Becoming an Un-Photographer

How badly I wanted to become a photographer! A serious photographer, I should add. First, I needed serious gear and the bigger the camera, the better. Check! Then I bought lenses – lots of them. After all, I had to cover every focal length known to humankind. Check! Then, of course I needed a hefty camera bag to carry it all. Check! Wait a minute – how about a sturdy tripod? Ansell Adams carried his up mountains so it must be necessary. Check!

Then, equipped with kilos of gear, my huge camera bag and equally impressive tripod, I could go out. Now, I could call myself a photographer. Everyone knew how serious I was about photography. Many randomly encountered people were impressed. They asked me about my gear, about my lenses. Many look at me with respect and envy. After all, a guy with such an arsenal on his back must be a photographer. I puffed out my chest, which wasn’t difficult because I had to take weight-lifting classes to carry it all.

But something happened along the way. The more I wanted to be a photographer, the less I was becoming one. The black beret and the dark glasses didn’t help. I gave away my XL T-shirts as my muscles reduced in size.

The next step was to sell all my gear. I bought photography books. No, not technical books but books about seeing, light, composition, landscapes and people. And I got myself a camera – a tiny, inconspicuous one. I started venturing into the world with this little camera on my shoulder. Just one camera and one lens. People stopped paying attention to me. I was obviously just another lost tourist with his ‘point and shoot.’ An amateur. It was strange but I liked it! Some touts offered to be my guide or show me a good hotel but in general I could walk around the city unnoticed, free of gear, lenses, backpacks and tripods, and free of a photographer’s mindset.

Visual stories started to unfold before my eyes. I began talking to people I hadn’t noticed before. Somehow, the light miraculously fell into place. I started seeing more, much more, and not just kittens and cathedrals. Others didn’t see me as a photographer but I started transforming into one. I became an un-photographer.    

Here are a few images from our recent walk around Vancouver, all taken with the Fuji X100S (Classic Chrome).

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Copyright 2015 © Olaf & Kasia Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

X-Fun (It’s NOT what you think)

It was fun! You can get one here.

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Next time… about becoming an Un-Photographer.

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Copyright 2015 © Olaf & Kasia Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

 

Photo Bits and Bobs

It has been a very busy and exciting time for us. We are currently pulling together our summer and autumn photography travel plans. There are some really great locations on the table, which should provide us with plenty of visual opportunities. We’ll keep you updated.

With an upcoming lens announcement from Fuji regarding a new XF 90mm F2 lens. While we enjoy shooting with the XF 56mm F1.2, we eagerly anticipate testing this new lens and taking it on some of our trips.

Some of you ask us about workshops – yes it is something we are working on; however, we want to do something different. Our objective is to take you to our favourite North American locations (it doesn’t mean the most popular) to photograph together and share our approach with you. Most importantly, we would like to go with you on a journey of visual self-discovery. Stay tuned for more.

Another area of interest is e-books. We have started working on the first one tailored to new photographers. Many different paths lead to the same destination. Based on our struggles and successes, we would like to provide an aspiring photographer with a guide to finding HIS vision and HER way of seeing. Check out our blog for more information.

Finally, and most importantly, WE’VE GOT OUR X-SHIRT!!! Just in case you have been dozing and don’t know what it is all about, check this link for more info. This charity project, by Patrick of Fujirumors, goes a long way to help those that need it. While we play with our expensive photo gear and go on photo trips we often forget how fortunate we are. This project is a great way to help and HEY, this shirt is super comfortable, really well made and cool (more about this in our next post – including some images).

Here are some images from our photo trips that somehow never found their way to this blog – all taken with the X-series gear.

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Copyright 2015 © Olaf & Kasia Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

The God of Bears and Mountains Watching Over Vancouver

One of our favourite places to watch the sunset in the Vancouver area is Burnaby Mountain Park. Although the place offers spectacular views and a relaxed atmosphere, it is not our favourite place for photography. As you know, Kasia and I are always searching for less popular or even unknown places but each day on the Burnaby Mountain you can find a torrent of photographers.

Despite this, we are somehow being drawn back to this magnificent location. One of the highlights of the Burnaby Mountain is totem poles. Given the history of the region and the importance of native art in British Columbia, most people assume that the totem poles at the top of Burnaby Mountain are the artwork of British Columbia’s First Nations. Wrong!

This work of art is the exhibition created by Naburi Toko and his son Shusei Toko – a renowned modern sculptor of the Ainu. The Ainu are the indigenous people of the island of Hokkaido in Japan.

Like the Japanese people, the Ainu are animists and believed that spirits known as kamuy inhabit all things. One of the most important Gods is known as Kim-un Kamuy, or the god of bears and the mountains. All animals are thought to be the manifestations of gods on Earth; however, the bear is believed to be the head of gods and is known as kamuy, or “God.” Therefore, the owl, the bear and the orca represent the Ainu gods, while the poles below represent the people.

What a visual treat!

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Notes: We arrived at the location an hour before sunset. Note how the light was changing. Don’t leave immediately after the sunset – sometimes the twilight provides enough light and a fantastic background for interesting images. All images were taken with the Fuji X100S, Fuji X-T1 & XF 14mm F2.8 or XF 56mm F1.2. Processed in LR6.

 

2015 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

 

Shooting Operation BEAR with the XF 50-140mm F2.8 OIS

Yesterday while walking in Coquitlam Park, we had a big surprise. You may have seen the photos of the bear on the news, but we were actually there.

One of the privileges of living in British Columbia is to experience one of the most incredible landscapes in the world. Part of this experience is learning how to coexist with wild animals such as elk, cougars or bears.

Unfortunately, with massive development and the influx of immigrants, interaction between humans and wildlife is becoming more common – with the animals almost always being on the losing end.

Amazingly, the Coquitlam area, where we live, had more than 1,200 reported bear-sightings in 2013 (no wonder it’s called the bear-sighting capital of British Columbia). Every year, Kasia and I have had multiple encounters with bears. Each time we are in AWE watching these majestic animals in their natural habitat.

In most situations, bears are afraid of humans – as we are afraid of them. However, in an increasing number of cases a bear ventures too far into the city and authorities need to take action (see here).

Yesterday, we saw a local bear trapped between a busy sporting field full of children and a busy street. Terrified, he climbed a tree and spent most of the day there. Given the proximity of children and the lack of an escape route, local wildlife authorities had to take action to protect the bear and the public.

It is always a challenge to save a bear. If one gets accustomed to people’s presence it needs to be killed. In the best-case scenario, the bear is tranquillised and relocated. In this case, the bear was hanging out in the tree for many hours and fire fighters had a hard time getting him down. He was shot at least four times before he was tranquillised. Conservation officers transported him to a facility to assess his condition and they will eventually have to make a decision whether to kill the bear or relocate it.

It was a lively but very sad spectacle to watch. We may think it was the bear that ventured into our territory but the truth is that we are living in their territory. I am glad that a huge effort is being made to save these incredible animals. We owe them that, at the very least.

This reportage was shot with the Fuji X-T1 and XF 50-140mm F2.8 OIS lens. Although the lens was heavy, I enjoyed shooting with this incredibly sharp lens. All images were shot from the hand, my favourite way of working, and they turned out very well, thanks to the inner workings of the image stabilization system (OIS). All images processed in Lightroom 6, Classic Chrome film simulation.

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2015 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

Thoughts about XF Lenses and XF 16mm F1.4

Some of you asked us about a brand new addition to the Fuji XF line of lenses – XF 16mm F1.4. In short – we are not getting this lens. Don’t get us wrong. Based on early reviews and samples, we are confident that Fuji has produced another winner: all metal, sharp and bright with minimal distortion. In fact, Fuji lenses are the prime reason we use Fuji exclusively.

However, the art of photography is the art of choices – on every level. We cannot and do not want to carry all the lenses available. After going through backpacks of gear throughout our photographic life, we have now simplified our gear and reduced our lens choices to a minimum. Kasia and I operate and see in three focal lengths: XF 14mm F 2.8, XF 23mm F2 (X100S) and XF 56mm F1.2. Occasionally, we shoot with the XF 50-140mm F2.8 lens. My favourite morning routine is to leave the house with just the Fuji X100S (XF 23mm F2).

In short, if we want to go wide-angle, we reach for the XF 14mm F2.8. Then, there is the X100S with its XF 23mm F2.0. For our needs – this is enough. But this is just us. For some photographers, the XF 16mm F1.4 lens could be a must-have. For example, the brilliant Damien Lovegrove has been shooting with the XF 16mm F1.4 for a while now and this lens is a natural fit for him (XF 14mm could be too wide).

Ultimately, it is you that must decide how you see and which focal lengths you excel in. The only advice we would have is: Don’t overdo it. Many new photographers get into the trap of buying all possible lenses at once. With a full bag of lenses they are not able to train their eye. The best approach is to start with just one focal length, master it and then add another perspective.

All right, enough of this. This morning I wanted to find a new perspective on Vancouver. Here are a few images shot with the X100S, X-T1 coupled with XF 14mm F2.8 and XF 56mm F1.2.

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2015 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

Mankind and the Environment

With today’s rapid growth, many cities struggle to maintain a balance between nature and economic development. It is an especially important subject here in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Despite strong population growth, it is a place of a great beauty with a pristine ecosystem.

The recent oil spill in English Bay has angered many people and brought this subject to the forefront of conversations. With the theme “Mankind and the Environment” at the back of my mind, I went for a little visual wander one day. Here are a few images.

All images were taken with the Fuji X100S and Fuji X-T1 paired with XF 56mm F1.2 and processed in LR5 and NIK Silver Pro.

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Copyright 2015 © Olaf & Kasia Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

 

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