Jay and Varina Patel Talk About Capturing the Great Outdoors

The Dreaming

All photos by Jay and Varina Patel. Used with permission

Photographer duo Jay and Varina Patel are a couple that for many need no introduction. Both of them have enormous followings in what could arguably be considered the true hub for photographers right now: Google +. Jay and Varina travel around capturing landscapes and scenes while combining their skills in their craft with social marketing efforts and back and forth interactions.

When they had a couple of minutes to chat, we talked with them about what it’s like to be professional landscape shooters.

Phoblographer: You two are an outstanding duo of landscape photographers. What made you both get into the craft to begin with?

Kilauea Lava Flow, Big Island - Hawai'i, USA

J+V: Our stories are completely different. Varina started shooting when she was just a kid, with her dad’s Pentax K1000. She learned to develop black and white film in a darkroom when she was about 14 years old, and by the time she was in high school she knew she wanted to be a professional photographer. Jay, on the other hand, was unable to get his hands on a camera until much later in life. His first camera was a 3 megapixel Canon D30 DSLR. We both went pro around 2005 – and it wasn’t long before we were teaching workshops in National Parks

Phoblographer: Both of you are also masterminds when it comes to working with the Google + community. What about it do you feel differentiates it from the art community on Tumblr, Flickr, 500px or any others?

J+V: Google+ is a much broader platform than the other social media giants. Hangouts and communities make it perfect for group discussion. From the beginning, Google+ encouraged in-depth interactions and conversations between people with similar interests, which has led to very real connections as people from all over the world come together and really get to know one another.

iceland_2258 copy

Phoblographer: You’ve travelled to lots of different locations to capture breathtaking scenes. But if you both had to pick five of your favorites, what would they be and why?

Siblings

J+V: We’ve been so lucky to have the opportunity to travel frequently, and we’ve shot in so many beautiful places. It’s hard to make a list of the top five… but some of our favorites include the Kilauea lava flowing into the sea on the Big Island of Hawaii, the iceberg-strewn black sand beach at Jökulsárlón in Iceland, the turquoise waters of Fishermans Bay in Port Stephens, Australia, Glacier National Park in Montana, and Utah’s towering sandstone hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park. Most of all though, we both look forward to the next location we’ll be visiting…wherever that might be. We love to shoot in new places where we’ve never been before.

Storm over Herbert Lake - Banff National Park - Alberta, Canada

Phoblographer: How do you go about finding the locations that you shoot? It must be a ton of leg work (and lots of gas money.)

Aldeyjarfoss, Iceland

J+V: We do a lot of research before we even leave the house, and that saves us a whole lot of money and time. We might have just a few days to spend in any given place, so we need to put ourselves in the right place at the best possible time – and we need to make the most of the time we have on location. We check weather and climate patterns, seasonal changes, tide charts, sunset and sunrise times – and moonrise and moonset times too. We also study topographical maps and trail maps, and talk to park rangers and local photographers. When we’re on location, we spend all our waking hours in the field. When the conditions aren’t right for shooting, we’ll be scouting so we know exactly where we want to be when the light is just right. Of course, none of this really feels like work because it’s what we love to do.

Phoblographer: Tell us about the gear that you carry. But we want to know about more than just your camera gear. What other essential items do you often bring when you’re out on locations? You know, the stuff that’s really important.

J+V: We each carry a full-frame Canon 5D Mk III and a crop-sensor Canon 7D. We also carry a collection of lenses… wide angles, long zooms, macro, and intermediate lenses. We want to be sure we have the lens we need for any situation. In addition to our cameras and lenses, we always have Graduated Neutral Density Filters for reducing the overall range of light when we’re shooting sunrises and sunsets; Neutral Density Filters for long shutter speeds; and Circular Polarizer Filters for cutting through glare on wet surfaces. We always have a remote release in our camera bags too.

Heaven's Gate

We both carry a lightweight and sturdy Induro CT113 carbon fiber tripod with a BHL1 ballhead. We use the tripod for almost every shot we take, so we don’t leave home without it. We pack all our equipment into Mountain Series bags from fstop gear. We need study bags that can take the abuse they get when we’re in the field, and that fit comfortably even when we’re carrying a whole lot of gear. And of course, we always carry waterproof covers for our cameras… and ourselves, and we have warm clothing in our bags as well. The weather doesn’t always cooperate.

Phoblographer: For landscape and scenic photographers like you guys, when do you feel is you busiest season and how long does it typically last?

J+V: Landscape photography is a year-round job. There’s never a dull moment. We often return to the same location again and again, shooting in different seasons. The changes that happen are incredible. And when the conditions aren’t perfect in one location, there’s always another where the conditions couldn’t be better. Of course, we also have lots of work that has to get done in between trips, so when we aren’t traveling, we never run out of things that need doing.

Be sure to also check out: 

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