You were warned

You were warned

The first lines of our 2016 blog said it all:

“It is easy to pat yourself on the back in this serene atmosphere. You worked hard, produced great visuals, got many ‘beautifuls’ and you reached a place that is comfortable and cosy, so why disrupt this calm?”

Well, somehow it feels cramped here; it’s static, colourless and sterile. Something inside pushes you to stretch yourself and you move toward the edge of the cliff. Whatever it is, it wants you to rip open Pandora’s box, unleash the demons and create chaos. It wants you to go back to the beginning and rehearse your trials and errors. Strangely enough, you want to comply. You want to destroy your present complacency of seeing. But why? What for? There is no answer, not just yet.

There are no resolutions or plans – just chaos to start the year. It’s so comforting, so desirable and so necessary.”

In short it is the year to “break down the walls,” explore new ideas and question our path. This is exactly what we have been doing in the first months of this year. But this chaos is not over yet and we are not sure if we want it to end. Quite the opposite!

Kasia and I are working on several projects that require a slight adjustment to our course. In fact, two of them are so important that they will have dedicated websites. More details to come.

One of the side effects of this ‘rebellion’ is our recent street photography work, which to our liking has so many elements of road photography: fascinating subjects, playful light, thoughtful composition – among many common features – and allows us to transplant our insubordinate seeing to our local streets.

It’s not that we have abandoned our road photography. Some amazing road trips are on the horizon. So please buckle up, hold tight and stay with us on this journey of seeing. Don’t say you weren’t warned!  

Here are some of our most recent images from the streets of Vancouver. All shot with the Fuji X-Pro2 and XF 35mm F1.4. (Acros and Classic Chrome film simulations).

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and some in B&W…

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2016 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

 

Thoughts about Street Photography

Thoughts about Street Photography

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No, I am not a devoted street photographer but I do enjoy this fascinating and challenging genre of photography. Not only does it help me improve my seeing but it also teaches me patience and the art of observation; it motivates me to break human barriers. I do believe that every photographer should indulge her/himself in this arena from time to time.

Yes, Kasia and I have a great appreciation of high quality street work. There are many photographers that excel in street photography and you can see the hard work and dedication in their photographs. Unfortunately, along with the rising popularity of so-called street photography we have noticed a very troubling trend – taking random photos on the street and calling it street photography. We have a problem with that.

Over the last few weeks I have noticed a torrent of street photos posted on the Internet. Some photographers post a large number of images daily of people walking on the street, sitting in restaurants or just looking into the camera. Many of these images have no interesting scenes, no fascinating characters, no thoughtful compositions, no decisive moments – there is nothing unique there. There were just taken on the street.

Before I sat down to write this piece I talked to some people specializing in street photography and they validated my concerns. They also confirmed that it is incredibly difficult and rare to capture an interesting street photo. It requires days or even weeks of hard work and many, many kilometres of walking. There are just so many things that have to be right.

While shooting around the city in the last few weeks, on many days I came back with a full card of mediocre images and take full responsibility for it. There is no point in sharing them and polluting the Internet and your mind. While photographing the streets of Vancouver I gained great respect for those who specialize in this genre of photography and are able to produce unique and captivating imagery. Now I know how hard they work, how many times they tried, how many kilometres they walked and how many NOs they had to deal with. Yes, street photography is incredibly difficult! Please respect that.

Here are a few chosen images from my recent city escapades that I think are worth sharing.  All images taken with the Fuji X-Pro2 and the XF 35mm F1.4, Classic Chrome (CC) and Acros (A) film simulations.

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2016 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

Followers of Light

Followers of Light

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In the same way a painter uses oils or a sculptor works with clay to create their art, a photographer’s material is light. Although many of us have never played with clay or used oils to paint, we are all familiar with light. Whether it is a beautiful sunrise or sunset you have witnessed many times, the midday sun or just the ambient light from our nightlight – we encounter light all day long.

One of the most important tasks for an inspiring photographer is to observe this changing light and see how it affects the subjects you photograph. The best part is that you don’t need a camera to observe light. It’s something that can be done all day long while driving, commuting on a train or walking around your neighbourhood. While observing the light, pick a subject (it could be a tree, a person or a wall) and notice the changes. Keep in mind that the key use of light in a photograph will help you emphasize (bright areas) or de-emphasize (dark areas) parts of your photograph.

This is exactly what we had in mind when photographing interiors in Molson – the ghost town in Washington. Our seeing usually involves fascinating visuals and subjects. Only then do we try to work with the available light to capture our chosen scene the best way we can. This time we had chosen to follow light and let our seeing be guided purely by available light. It was fascinating to observe how light interacted with objects.

We spent about two hours in this location, mostly inside, moving between buildings frequently and visiting the same scenes multiple times. Why? Because each time we entered a structure the light guided us in a different direction, providing us with fascinating visuals and moods. What a treat!

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All images taken with the Fuji X-Pro2, the XF 35mm F1.4 and XF 14mm F2.8, the Classic Chrome (CC) film simulation.

 

 

2016 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

 

100%

Each time a new camera hits the market, a torrent of commentary, reviews and comparisons quickly follows. That’s fine – from time to time we all enjoy a dose of gear-related extravaganza.

But then the 100% crowd comes out. Digital files are subjected to meticulous examination. Every inch, every corner of an image is put under the microscope and millions of eyes bleed red until they find what they are looking for.

The army of “experts” begins the discussion. Dead pixels, chromatic aberrations, smearing, colour bleed … you name it. Then the hunt turns into a public lynching.  

Please don’t blame us – we tried very hard. Kasia and I received THE e-mails. Have you seen this problem with the X-Trans files? A link is attached with some sort of snapshot – usually a very, very crappy image. My first thought would be: “Why would anybody take such a bad image?” I guess the quality of seeing is not relevant here.  

However, out of courtesy we look and look even more deeply. Then we get tired, grab a coffee and look once more. Then we realize we are in trouble. It is a lose-lose situation. If we write back that we don’t see much there, then the words idiot, Fuji cheerleader, amateur, etc. fly our way. If I do find something but not “it” then we risk another barrage of explicit words.

But we’ve found a solution – it’s not ideal, we admit. Kasia and I just go back to what we do. We focus our attention on seeing, on our subject, composition – on creating imagery. We work on projects that are close to our interests. Then we print our images and print them large. We hold these prints in our hands and smile. We cherish this process of creation and if in the midst of it we enjoy our gear – let it be.

Sorry 100% crowd. We just don’t see it or maybe we don’t get it! Pick the answer you like.

P.S. We are peaceful people and we want to extend the olive branch to the 100% crowd. Here you go, this is for you but please don’t ask us to look. We are perfectly happy with what we see.

All 100% crops  (X-Pro2, XF 50-140mm F2.8, XF 35mm F1.4, XF 14mm F2.8) – click for a larger image.

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2016 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

In the Footsteps of the Molson Empire (Part 1)

In the Footsteps of the Molson Empire (Part 1)

Canadian investors John W. Molson and George B. Meacham started the town of Molson in 1900. Yes, John was the same person who built the largest brewing empire in Canada and ran Molson’s Bank.

In 1896 gold was found in the area and multiple mining claims were made. Soon the town had three hundred residents. In fact, the town was growing so quickly that many newcomers had to live in tents before sufficient houses could be built.

After the initial euphoria, the Molson Company withdrew its support and the town dwindled to just twelve occupants in June 1901. But it wasn’t the end.

In 1905 the news came that the railroad would come through town and revitalize growth. In 1905, one of the residents and local businessman J. H. McDonald claimed the land where Molson town was located as his homestead. Disgusted citizens founded New Molson half a mile north of Old Molson. People, businesses and the post office all moved to the new location. Its railroad station had the highest elevation in Washington State at 3,708 feet.

In the 1930s the railroad was taken up and the area was given over to agriculture.  

All the images presented below were shot with the X-Pro2 paired with the XF14mm F2.8 and XF35mm F1.4. When we arrived there was some snow on the ground, much to our satisfaction. When shooting locations with many elements in the frame, snow is very helpful because it naturally simplifies the scene.

Not only does Old Molson town have many structures left but most importantly they are all open to the public. Inside the houses you can still find original furniture, crockery, cast-iron stoves and old pictures. In places like this we always enjoy taking advantage of the natural light, which pours through the old windows. It is worth spending some time inside the buildings to observe how light interacts with objects, creating fascinating visuals.

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New Molson

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Kasia and I have been shooting with the X-Pro2 for almost a month and we are very impressed with the camera. Not only is the quality of files impressive but the mechanics and design of the camera has been dramatically improved. While these changes may not be apparent to occasional shooters, for those of us who spend hours holding a camera in our hands, the changes make a huge difference. We especially like the joystick for choosing a focal point, the placement of all the buttons on the right and the dual memory cards. Of course, there is much more but we have covered most of it in our previous posts.

Indeed, the X-Pro2 has become our prime camera.

 

2016 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.