Winter Seeing

Winter Seeing

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I love winter. Whenever we get snow in Vancouver I rejoice and run out with my camera. I know what you think. Many of my friends around the world shake their head and message me: Come on, Olaf—you are in Canada and you are excited about snow?! I hear you but keep in mind that Vancouver has a very mild climate and those gorgeous white winters don’t happen very often. 

Well, a few days ago we got lucky! I would say there was an abundance of luck—maybe even too much. In short, conditions got really severe and this was just the time to go out shooting. I drove to the windiest part of the lower mainland and got out the camera. I have to admit that it was so brutal I couldn’t set up my tripod or really leave the car for too long. 

The good news is that I was able to capture some images which I am happy to share with you. They were taken with the GFX50S, the GF110 and the GF45 mm. While you are enjoying this imagery I will be shooting in rural Montana, so I am planning to come back with some great visuals, I hope. In the meantime, please enjoy and don’t forget to check out Photography Radio.

… and one more

2020 © OLI Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.

When you see it, shoot it!

When you see it, shoot it!

Years ago Kasia and I drove along a rural road in a remote part of the United States. We were on the way to our pre-planned shooting location and were already running late to catch the first morning light.

We noticed an old man with a cane walking along with his herd of sheep. Even though I got just a glance while we were passing, his gentle but wrinkled face immediately caught our attention. His herd of sheep surrounded him but all stayed a safe distance from their caretaker. The entire scene was blanketed in soft fog, intense enough to separate the man and his animals from the surroundings. It was the perfect opportunity for an interesting human encounter and an unusual visual reportage.

Unfortunately, because I was fixated on my plan I decided not to stop. We eventually arrived at our destination and…it was a total failure. Not only did the place disappoint but the weather conditions turned against us. I will never forget the old man with his sheep walking on the side of the road. Even today I regret that I didn’t stop and connect with this man.

This situation, along with a few others, taught me one of the most important lessons on travel photography. Even if you have plans, don’t get stuck on them. Opportunities for seeing are everywhere and when you see something, connect and capture an image!

Since then, we have made plans but have no problem changing them on the fly. If we see a scene worth interacting with, we stop and engage. In fact, this approach has allowed us to get many of our favourite images.

It was the case on our recent trip to the Canadian Rockies.

We spent one night in a motel near Lake Louise. Our plan was to wake up early and photograph the sunrise at this stunning location. However, when we arrived, clouds and fog blanketed the mountains so we decided to walk around and explore the frozen lake. After a few minutes we noticed a young man and his mother arrive at the ice rink. The young man started practising hockey. With the huge snow-covered mountain and frozen lake as a backdrop his red uniform stood out, creating an amazing scene. We approached them and struck up a conversation, which led us to the images below. If the weather had been different we would be sharing with you yet another photograph of a sunrise over Lake Louise. We are glad it didn’t so we could have this encounter.

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The next day while driving north on the stunning road from Lake Louise to Jasper we met a Japanese man, Nori. He was taking part in the 2015 Expedition – Americas’ Vertical Challenge – Alaska to Argentina. We were travelling in a warm car in -25˚C temperatures and Nori was walking alone carrying everything he needed with him. We don’t know what you think, but we were impressed. The backdrop of the Canadian Rockies created amazing visuals in the story of man of such strong will and character.

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All images were captured with the Fuji X-T1 paired with the XF 50-140mm F2.8, XF 14mm F2.8 and Fuji X100S.

 

 

2015 © 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.

Happy New Year From Winter Wonderland

We would like to wish our friends, our readers and ourselves a healthy New Year full of photographic adventures.
May the New Year bring us great light, inspiring visions and stunning imagery. May we take fewer photos but do more photography.
Finally, we hope 2013 will bring simpler and photographer-centred cameras and tools.
Olaf & Kasia Sztaba

Each time I talk to my friends from Europe about snowless winters in Vancouver they cannot believe it. After all, this is wild white cold Canada, which many people (including myself before I moved here) knew from the National Geographic movies and publications.

While the special location makes it rare to experience full-fledged winter in Vancouver (except in the high mountains surrounding Vancouver) just one hour’s drive away you can find a true winter wonderland.

That is exactly what we wanted to capture when we woke up very early last week and drove nearly two hours north of Vancouver. While sometimes we come back from our photography trips with nothing (we don’t process dull images – that’s a waste of time!), this time we encountered perfect light. Snow-covered peaks were blanketed with blue, orange and purple clouds. Each time the rising sun found a gap in the clouds, the whole scene came alive once again in different colours and moods. 

Our tool of choice was the Fuji X-Pro1 with the XF 35mm F1.4 lens. All images were processed in Lightroom 4, sharpening in NIK Sharpener Pro.  

Here are some chosen images.

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© Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography.  All Rights Reserved.