The Magic of Photography

I have found photography to be an incredible endeavour. Every day I face a plethora of choices about observing, seeing and crafting a photograph. The more I practice this craft the more I agree with Elliott Erwitt that “it is about finding something interesting in an ordinary place.”

There is no better season to do just that than in the winter months. At this time of year, I used to put away my camera with the exception of family celebrations and commercial work. After all, Vancouver can be quite miserable in winter: the perfect blend of R-A-I-N, cold and wind was not something I was looking for.

Then I started the R-A-I-N project and began photographing when it was pouring rain or on foggy mornings or when Vancouver got snow. I embraced the elements at their worst! Now, the summer months have become a less desirable time to do photography.

For the last few days I have been shooting street photography in downtown Vancouver, taking advantage of the beautiful fog that’s been blanketing the city. Photographing in fog has always been one of my favourite activities. It’s a neutral canvas. When teaching workshops, I always try to convey the idea of a canvas to my students. Crafting the image has a lot in common with painting. A painter takes a white canvas and starts adding elements to it, considering light and shadow in the process. Therefore, paintings usually have marvellous aesthetics and very little clutter.   

Fog provides you with a blank, white canvas and you, as a photographer, start adding elements to it, arranging those elements in the frame and together with light you create unique visuals. However, that’s not all. Fog, R-A-I-N, wind – all the conditions we avoid – provide an extraordinary atmosphere.

This set of conditions along with concentration and intense observation are prerequisites for creating great imagery. Don’t confuse great with popular – they often diverge for a reason. Unique imagery is different, strange, bizarre – not something you can consume on-the-go. Yes, such risk-taking often leads to failure and disappointment but on occasion you can create magic. There is no greater compliment than the moment when your viewer stops scrolling and stares at your image because there is so much to explore, decipher, process and feel.  

The magic of photography, indeed.   

All imagery taken with the Fujifilm X-E3 and the XF 35mm F1.4. Will try to share with you some thoughts about this little camera in one of our upcoming posts. Stay tuned.

next time…


2017 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved.

14 thoughts on “The Magic of Photography

  1. The majority of the photos in this post have a strong design perspective and I see very little street element in them. Begs the question what makes them different from architecture or portrait photography. That said, Vancouver is a young city and getting younger, buildings have a 30 yearlifd span here because it’s more profitable to rebuild than restore. Fresh buildings are going up everywhere, So design wise this city suits your photography well. However a very large part of street photography in my opinion is character, not just of the people being photographed but in the “street” itself. To which vancouver has very little of, character, and the reason is the dominating culture here is not interested in preserving Vancouvers own history. Despite Vancouvers very relaxed views on pot the city is actually extremely conservative. The only place in Vancouver with real character is gasstown, and the downtown east side, but sure enough developers are working on removing that last remaining character. My conclusion, vancouver is one of he worst cities for street photography, your photos are the proof.

    1. Hello Seven,

      I appreciate your kind comment about a “strong design perspective.” Indeed, this is an important part of my seeing.

      However, I must disagree with (almost) every point you raised in your note!

      It appears that you came up with a definition of street photography that suits your needs and you don’t allow other interpretations. To be honest with you I don’t really care about definitions or genres of photography per se and discourage my students from putting any restrictive parameters on their own seeing (just show me a great image – I don’t care if you call it street, architecture, portrait). I find such an approach not only pretentious but damaging to the creative endeavour of street/life photography (please choose any label that suits your needs). Too often I see these artificial limitations resulting in boring, me-too visuals.

      I also disagree with your choice of Gastown as one of the best areas for street photography in Vancouver. Yes, tourists love the area but I personally found the place overly commercialized and visually cluttered. Therefore, I view Gastown as one of the least attractive locations for street photography in Vancouver. Imagery I come across from this location only proves my point. Of course, this is my opinion and I believe that individuals more talented than I am could produce marvellous work from this location!

      After travelling and shooting in many cities around the world, my conclusion is the opposite of yours! Vancouver is one of the best cities for street photography! There are many reasons but let me mention just one – the people – kind, generous and open to all forms of art.

      Lastly, I enjoy having image-centred discussions but they are difficult unless I know your name and your work. You know my name, approach and my photography. I don’t think it is too much to ask for your real name if you would like to have such discussions in the future.

      I wish you all the best and thank you for vising my blog.

      P.S. I am not going to discuss “liberal vs. conservative” statements as both labels are often poorly understood and based on personal agendas. Therefore, I prefer to leave this type of conversation to other venues.

  2. Olaf, your last Vancouver job is interesting, however, having followed you in all street photography assignments I do believe that this is not the best of yours. You missed what you explained about the fog…. in most of your photos fog is not there, good photographs though.

    1. Fanis,

      Thank you so much for feedback. Regarding the fog; it is still there otherwise you would see lots of buildings, distractions in the background.

      Looking forward to your future feedback.

      All the best,


  3. To approximately quote an insightful observation, “Painters work by addition, photographers work by subtraction.” Your blog and workshops have taught me a lot about the latter, which you call Simplicity in Seeing. We strive to create the simple out of the messy and complex. Your teaching gives us a robust set of tools to do just that and as i viewed the images in this post I could see clearly where you had employed those tools. Now all I have to do is use them as well as you do. OK, that won’t happen but it sure is fun to try!

    1. Dear Robert,

      Love your “We strive to create the simple out of the messy and complex” note! Indeed, it is the essence of photography, at least for me. Thank you so much for your support – it means a lot to me.

      Warm Regards,


  4. Greetings Olaf, excellent work again. B&W works very well with this atmosphere. I love the seagull in front of the building. How did you achieve to focus it with the 35 f1.4? I have difficultes with it focusing children, I can’t use use it for sports. Congratulations!

    1. Robert,

      Thank you so much for your note. Kasia and I often talk about your and your lovely family. We cannot wait to meet you again.

      Warm Regards,


  5. What great photography Olaf! You really captured the fog days that have been lingering on the West Coast this week. You are right about staring at some of your photos….I found myself questioning…how in the world did he take this image??? You have an outstanding talent my friend!

  6. I’ve certainly not fond of the cold and wet but reading this I found myself wishing I lived somewhere amenable to street photography. Central New Jersey is the sort of place where a stranger pointing a camera in the direction of people invites the scrutiny of local law enforcement.

Leave a Reply