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.

 

Happy Easter

The blessing of the food is one of the most beautiful Eastern European traditions. Families bring baskets of Easter food to be blessed on Holy Saturday. Each year we truly enjoy photographing this colourful event. Here are a few images from this year’s ceremony at our local parish.

All images were shot with the Fuji X100S, Fuji X-T1 paired with the XF XF 35mm F1.4 (Provia and Velvia film simulations).

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

Old, rusty but kindly – visiting Nelson, Nevada

During our recent travels south of the border, while photographing Route 66 we stumbled upon Nelson, a small town in Nevada. For those of you fond of everything Americana, this is like a Disneyland of old, historic, cool and strange artefacts.

We arrived there at midday with limited time to spend. Luckily, the area is quite small so you can park your car and walk around enjoying all the Wild West could offer. Most importantly, it is a place where you can train your eye.

Often when you find somewhere that’s visually busy, there is a tendency to shoot as many images as possible – after all there is so much to take your fancy. While it sometimes happens to us too, such a hurried approach never really works. A much more sensible approach is to focus, eliminate unnecessary elements and try to arrange elements so they form a harmonious whole. We tried exactly that during our brief stay.

The place is run by Bobbie and Tony, a great, friendly couple, so make sure you visit their store first before you begin to wander around.

Kasia and I used the X-T1 coupled with the XF 14mm F2.8, XF 50-140 F2.8 OIS and the X100T. We found this place perfect for the Classic Chrome film simulation.

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Here is Bobbie and Tony with their son.

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For those of you who are still considering the XF 50-140 F2.8 OIS lens, it is indeed an excellent glass. It’s heavy but super sharp and its OIS works like magic. Take a look at this image (JPEG straight from the camera).

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…and 100% crop

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

The Kaizen Contention – Final Thought

While it remains to be seen whether the storm about Fuji’s Kaizen philosophy was warranted or not, there is one important takeout from this heated debate.

In fact, it was Charles, one our readers, who made this point first: “If nothing else it does show that people are watching and do care.” Indeed, one of the most remarkable outcomes of the Fuji philosophy of continuous dialogue with photographers was the creation of a very passionate community. During our travels, Kasia and I meet many Fuji shooters who are deeply involved in the Fuji community, who care about the future of the X-series and do not shy away from stating their opinions. Ultimately, we believe it is a remarkable achievement and a huge asset for Fuji. After all, those photographers and artists are ambassadors of the Fuji brand.

We would like to thank everyone for keeping this online discussion cordial and free of personal attacks. We as artists may and should differ, but we shall always strive for passionate but courteous debates.

On another note, Patrick of Fujirumors.com published a post about his charity work in Cambodia. Kasia and I are very impressed by his dedication and commitment and we urge all of you to support his noble cause. You can do so by buying the really awesome fair-trade X-shirts (you can buy them here). We did.

To stay on topic, we would like to share with you images Kasia shot during her charity trip to Senegal. All photos were taken with the Fuji X-E1 coupled with the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 OIS lens.

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Here is Kasia with a baby boy.

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Three more images from this trip.

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Next time we will take you to Nelson, Nevada.

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

Crying Wolf

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Fuji X-T1, XF 50-140 F2.8

As most of you know, almost all the images presented on this blog have been shot with the X-series cameras. Since we got our first X100 and then the Fuji X-Pro1, we have become independent ambassadors of the X-series system. Many readers have bought Fuji cameras because they like the imagery we present here.

Given that the Fuji X-series is relatively new and is still evolving, we have been paying close attention to every development. As early adopters, we have been pleased with the Fuji approach of receiving feedback from photographers and making appropriate changes or improvements in the form of software updates – an approach marketed by Fuji itself as Kaizen.

Recently, however, Fuji has sent numerous signals that it would end this philosophy – no more major software updates for older models! We cannot hide the fact that we are deeply disappointed by this news. Here is why.

It was Fuji that introduced the idea of Kaizen, promoted it and marketed their cameras along with it. We believe this philosophy, along with the photographer-friendly design of Fuji cameras, among other factors, distinguished Fuji from other manufacturers and contributed to the rising popularity of the Fuji X-series. Therefore, we have no doubt that this change, if confirmed, would have a negative impact on the brand – at least among its keenest proponents.

But there is a solution. Some of our fellow photographers have suggested that Fuji could start charging for such major updates (don’t confuse it with fixes). We certainly wouldn’t mind paying for major improvements. It’s an idea worth exploring!

The signal to abandon the Kaizen philosophy is one thing but we recently picked up more news from Fuji that makes us a little bit concerned. There is a lot of talk about improvements in video and delays in the development of the highly anticipated Fuji X-Pro2. In regard to video, please don’t bother; we are not at all interested. In fact, the majority of photographers we know who shoot X-series are not interested either. There is still a need for simple, photographer-friendly cameras with excellent viewfinders and an improved menu system. Please, don’t turn the X-series into a “do-it-all” camera system.    

Then there is the X-trans sensor. It is already a few years old and we haven’t seen any material improvement to it since its introduction. We only hope that Fuji is delaying Fuji X-Pro2 to pack some new sensor technology into it (a dramatic improvement in the X-trans technology or organic sensor).

We express this litany of concerns out of care for the brand that we enjoy so much. The X-series is still our favourite line of cameras and lenses. We hope that our unease about the future direction of the X-series cameras will turn out to be unwarranted and upcoming products will show that this fulmination proved to be nothing more than crying wolf.

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Fuji X100T.

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Fuji X-T1, XF 14mm F2.8

 

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

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