Photographic Age of Distractions

Photographic Age of Distractions

You wake up in the morning and run up to the computer, excited and eager to share with the world your newfound passion for photography. There is so much to explore and learn. You already know it is all about seeing, light, composition, photographic projects. It is about finding your own visual voice. You have a great plan to reach your goals. Now you just have to do it!  

Somehow, every morning as you open up the internet pages, you always find…something else. 

It often starts with gear! Which camera to buy? How about this new lens? It is not that you don’t have any lenses. You already own two or three but the thought “if I want to be a real professional I need to have more” comes back and hits you in the head like a boomerang. Which are the sharpest? 

Then you move on from gear to software. Lightroom or Capture One? Or maybe something else, more iPad friendly? You research and obsess for weeks.

It is time to plan some photographic projects. Maybe you will start working on one next week. But wait!? Today you saw those amazing pre-sets at 50% off—if you could only get them your images would look truly stunning. 

How about shooting on the street? Maybe around your neighbourhood? Today that’s exactly what you are going to do. What if you want to take some cool portraits—you just saw this post about photographing neighbours—amazing imagery! But there’s a problem. The photographer who published these images used those great lights. Why bother if you don’t have any lighting gear? Let’s watch another YouTube video. That’ll do it. You’ll feel better—after all you have done something today. 

iPhone 11 Pro? The entire internet is talking about it now. You even read that one photographer is shooting everything with it and he landed a cover. Wow! Maybe you should be an iPhone photographer?

All those political posts—should you engage—make you outraged and you feel you must act today. Photography can wait! 

Cameras, lenses, adapters, printing, colour space, sharpening, filters, pre-sets, destinations, website, blog, politics… 

The years go by and you are still in the same spot. What happened to photography? You still cannot see. You haven’t taken any great images. How time flies! 

I have no doubt that all the distractions we face every day as photographers keep us away from what’s most important—seeing and crafting great imagery. It’s remarkable how much time we waste every day occupying our minds with information which is not only wasteful but probably incorrect. 

Our passion of seeing and crafting imagery has been turned into binge-watching YouTube videos, mostly about guys talking about cameras, often without presenting an image! Before I sat down and wrote this article I clicked on one video which started with “Today we are heading downtown to shoot some street photography” in the scope of ten minutes. That’s how long this video lasted. There was footage of two guys travelling by car, parking their car, having coffee, high-fiving each other on five occasions, holding their cameras to their eyes and…not even one image or a word about an image. The video had 60,000 views! Go figure! 

Then, there is the never-ending search for a better camera, better lens, better pre-set, better sharpening formula. We are swimming in this pit of never-ending photographic temptations and sugar-high shows. 

We are being lured away from photography every day, from opening the internet pages in the morning to the last click before we put away our cellphones. 

I’m writing about this subject because I went through a similar time-wasting period many years ago. I wasted at least two years of my photographic life drifting in this mediocre fantasy world. So, my photographic friends, if I could share one piece of advice which will totally transform your photographic life it is this: FOCUS ON WHAT MATTERS!

First, set yourself photographic goals. Start working on a long-term photographic project. Now! 

Second, read and watch only high-quality and well-curated content. Buy a high-quality video course from a photographer you want to learn from. Buy their book! Subscribe to professionally edited photographic publications—there is a reason why it is costly to produce great content. Stop this “I can get everything for free” mentality. Think about all those hours you wasted surfing the internet in search of photographic content and ask yourself honestly what’s the percentage you read or saw today that was really helpful?

Third, produce and contribute high-quality content yourself. Even if you are just starting in photography, share your experience with others, write an article about it. Make sure your thoughts are clear, the flow of language top notch and grammar updated and mistake-free. Ask your English-major friend or a professional editor to take a look at your text and imagery. 

Fourth, don’t ask questions out of laziness or for the sake of asking another question. Please don’t ask the internet to tell you which lens is the best. You will get so many different answers that it won’t solve anything. Ask professionals or those who test lenses for a living. Yes, it may cost you some money, but it will save you tons of time and the cost of buying an inferior lens.  

Fifth, stop wasting your time arguing with strangers about the current state of politics. Do you really think your posts have changed even one person’s mind or converted anyone? Of course not.   

Sixth and most importantly, FOCUS on what’s important in photography. Maybe it is writing an article today. Or setting up a photoshoot with your friend. Or producing a new book. Or photographing your parents, which you’ve planned for years. Do it today! 

You won’t believe what you will achieve.

End of rant.

Here is my latest imagery from Vancouver. All taken with the GFX50R and the GF50mm 3.5 lens.   

next time…

2019 © OLI Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.

The Visual Poet Experience 2019 is here!

The Visual Poet Experience 2019 is here!

What an incredible year it has been! From Vancouver to San Francisco and London to Berlin, 2018 was another great year for the Visual Poet Experience. It has been a great pleasure to craft imagery with so many talented photographers, new and advanced. We achieved so much together and became friends for life.

The Visual Poet Experience Workshops are one the most sought after in the industry for a reason (you know that when teachers of photography sign up). These are true photographic experiences during which we study, discuss, debate but most importantly craft great imagery. These are not “let’s all hold hands” and chat-about-our-vacations social gatherings. Yes, we often become friends for life but what bonds us together is love of the craft and our dedication to it. We work hard to make sure every image we produce together during these events is world-class work.

For three intense days, we study one of the most coherent and built-from-scratch photography development program – Simplicity-In-Seeing. Regardless of our experience, we push our own seeing and creativity limits, not holding back anything, including critique and honest assessment. It’s no wonder that many of my students have become serious and widely respected members of photo communities around the world.

As many of you know, talk is cheap, and this is all about imagery! So let the images created by my students during the Visual Poet Experience Workshops all around the world speak for themselves.

I hope you will join me next year for one of the incredible Visual Poet Experiences and challenge me and yourself to become a truly great photographer. Make sure to reserve your spot early as I expect all the spots to sell out quickly.

Melbourne / February 22-24

London / May 24-26

Vancouver / July 19-21

Paris / September 20-22

San Francisco / October 25-27

Tokyo / November 15-17

See you soon!

© Dr. Adel Al Hunayan

@ Susie Naye

© Christian Cross

© Dirk Marwade

© Nadia

© Carlos Phillips

© Howie Klarer

© Thomas Weller

© Maureen Bettencourt

© Heinz Kollmann

© Homi Irani

© Ine Peterson

© Celine Weller

© Julius Stiebert

© Lesley Ackman

2018 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved.

The Visual Poet Experience Workshop – Vancouver

The Visual Poet Experience Workshop – Vancouver

This August, the Visual Poet Experience Workshop in Vancouver is shaping up to be one of a kind. Although it officially runs from August 10th to 12th, this year I am offering one extra day, Monday, August 13th, at no extra charge. On this Monday, I will be available to my students to talk, study, shoot and answer any questions about any subject. In other words, if you really want to learn photography and dive deep into my philosophy of seeing, my photographic business or anything else, this is the opportunity to do just that.

That’s not all. I’ve decided to change the rhythm of this particular workshop so we can get more hands-on experience shooting on the streets of Vancouver. And there is more! On this weekend, the fantastic Vancouver Mural Festival is taking place! This is one of the largest outdoor festivals in Vancouver and a visual marvel for every street photographer. I have photographed this festival on several occasions but this year we can shoot the action together!

Here are some images shot by my students during the Visual Poet Workshops around the world. 

Hope to see you in Vancouver! You can book your spot here (2 spots have opened up!).




2018 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved


New 2018 “Visual Poet Experience” Workshops Announced

New 2018 “Visual Poet Experience” Workshops Announced

My team and I are very pleased to announce most of the lineup of photography workshops for 2018. We say most because we will most likely add one of the cities in Australia, and San Francisco (end of 2018).

Here is our lineup of “A Visual Poet Experience” photography workshops.

London / March 9 – 11, 2018

Berlin / March 16 -18, 2018

Toronto / June 8 – 19, 2018

New York / June 15 -17, 2018

Vancouver / August 10 -12, 2018

Paris / September 21 – 23, 2018  

A Visual Poet Experience? After receiving amazing feedback from my students over the course of the last few years, I realized that the commonly understood term “Street Photography” doesn’t give justice to what we do at our workshops. Of course, our visual exploration is deeply imbedded in the urban environment and has many of the underpinnings of street photography, but we go way beyond that.

During our workshops, we learn techniques and a design philosophy that not only match each student’s personality but also work in any visual environment. We combine unusual elements to create a STRONG and UNIQUE photographic message. In other words, we learn to craft images by arranging elements within the frame for maximum emotional and visual impact. I want my students to go deeper into their inner-seeing to craft their own stunning visuals.

Those of you who write poetry know that this genre of writing requires “all of you.” To be more specific, you choose words and arrange them in a new and unusual way to craft powerful verse. This analogy applies directly to photography.

Let me tackle another point. Some aspiring (younger and older) photographers say that they are not sure if they are “good enough” to participate in this experience. Let me debunk this nonsense. It is often the case that those who are new to photography make much faster progress in their seeing than those who have been shooting for years. Why? Because they don’t have preconceived ideas of what the final image should be. They are free to explore and experiment. If you are just starting, don’t be afraid – we old timers need you! J   

Having said that, I would like to thank my students and now friends for coming up with this expression, especially Peter from Calgary and Robert from Barcelona. I hadn’t thought about it this way before.     

Today instead of individual imagery, let me share with you a few screenshots from our personal photo books. They are entirely designed and produced by my super-talented wife, Kasia. Next time Kasia and I will share some thoughts about creating and designing photo books.  

Click on every image for a larger view.



2018 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved

Project R-A-I-N: Vancouver Street Photography Workshop

Project R-A-I-N: Vancouver Street Photography Workshop

When the winter months arrive, many photographers put away their cameras. I used to do the same. A few years ago, I ventured out with my camera during a rainy day and tried to tune my visual senses to a new reality. What I discovered changed my seeing forever.

The beautiful winter light mixed with the gentle droplets of R-A-I-N and the atmospheric mood of the season provided me with special set of conditions to create and see the city I love anew. Since then, I have been working on my R-A-I-N project and I have to say that shooting in rain or snow has become my favourite photographic endeavour.

It is now hard to believe but during long and dry summer months I often long for those rainy days when I could venture out with my camera and discover truly amazing visuals. In fact, I love the experience so much that I decided to share it with you and lead the Project R-A-I-N: Vancouver Street Photography Workshop. 

This one-of-its-kind workshop is not only aimed at learning how to capture a unique atmosphere and visuals of rainy, cloudy days but will also provide you with a cornerstone of the Simplicity-In-Seeing program. We will learn how to See the Image, Craft the Image and Execute the Image using techniques Olaf has developed over the years to journey past the snapshot. Every day we will have a mix of presentations, discussions and street shooting in the most stunning Vancouver neighbourhoods. I will demonstrate my original “keep it simple” processing techniques tailored to the rainy imagery. You will receive notes and plenty of material to take home with you.

During the hands-on shooting on the streets of Vancouver each participant will spend extensive time with me individually. Such one-to-one interaction with my students is imperative in the learning process so our class sizes are limited to 8 participants only.

I hope you will join me on this unique shooting experience but I have to warn you, this may cause you to put away your camera in the summer months!

Reserve your spot early here! (only 6 left)

What kind of imagery we will be shooting?

In fact, I am so excited to shoot with you in the R-A-I-N (no we won’t get wet – OK maybe a little) that I reduced my usual workshop fee from US$695 to US$495 per participant.




2017 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved.

The Streets of Vancouver as seen by workshop participants

The Streets of Vancouver as seen by workshop participants

In my last post, I wrote about the privilege of working with a very talented group of people. I was really impressed by the way my students merged the elements of the Simplicity-In-Seeing program with their own way of seeing to create stunning imagery.

As we walked around the Streets of Vancouver, we all saw the same scenes but we connected, visualized and framed the scenes very differently. If there are two things I really insist on during my workshops they are visual risk-taking and the free flow of image-centred, honest discussion. Not only does this approach allow us to make remarkable progress but it also helps us gain the courage and zest to evaluate our own work. It was remarkable to see how quickly we passed the pleasantries period and went straight for SEEING THE IMAGE, CRAFTING THE IMAGE and EXECUTING THE IMAGE.

The most satisfying moment for me was when my students applied the principles of the Simplicity-In-Seeing program and worked the scene intensely to produce one strong image, which was not only stunning but their own. For me as a teacher this is priceless.

Today I would like to share with you some images taken by my students. They captured them, post-processed them and sent me the final version. They are posted as such. It is not post-processing that is important to me but their way of seeing. Today I would like to share images taken by Peter Faris, Anna P., Robert Wayne, Robert Raisler and others. I will post more images when I receive them. 

Please feel free to comment.

Peter Faris’ progress throughout the workshop was remarkable but it was his honesty and courage to search for his own path that captivated me the most (stay tuned for more). Peter just started his Instagram account. Make sure to follow him @cowtownpete 

…and the most recent image from Peter.


Bob Wayne was not afraid to take risks and explore many ways to see the image. His great sense of humour and his interaction with people was something to behold.

We all photographed this basketball hoop but it was Bob who captured a real stunner! While we looked at the hoop directly, Bob played with the elements reflected on the sidewalk.   

Who is it? 🙂


Robert Raisler captured this stunning image during our private workshop in the Palouse. Months after shooting with Robert and Elaine we stayed in touch and have become true friends. Sorry Robert and Elaine – I think a blog post about you both is inevitable 🙂



Anna P. has an amazing ability to see light as it appears in front of her. What a talent!


Gear notes: in the last two workshops, most of my students used the X100F/T cameras. It’s my favourite street/travel photography camera and the best tool to learn photography the right way.


For those of you interested in attending my Simplicity-In-Seeing workshops, the next one is in high-tech mecca San Francisco, November 3-5. Only 3 spots left. You can reserve your spot here.      



2017 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved.

Thoughts on Street Photography Workshops

Thoughts on Street Photography Workshops

What a privilege! I had no doubt in my mind that this piece had to start with those words of appreciation. Indeed, choosing to take the workshop and entrusting anyone with your own seeing are important decisions. The fact that some of you decided to work so closely with me to learn, discover or improve the craft of seeing is very flattering.

Since I started working on the Simplicity-In-Seeing program I promised myself that if I ever offered workshops, my program would be 100% designed from scratch with one goal in mind: to empower you with tools and a philosophy which you could adopt and modify to your own way of seeing to design and craft stunning imagery. In order to achieve such results, total trust on both sides is required. This honesty and free flow of image-centred, honest discussion is the only way for any photographer to improve dramatically. There is no place for sugar-coated talk which often leads to a distorted sense of progress.

Fortunately, over the last few months I have had the privilege of working with remarkable, brave and creative students. To my surprise, my workshops have attracted not only novice photographers but very experienced ones. The latter were looking for new ways of seeing and designing imagery, which would go beyond what’s in plain sight.

If you thought the only objective of such workshops is to learn how to craft great imagery, you are mistaken. Sometimes students are looking for their true calling in photography. While working with my students I never assume that they are all heading in one direction. Considerations of character, interests and visual exploration may lead some students to other genres of photography. Since my classes are very small we are able to work together to find the right path (I will write more about this in the next post).  

We all worked hard learning in class settings but most importantly pushing the limits of seeing and creativity on the streets of Vancouver. I drew the most satisfaction from the fact that my students took the Simplicity-In-Seeing ideas and principles and combined them with their own way of seeing to create images. Their interpretation of many scenes was so inventive and bold that the word WOW was used more often than any of us anticipated (those who know me are well aware that I am not a person who compliments poorly crafted imagery). Don’t take my word for it. Some of my students promised to provide me with the imagery shot during the last few months and I will be proud to share the photos with you in an upcoming post.

Some of you have asked me about our future workshops. Soon we will be announcing our 2017-2018 workshop schedule. One of the first events will be the Streets of San Francisco Workshop – watch for our announcement and make sure to reserve your spot early.

Finally, thanks to all who subscribed recently to our Simplicity-In-Seeing educational platform. Lots of new content is in the works!  

It is time to share with you the imagery shot during our last Streets of Vancouver Photography Workshop – all taken with the X100F. Much more to come!

The objective of the Streets of Vancouver Workshop was to explore visuals beyond what’s in plain sight. We wanted to capture the Vancouver theme but in a way it hasn’t been done before. Here are some examples.


“Crafting the Image” was one of the key concepts we practised based on the Simplicity-In-Seeing program studied during our classroom session. Arranging elements within the frame was an important part of this exercise.


Of course, we captured some portraits but we tried to be as creative as we could.


Capturing these fleeing moments on the streets of Vancouver required intense concentration and observation – it allowed us to capture this very peculiar image.


We often started our process of creation with just the light.


“Seeing the Image” was another concept we studied and practised extensively.


Of course, we also fooled around taking portraits of ourselves.

Soon I will publish imagery shot exclusively by workshop participants. Stay tuned. Warning: the imagery shot by my students may cause you to change your travel plans in the fall. Let’s leave it at that.  🙂  



2017 © OLI Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.