While writing with light you sometimes need the right ‘pigment’.

Without light there would be no photography. In fact, the word photography comes from two Greek words that mean “writing with light.”

I am often asked how I get these colours. My short answer is: without the right light, no camera, lens or software would give me this type of strong, dramatic and powerful colours (sure, Fuji helps a little bit).

Indeed, the type of lighting I am looking for doesn’t happen very often and it lasts for only a short time. Therefore, preparation and anticipation are necessary. Here is how I approach this endeavour: 

  1. I usually scout locations I am interested in before I go out and shoot. I look at the subject, surroundings, materials, clothing etc., and try to imagine what it would look like in the right light.
  2. Then I go through the process of composition and the mood of photographs I would like to take (in my head – I haven’t taken any images yet!).
  3. The last part is the most difficult one – waiting. I usually shoot early in the morning or in late afternoon when the sun is low. However, this is not enough. Stormy skies and lots of clouds are an important ingredient. In other words, I am looking for a moment when the rising or setting sun finds a gap in very dark and cloudy skies and brightens the entire scene.

Unfortunately, this situation doesn’t happen very often, so it is extremely important to wait, be patient and anticipate. Most of the time I have the location, subject and composition in mind but it takes months before I find the right light. However, when it comes I try to be ready!

To be prepared, I monitor weather conditions and try to anticipate my opportunity. I make sure my equipment is always with me and it’s ready to shoot.

Then comes the moment. The post-storm light is usually very bright and powerful, so I often let the camera pick the shutter speed and aperture for me. Most of the time these conditions allow me to do hand-held shooting without any worries about blur (the camera usually picks 1/250 sec and beyond). These things free my creativity and allow me to focus on composition and subject.

The only setting I care about is focus and exposure compensation. All the images presented below were underexposed by 1 or even 2 stops. When my subject receives plenty of light, underexposing will darken the skies even more – creating dramatic, almost HDR-like images but without the usual HDR ugliness.

In fact, all the effort and waiting is not easy in today’s instant photographic world but I believe that despite technological advancements, paying attention to light pays off big time.

Below please find a few photos from my series “Industrial Vistas” shot with the Fuji X-Pro1 and the Fujinon XF 14mm F2.8 lens (except #1 – Fujinon XF 60mm F2.4 and #2 – XF 35mm F1.4). All images are processed in Capture One 7 and Lightroom 4.

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© Olaf Sztaba Photography. All Rights Reserved.

4 thoughts on “While writing with light you sometimes need the right ‘pigment’.

  1. Thank you Olaf. Living in Wales I know the patience required for good light!

    I recently bought the 14mm and wondered if you use a polarising filter to enhance the skies?

    Richard

    • Richard,

      In this series of images I didn’t use a polarizing filter because the skies were dark already. However, if I am forced to photograph in the middle of a day (when travelling) sometimes I use a polarizing filter.

      Thank you for visiting,

      Olaf

  2. Olaf

    Thanks for a great post.

    First, I like the photographs; colour, composition, content. Really inspiring.

    Second, thanks for the content of the post. I’ve always found it interesting to hear how an inspiring photographer approaches their work; the process and the thinking.

    That lens is certainly working for you. I’m considering adding it. A good friend has one and does great work with it.

    Keep going! Stephen

    • Stephen,

      Great to hear from you. Thank you for finding the time to write your comments. I truly enjoy working with this wide-angle lens and I would recommend it to everyone who does this type of photography.

      All the best,
      Olaf

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