A visitor, a critique session and life’s compartments

Last weekend we had a very special visitor. Spencer Wynn, a Canadian documentary photographer, came to Vancouver as one of the stops on his coast-to-coast journey celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday. He is travelling across this great country with the GFX capturing the beauty of the land and portraits of its people. Make sure to follow his journey here.

Spencer Wynn. The image was taken with the GFX.

Here in Vancouver, Spencer spent a few hours on a photo walk with the local photographic community. Some of the images presented below were shot during the walk.

Clive, my friend, is shooting with his X-Pro2. Taken with the GFX.

Ian MacDonald is walking along a light path. 

Gord Webster – Fujifilm Canada – is working on his image.

On a different note, I was asked by a local photo community, the APAC, to adjudicate for this organization. Their request turned out to be quite timely due to our recent conversations about a healthy and honest image critique –or rather lack of such – on social media. I was well aware of the impact such a critique could have on a photographer and did my best to provide constructive but honest feedback. I was really impressed by the fact that so many photographers were brave enough to submit their imagery for the session. It was a pleasure to see photographers going beyond their normal seeing and producing such extraordinary work.  

I believe that the role of local photographic organizations where you meet in person and discuss photography is even more important today. There’s no question that the new generation of photographers tends to reduce their photographic discussions to online chatrooms but also gathers most of their knowledge from the Internet.

As a result, many shy away from photographic societies or clubs. They lose a lot of information, feedback and person-to-person exchange on photographic ideas.

If you are a local photographer, please consider joining these organizations:




It is time to get to the imagery. I would like to share with you an image titled “Life’s Compartments” taken during the Vancouver Photo Walk. Let me share with you a poem by RoseAnn V. Shawiak along with it.

“Enthralled with dimensions, travelling in many directions,

throwing caution to the wind, running headlong into the

storm called reality.

Watching life separate enjoying its compartments on

separate journeys throughout mind-filling visions of


Here are a few more images recently shot on the streets of Vancouver with the X100F, Classic Chrome or ACROS.


There are still two spots left for my July 28-31 Street Photography Workshop in Vancouver. It is going to be an intense 3 days of making friends for life, learning, exploring, taking visual risks and shooting on the streets of Vancouver. The program I have been working on for many years offers a one-of-a-kind approach to photography with the goal of unleashing your inner seeing and guiding YOU to create stunning imagery. I can’t wait to see you there. Reserve you spot here.    



2017 © OLI Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.


Going BIG on TACO

My day started with a splitting headache. It is not that I had BIG plans or anything – rather the usual routine of getting coffee, driving the same old route, going berserk on social media and of course suffering from writer’s block. Did I mention talking to my dog? There was no reply.

And one more thing! It was the very day I was supposed to meet with this YouTube guy…what’s his name? All I know was that it’s weird but somehow it usually stays in my head! I don’t even know why I am doing this. I don’t even know him well.

Sure, I’ve watched a few of his videos. What a geek, I thought! I am sure some people are excited (25,000 of them to be exact) to watch the guy talking his head off about camera gear. I admit, it must be fun (sometimes) to get this camera gear for free and play with all these toys. But come on? How long can you watch camera reviews? Not that I watched much – just enough to convince myself it’s not worth it.   

I don’t even know why I wanted to meet the guy. What I am going to talk about with him? I am sure he is clueless about photography! I have very little interest in spending my time talking about camera gear and, in turn, I guess he won’t be interested in my bizarre and contentious theories about “seeing.” Oh well, there was nothing else to do that day.

First, I spent five minutes trying to convince my dog to go outside – after all I will be out for two hours. Bailey (yes, I named her after my wife’s favourite drink and in my defence, they match colour-wise – I mean the drink and my dog) wasn’t happy about venturing out into the wet, miserable world of Vancouver in March!

After taking care of my beloved friend, I grabbed a camera I almost never take with me and went to meet this YouTube camera geek. I arrived at Coffee Divano (my favourite place to meet!) on time. Quite unusual for you Olaf, I thought. Then I picked a table, of course positioning myself on the right side so my new friend would be lit by gentle window light just in case I wanted to take a snap. Guess what? Things only got worse from there!

Twenty minutes later, there was still no sign of even one geek in the entire coffee shop. I’d gone through all my online feeds twice, liking some images I don’t even like (as usual). I’d stared out the window for about 10 minutes and sipped another generous dose of caffeine. He is probably playing with his Fujifilm GFX, Leica M10 and god knows what else, I thought.

I get it! If I was him and had all those toys at my disposal I wouldn’t waste time meeting with some highly opinionated and artistically unstable blogger. He might be a smart guy after all, I thought.

After exchanging a few messages and clearing up a misunderstanding (of my own making, of course), he finally showed up. My first sight of him confirmed all my assumptions. He had a blue baseball cap with some weird logo I’d never heard of matched with a classy scarf and topped off with geeky but expensive-looking glasses. What should I have expected!? This is going to be the most boring 30 minutes I’ve ever had in my life! I didn’t think I would last long talking about camera gear.

Then we started to chat. First topic – Japan and its people. How smart of him! He tried to outmanoeuvre me by starting with something interesting to grab my attention and would then take a sharp turn into gear porn. Not so fast, my friend! Not with me!! So I waited. To my surprise, our discussion about Japanese culture continued. Not only did it get super interesting but we became really engaged. Then we turned to photography! Here we go, I thought! He’ll start with his gear gospel any second now. Olaf, brace yourself! Get your ammo ready!

Then, another shocker! He actually started to talk about “seeing” and taking imagery, how he enjoys shooting with his iPhone and when he reviews equipment how he views it through the prism of creating great imagery. Then we discussed branding, YouTube and lots of unexpected stuff. He even showed me some really thoughtful, well-composed, interesting images he’d taken recently. Two full, super interesting hours and we still couldn’t stop! How strange!

This guy was riveting and witty, to-the-point, no bullshit, no politics – a straightshooter whom I started to like. Even his geeky glasses and his scarf started growing on me.

After a super fascinating discussion with heated but stimulating exchanges, we took out the cameras we’d brought. I usually take my beloved X100F to meetings but somehow this time I grabbed my plastic but super-fun Fujifilm Instax camera. He reached into his camera bag – here we go, I thought – he will probably take out some jewel I cannot afford. But guess what? He took out a polaroid-like plastic camera. We looked at each other and started laughing! “Do you usually bring a polaroid-like camera when you meet people?” I asked. “Not at all,” he said. How strange – we were in sync!  

Then it was smooth sailing. We chatted and had a great time together. All my assumptions about the guy were wrong! After all, he is right calling himself BIGHEADTACO. Indeed, his HEAD is BIG on ideas. It looks like this is a guy I could meet often and we’d have a great time together. We may even grab some TACOs! Who knew!

Make sure to check out the BIGHEADTACO YouTube channel and http://www.bigheadtaco.com for gear reviews, thoughts about photography and much more. Did I mention the great guests on his show? Don’t forget to subscribe and… grab some TACOs.

Make sure to check out BIGHEADTACO’s great article “Why crop to the cinematic aspect ratio” published at https://fujilove.com 


2017 © OLI Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.

The R-A-I-N project update

We’ve been working on our R-A-I-N project for more than a year. There is no question that it has been one of the most challenging projects we’ve ever worked on – for several reasons. Luckily, there’s no shortage of rain in Vancouver!

First, spending hours outside in the pouring rain when it’s cold and windy is not the savviest choice for any reasonable human being. Fortunately, I am far from being reasonable. Not only did I often get soaked but my camera gear received a beating too. I must admit that so far, my X-Pro2, XF 50-140mm or XF 23mm F2 are taking the punishment without causing any scenes. I guess weather-sealing works!

Second, rainy days aren’t known for their abundant light. It may surprise you but there is an advantage to working in such dim conditions. Your visual senses are sharpened and you have to find subtle sources of light which are not obvious at first. However, once you find a light source, the effects can be stunning.

Third, the success ratio is extremely low. It takes a lot of time, physical effort and visual exploration to capture an image worthy of your attention. I sometimes spend two or three hours in the pouring rain and come back with nothing or a card full of visual scrap (which usually goes straight to the junkyard – I don’t keep images for later). At times, it’s discouraging and hard on your psyche.

Nevertheless, R-A-I-N and its ability to produce unusual lighting scenarios can provide stunning visuals. They are subtler and less in-your-face but once you uncover them, the results surprise. I never thought that soggy, wet, dark RAINY days could hide so many striking visuals. The R-A-I-N project continues…

Here are our latest images, shot mostly with the X-Pro2 and XF 50-140mm F2.8 WR lens. Fujifilm Classic Chrome, Velvia and ACROS film simulations.

Next time we may go BIG on some ideas or just HEAD off to get some TACOs. Get it? If not, watch this space for a special write-up. Hey, you may even like it!        


2017 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved.


A Camera Bag Full of Ideas, Not Gear!

This post will be slightly different. Usually I push you to the cliff edge with my incoherent ramblings but this time I will make it short and snappy.

So much has happened in the last few weeks that I have never felt more excited.

First, I will update you on my “Killing the Beast” article. What are you doing, Olaf? OK, I admit I didn’t make a clean break from social media. But I did my best to change the way I interact with others. I’m trying to pause and concentrate when viewing your work. I’m also sharing my thoughts. I believe that YOU, as someone who interacts with me on social media, deserves it.

I know I scroll less and view less, but I experience and “see” more. This is a good thing! More to come.

On the same subject I was a guest on shuttertimeshow with Sid and Mac and we all tried to kill the beast. For those who want to find out what I’m talking about, listen to the podcast led by my hosts. Warning: it includes my own ramblings. Here is a link: http://shuttertimewithsidandmac.com/2017/03/27/episode-157-olaf-sztaba/

Make sure to give Sid and Mac feedback. They have been doing this for so many years and deserve applause. I respect them for not shying away from difficult subjects.  

You should also read Jonas Rask and Patrick Laroque and Ian MacDonald –excellent posts on the topic of social media and/or personal growth as a photographer.




I must include two remarkable videos from  Ted Forbes and Zack Arias. They both touched on difficult subjects relating to our recent discussions.

No question – I must also share with you two eye-opening quotes. The first was discovered by Don Craig, a friend and a great photographer:

“The more I like my work, the fewer others seem to.”

Got you thinking?! It should.

The second one is from Jonas Rask:

It doesn’t always have to be purposeful. Sometimes it just needs to be. Needs to exist. This is my way back to my core creative.”

It’s now your turn!

Finally, a note to those of you who are starting in photography and facing the social media: If you don’t receive lots of likes or comments it doesn’t mean your photography is the pits. Most people ignore the great, innovative imagery and “seeing” – especially if you are not in the front seat of the social media bus. Work hard on your seeing and composition, pay attention to light, take risks and never ever take shortcuts to “popular” images. Stay on your own path and you will eventually be appreciated. You may get relatively few likes but your images will receive in-depth, honest attention. This is priceless.    


Here are a few recent images, all taken with the X100F.


2017 © OLI Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.

Portraits of Vancouverites with the X-series

In the last few posts we went bezerk with writing so this time I would like to leave you with just a few portraits taken on the streets of Vancouver. Enjoy.

…and some in colour

Fujifilm X100F

X-Pro2 plus XF 56mm F1.2.

ACROS +R or Classic Chrome with minor adjustments in LR.




2017 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved.

The Palouse Photography Workshop – “Seeing” in a Visual Paradise

If there is one place in North America which every photographer should visit, regardless of the genre practiced, it’s the Palouse. In late May, early June, the hills and valleys in the Palouse put on an amazing display of greens and browns, sufficient to excite even the most demanding colour photographers. However, once you add the right lighting to the mix, you think you have landed on the set of the Alice in Wonderland movie.

This unique place with its extraordinary palette of colours, lines and forms provides a perfect dreamlike playground for creative, hands-on shooting and studying the craft of photography. Well-known parks such as Yosemite or Grand Teton National Park have their own mega-popular spots but the Palouse offers you the unknown. Every dirt road hides a visual gem. Fortunately, Kasia and I have travelled, mapped and photographed the Palouse extensively and we will guide you to our favourite, lesser-known locations which you won’t find in guidebooks.

No, you won’t be standing for hours at Steptoe Butte (the most popular location) with your camera on a tripod. You will be challenged to see creatively, simplify your frame and use your camera as a tool to create only the strongest imagery. You will be mentored to feel and see YOUR WAY.

We kept the numbers small because the purpose of the workshop is to photograph, learn, challenge each other’s “seeing” and most importantly have a great time in a small group.

Two spots have recently opened up.

For more details and to reserve your spot, please visit https://olafphoto.wpengine.com/palouse/  

Reserve your spot here: https://olafphoto.wpengine.com/palouse/


2017 © OLI Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.




Follow Up – Killing The Beast

I didn’t expect this. When writing the piece KILLING THE BEAST I promised myself I would write without the “Will my followers like it?” filter. And so that is exactly what I did. I presented my own journey through social media including beautiful, pretty, bad, ugly and everything in-between. There was no other way to get around it.

The response I received was overwhelming. Many of you shared your stories, experiences and ways of dealing with the issue of sharing, liking, keeping up with updates, trying to retain and protect your photographic identity and so on. I am deeply thankful for your effort to engage with this difficult topic. What is even more remarkable is that this discussion is taking place without profanities, trolling or a nasty attitude! Don’t’ worry about the disagreements – I embrace different perspectives.

Although my last piece laid out my personal experience of social media and built the framework for solutions, it didn’t answer the question: HOW TO DEAL WITH THE ISSUE OF SOCIAL MEDIA AS A PHOTOGRAPHER. Of course, I spent a lot of time thinking about it, reading your thoughts and creating my own approach – something that fits my personal and photographic life and works for me in the long term.

First, I must address the reaction I received from some people: “You don’t like social media so why you are sharing this piece here?” Wait! I never said I don’t like social media. Not only do I enjoy using social media but I am aware that as a photographer I must engage there. The whole theme of my piece was killing the beast to stop social media from intruding into my creative process. It flattens the reception of other people’s work and makes your interactions patterned and mindless. This is the beast that I am convinced needs to be KILLED.

Then I referred to DUCKY as a form of presentation and interaction that should be occasional, honest and thoughtful for the benefit of my friends, colleagues and online participants as well as my personal growth. Think how much better our online interactions would be if we stopped using clichés, half-words and vapid pleasantries. I want to go though less content but see more. I want to LIKE less but, behind every LIKE I give, there should be the genuine attention and admiration YOUR work deserves.

Most importantly, I know I have to take a regular bubble bath with Ducky. I need lengthy breaks from social media to let my mind rest, wander and float without the chains of being tied up to words, opinions, visuals and relentless self-promotion (or the plug!). Until the water gets cold, I want to hold someone’s hand, have heated conversations without reaching for a phone, experience REAL smiles or anger … without the social media filter which is often used unconsciously.

I want to stay away from social media entirely every so often to make sure my photographic identity remains unscathed. I want to make sure my muse (I really don’t like using the cliché INSPIRATION) comes from the real, outside world – something I can feel, hear, touch and experience, rather than from the virtual world. Not slippery soap that gets lost under the water.

In this way I can share MY OWN SEEING. Don Craig, a great photographer, fascinating person and deep thinker from Victoria, whom I had the pleasure to meet in person, shared the following quote: “The more I like my work, the fewer others seem to.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Of course, some may view it as not inspirational enough but photography is the craft of self-discovery and visual risk-taking. Therefore, everything we share should be based on our own seeing and experiences, even at the cost of popularity. Like great art, great photography may never be popular!  

For this reason, blogging remains my favourite way of interacting online. I notice that when I visit other photographers’ blogs I tend to read more and take in more. It is not a quick browse through an Instagram or Facebook feed but rather a conscious visit to someone’s online home. I have observed the same from people who visit my blog. It appears they really want to meet me and get to know my work. Their comments are more thoughtful and I appreciate that. Does it mean I will quit Instagram or Twitter? Of course not, but keep in mind that my visits may be less frequent. I may LIKE less but I assure you that once you notice LIKE from olafphoto, it’s real – it means I took the time to pause and experience your work. My LIKE means I. Really. Do. Like. Your. Work!

Please do the same for others. Let’s get REAL in the virtual world! KILL THE BEAST, not DUCKY!


There’s no question this topic is a serious one so to lighten the mood I’m posting some images I shot recently with the X100F. This time I went berserk with colour using Fujifilm Velvia for my street photography – something I haven’t done much before. Enjoy.



2017 © OLI Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.