I miss the road

I miss the road

It has been a while since our last road trip. For the past few months we have been focused on creative seeing mostly in large cities around the world. However, this year we would like to do a few road trips as well.

There is something magical about hitting the road. Maybe it is the sheer size of Canada and/or US, which allows you to explore the unknown for days or even weeks. Maybe it is the freedom to stop at any time and ponder the next turn. Or maybe it is just the mystery of remote and less-travelled. Whatever it is, I long for IT.

All imagery taken with the X-series cameras and lenses.

 

 

2018 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved

Fifty Shades (and Colours) of Palouse

Fifty Shades (and Colours) of Palouse

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The problem is that at this time of year the hills and valleys in the Palouse put on an amazing display of greens and browns, enough to excite even the most demanding colour photographer. However, once you add the right lighting to the mix, you think you have landed on the set of the Alice in Wonderland movie.

At one point Kasia and I found ourselves on one of the hills and we couldn’t believe our eyes. Stormy skies allowed the sun to peek through, revealing an abundance of shapes and patterns, creating dream-like visuals. Already strong greens turn into fable-like greens and browns and yellows turned golden as if a child had coloured the land with an entire box of crayons.

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It didn’t come easy. On the first day, the Palouse exhibited dull light and overcast skies. Although such weather, if persistent, could turn any trip into a non-event, we knew that cloudy skies could provide us with what we want – if the sun found its way to peek through – even for a moment.

So, we waited and waited – for three days straight! No, we didn’t stay in a hotel. Instead we drove 1,600 kilometres around the Palouse to search out the right spots – mapping them and preparing material for our upcoming book. We also tried to get creative with the available light (below please find my personal favourite from the entire trip – well done Kasia!).

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Most importantly, each morning and evening we waited for this one moment of magic. On our second day we got it – for about five minutes – but it was enough. In fact, the lighting was so crazy that after looking at our images we were afraid we were just inches away from becoming “rainbows and unicorns” photographers. “So cheesy!” Kasia said.

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On our last day we got a few hours of dark clouds and sun which was exactly what we wanted. These conditions provided us with an abundance of opportunities and an amazing visual experience. Indeed, truly fifty shades of colour! Thank you, Palouse.

We travelled with the Fuji X-Pro2 paired with the XF 50-140mm and Fuji X100S. We were debating which film simulation we should use and we decided to go all in colour-wise – Fuji Velvia it is! And yes, it was refined with the recent update (click each image for a larger view). We will be sharing much more material (not only landscape!) over the next few posts. Stay tuned.

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and truly yours at work…

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

 

A new life with the X-series

A new life with the X-series

When chatting with photographers I notice that many of them shy away from unfamiliar genres of photography. Some are even dismissive as is often the case when mentioning wedding photography. Too bad, because challenging yourself with a different type of photography not only brings you a wider perspective but dramatically improves your seeing. And if you think that wedding photography is not “artsy” enough or too easy, try to to do it yourself and you will gain a new perspective on the subject. 

Kasia and I noticed that each time we take on something we don’t often do, our photography benefits tremendously from the experience. This time was no different. We recently had the privilege of photographing a new baby and her joyful parents.

We always approach such assignments keeping simplicity in mind. Therefore we reached for the XT-1 fitted with the XF 56mm F1.2 and the X100S. We mostly used natural window lighting along with our favourite, highly portable Ice Light.

Here are the results.

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…and some in colour

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P.S. This week we are heading to some stunning locations and we will be shooting with the X-Pro2. Stay tuned for a slightly different review.

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

A Photographic State of Mind

A Photographic State of Mind

I don’t know whether it’s the time of the year or a malfunction in my cycle of seeing but I notice that the January/February period often carries me into a slightly different state of photographic mind.

I tend to hold my camera less and explore more with my mind. This is the time when I like to relax with a cup of coffee and my dog by my side. I may venture into random photographic sites, read some articles and explore ideas. The common denominator of what I am looking for is everything outside my normal photographic interests.

I may also go for some urban explorations with my dog but without a camera. That doesn’t mean I leave my photographic mind at home. I walk around with a different purpose in mind. I just let my mind wander and allow any idea to pass through the gate. Nothing is off limits. My usual criteria for photographic mining go out of the window.

This year the strange habit carried me much further than usual. Not only were the ideas generated to my immediate liking but I immediately found a clear path – no fog, no hesitation. Clear doesn’t mean easy or comfortable. Quite the opposite!

This year such a laissez-faire state of mind is amplified by the fact that we are in the midst of upgrading our photographic gear. We have sold the X-T1 and the X-Pro2 hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one simple camera (X100S) at my disposal for a few weeks. So refreshing.

Okay, Olaf but where are you going with this? I guess my point is that photography should not only be reduced to actually holding your camera and shooting, viewing your images or processing them. It is much more than that – at least for me. This is the state of mind which allows me to break down walls, explore new ideas and question my path.

Captain, adjust the route, set a new course. Full speed ahead!

 

Here are a few images shot west of Kamloops on a very moody morning. They were all taken with the Fuji X-T1 and the XF 50-140mm F2.8.

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

 

A connection – this is where the process of creating a photograph begins

A connection – this is where the process of creating a photograph begins

In my presentations, I often talk about the process of creating a photograph. No, I am not talking about pressing the shutter button. That part is easy and immaterial.   

The starting point of creating a photograph is always a connection. There must be some type of emotional, intellectual, visual or even physical connection to the subject. This connection may not be immediately apparent to the photographer but it develops as s/he engages with the scene. The starting point of the connection doesn’t have to be profound – it could be as simple as the aesthetics of a scene. But it is always a two-way street. Let me give you an example.     

Our local faith community has sponsored two families from Iraq and Syria. Kasia and I had the privilege of witnessing their arrival and photographing this event. Of course, we were all aware of the difficult situation they had faced in their own countries. However, we didn’t know these families. Our purpose was simple – to document the event.

As we started to interact and witness the emotions of the moment, something “clicked” in us. The scene triggered a chain of emotions, a sense of presence and a deep connection to the subject. All we had to do was turn this emotional awareness into a creative process and a photograph. All these elements interconnected.

Here are a few images from this event, all taken with the Fuji X-T1 and the XF 35mm F1.4, Classic Chrome simulation.

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and one more…

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

 

The Majestic Rockies – Connecting with the Landscape (Part 1)

The Majestic Rockies – Connecting with the Landscape (Part 1)

There is no place like it. Kasia and I first drove through the Canadian Rockies twenty years ago. I will never forget the impact of these incredible mountain ranges. The sheer size, beauty and toughness of this land gained my respect, absorbed all my senses and provoked a deeply spiritual experience in my inner being.

Almost every year since then, Kasia and I have made a pilgrimage to this land of giants. But there is more.

We were living in two Canadian cities, Vancouver and Calgary, and the trip through the Rockies became a rite of passage for our family. It has become a road of joy, sorrow and redemption. This road led me to Calgary where I nearly lost my life. Then I travelled through the mountains to a lengthy recovery process here in Vancouver. Through all these years and experiences, Kasia and I connected with this landscape as with no other.      

We have been in the Rockies in every season of the year. Most people visit the area in summer when it is warm, travel is easy and the lakes turn blue. Indeed, a great choice. However, for me the true beauty of the mountains reveals itself in winter. Snow simplifies the vista, underlines the contours and reveals the mountains’ splendour. Cold protects this beauty from invaders and the slanted winter light accentuates the snowscape.

We visited most of our favourite locations and captured them with the X100T, Fuji X-T1 paired with the XF 50-140mm F2.8 and XF 14mm F2.8. In the next few posts we will be sharing with you our personal experiences, stories and imagery. What a great theme to begin the New Year. Stay tuned.

Here are a few samples of what’s to come. 

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We met an incredible Japanese man travelling the Canadian Rockies on foot.

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…and a young man from Russia practicing hockey at Lake Louise.

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We had such an amazing time at Emerald Lake. 

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Stay tuned for much more… 

 

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

 

Winter Imagery with the XF 50-140mm F2.8

Winter Imagery with the XF 50-140mm F2.8

The first time we worked with the XF 50-140mm F2.8 lens we were impressed with its optics, superb image stabilization and build/weather sealing, but disappointed by its size and weight. As a result, we decided not to add this lens to our bag.

After a few weeks we had another an opportunity, this time while travelling to Death Valley, California. Upon returning from this trip we were dazzled by this lens’ rendering, sharpness and, most importantly, ability to cushion camera shake (we were mostly shooting from the hand).

Then we had a photo session booked with an attractive couple and decided to do it exclusively with the XF 50-140mm F2.8 lens. We had such a good time and great results – all shooting by hand – that this time we decided to purchase this lens as our only telephoto zoom.

Due to its size and weight this lens doesn’t go with us everywhere. It is a specialized lens for a particular purpose.

We like to use it for engagement sessions and some commercial jobs as long as there is enough light (at night we switch to the XF 56mm F1.2). We will share some engagement and wedding photos shot with this lens in our upcoming posts.

Another factor is that Kasia and I do a lot of travelling by car so weight doesn’t really matter. In this way we can explore the less travelled vistas of North America where you are often forced to photograph from the road, for example the Palouse (it is not a good idea to enter private property). The XF 50-140mm F2.8 lens gives us a bit more flexibility to compose in such a situation.

Having said that, we wouldn’t haul this lens on a trip if we had to carry it a lot, for example walking around cities.

Today, we would like to share with you some imagery shot this weekend near Pemberton, British Columbia. We headed there early in the morning to capture the cold and frosty countryside. We cannot wait for full-fledged winter, which simplifies the landscape and allows plain and lucid visuals to emerge. Stay tuned.

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All images were captured with the Fuji X-T1 paired with the XF 50-140mm F2.8 and Fuji X100S. While the Classic Chrome film simulation is being viewed as a documentary-reportage domain, we sometimes apply this emulsion to our landscape and travel photographs (with some tweaks). We love the results.

 

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

TWO STRANGERS, ONE CRY

First, there was shock, disbelief and numbness. Then there was a fierce anger and the urge to talk, but no words came out.

I did what I usually do in such moments of deep sadness. I decided to act in the best way I know. I grabbed my camera.

It was a miserable day in Vancouver – pouring rain, cold and windy, the kind of day when you want to stay at home, safe and warm. But not today! When we arrived at the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery, a large crowd was already assembled.

A sea of people stood shoulder to shoulder in soaking rain, in silence. Hundreds of umbrellas opened in harmony as if they were all somehow synchronized – how strange, I thought.

At first I didn’t notice but then I realized almost everyone was holding a candle, their hands protecting the flame from the rain. They knew these candles needed to burn. Someone started playing John Lennon’s “Imagine.”  

Then I started climbing the stairs of the Art Gallery. Normally this would be almost impossible in such a crowd but somehow people were letting me in and in doing so, they smiled.

At the top I raised my camera and looked through the viewfinder as people one by one started climbing the stairs, leaving their candles, cards and flowers at the top. I saw older people, I saw a young child leaving her drawings, I could see people’s faces, crumpled with grief.  

Then I saw her. Her face was unlike any other. Her hands were wrapped tightly around a candle protecting the flame. She was climbing the stairs more slowly than others as if this climb was a ceremony itself. She approached the top of the stairs and the glow of thousands of candles lit her face. The emotions on her face were overwhelming. She didn’t make a sound but you could sense the grief. Then I noticed a tear in her eye…

I couldn’t hold it any more. My heart started beating faster, my hands were shaking and my tears fogged the viewfinder. Through this fog I saw this stoic Muslim woman praying and placing the candle gently among hundreds of others.

We both stood there for what seemed to be an eternity. We never met, we never spoke but we had so much in common. A Christian man and a Muslim woman crying together.

 

“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.”

Lyrics by John Lennon

 

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All images were taken with the Fuji X-T1, XF 35mm F1.4 & XF 56mm F1.2 , processed in LR6. The Classic Chrome film simulation.

 

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

Colorado’s Explosion of Colours (Part I)

Visiting Colorado in the fall is like hitching a ride on a fast-spinning carousel and looking through a kaleidoscope at the same time. Mother Nature serves up a magnificent show to visitors and photographers from all over the world in late September (if she’s on time).

However, there are some traps. As most of you know, Kasia and I prefer less travelled places and, believe me, Colorado at this time of the year has more photographers than locals. We overheard some people saying that in some places there were 30-40 photographers hitched to their tripods and standing in a row. We did our best to avoid such locations – wherever we go we try to cover less popular locations, add something new and personal to the subject.

To be honest with you, we are not sure whether we succeeded this time. Some of the images below remind us of something we have seen before. Some may even be considered ‘clichéd.’ And yes, we have our favourites. One thing is for sure, it is a spectacular place for colour lovers. But let’s finish this babbling nonsense of ours and go straight to the imagery.

Kasia and I worked with the X-T1 paired with the XF 14mm F2.8 or XF 50-140mm F2.8 lenses (we will discuss this zoom lens in our upcoming posts) and our beloved Fuji X100S. The images are a mix of JPEGs straight from the camera and processed in LR6 (mostly Velvia film simulation, some minor contrast/highlights/white balance adjustments).

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