Diane Varner Interviewed by Marcie Scudder

Can you tell me what first ignited your passion for photography?


In other interviews, I have always answered this question with this…  

“I started seriously pursing photography in 2004 when my older dog, Boomer, could no longer jog with me. We started hiking the local California coastline and mountain trails and I took a camera along to capture all the beauty.” 

While this is all very true, what I haven’t openly shared is how the experience of breast cancer changed my life and made me look more deeply at everything, including my art. On my daily walks with Boomer, I found myself noticing all the small nuances that I had passed by before… the way a long blade of grass gracefully moves and plays with the light... the way leaves and flower petals randomly fall to the ground in a perfect composition... the way a very quiet, gray landscape can come alive with the flight of a squawking blue heron crossing it. The mundane had become magical and I wanted to record it and share my excitement of what I had found. 

Autumn Leaves No. 3

I initially thought my photographs would be reference material for my future drawings and paintings but quickly realized their expressive potential, especially when I started working on them in Photoshop. Through this wonderful platform of photography, I have found the pleasure of using all my artistic talents via light, shadow and attention to detail.

Do you have any favorite artists that you believe have
influenced and informed your work?

I began my art career as a visual artist and spent many years drawing and painting. I also had the opportunity to study other artists who definitely influenced  the way I approach the medium of photography. Here are a few...

Ann Quirk, my mother, was a collage and watercolor artist. She influenced me immensely with her constant encouragement to pursue my creative endeavors. Her example of going back to school in her 50’s to seek her own creative path was an inspiration for me. She was and still is, my greatest supporter and initiator.

Tom Howell is a very talented artist and was my college professor to whom I owe a great debt to. He taught me how to see and draw with light. With his exquisite eye, satirical humor and patient instruction, he showed myself and many other students, how all form is shaped by light and shadow. The skills I learned in his many classes definitely impact the way I go about taking and post-processing all my photographs today.

Kathe Kollwitz was a German twentieth century artist (1867-1945) that created raw, emotional, expressive drawings, etchings and sculpture. Her biggest influence on me was her example of showing a social responsibility via her art and how powerful that can be. 

Andrew Wyeth was American visual artist (1917-2009), known for his rural landscapes of Pennsylvania and Maine. I have always admired the warm, earthy color palettes of his detailed paintings and find myself using those colors quite often.

Judy Chicago, Artist  —  I learned about Judy Chicago years after studying art at UC Santa Barbara. Her contribution to women both as artists and as individuals had a profound effect on my outlook of art and women in today’s society. I found her courage and gumption to express her controversial views (via her art) despite negative criticisms, very inspiring. It has given me courage throughout the years, to stay true to my personal vision.

Your photography has a certain signature - mystical..evocative – style.
Can you speak to how that’s evolved and how you create such magic?

I can’t deny that the foggy, wet coastal weather contributes greatly to the atmospheric feelings in my photography but that isn’t the only inspiration for my style.  My photography has become my spiritual and creative connection to the natural world. The world is full of mysterious and mystical beauty and I continually seek these sanctuaries for their quietness and peace that they bring me. Hence, this is where the magic begins.

I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop as tools to work on my photographs, enhancing the moods that I experience and feel. When I first started doing photography, I was very careful to not manipulate images too far and still feel this need. Having said that though, I now give myself creative license to emphasize the mood and add more depth via layered effects of colors, lighting (dodging and burning), sharpening and toning. There is also now, no hesitation for me to clone out objects that I find distracting. Ultimately, I try to express the feelings evoked in me at the particular time of taking the image.

I see nature as a metaphor for life and so often times, find the answers that I seek in the photographs that I have taken. Sharing these insights and experiences with my viewers is what it is all about.

When did you first begin your blog and
how has this online experience affected the work you do?

“Daily Walks” began in 2006. At that time, I was extremely excited about its potential as an online venue for my photography and a place to possibly connect with other photographers. Looking back, I could never have imagined the friendships it would bring or the career path it would lead me to. It has become a remarkable, creative outlet as well as a valuable tool.

Having had a blog that has to be updated regularly, it has forced me to be incredibly focused. I now have a body of work that I’m excited to get out there in other forms… books, prints, cards, etc. I don’t think I would have come this far without the encouragement and support of my fellow bloggers. 

When not out hiking the gorgeous northern California coastline –
what other things do you do? For work? For fun?


All-in-all, I have to say that the majority of my time is devoted to my photography, writing and art. I did graphic design, illustration and web design for about 18 years until recently devoting all my time to photography. When I can pull myself away from my creative work, I spend time volunteering, reading, gardening and making jewelry. The last few years, I have been working with our sweet, rescue dog, Rio, who is a White German Shepherd (he came to us with a few challenging habits). Rio accompanies me on my walks but it can be a trick keeping a steady hand on my camera while holding the leash that is attached to his energetic body. We’re working on it!

NOTE: This interview previously appeared on my fellow photographer’s website, Marcie Scudder Studio. I encourage you to visit Marcie's site to view her beautiful and inspiring collection of images and prose