Stand by me

Jay and I usually shoot together – and sometimes we find ourselves standing side by side, tripod legs crossed one over the over as we prepare to shoot. Sometimes we come away with shots that are pretty similar, but most of the time, we find that our finished images are completely different from one another.

We see things differently. Jay tends to include as much as possible in his images. He wants more details, more beautiful color, and more intensity in his imagery. I, on the other hand, work to eliminate as much as possible in my finished product. I search for simplicity, and I love subtle light. A single shoot at one location results in completely different images from each of us. Of course, we are both influenced by each other’s work as well. So you’ll see some of Jay’s high-contrast imagery in my portfolio… and some of my subtlety in Jay’s collections.

So, what do we shoot when we are standing side-by-side? Here are some fun examples…

  • Dew
  • Bedford Reservation, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio (OH), USA

Although I came away with some photographs of these beautiful blue bells as well, my favorite shot from that day doesn’t show the flowers at all! It’s a simple image of a water droplet clinging to a fresh, green stem. Jay’s shot shows the overwhelming beauty of this place in Spring… but is one shot “better” than the other? We don’t think so. They’re just different.

And how about these photographs from Vermillion Cliffs in Arizona? We were both shooting at the same time – a few hundred meters apart. (In fact, Jay’s hoodoo is located in actually visible in the upper left-hand corner of my image… though it’s nearly impossible to see at this size and resolution.) The finished images look completely different… even down to color balance! Why? Because Jay used a flashlight to “paint” the stones in his image… and a shutter speed of around 30 seconds. The light in his image is golden because of the color of the light he used.


My shot looks totally different because I used ambient light. The sun had already set – perhaps a half-hour before we took these shots – and the sky was dark except for a soft afterglow on the Western horizon. The extremely subtle light cast a soft, pink glow on the rocks, and a very long shutter speed – 266 seconds – captured enough light over time to show off a strange, magenta landscape.

Residual Light - Varina Patel

Here’s a shot Jay took at Pine Glades Lake in Florida. His goal was to capture the reflected light on the water, and that cuddly little alligator in the foreground.

Alligator in Everglades National Park

Once again, I captured something entirely different. A few minutes later, the sun dropped below the horizon and the golden glow of the sunset disappeared. I photographed the deep blue light scattered in the sky and across the water… using a long shutter speed to smooth the ripples from the water. Once again, the two shots are as different as night and day… and yet, both represent the same beautiful location.

The Quiet - Varina Patel

Is one better than the other? That depends upon your perspective. Which images appeal to you? What do you look for in your own photography? And how do your images differ from those of the photographer standing next to you? 😉

One of the most interesting aspects of shooting with others is seeing how different your images are in the end. How do you challenge yourself to come up with something unique when you are shooting with others? And what about “icon” shots? If others have photographed the same location a million times, how do you create an image that isn’t just the same old shot? Others may benefit from your suggestions – so share your knowledge. Join the conversation! (And feel free to include a link to your image so others can see your work and learn from it!)

About Author Varina Patel

There is nothing more remarkable to me than the power of nature. It is both cataclysmic and subtle. Slow and continuous erosion by water and wind can create landscapes every bit as astonishing as those shaped by catastrophic events – and minuscule details can be as breathtaking as grand vistas that stretch from one horizon to the other. Nature is incredibly diverse. Burning desert sands and mossy riverbanks… Brilliant sunbeams and fading alpenglow… Silent snowfall and raging summer storms… Each offers a unique opportunity. I am irresistibly drawn to the challenge of finding my next photograph, and mastering the skills required to capture it effectively.