Travelling Through the Heart of Spain

Sometimes we are so caught up in the technical side of photography that we forget that vision and passion are prime ingredients of image creation. My friend, Tom Kampioni, certainly subscribes to these principles. While his main genre is writing and film making, Tom often returns from his frequent travels with impressive imagery. He has never been a “gear guy” and that is his greatest strength. He is free of the “which lens or which camera dilemma” which cripples so many photographers. He connects with his surroundings and, most importantly, the people he encounters on his travels. He works with any photographic tool available at his disposal and this freedom transcends in his photos.

I am delighted to present some of the images from his recent trip to Spain. Even though they were not shot with the Fuji X-series cameras, we decided to share them with you. Let’s forget about cameras, lenses and processing and just enjoy the vistas. Tom wrote a few words about his experience.      

Travelling through the hills of Castilla-La Mancha and Andalusia was the conclusion to my work on an independent movie called “My Don Quixote.” I wanted to visit the places that inspired Miguel de Cervantes in 1605 to write his first world best seller: “Don Quixote.”

Spain has changed since then. There are fewer knights and squires travelling through the hills of La Mancha but it is still a very beautiful and mystical country. I was travelling with my wife and nine-month-old daughter through the empty roads of Castilla-La Mancha and Andalusia. We drove from Madrid to Malaga via Toledo, Consuegra, Ubeza, Granada, Cordoba and Ronda. I planned my trip months before we went to Spain, knowing that once I got there I would have no control over anything. Family goes first, photography whenever there is time and a spare hand to press the shutter button without dropping a baby. September is a good month for photography in Spain since it is mostly cloudy with occasional storms. My wife probably has a different opinion but I really like dark rainy clouds in my pictures.

I don’t think I have a philosophy that I follow when I take my pictures. I don’t even have a camera that I would recommend to anyone. For me it is all about location, light and having good time.”

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Here are some of other favourite images from Tom’s travels.

Poland

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Kazbegi Georgia

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Georgia

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Island

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Talin, Estonia

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Oslo, Norway

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Toledo, Spain

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Tbilisi, Georgia

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Madrid, Spain

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Stockholm, Sweden

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Chicago, USA

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Next time, we will return to our own material, shot with the Fuji X-T1 and X100S. We have downloaded the latest beta version of Iridient Developer and we really like what we see. Stay tuned.

 

2014 © Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

 

STOP. BREATHE. START AGAIN.

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You are a photographer. You have the best gear you can afford. You have a hard drive full of great imagery. You post your photos on 500px, Flickr and God only knows where else. Your friends love your work. You and your photography are running at 100 miles per hour. You’ve done it!

But have you?

Have you ever asked yourself why you are doing this? What’s your goal? Who are you as a person and photographer? Are you a photographer because you are addicted to your expensive gear? Or maybe you just like sitting in front of a computer? What do you feel when you take an image? Does the image mean anything to you? What did you contribute to this enormous body of work?

Recently I noticed I am out of photographic breath. I picked up my camera, took another pretty photo, came home and felt nothing as if my photography train had hit the wall. It’s not that it hasn’t happened in the past.

STOP. BREATHE. START AGAIN.

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First, you become detached from your photography. You run after easy images, the ones that top the popular 500px ranking. It’s almost like eating junk food. You have an urge to push the button and a rushing feeling but as soon as you swallow the last bite, the pleasure disappears and discomfort sets in. You promise yourself you won’t eat this again. Then, after a while, you give up. After all, it’s fast and easy.

Then you notice you have lost your appetite. You have great scenery in front of you but you don’t reach for your camera. You feel detached and bored. After all, you have a hundreds images like this on your hard drive. You find every excuse not to take a photo. You just don’t want to SEE.

This has just happened to me and I am glad it did.

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For the last few weeks I‘ve hardly taken any photos. My X100S stayed at home. It’s not that I wasn’t thinking about photography. Quite the reverse!

I have spent days and weeks evaluating my photography and my way of seeing. Think of it as internal audit. You look at your work as an outsider but with your own artistic consciousness. Some images you took may be very popular but they no longer light your fire. It’s fine. Accept it.

Your internal storm drags you in many artistic directions – that’s fine too. Let it be. Street photography, fine art photography, landscape, and people – everything should be on the plate. STOP. BREATHE. START OVER.

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How do I emerge from such a transformative state? It takes time, sometimes weeks or months. You cannot force it to end.

However, once it ends you will notice significant changes. You will feel, think and see differently. You will pick up your camera and take the best imagery of your life. You become a new photographer and somehow much more engaged. Fast-food imagery no longer impresses you. You are looking for something special. You know that taking a great image requires much more than pressing the shutter button. Most importantly, your new direction has been set – you will start running again until… you hit another wall.  

That’s fine. You know that this is a normal and necessary part of being a photographer. From time to time you must just STOP. BREATHE. START AGAIN.

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If you find this article chaotic and confusing – that’s exactly what it is. The whole process of transformation and renewal is a messy and perplexing experience. And it should be. Zack Arias, an excellent photographer, made a great movie about this aspect of being a photographer. You can find it here.

Next time, I will share some fantastic imagery taken by our good friend Thomas Kampioni who has just returned from a trip to Spain. Are you ready to fight the windmills with Don Quixote?

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2014 © Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

Along The Gold Rush Trail

In our previous posts, here and here, we shared many images from our trip along the Gold Rush Trail. This historic route not only has plenty of great places to photograph but also offers a valuable lesson on Canadian history. Here are more images from this trip.

Ashcroft – small but very charming place with many historical buildings.

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 The Historical Hat Creek Ranch located outside Cache Creek

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Quesnel Forks – a remote but very scenic ghost town with many remaining buildings and a historic cemetery.

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Cottonwood House – this historic place includes ten structures, including wooden farm buildings and a portion of the original Cariboo Wagon Road.

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On the road…

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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 X100S.

 

 

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

Timeless Quality of Film

Despite years of digital photography, many photographers, including us, have moments when they indulge in the timeless quality of film. One of my favourite B&W films were Kodak 400 TMAX or TRI-X 400. Their strong contrast and graininess created a particular visual atmosphere. Fortunately, today’s programs such as NIK Silver Pro allow the photographer to recreate this look (even though it will never be the same as shooting film!).

Here are some recent images taken with the Fuji X100S and processed in NIK Silver Pro.

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Today you can find the best film-like simulations in the Fuji X-series cameras. We are big fans of Provia and Astia film simulations. Fuji has recently introduced a new Classic Chrome film emulsion in its new Fuji X100T. Our first reaction: What a stunner it is! For those who do lots of street/documentary photography and want to stay away from processing pains, it is a real game changer. This slightly de-saturated emulsion is reminiscent of the best colour films and we can’t wait to start using it. For now you can check out some samples here.

In the meantime we have a few more recent images all shot with the Fuji X100S, Fuji X-T1 paired with the 56mm F1.2 lens.

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

A Photographic State of Mind

One of my favourite times of day to take photos is in the early morning. Part of this is the allure of morning light, which is unlike any other type of light. It allows you to embody your subject and emotions in unusual images. Although I appreciate the quality of light, I came to the realization that the most appealing feature of my morning photographic escapes is the state of mind I am able to achieve in such quiet and solitary conditions.

Kasia and I regularly go through our photo library and revaluate our images, each time with a more demanding and stricter eye. Almost every time we arrive at the same conclusion. The most creative images, the ones that defend themselves with a strong emotional message, technical anima and superb composition were all created in certain state of mind.

One would conclude that replicating such a state of mind would result in superb photography. The problem is that this special set of mental conditions is different for each person; however, there are few common denominators.

One of the key criteria differentiating creative photographers and casual snappers is the thinking that accompanies the photographic process. The process of thinking or moulding a photographic vision starts before you even touch your camera. It is an inner conviction and an urge to see. It may be the atmosphere of the place, which I have visited many times before, but in this particular instance I made a conscious decision to alter my seeing.

In my case, the urge to see differently is achievable only under a certain set of conditions. First of all, I need to concentrate and clear my mind. Secondly, I must eliminate all outside distractions, filtering out all visual and audio noise. Finally, I must eliminate any interactions. Very often while Kasia and I are taking photos, we make comments. Later we have no memory of this at all. It is almost as if we were in a trance. Many places in the early morning hours have a quietness that leads to creative processes.

There is one more prerequisite and it has to do with your choice of equipment. One would think that with all the cameras, software, lenses and lighting gear, we should be able to create stunning imagery, but this is often not the case. One of the biggest misconceptions of aspiring photographers is that they need a lot of professional equipment. “If only I had this lens or that FF camera I could take creative and amazing images.” This concept couldn’t be further from the truth.

For the last few years, I have very often grabbed one camera (most often the Fuji X100S) with ONE PRIME lens, leaving everything else at home. With this one decision my mind is exempt from the creative-killing habit of constantly searching for the right lens. With the light, almost invisible X100S on my shoulder, not only have I eliminated the need for a bag of gear but I can let my mind wander. The only lens is the 23mm (35mm in FF), a focal length in tune with the way I see so that anything else becomes a blur (for you it could be 50mm, 85mm or something else).

In fact, a simple photograph is very often the most difficult to take. We must all try for simplicity – the right state of mind could be the beginning.

Here are the photographs taken on one of those quiet mornings, in my favourite state of mind. They are all taken with the Fuji X100S. Barnet Marine Park, Burnaby, BC.

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Next time…

 

 

 

2014 © Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

Joined Origami Collective!

Kasia and I were invited to join a prestigious photography group Origami Collective. We are very honoured to join the ranks of such great photographers as Damien Lovegrove, Marco Larousse, Jorge Ledesma and many others. Jorge writes:      

“Origami is the Japanese art of folding paper into decorative or representational forms. At the collective we think of folding light in order to create poetry with pictures. We seek to tell the stories and share our visual poetry all with one common factor the Fujifilm x-series cameras.”

Please make sure to bookmark the site and check out the superb essays produced by these fine photographers.

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2014 © Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

 

Fuji X100T – First Thoughts

We must confess we haven’t had a chance to see or play with this new camera. Our ramblings are based on provided specifications, sample photos and other (lucky) photographers’ impressions.

As our readers know, the Fuji X100/S has been our favourite camera ever. Over the course of the last few years we have published numerous articles and reviews accompanied by great imagery produced by this little gem. In fact, the majority of images you find on this blog were shot with the Fuji X100S.

We never ever leave house without this camera – the Fuji X100S always travels with us. If I were asked to keep just one camera, this would be it. This is why: 

  1. It is small, light and silent. It becomes a part of you and your seeing process because it’s so easy to carry around.
  2. It has a very high quality, bright, fixed lens – contrary to some who believe a prime lens will make you think more carefully and take better imagery. You will use your brain, imagination and legs.
  3. You won’t carry a bag full of gear and be constantly looking for the best fit. Instead you will focus on the scene, subject and light. You will create stunning images.
  4. You will find the all-important knobs (yes knobs!) at your fingertips. You will physically feel it when you change aperture or shutter speed. That’s the way it should be.
  5. You will see the final image before you take it thanks to an innovative EVF (we cannot wait to see the latest version in X100T)
  6. You will shoot JPEGs and they are going to be stunning (especially in regard to skin tones).
  7. Finally, you will rediscover photography.

As soon as we get our hands on the Fuji X100T we will share our full review of this new camera (for now make sure to check out an excellent coverage here and here).

Here are some recent images taken in the Okanagan wine region. Some are JPEGs, some processed RAW files but all are taken with the Fuji X100S.

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And here is yours truly (with the Fuji X-T1 in his hands), courtesy of my wife Kasia.

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

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