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.

Barkerville – the Centre of the Cariboo Gold Rush

It wasn’t a picnic by any means. The miners usually lived in small tents or rough cabins, had to face severe winters (or get out of town), uncomfortable summers and a poor diet, which usually consisted of beans and bacon. That’s not all. Extremely hard labour, avalanches, frequent floods and numerous accidents shortened the average miner’s life to about 35.

Despite all the misery, the prospect of riches brought thousands of men and women to the Cariboo region. While the BC gold rush began in 1858 in the Fraser River, it wasn’t until the early 1860s that gold fever reached epic proportions. In 1862, Billy Barker and his partners struck gold on one of their claims, an event which only added fuel to the mining hysteria that took place around Williams Creek. (Some estimates say that by 1896, over a million ounces of gold had already been mined in the area.)

As a result, by 1864, there were 10,000 miners seeking riches on Williams Creek and Barkerville (named after Billy Barker) was the largest town west of Chicago and north of San Francisco.

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Kasia and I have visited almost all the major western ghost towns. We have to admit that we found Barkerville the least appealing. We were looking for something remote, pure and not commercialized so we enjoyed visiting Sandon in the West Kootenays and Elkhorn in Montana. Eventually, we knew we wanted to photograph the Gold Rush Trail in British Columbia and it would be a great omission if we left out Barkerville.

It turned out we were wrong about Barkerville. After staying there for two days, we found we thoroughly enjoyed it. Indeed, Barkerville is quite special. It is the largest historic site in British Columbia. Not only have the buildings been preserved but this town is alive, thanks to the dedicated people who dress and act as if it was indeed, the Gold Rush of the 1860s.

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One of the interesting historical facts about the Cariboo culture was that miners helped each other, in stark contrast to the lawlessness of the California gold rush. Some say it was partly due to the harsh conditions, while others cite the role of Judge Begbie and his uncompromising but fair enforcement of British justice. (In fact we attended a short presentation of a court proceeding – highly recommended!).

As expected, such a popular site was full of tourists at this time of year but we wanted to photograph it as though it was still 1862. The only time the streets of Barkerville were free of tourists was in the early morning and late evening. We usually started taking photos at 5.30 AM and stopped when the first visitors arrived around 8.00 AM. Then, sometimes after 5 PM we could start again.

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We were shooting with the X100S and the Fuji X-T1 paired with the XF 14mm F2.8 and XF 56mm F1.2. All images were processed in Lightroom 5, mostly de-saturated to convey the historic mood of the place. We took some portraits of the people working in Barkerville and the JPEGs turned out really well (we will share them in our next posts).

You can achieve a very similar de-saturated look with the following in-camera settings:

Sharpening: +1

Colour: -2

Highlights: -1

Shadows: 0 or -1

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Next time…

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

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.

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