Seeing in Turmoil – Summary of 2016

Seeing in Turmoil – Summary of 2016

We started 2016 with an “Un-resolution,” challenging ourselves to go beyond “static and sterile,” to “move toward the edge of the cliff” and to “destroy our present complacency of seeing.”

Looking back at this remarkable and tumultuous year, it was a year when we questioned everything about our “seeing.” Being well aware that the popularity of our blog could suffer, we went beyond our usual travel and landscape genre of photography. While shedding our photographic skin, not only did we explore street vistas but also tried to snake into new ways of seeing.

It would have been much easier to stick to one theme, one look, one message. Yes, it would. However, we knew that by standing still our seeing could become familiar and repetitive – eventually leading to blindness – a risk we couldn’t afford to take.

We travelled less in 2016 partially because our seeing involved fascinating visuals closer to home and partially because we’ve been working on several new projects. With the launch of our workshops in 2017 we will certainly correct this anomaly.

Despite the lack of travel, this year stood out in one remarkable way. We had the privilege of meeting and working with amazing people. It is impossible to name you all – please allow us a little indiscretion in mentioning a few names.

It must start with You – readers of this blog. You motivate, inspire and challenge us to publish only the best work. Your kind and generous comments make our days. Your critiques and suggestions are highly desirable and much appreciated. Thank you so much for being with us on this journey.

We would like to thank the remarkable Fujifilm Canada team for your support and professionalism and for allowing us to work with cameras and lenses we otherwise wouldn’t be able to access. Your dedication to photography and photographers is unparalleled. Your commercial success in disrupting the photography market with the X-series is well deserved.

We are aware that it is unfair but I have to mention one photographer. Patrick LaRoque of Montreal has continually produced imagery that has caused me to pause and stare, which is quite a feat in this attention-deficient, glance-only, next-one-please world of mass photo consumption. This is the type of imagery that is not going to find its way to the top of the 500px popularity contest. Patrick’s imagery evokes visual emotions that go well beyond the levelled “beautiful” and desirable “popular.” They transcend seeing. They are visual poetry and design that make you stop, stare, think and feel – and that’s what photography is all about.

Another person I would like to mention is Ian MacDonald. Despite his personal struggles, after years of working as a paramedic, he reaches out to the photographic community as no other person I know. I have enjoyed meeting him and discussing photography, Fuji and everything in between. His openness and positive attitude is something we need more of every day (what a great balance to yours truly’s quirky, sarcastic, out-of-balance persona).

Of course, there are many more great photographers whom we admire and whose work we enjoy. You know who you are.

We would like to thank Thomas of Scoop It all Fuji, Patrick of Fujirumors and Tomasz of Fujilove for providing amazing platforms on which Fuji shooters can share their imagery and ideas. We also have words of gratitude for Steve and his team at SteveHuffPhoto.com. The fact that Steve accommodates all brands and genres of photography on his platform should be applauded. Some people don’t realize how much work it takes to organize and run such websites, magazines and communities. We are well aware of your hard work. Thanks for doing it.

Every year so far we have picked the “camera of the year” or the “lens of the year.” Well, I am not sure if it is such a good idea any more. My choice is just what is the best for me and it may not be the best for you. While we have been waiting for a successor to our beloved X100-line, most of our photography has been done with the X-Pro2. For me personally, it is the best interchangeable X-series camera out there (please note I said “for me”).

Before we go, it is time to say a few words about next year. No, I am not going to lay down pompous plans. All I want to say for now is that 2017, January in particular, will be very busy. We will be launching our new educational platform (finally!!!) for those of you who would like to explore, travel, create and learn with us. However, that’s not the only surprise waiting early next year. Stay tuned.

But enough of this disorderly jotting! It is time for the most important part of our summary – here are our favourite images of the year.

Enjoy.

ON THE ROAD

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ON THE STREET

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…and one round of squares

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Finally, we would like to wish you a visually rich, healthy, restful and warm Holiday Season and a Happy New Year.

kartka-olafphoto

 

2017 © 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.

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.

Death Valley – A Journey to a Visual Mecca

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There is no shortage of stunning places in North America and Kasia and I have hunted out many fantastic landscapes. Despite our travels, no other landscape has made such a profound visual and emotional impact on us as Death Valley. It is a visual Mecca for those who find beauty in remote, strange and rare places.

Death Valley is in California’s Mojave Desert. It is the lowest, driest and hottest place in North America. Death Valley holds the highest air temperature ever recorded on earth: 56.7 C.

While planning our trip, Death Valley was last on our list (after the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Route 66 and San Francisco). The only reason for that was efficiency and logistics. Since we had never visited Death Valley before, our intention was to soak up the atmosphere and gaze at the landscape.

Given that we entered the Death Valley National Park from the east, we stopped by Rhyolite Ghost Town.

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After taking a few photographs of the ruins, we stayed for the night at Stovepipe Wells Village. The weather forecast for the next day was not encouraging and the day turned out rainy and windy. Despite that, we decided to wake up early and hope for the best.

A stormy morning provided us with drama and occasional pockets of great light. However, the weather was deteriorating by the minute.

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After visiting a few spots we decided to head west toward Sierra Mountains – a visual gem on its own.

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Our first short encounter with this special place made such an impression on us that we are already planning our next, much longer trip to this area.

All images were taken with the Fuji X100T and Fuji X-T1 paired with XF 14mm F2.8 and XF 50-140 F2.8 and processed in LR5. Despite the deteriorating weather, we managed to keep taking photos with the Fuji X-T1 and XF 50-140 F2.8 – both weather sealed.

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

Summary of 2014 and our favourite images of the year

Summary of 2014 and our favourite images of the year

First, we would like to thank you all for your continuous support and for taking moments from your valuable day to view our imagery and read our essays. We especially want to thank you for finding time to write a few words of commentary and for sharing your stories and experiences. We read every comment and try to reply to them all.  

If there were words to describe 2014 they would be: transformation, search and renewal. It was the year when we had to “Stop. Breath. Start Again.” We are glad we did.

Now we are confident that a time of doubt and self-reflection is a necessary element of growth as an artist and photographer. After all, the worst enemy of creativity is content and easefulness.

As we did last year, Kasia and I went through our photos and decided to choose our favourite images of the year. Here they are:

Kasia’s images:

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The Grand Canyon, Fuji X100T

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Bodie, Fuji X-Pro1 & XF 14mm F2.8

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Bodie, Fuji X-Pro1 & XF 14mm F2.8

17-Mile Drive, Fuji X-T1 & XF 50-140 F2.8 OIS

Barkerville, Fuji X100S

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Barkerville, Fuji X-T1 & XF 14mm F2.8

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Alcatraz, Fuji X100T

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Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Fuji X100S

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The Palouse, Fuji X-T1 & XF 55-200 F3.5-4.8 OIS

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The Palouse, Fuji X-T1 & XF 55-200 F3.5-4.8 OIS

 

Olaf’s images:

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Westminster Abbey, Mission, Fuji X-Pro1 & XF 14mm F2.8

Waterton Lakes National Park, Fuji X-T1 & XF 14mm F2.8

The Cowboy Trail, Fuji X-T1 & XF 55-200 F3.5-4.8 OIS

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Chilliwack, BC, Fuji X100S

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Alcatraz, Fuji X-T1 & XF 14mm F2.8

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Death Valley, Fuji X100T

Death Valley, Fuji X-T1 & XF 50-140 F2.8 OIS

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Monument Valley, Fuji X-T1 & XF 14mm F2.8

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Barkerville, Fuji X-T1 & XF 14mm F2.8

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The Palouse, Fuji X100S

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The Palouse, Fuji X100S

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The Palouse, Fuji X-T1 & XF 55-200 F3.5-4.8 OIS

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Port Moody, BC, Fuji X100S

 

Camera of the year: Fuji X-T1 – for its huge viewfinder that allows you to compose and mould images unlike any other camera. Also, its full manual controls put you in the front seat as the photographer (we just cannot go with the X100/S/T every year). 

Lens of the year: Last year it was the wide-angle XF 14mm F2.8. This year without a doubt it is the XF 56mm F1.2 lens. It is one of the finest lenses we have ever owned. Not only does it allow you to photograph in near-dark conditions, its bokeh is natural and poetic. We also like its size and weight. It is a joy to shoot with.

Book of the year: “Road to Seeing” by Dan Winters. It is a well-written autobiography with beautiful imagery and priceless thoughts about the purpose of seeing, how to find it and what’s really important in this visual journey we are all on. We highly recommend it.    

Plans for 2015: Pushing our own boundaries of seeing. We want to go outside our comfort zone. There will be more failures but we are sure that the outcome will be imagery unlike anything we have done so far. We trust we will achieve it together.

Truly Yours

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