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.








Next time…




2014 © Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

7 thoughts on “A Photographic State of Mind

  1. wonderful..reminds me of what I have read about Miksang contemplative photography. Refering to not remembering and being in a “trancelike” state, the other day i was in the city and in that zen like state. My partner who hadn’t been with me saw me and called out my name..She was three feet from me but I didn’t hear her, when she finally grabbed my arm and i faced her I took a few seconds before I knew it was her…pretty extreme when i write it like this, but yes I was in that trancelike state. At the time I was looking at a scene and just “taking it in”..thanks for the post..and the images? well there are no words for such beautiful things

  2. A good reminder to keep it simple, and to create the best conditions possible for your mind to really connect with the scene.

    Some of your finest images too. Incredibly well made photographs. I’d love to see them in print.

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