Parallel Seeing

Parallel Seeing

The leaves have already started falling. The summer display of fake smiles, exaggerated colours and sunburned thoughts is fading away. A much more subdued, desolate and harsh time is coming.

I have always liked this time of the year. This is when my seeing comes alive and I don’t really know why. Maybe I like the cooler misty mornings, which put a grey tarp over all visual rubbish that surrounds us. Maybe it is the change in the rhythm of our daily lives or a return of realism hijacked by the masquerade of summer affairs. Or it may well be just that my personal seeing clock strikes twelve.

Whatever it is, the summer days when my camera and I shared silent days are long gone. My list of projects has grown in every direction at frightening speed. I am not complaining, not at all. Somehow this burst of ideas and energy prompted by my Muse works for me.

There are two distinct but parallel routes.

One route is the cyclical flare-up of seeing and creating. You never know where it will take you. I learnt the hard way not to resist this force, to allow it to steer me all over the place. There will be a lot of “whys” but I know that answers will eventually come at the right time.

Then there is the official route. Professional projects, which must be taken care of and taken right on. Somehow, I enjoy this route as much as the other one. This year especially a major new mega project is approaching its premiere (stay tuned for details).

In the meantime, I would like to share with you some recent images. Some of them have already found their home and they will be part of some exciting projects. Others are the fruit of the aforementioned burst in seeing. They came to life from wandering around. Don’t ask me for details – they’ll come later.

All imagery shot with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 paired with the XF 35mm F1.4 and the XF 14mm F2.8. Classic Chrome (CC) and ACROS (A) film simulations.

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and some in colour…

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

There is something about mountains…

There is something about mountains…

This post was supposed to include more imagery shot on the street. But hey, who wants to do things as planned? I was going through our imagery this morning performing my favourite editing activity – that is, deleting – and I was attracted to some photos shot in the mountains.

It struck me there is something about mountains! They have such different DNA from the sea. Towering peaks are blanketed by fast-moving clouds, the light fighting hard to get through. The roughness of the terrain, the roaring wind, the cold, heat … it’s all beauty and struggle together! This is a place where human masks are ripped away. This is a place where my senses calm down, my inner compass re-calibrates and new feelings emanate.

Somehow I always see mountains in black and white, even when I am not taking photos. Sure, I sometimes go for popular, colourful, low-hanging fruit but a visual hangover always follows. Too often I end up with a headache when I follow this route.

Below please find some new imagery and some you have seen before – so have I!

There is something about mountains…

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All images shot with the X-series cameras and lenses.

 

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

Where Road and Street Meet

Where Road and Street Meet

It is a well-known maxim that specializing in one genre of photography helps in promoting and selling a photographer’s work. We agree with that.

However, such a narrow specialization, while logical and commercially viable, could lead to unwelcome reverberations. One of them is conformity and stiffness. Those of you who have journeyed with us for the last few years know that we view self-satisfaction and ease as the greatest enemy of creativity. Therefore, this year we promised ourselves we would venture into more places. One of them is street photography.

It’s not that we haven’t done any street photography before. Quite the opposite! However, most of it was personal work not shared on this blog in order to comply with the theme of road photography. To keep our New Year’s resolution, we recently started to share our street photography on this forum. We are aware that some of you may be disappointed in this detour and want us to keep laser focus on road photography. Others welcomed this addition and encouraged us to do more. We appreciate all feedback.

Part of our decision to expand is the commonality between the two genres. Indeed, both road and street photography require travel in the car or on the foot. This visual wondering and exploring could be done either on the road or on the sidewalk. Similarly, it involves finding a connection to a place or a person. Then, light and mood play a decisive role in both. A composition – one of the most important aspects – is crucial in both cases and requires careful examination. Finally, strict examination and selection is a must in order to respect the viewer and present only the best work possible.

The genres complement one another and we enjoy both. It doesn’t mean we have abandoned our road explorations. Not at all. The recent hiatus in our travels will end shortly and we will be vising some stunning and sometimes surprising places. In short, in the upcoming months you will find posts with imagery from our road trips as well as our street trips. We hope you enjoy both.

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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Classic Chrome (CC)

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

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.

 

A Summary of 2015 and our Favourite Images of the Year

A Summary of 2015 and our Favourite Images of the Year

As this year comes to an end it is our turn to look back.

Although 2014 was a year of transformation, search and renewal, this year could best be described as full-steam ahead. Our way of seeing has evolved and become more demanding. The general appeal of pretty, attractive, colourful and easy has gradually been replaced by unique, creative, emotional, difficult and simplified ways of seeing. As a result, 2015 was a year when the fruit of our 2014 detour ripened and we regained control on our route to seeing.

Fortunately, we are not alone on this journey. You used your valuable time to visit our pages, view our imagery and read our essays. What a privilege! We are especially thankful for your commentary and for sharing your stories and experiences. We read them all and enjoyed every contact.

There are so many people to thank for your generous support that it is impossible to name everyone. Thank you all. You know whom we are talking about.

As we did last year, it is time to choose our favourite images of the year and here they are:

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Lone Horse, Fuji X100S

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Forgotten Bay, X100S

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Apocalypse III, X-T1 & XF 14mm F2.8

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The Hidden Bridge, X100S

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The Camper, X-T1 & XF 50-140mm F2.8

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Window to a Sacred Forest, X100S

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The Majestic Tetons, X-T1 & XF 50-140mm F2.8

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Sailing Away to Love, Fuji X100S

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Lost in a Forgotten Land, X-T1 & XF 56mm F1.2

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Genesis, X-T1 & XF 50-140mm F2.8

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The Window, X-T1 & XF 14mm F2.8

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Drifting Poles, X-T1 & XF 56mm F1.2

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Olympic Paradise, X100S

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The Road Less Travelled, X-T1 & XF 50-140mm F2.8

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The Anatomy of the Land, X-T1 & XF 50-140mm F2.8

A few thoughts: it is very telling that most of the images are black and white. Indeed, removing the distraction of colour and focusing on essentials delivers powerful visuals. Six of our fifteen favourite photos were taken with the X100S. Nine images were taken in random, lesser-known locations, from the road, while travelling. Once again, the less-travelled path continues to inspire and provoke our way of seeing.

Camera of the year: this must be the Fuji X-100S/T since most of our favourite imagery was taken with this camera. It continues to be our favourite camera ever. Always with us, one and only one. Enough said!

Lens of the year: this one is controversial – even for us. As proponents of prime lenses, we have chosen a huge, heavy, uncomfortable XF 50-140 F2.8 zoom lens. But there is more! This lens doesn’t even have a permanent spot in our photo bag. What gives? While on the road the lens was a valuable tool to frame a picture when we were forced to shoot from the road (quite often the area is private property). It is tack sharp and its stabilization system is the best we have ever experienced (we shoot mostly from the hand!). The XF 50-140 F2.8 has also been very useful in our few commercial jobs this year. It’s a great, specialized tool.

Plans for 2016: we will continue pushing our own boundaries of seeing and venturing outside our comfort zones. This will be a year when multiple long-term projects will see the light of day. Stay tuned for more details.

In 2016, we plan to explore some amazing locations – places not necessarily on the tourist track. Our initial hit list is ready. And believe me, some places are less travelled but spectacular!

We hope that in 2016 you will stay with us on this journey to reach ways of seeing.

 

2015 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

Mystic Port Moody Morning

The September-October period has always been my favourite time for photography. At this time of the year, places are often pillowed by fog, the sun’s rays are much more gentle and… I don’t have to wake up at 4:00 AM to witness a sunrise.

Today, I stopped by Rocky Point Park in Port Moody, British Columbia equipped with my Fuji X-T1 paired with the XF 50-140mm F2.8 lens and the XF 14mm F2.8. 

Enjoy.

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2015 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

 

Vancouver in B&W

Last weekend we left home at 4:30 AM to capture Vancouver at its best. The hourly weather forecast was right and we encountered very contrasty weather conditions with stunningly rich skies and beautiful light.

All we had to worry about was composition. It is something we spend a lot of time working on in the field. This is especially challenging in an urban environment when you have so many elements competing for the spot inside your frame. Pre-visualization, positioning of the camera and a rigorous elimination process are essential.

In this post we would like to share with you B&W images shot with the Fuji X-T1 coupled with XF 14mm F2.8 & 56mm F1.2 lenses. We also worked with our Fuji X100S.

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We are currently evaluating Lightroom Fuji film simulations such as Astia or Velvia, among others, which work very well if you are shooting RAW and you are aiming for the Fuji look. Of course, Velvia is the one with the serious colour punch. We will share some images, JPEGs straight from the camera, as well as some using Lightroom Fuji film profiles.

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This weekend we are leaving for Palouse in Eastern Washington. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. Watch this space.

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© Olaf Sztaba Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Rainy Date (with the Fuji X-Pro1 and X100S)

If you live in Vancouver, you have to embrace rain as part of daily life. In fact, the winter months are usually associated with non-stop rain, sometimes for weeks. Such generosity in terms of wet weather could be viewed as a nightmare for a photographer … or it could be a great opportunity to challenge your photographic vision.

In fact, Kasia and I promised ourselves that this year we would try to see differently and reach for hard and uncomfortable. As a result, last Saturday while drinking our early morning coffee and looking at the droplets of rain on our window, we decided to have a photographic date with rain. Here are a few images from our rainy rendezvous.

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2014 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

The Oregon Coast in the Fog

We have driven along the Oregon Coast several times in the past few years. Unfortunately, each time we encountered blue skies and strong sun, which in our view didn’t do justice to the beauty of this magnificent place.

Finally, this time we had one morning during which the coastal scenery presented itself at its best. Patches of fog blanketed giant rock structures, which occasionally received a larger dose of filtered light.

As usual, I took a few initial exposures and checked all the data on our Fuji X-Pro1 paired with the XF 14mm F2.8 and Fuji X100s. The cameras were choosing apertures between 5.6 and 8 with shutter speeds fast enough for me to shoot from the hand. This allowed me to walk around freely, letting the camera do all the technical work. I could keep all my attention on the beautiful scenery, composition and light.

Even in a place of such a beauty, one requires concentration and focus. Maybe it is just me but my approach to photography is very personal and methodical. While taking photos I like to concentrate on a subject, visualize and compose it in my mind before I take out my camera. If taken seriously, this mental effort doesn’t tolerate any distractions – whether it is a discussion, loud noise or even a telephone conversation.

Not only did we walk around, climbing some rocks to find a different perspective, but also worked hard to eliminate “waste” from the frame. In most cases, it requires walking back and forth (we shoot primes only), sometimes repeatedly to make the right decision. I don’t press the shutter button until I am confident this is the photo I want to capture.

And here are the results. 

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Here is my favourite image “Man with dogs.”

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How about a little bit of colour?

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© Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.