Striking Gold with the Fuji X-series

British Columbia has a lot to offer – stunning scenery, abundant wildlife, a high quality of life and friendly people.

Despite its many attributes, it wasn’t natural beauty and certainly not the quality of life that brought early settlers to this part of this world. It was gold!

Kasia and I recently went on a trip to the Cariboo region, driving along Highway 97, also known as the Gold Rush Trail. Like the early miners, we were there for adventure and mining for … great imagery. We travelled equipped with the Fuji X-T1 paired with the XF 14mm F2.8, XF 56mm F1.2 and X100S.

The trip took us from Vancouver to Hope, small but charming Ashcroft and Cache Creek. From there we drove north along Highway 97 through Clinton, 70 Mile House, 100 Mile House and 150 Mile House. Then we travelled further north to Williams Lake and Quesnel, from which we headed east toward the funky town of Wells and historic Barkerville.

We have a lot of material to share with you, including history titbits, travel tips and thoughts about the Fuji X-series cameras and lenses. You will also find some information about working with the X-trans sensor files. Here are just a few images to give you an idea of what’s to come. Watch this space.

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Next time…

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This is NOT HDR. Courtesy of incredible dynamic range of the X-Trans Sensor.

 

2014 © Olaf & Kasia Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

Photo Eruption at Mt. Baker

How about photographing a place that is an active volcano and one of the snowiest places on the planet?

In 1792 the British explorer, George Vancouver, reached the Pacific Northwest Coast and made a journal entry citing the observation of Mt. Baker by his third lieutenant Joseph Baker:

About this time a very high conspicuous craggy mountain … presented itself, towering above the clouds: as low down as they allowed it to be visible it was covered with snow; and south of it, was a long ridge of very rugged snowy mountains, much less elevated, which seemed to stretch to a considerable distance … the high distant land formed, as already observed, like detached islands, amongst which the lofty mountain, discovered in the afternoon by the third lieutenant, and in compliment to him called by me Mount Baker…”

Each time we drive up the winding road at Mount Baker it is a stunning adventure. We have hiked numerous routes in this park but we haven’t taken many photos of this natural landmark. It’s about time.

Here are a few images from our recent escapade. They are all taken with the Fuji X-T1 paired with the XF 14mm F2.8 and Fuji X100S.

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2014 © Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

Connecting with a Landscape

There are more similarities between photographing landscapes and people than you think. When working with people, a photographer must achieve a certain level of connection and trust that allows them to relax and open up emotionally and visually.

On many levels, a similar dynamics plays out when photographing landscapes. You must “feel” the place, connect with it and give it time to reveal itself to you. So often I see photographers running around stunning landscapes fixated on a few photographed-to-death spots and rushing from one location to another. And I know what I am talking about – I have done it myself!

Slow down, look around and don’t fixate on the most popular spots. “Be there” before you take out your camera. Very often you will notice different elements and visuals, but be warned – you may come back from your trip with images you didn’t plan to take. It may well be the best imagery you have ever created.

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2014 © Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

Romancing with the X-T1

Photographing landscapes, especially in less popular locations, brings us enormous joy and satisfaction. We love the serenity of the mornings and quiet moments just before you press the shutter button. In fact, most of our photography is done in isolation.

It’s not that we shy away from photographing people. Quite the contrary! One of our favourite assignments is to photograph families and couples. Recently we went with Karen and Keiju to the Vancouver Waterfront for a little photographic romance. Not only did we have a very good time together, but we were able to capture great imagery.

We toted along the Fuji X-T1 with the XF 55-200 F3.5-4.8 R OIS and XF 56mm F1.2 lenses. All colour photos are JPEGs (Ns – Pro Neg.Std) with some adjustments in Lightroom 5. B&W images JPEG/RAW files processed in Lightroom 5.

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2014 © Olaf & Kasia Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

Voyage, Voyage with the X100S

One of my favourite visual exercises is to venture out with the Fuji X100S. I usually do it on the weekends and in the early morning and it’s not only for the good light. You would be surprised how public spaces change when deserted. The lack of crowds and noise allows you to concentrate on the art of seeing, at least for me.

Why the Fuji X100S? We have written extensively about this gem of a camera and why, in our view, it is still the best digital camera on the market. The greatest appeal lies in its size, simplicity and fixed lens. I walk around looking innocent and people don’t even notice when I take photographs. Many view me as a non-threatening tourist with his little point-and-shoot.

The fixed lens, dedicated knobs and lack of camera bags let me focus on theme, light and composition! You may say that it is not a good idea to limit yourself but the longer I’ve been taking photographs, the more I think that constraint is one of the most important pillars of photography.

Constraint applies to equipment, size, the number of photos you take or the number of elements you fit into your frame. Somehow, this little camera has helped me to create most of my favourite photographs.

On this particular morning I decided to take on the cruise ships that visit Vancouver every year. The arrival of these huge vessels is usually quite a busy affair, also visually. The best way to tackle a busy scene is by elimination. It is quite a time-consuming and intense exercise but it can yield great results.

All images were shot with the X100S, converted to B&W using NIK Silver Pro.

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2014 © Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

Along The Cowboy Trail with the X-T1

Despite visiting the Canadian Rockies on several occasions, we have never had a chance to drive south along the Cowboy Trail, highway #22. This time, however, we took this scenic drive and what a photographic treat it was!

Driving south in the foothills, on our right the giant peaks of the Canadian Rockies rise from the plains. Beautiful clumps of trees and rolling grassy hills mixed with farmland create a spectacular sight.

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Make sure you take this route early in the morning, preferably starting at sunrise because the early sun illuminates the peaks in a beautiful series. Kasia and I were pretty lucky since we encountered stormy weather: thunderstorms, rain, sun and rainbows – we had it all – all day long. It allowed us to shoot long into the midday hours.

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As you approach the US border, you reach Waterton Park. While it is less popular and less well known than Banff National Park, it is one of the most spectacular parks we have ever visited. Make sure to cross to the US side, where most of the park’s attractions are located.

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Gear Notes: As usual we were equipped with the Fuji X-T1, the XF 14mm F2.8, XF 56mm F1.2 and Fuji X100S. It was enough to cover 99% of our needs. The X-T1’s viewfinder made a huge difference offering a wide clear view. Even when you are in such an extraordinary location, one should avoid “snapping fever” and focus on composition and light. It is much better to take just a few images, working hard on them before you press the shutter button. This approach pays off later.    

The B&W photos were mildly processed using NIK Silver Pro – our favourite B&W software. The colour photos are mixed: some JPEGs come straight from the camera, some are Lightroom 5 processed. We noticed that the latest variants of Lightroom do a much better job with the X-Trans files, especially files from the X-T1 (not so much with the X100S files). Of course, this is based on our observations, not backed up by any testing. For those who print large and scrutinize their files under the loop, the Iridient Developer (ID) is still the best choice, especially now, when ID offers Fuji film simulations.

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2014 © Olaf & Kasia Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

The Canadian Rockies with the Fuji X-series (Part II)

When we planned to visit the Canadian Rockies, Kasia and I had a pretty good idea of where we wanted to photograph. After all, we used to live in Calgary – the eastern gateway to the majestic Rockies. This city, famous for its “Chinook” winds and the greatest show on earth, the Stampede, welcomed us with a show of its own. We encountered stormy skies, a rainbow and a sky worthy of a sci-fi movie.

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In general when we travel we prefer to cover less well-known places. However, the Canadian Rockies have some gems that are difficult to ignore and Moraine Lake is one of them. We arrived at 4:50 AM at sunrise with the hope of seeing a few clouds but we got sunny skies. The rising sun’s rays as they moved across the peaks were pretty spectacular to watch.

Less known but also beautiful, Hulbert and Peyto Lakes offer their own spectacular vistas.

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We spent a considerable amount of time in Kananaskis Country – not as often visited but one of our favourite parts of the Canadian Rockies. If you take a loop via the #40 and then the Smith Dorrien Trail to Canmore and back to Highway #1, you will be rewarded with stunning scenery. Here are a few images.

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Sometimes the best shots of the Rockies are from a distance. To get this perspective we headed south on Highway #22, along Cowboy Trail. And what fantastic views this road offers! But more about this and gorgeous Waterton Park next time.

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All images were shot with the Fuji X-T1 paired with the XF 14mm F2.8, XF 56mm F1.2 and Fuji X100S.

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2014 © Olaf & Kasia Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

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