The Magic of Photography

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.

Lenses First, Camera Second

When someone is starting out in photography and asks us a question, it is almost always which camera to buy. Indeed, it’s an important question! However, we are rarely asked about lenses, as if they were just unimportant accessories.

It is well known that amateurs get excited about cameras while professionals care more about their lenses. It makes sense. Everyday we see high-resolution cameras on people’s necks with crappy, cheap lenses attached to them. What’s even worse, for many newcomers the first lens they buy with a camera is a do-it-all super zoom (we are preparing a post on how to start up in photography – the right way – so stay tuned).

That brings us to Fuji. Our adventure with Fuji started with the X100. It was a camera that we encountered by accident and since then it has been our camera of choice. Then we expanded our gear to the Fuji X-Pro1 and now the X-T1. But our decision to go to an interchangeable system with Fuji was not based merely on their cameras. It was the quality of the lenses that won us over.

Right from the start, Fuji concentrated on prime lenses. In a relatively short time, Fuji has built a large selection of glass for all sorts of needs. Most importantly, almost all the lenses are well-built, metal and super-quality glass. In fact, it is hard to find a bad lens in the X line-up. With the recent announcement of the upcoming XF 120mm F2.8, XF 16mm F1.4 and XF 100-400 super telephoto (get more info here), it appears that Fuji is nearing the completion of building the entire line-up.

For some it is difficult to choose which lens to get started with. We chose the Fuji X100 – therefore the 35mm field of view (in FF terms). However, for some of you it could be a classic 50mm (an excellent XF 35mm F1.4). Then we expanded into the XF 14mm F2.8 wide angle, which we always have in our bag. Finally, we completed our prime team with the XF 56mm F1.2. In fact 99% of our photography is done using the XF 14mm F2.8 lens (mostly landscape), Fuji X100S – therefore 35mm (everything, from landscape to street photography and people), and XF 56mm F1.2 (landscape and people).

To summarize, cameras come and go and sensor technology is changing quickly, so most likely in a year or two you will need to replace your camera. However, lenses will stay with you for years. When choosing a system, the first question you should ask is: “Is there a great selection of HIGH QUALITY primes?” If the answer is NO, forget about the camera. After all, your Ferrari is no use if you use cheap tires and keep your windshield dirty.

All right, it is time for images. In our previous posts we wrote how difficult it is to photograph the place if conditions are not right. Usually we scout locations in advance and wait for the right conditions to arise. Deep Cove, North Vancouver, BC is a beautiful place but we couldn’t get it right for a long time. We visited the place many times but never encountered the conditions that we had envisioned until…now.

All images were shot with the Fuji X100S, Fuji X-T1 paired with the XF 14mm F2.8 and XF 56mm F1.2.














Next time… 



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

Dispatches from Misty Vancouver

Dispatches from Misty Vancouver

While the usual January weather in Vancouver means rain and… more rain, this year has been nothing but unusual. We’ve had numerous days of intense fog in the morning and beautiful sunshine in the late afternoon. As you may expect, such conditions have kept us awake and sharp-eyed, especially in the morning.

I notice that I enjoy photography the most when I leave my house with the Fuji X100S/T as my only camera. There’s something liberating in this approach that is hard to describe. Somehow, our creativity is flowing, our seeing is enhanced and our senses are tuned to the surroundings.

Sometimes I also take the Fuji X-T1, our favourite wide-angle lens XF 14mm F2.8 and super sharp XF 56mm F1.2 lens. In fact, I notice that these three focal lengths meet 99% of my visual demands. The longer we are involved in this art of seeing, the less and less equipment we need.

So when you start in photography, start with one lens and one camera. Master one focal length and only then add another perspective. Three prime lenses are plenty, four is abundance and five is a superfluity.

But enough of these incoherent ramblings; here are the images.
















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Copyright © 2015 Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.