Hello Norbert Oksza Strzelecki! Could we start the interview by asking to tell us a bit about yourself?
Hello! Well, on a day-to-day basis I am a father of 7yo girl, also traveler, triathlete, Japan culture enthusiast and of course photographer living in a west part of Poland, City of Poznan. Work-wise I do genetic research on a vaccine for melanoma and skin cancer. Very recently I’ve hit a 40yo mark, so just crossed that magic line in life behind which everything seems to be easier. At least I hope so…
Speaking about life I always look for a positive vibes, emotions, strong frames and unusual adventures. I try to be as much immersed in “here and now” as my life let me and have very optimistic attitude to the world and people.
As a photographer I am continously hungry for new techniques and ways of expressing my perception of the world around me. Nowadays I usually switch between landscape and street photography but am more and more attracted to the latter.
How did you got started into Photography and decided to take a little more seriously? Was it a sudden passion, or did you gradually fell in love?
I wish it was one of those romantic stories about a boy who was given an old, sturdy Russian analog camera by his father and immediatelly started to express his talent as a decent pictures. Indeed there is a grain of truth in all that. Actually my father, keen photographer with quite a few gear, gave me such a camera, Russian Zenit, when I was in primary school. I just remember that I could not fully understand what it was all about those f-stops, exposure times, depth of field and so on. I don’t even know if there are any of my pictures from that period preserved.
From that time on I wasn’t interrested in photography at all until I went studying. The studies were about biology but I’ve found photography as much interresting. Living in a dormitory with my friends sometimes we were arranging our place into a dark-room with all those chemicals, enlargers and dripping light-sensitive papers hanging on a lines and lit by dim red light. Oh yes, it was fun and times of my black-and-white photography. So I must say the love to visual arts was planted in me quite early but bloomed a little bit later just to reach its almost full potential quite recently.
Everyone agrees the X System from Fuji is a perfect companion for travel photographers (even National Geographic does!!). But we noticed that, since you bought the X70, immediatly it started to be your camera choice over the X-T1. How did that small camera changed your approach to this kind of photography?
The thing is that as a travel photographer I switched from full frame Canon system to Fuji mainly because of the size and very decent pictures straight out of the camera. Oh, and that retro look (laughing). Saying that, the X-T1 and now X-T2 are very lovely cameras but I waited long for someting that I could have with me, let’s say, all the time. You can call me a lighweight traveling freak (laughing). Once the X70 came out I knew that it will be exactly that small gem I was looking for.
Adding to that I recently am more and more leaning from pure landscape photos towards travel portraits and street photography it seemed just a perfect choice for me and it turned to be true. So now I mainly use X-T1 for landscape photography or both with a XF27mmF2.8 lens (size!) for a “special” street assignments and X70 mainly for street but also for everyday and simple landscape photography. It all just resulted of me taking more photos.
Travel photography frequently implies taking pictures of people. What kind of approach you do, if any?
It really depends on my attitude on that day, mood and the place where I photograph but I surely can distinguish two main types of my aproach. From one side there is a travel style of my shooting where I almost always make an eye-contact with people, smile a lot to them but rarely have a conversation unless caused naturally. I show my camera just to let them know what I’m doing, sometimes, especially in east culture regions I’m silently asking for permition and after taking a picture I nod gratefully saying also silent “thank you” then keep going. They almost always react very positively smiling back and I think being as much curious about me as I am about them.
On the other hand when I shoot street in my town I try to be as invisible as possible. It means not making any eye-contact, not talking to people but also not hidding and not looking suspicious, just behaving naturally as it was normal thing to photograph people on the street that I believe it is. The other difference when on the street is I often pretend to shoot something different from the main subjects. I mean after the shot I often look above their heads or just slightly in diffeent direction like on someting behind them. And it almost always does make me true invisible. But of course when we make the eye-contact I always smile, simply answer any questions and just keep going. I have never got into any trouble photographing people in the streets.
Do you use to take a laptop (or tablet) with you to edit and publish photos on the go, or do you prefer to keep the surprise and review pictures only when you get home?
When traveling I don’t use neither laptop nor tablet to edit photos and just really rarely I publish them when on the go using my phone. And it’s not about having the surprise at home but the main reason is it’s simply too much to both take pictures, be with a family and additionally spending time to edit anything in the evening. That said I mean we don’t sit by the hotel’s pool but travel day by day through the country so we prefer to spend that time talking and playing together and not sitting in front of a computer.
On the other hand it could be also like I just don’t have a right gear to properly and fast edit landscape photos that demand a lot more resources to edit than street photos. Recently I was even thinking about MS Surface Pro 4, because in my opinion right now it’s the best machine, concerning weight and display quality, to edit photos on the go but unfortunatelly it’s not in my budget…
Could you make a brief explanation of your worflow, from capture to the final results published on your website?
First of all I avoid sitting long hours in front of a computer making my pictures perfect. Concerning travel or more precisely landscape photography I always shoot in RAW+F. On that stage I use basic GND 0.9, ND 1.2 or polarizing filters, multi- and long exposures and of course proper in-camera setting just to limit software editing to the minimum required to achieve desired results. All photos then go to Lightroom where I make some tonal and color corrections and at that stage I usually export selected files to Photoshop. Here sometimes I use Google NIK plugins just to speed some of the operations up but then masking any of the undesirable or just exaggerated results on a layers.
Speaking about street photos, depending on a tonal range of the scene, I usually shoot Classic Chrome, Neg Pro Hi, Monochrome+R or recently Astia simulated JPEGs with Highlight Tone -1, Shadow Tone +1, Sharpness -1, NR -1, iso Auto (6400), DR100 and just put them through Lighroom only to make a slight color, tonal or exposure corrections or some other small tweaks and that’s it.
If you could ask Fuji to produce the perfect camera according to your criteria, how would it be?
I am pretty satisfied with the gear available right now on the market and it still exeeds my skills anyway, but if I could ask Fuji really about anything it would probably be a X70-size weather sealed camera with interchangeable lenses, built-in viewfinder and GND filter and also remote TTL flash capable. Add some handy grip to that and I think it would be my perfect photo companion.
Father of two, traveler, triathlete and Japan culture enthusiast from Poland. Member of Streetical Collective. Notoriously in the search for visual nuances, positive vibes, emotions and unusual adventures. Trying to be as much immersed in “here and now” as the life let to.