Monday, March 30, 2009

Fans on Facebook

Jay and I now have a new public Facebook profile page for our photographic friends and fans. Just click on the link above, or go to Facebook and search for "Varina and Jay Patel" and our public page will come up. I hope all our regular readers will join us over there!

Have a great day!

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

iHDR Part 1: Workflow Overview

We've had a lot of questions about our upcoming Intelligent HDR(iHDR) Seminar. In response, we've created this short video, which gives a brief overview of the concepts we'll be teaching. Please feel free to forward this post to anyone who might be interested in attending.

The basic work-flow involves creating a simple luminosity mask, and then refining the mask to create "luminosity clusters". These "luminosity clusters" allow the user to control blending in different parts of the image.

In the next part, we will explain the concept of "luminosity clusters".

-Jay & Varina

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Brand New Camera...

and the old one on eBay. :) We've just listed our Canon EOS 5D and a Canon 50mm f/2.5 macro lens.

We had planned to purchase a new refrigerator this morning. But I looked at Jay and said, "why don't we go get a Canon 5D Mark II instead." He didn't take much convincing. :) We spent the morning running tests and taking the camera for a test drive in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We also cleaned up the old 5D and the macro lens to prepare them for sale. And while I was at it, I cleaned my EOS 50D and all our lenses. They needed a little bit of attention after our Death Valley trip. (The tripods still need some work - but we'll have to get to that another day.)

I've been wanting to purchase the Canon 100mm macro lens for a while now - so once my little 50mm macro is sold, that's our next purchase. And maybe we'll get a new refrigerator in a few years. Or not...


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Friday, March 27, 2009

Ice Cream Land

I want to point you all to the photo of the month for March at Light Harmony. I've been a member of this group for more than a year now. Check out Róbert Štefanka's shot titled Ice Cream Land. If you have time, I recommend taking a look at the work of some of the other Light Harmony photographers, too. Impressive stuff. :)

Being a member of a group like Light Harmony - or in Jay's case, TimeCatcher - has been invaluable... Of course, Light Harmony is better! ;) ...We get feedback from other photographs who's opinions we trust, and we have a circle of friends around the world who can suggest locations and ideas. I recommend joining a photographic community of some kind... there are thousands of sites online. Find out what the requirements are, and start posting photos. But make sure you are giving something back... many sites require that you provide feedback on other people's photos in return for the critiques you receive. Be honest - and generous - with your critiques... it's how we all learn!

I'm guessing that many of you are already members of photographic communities - either on the web or on the ground. Which groups are your favorites?

- Varina

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

More on that....

So - what sells? It depends entirely upon your audience. Fine art buyers want that one-of-a-kind image that nobody else has. Casual buyers and decorators want something that matches the decor. Travelers want photos that show the places they've been. Magazine editors want images that illustrate the point - something that will clarify the argument they are making with their article, or strike a chord with the viewer. The list goes on and on...

This image is being considered for the upcoming issue of National Parks Magazine for an article about Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Why? It's hard to know - but I suspect that the reason is because it shows what people can expect to see when they visit the park... the typical heavy fog that is so much a part of the Smoky Mountains. No spectacular, blazing colors in the sky... no dramatic, blinding light... just the sense of depth and silence that fog brings.

It's hard to balance the needs of the buyer with an artistic eye - but if we are going to succeed in business, we have to be able to sell our work. So, we try to shoot for everyone. We set up photo shoots in our studio to shoot stock images. We visit the iconic locations to shoot for magazines and gift shops. And we follow the light... because those are the images that mean the most to us.

I have to admit that I love all these photographic markets. Photography allows me to explore something different every time I go to work. Locations and light conditions, angles and compositions... and ideas.


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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What Sells?

I wanted to thank Varina for letting me share her blog. At first, I resisted the idea of posting anything on the blog because of lack of good language skills but you have to start somewhere. So here goes...

For my first post, I want to share my thoughts on what sells and what doesn’t. Recently one of my photographs of "The Wave" was published in VIAJES National Geographic Magazine.

Rather then go for the artistic look the editors decide to publish a plain old photograph of "The Wave" taken in bright sun under midday condition. My best guess is that the reason they selected this photograph was they wanted to publish what people would actually see when they got to the location. Another request followed day later from another magazine. This time around, they wanted a photograph of the Old Faithful. They are still reviewing the shot. In future I for one will not hesitate to shoot during midday at tourist hot spots.


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Today, I'd like to announce that my husband, Jay, will be joining me in updating this blog. As many of you know, Jay is also a landscape photographer. We run our photography business together - shooting, processing, teaching, presenting... it's great to do what you love with someone you love. :)

The photos you see here are a small sample of Jay's work. You can see more at Jay will be offering technical tips and comments - and we hope that we'll now be able to provide even more information to our readers. I will continue to update the blog regularly - and I think you'll hear my voice most often... but from here on out, we'll be doing this together.

I'll let Jay say a few words, now. Have a great day, everyone!

- Varina

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Photo Prep

Today, we're preparing some sample images for National Parks Magazine. They've asked for some images for banners they'll be creating, so I'm pulling up images from Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and Glacier. They may or may not use our photos, but it's good business if it comes through. We'll see. That's Iceberg Lake at Glacier National Park up there. We waited for quite a while to get those patterns of light on the water. The overcast skies let the sun through in occasional bursts - and this was the result... so beautiful reflected off the turquoise water.

I always cringe when I remember this day, though. After shooting, we started back down the trail. I stepped off a large rock, just a few yards from the lake... and something snapped in my leg. Pain shot from my femoral nerve downward - and left me unable to contract the muscles required to lift my foot without extreme pain. And I still had to get back down the mountain.

Every time I bumped my foot against a rock - and that happened a thousand times on the way down - pain would shoot up my leg, leaving me gasping. Luckily, the trail is an easy one - though it is 4.5 miles long, and climbs about 1200 feet (gradually, thank goodness). I couldn't run for three weeks - and it took quite a bit longer to get rid of the last of the pain.

I'm quite all right, now, though - we ran for an hour yesterday. ;)

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Pip and Mo

Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd like you to meet my miniature friends, Mo and Pip. Mo is the little green dude with the big eyes. And Pip is the littler blue dude with the big eyes. These are the products of my latest brainstorming session for stock. Will they sell? Jeez, I don't know. But it was fun!
I did a couple of pencil sketches before building these little guys out of clay and little googly eyes. Their heads are held on with toothpicks. The finished product didn't look much like my sketches. They took on a life of their own - as these things always do.
I used my standard setup for shooting on white. Fire a flash at a clean, white paper backdrop... a second flash is bounced off an umbrella to illuminate the subjects... and voila. The objects are sitting on a glossy white tabletop - which provides the reflections I want. Very simple. Very little Photoshop work is necessary. In this case, I removed a few spots of dust here and there, made sure my backgrounds were clean white, and deepened the black in the eyes to make them stand out a bit more.I shared a bit of my birthday cake with them - that's chocolate cheesecake with fresh raspberries, and it was delicious! :)
When it comes to stock, I try hard to do something different every time. I generally try to keep the image very simple. Too much detail or color would take away from the image in the end. So I chose to use extremely simple shapes and colors - and a bit of repetition... to minimize distractions as much as possible. I want their facial expressions to tell the story.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Intelligent HDR Seminar!

We're live! Registration is now open for our Intelligent HDR Seminar! We've been busy planning this all month, and it's a real pleasure to be able to make this announcement! :) The workshop will be August 15th and 16th in Independence, Ohio (near Cleveland). We'll meet each day from 9am to 4:30 pm.

On the first day, we'll talk about equipment, composition, hyperfocal distance, and various techniques for landscape photography. We will also begin to talk about histograms, layers, and masks. Day two will take these concepts further - we'll teach techniques for capturing a broad range of light in-camera, and we'll talk in-depth about processing high-dynamic range images.

I hope that many of you will join us in August. We are really looking forward to doing this for the first time. You can get more details and register online at Please tell your friends! :)

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Saturday, March 7, 2009


I hope I'll get some comments on this post... I'd like to hear what people have to say about these photos. As you know, I usually shoot with wide angle lenses to capture a broader view of nature. I constantly notice little details, though, and I am trying to incorporate more images like these into my portfolio. These shots were thanks to Paul once again ( He took us on a little nature hike in Florida to show us where these beautiful snails live. There are some even better shots on his website - in his Fauna gallery. I was happy with what I did get. We'll have to try again next time!
We're putting some finishing touches on our registration setup for our seminar. We'd like to have it up and running by the end of the week. I hope some of you will join us!

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Pine Glades Lake - Florida

Things have been pretty crazy this week. We are being approached for photos more regularly this year than ever before, and sometimes it's tough to keep up with the demand. I'm not complaining... it's a great situation for us... but it sure keeps me busy. We got an email from National Geographic Books this week. They're looking for images for their 2010 calendar, and wanted us to prepare some of our favorites for review. So I spent some time putting together a macro that will automatically re-size, sharpen, and save the files I need. Once the macro is done, I should be able to put together a folder of appropriate images pretty quickly.

This is the image I've been using to test my macro. Pine Glades Lake in the Everglades. I loved this location - and so did the spiders. :)

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I've spent most of this week handling the details of our August Seminar. Hang in there for a few more days and I should have the information online. I'll open up registration as soon as I can.

Since I haven't had time to process anything, I thought I'd put up this shot of a crab that I took in Florida... with Paul Marcellini's lens. He was kind enough to let me try it out. I loved it, and now I'm completely jealous. :)
And here's the shot Jay took of me taking that shot. :) I love photography... and I'm missing that white sand and warm weather.

I guess I'll just have to keep on living vicariously through you, Paul. (I'm also living vicariously through Nan - who has the 100mm macro I dream about... and Darwin - who is living in the Rockies where I'd like to be shooting...)


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