little planning for.

I used a 3 stop GND filter to reduce the dynamic range as much as possible - but it was necessary to use bracketed exposures as well. I knew I would need to combine at least two shots in Photoshop. I also shot with a very small aperture in order to produce the flare you see here. I always use a tripod - to keep the camera steady for a longer exposure, and also because I want to be sure that bracketed shots line up as perfectly as possible. The air was very still that evening, too - so I didn't have to worry about moving branches or leaves.

I have a few more photos in the works. As I said, we didn't get too many shots from this trip, but we did find some beautiful places to visit next time!

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

More Maine.

We drove down to Acadia this morning and decided to spent a little extra time exploring the park. Next time we're in Maine, we'll know exactly where to shoot if we get some nice cloud patterns. It's a beautiful park - especially at this time of year - and we're looking forward to our next trip. We'd like to be able to shoot in the Northeast in Autumn for the next few years. Three our four visits should be a start at capturing some really nice locations under beautiful skies.

We did get lucky this evening. A few clouds gathered over Camden Hills State Park near Penobscot Bay. I got a few shots of the Autumn leaves and then photographed the sunset over the distant mountains. We were lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Maybe next year we'll get some more impressive weather. For now, we're pleased to have been able to explore some of this beautiful state. We have our plans laid out for our next trip - though plans are always subject to adjustment due to changing weather patterns. :)

We'll be out early tomorrow morning to do a bit more exploring before we need to return to the airport. I am looking forward to processing some photos when I'm back at home.

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Rise and Shine...

We slept in this morning since weather conditions are less than ideal today. We were up around 7am. We are booking a room near the park we're hoping to visit tomorrow, and then we'll be on our way. We'll explore Acadia today. We hope to find a good location to shoot this evening, and then we'll head towards the White Mountain region of New Hampshire. We'd like to find some nice colors in Crawford Notch. On Monday, we'll be flying back home.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Lots of driving....

Boy am I tired! We were up at 3am this morning. We made the long drive to Grafton Notch and arrived before sunrise. We photographed a couple of beautiful waterfalls, but unfortunately, the skies were not too exciting. The foliage in the park was fantastic, but there wasn't much color near the falls. After sunrise, we drove North and East to take a look at some of the countryside before making our way to Bangor to check into our hotel. We did another quick weather check, and then drove North to Baxter State Park. The park is truly beautiful, and we did take a couple of shots. Unfortunately, the weather hasn't been too cooperative this weekend so far. We have our eye on a front that is moving South towards the coast, so we'll be heading to Acadia National Park tomorrow. I have my fingers crossed. We're back in Bangor, now - we spent 5 or 6 hours driving today.

I can't complain about the weather, really. I like to know exactly where to go when the right weather hits, and a first trip is never ideal. We always do as much exploring as possible during our first stay at any location. Then, when the skies are right, we know exactly where to go. We have found some really nice locations in this beautiful state, and we'll do more scouting tomorrow. If we get a few nice shots along the way, we'll consider ourselves lucky.

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Good Morning!

I just LOVE that 3am wake-up call. :) We're headed West this morning.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pemaquid Point

We're loving Maine. The coast is absolutely beautiful - smooth, grooved rocks stretching for miles, and beautiful lighthouses everywhere you go. The skies were completely uninteresting today, but we stopped to explore Pemaquid Point. I did take a couple of shots despite the dull skies, but we'll have to return to this location under better conditions. Tomorrow, we are likely to head North - or possibly West. Weather reports are showing the edge of a front at the Northern tip of Maine, and another patch of storm clouds a couple of hours West of us. That's what we need for great skies. We hope to find ourselves some beautiful autumn color as well.

Tonight, we're staying at a Super 8 in Agusta. We're taking a look at weather maps and doing some research before we head to bed. We may be getting up pretty early tomorrow - depending upon where we decide to begin the day.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Tomorrow, we leave for Maine. We plan to fly into Boston, and we'll shoot sunset and sunrise on the coast before making the drive to Acadia. Of course, those are tentative plans. Our plans change on a dime if weather conditions call for it. We are looking forward to this trip - it's been a long summer, and we are ready to take out our cameras once again. I am ready for a few days of very little sleep, cold fingers, and long hikes. :) I'm hoping for some great light, too.

I'll try to update my blog as often as possible while we're away, but as you know, it's hard to find reliable internet connection. I'll do my best.

Jay and I are currently working on a couple of new technical articles. I also have another personal article in the works. It will take some time to get details hammered out, but we may have some time to work in the airport and during our flights.

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Land of Extremes

Our Death Valley article has been published at Nature Photographers Online Magazine. Jay and I wrote the article a few years ago, and I recently rewrote the article and re-edited the images for Nature Photographers. The articles is available on my website as well. I hope you'll enjoy it. Death Valley is an amazing place to visit - I can't wait to get there again. I hope you'll let me know what you think of the article. I'm always looking for constructive criticism and new ideas.

Thanks for all your support.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Thank You!

I want to thank all of you who took the time to email me to let me know what you thought of my new website. I appreciate all your comments. Amazingly enough, not one person told me they'd found a bug... so either the site is perfect, or you are all just being nice. :) Thanks so much for taking the time to look over the site and send me emails. It makes a world of difference.

This shot is one of the many new images you'll find on my website. Actually, I took the photo a couple of years ago while we were living in France, but I never processed it. I can't imagine why not - in fact, it may be one of my favorite shots from the trip. This is Grand Saut - one of many Cascades du Herrison. I waded into the river to get the shot - my jeans were wet, and my legs were freezing - but I think it was worth it. I was able to get a clean shot after waiting for the wind to settle.

Jay and I are planning another trip for next weekend. We'll be photographing the coast of Maine. We're hoping for some spectacular colors out there. I'm more than ready to get back to the wilderness. That's where I'm most at home. This will be our first trip to Maine, and I'm really looking forward to adding something new to my portfolio!

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Version 3.1 is LIVE!

That's it, folks. We're up and running once again. The new and improved Photography by Varina is now Live! Please tell me what you think of the new design and layout. You'll find lots of new images, updated articles, and some new information. If you find any errors, please let me know. I will take care of them as soon as they come to my attention.

I want to thank all of you for your patience with me over the past few months. The new site was built from the ground up using a series of programs I hadn't used before. I learned quite a lot, and I'm now comfortable with Adobe Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and Flash. I hit my share of snags (not the least of which was deleting the entire free downloads section this morning - thank goodness for backups!)

I hope you will all enjoy the new site. Please tell me what you think!

Thanks for all your support and comments over the past few years. It's been great - and I'm looking forward to many more years of landscape photography and blogging!



If you visit my site right now, you'll find the following notice:

"I am currently uploading the new Photography by Varina. Please visit my blog for the latest information about the new website. I hope to be up and running again shortly. Thanks for your patience."

I expect to be back online within a couple of hours and I'll keep you updated. Right now, I am uploading components as quickly as possible. The main page will be the last to upload. Once the new main page is live, the entire site should be ready to go.

Wish me luck! :)