I'd like you to meet Jakub Sisak. His story, his perspective on photography, and his glorious photos will make you an admirer too.
Q. Tell me a little about yourself.
I moved to Canada from the Czech Republic in 1993. I became a Canadian citizen in 1997, but this December I will have lived longer in Canada than in the country of my birth.
I come from a long line of woodworkers and so I became a furniture maker by trade when I was 18. After moving to Canada, I found work as a cabinet maker, but an injury caused me to reconsider my career path. I became a computer programmer. In time, I became involved in developing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) applications. GIS is a good fusion of IT and Cartography and is both technical as well as highly visual.
I am very happily married and a father of three: two beautiful, fun young children and one rebellious (but still fun) teenager. I love spending time with my family, nature photography and hockey. Canada became my second home; I fell in love with its landscape and people.
Q. When did your interest in photography begin?
Both my parents were avid photographers. We had a fully-equipped dark room in our house. I was always assisting with the developing process and I enjoyed watching how a negative became a photograph. My father belonged to photography clubs and he experimented with early creative post-processing techniques.
I basically grew up with photography, endless talk of composition, amidst books of photography. No family trip was complete without my parents lugging a medium format camera and a heavy wooden tripod with us. I was interested in composition and enjoyed photography from an early age, but it wasn't until much later – when I had my own cheap cameras – that I began taking photos.
It just happened naturally. I do have some formal visual arts background. Classical drawing classes taught me core composition techniques and working with shadows and contrast. For the most part, I come from black and white media; black charcoal, pencil, ink. Until the 1990s, I was exposed to monochrome photography, so working with colour is something I had to discover and learn by looking at art, observing the natural world, and by trial and error.
When digital cameras first became available I abandoned all analog attempts, embraced digital, and never looked back. About seven years ago I finally got my first DSLR. To become familiar with my equipment, I began reading and researching technical articles online, reading magazines and again, trial and error. Then I tried improving some of the photos I took in software and discovered I enjoyed it. I began to realize there was a difference between a snapshot and a photo and that a digital capture is merely a digital negative that requires a creative touch.
Much like the process in a darkroom, the process of "developing" my raw digital "negatives" became very enjoyable to me. At the same time, I was discovering and falling in love with the landscape around Thunder Bay. I started bringing my camera equipment on walks, hikes and family trips. Eventually, my nature adventures became photo trips. Because I have a demanding day job and a busy family life, I can only explore nearby areas, but I happen to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. There is always enough to photograph.
Along with landscape, I have a special interest in photographing flowers, wildflowers, trees, leaves and grasses. I am not really sure why, but I was always drawn to shooting nature. Often, after shooting landscapes on a tripod with filters, shutter release cable and timing long exposures, I just like to put on a prime lens and shoot handheld. It's extremely free and satisfying and I almost always end up shooting flora. There is something exciting in the stillness of life in these photos.
There are a few.
- Get your knees dirty – get close and low.
- Take photos at sunrise or sunset when light is soft and defused. Soft light makes flowers look more pleasing unlike mid-afternoon light which casts short, sharp shadows.
- Photograph just before or just after a thunderstorm, even if it's midday. Thunderstorm light is magic. Dark stormy skies make a great background.
- Mind your background – make sure the background is not too busy and that the main subject is isolated.
- Use a wide aperture setting. Use your camera in aperture priority mode or manual and turn the aperture dial to the lowest possible number. The subject in the foreground will be in focus and the background will be unfocused.
I am perfectly happy right here in Thunder Bay. I would love to explore and shoot some of the more remote Lake Superior islands. I am also drawn to the north – I think I would like to photograph our far north.
To view more images, visit these links to Jakub Sisak Photography
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