Tolkien, Peter Jackson and Jakub's photography journey

Jakub ended up becoming a photographer in New Zealand all thanks to JRR Tolkien and his LOTR loving friend, Valdi. Read all about his journey to NZ and his journey into photography which go hand in hand.

By Jakub Soltysiak

Tell us who you are and what you do...

I come from Poland, where I trained as a PE teacher and sports Manager. After university, I went to live in England for 6 years but since 2013 I have lived in New Zealand – the place I now call home. I've done a lot of different work here in New Zealand starting with lifeguarding and teaching swimming, then driving/guiding, filming jobs, photography jobs (New Zealand is so inspiring that I decided to buy a full-frame camera and go exploring and shooting), but I've also managed a company and had a few more jobs besides!

Tell us more about your journey to New Zealand...

It is quite a funny story. Living in the student house while being at university back home in Poland my roommate was a big fan of the Tolkien books and always wanted to go to the cinema to see all the LOTR films so he convinced me to go with him.

I was not a huge fan but could appreciate the beautiful landscapes of New Zealand and the quality of the production. Years later with the same guy, Valdi, we went travelling to Australia for 3 months and he started to talk me into visiting NZ while we were there. I was quite reluctant as the costs were already high enough but he managed to persuade me.

In Auckland we rented a camper van and traveled across the country for 3 weeks. I was pretty impressed by this amazing country! After returning to England where I was living at that time, I realized that as a Polish national under the age of 30 I could apply for a work and holiday visa to NZ – only 100 lucky applicants get accepted for it every year out of Poland's population of 36 million and I was one of the lucky ones.

The root of the story I guess is that if Tolkien never wrote his books, a friend of mine would never have decided to persuade me to go to New Zealand, so I blame, Tolkien, Peter Jackson and Valdi for me being here! It is a great country with an amazing lifestyle especially in my favourite place, Queenstown. I know lots of people say it is way too touristic but it also provides lots of opportunities for work and very interesting work at that whilst also being a great hub for escapes around the region with my camera!

By Jakub Soltysiak

How did you become interested in photography?

It was in early childhood, my father was a photographer at the army and later on, he played a bit with wedding photography. He built his darkroom in our basement and when he developed his photos, I felt like I was seeing a magic trick. However, he never gave me a chance to play with his Zenit, probably worried that I would eat it J

After graduating from university I decided to go and see the world. My first big trip was South America, I bought my first serious camera, a Canon Powershot SX1 which gave me a lot of fun while travelling. However, New Zealand let me stabilize a bit and save enough to buy my first full-frame Canon 5d mk II, which I still use, taking it with me on every trip. It is a rather heavy setup as, including my 2 lenses, it weighs just over 4kg, so I can feel it in my backpack when on multi-day trips but it's worth it!

By Jakub Soltysiak

How would you describe your style of photography and how did you learn?

I never tried to learn from anyone or anything, my photography journey is all about improvising and learning from my mistakes, always thinking how I can improve things, what can be done better etc. I believe that I am still looking for a style or maybe it is ever evolving since I want to try as many things as I can with photography - I just love learning and experimenting, both in micro and macro scale and anything in between. However, probably the most enjoyable for me are landscapes and nature, but I also shoot wedding sessions, sports shots, runners, and motorbikers.

By Jakub Soltysiak

What lenses do you have for the Canon 5D?

I have the latest G2 Tamron lenses both 2.8 15-35mm and 70-200 that is my main setup, but I also have a Canon 60mm macro lens and 50mm 1.8.

By Jakub Soltysiak

Can you choose a favourite photo?

I don’t have a clear pick number one, but the photo that I took of Kea in flight was very surprising and came out quite well considering these birds fly pretty quickly and shooting them with a 200mm lens is not an easy task! My expectations were rather low but I just kept shooting, once finished I was thinking that nothing good would come out of it but back at home I realized that there was a bit of hope for one picture. After a bit of post-processing work it turned out to be a very lucky shot!

By Jakub Soltysiak

Tell us about your dazzling photo 'Luma Queenstown'

Luma is a light festival that takes place at the beginning of June in Queenstown and is a very favourite time of mine - the effort, creativity, music, and great vibe makes it a stunning and exciting event! I always volunteer to take photos so organizers can use my shots for promotion. It is a bit challenging as it takes place at night so you have to use tripod plus it is cold in June and there are thousands of people, the later creating both obstacles but also opportunities for a great shot.

I think my personal favourite from this event was a little girl posing with an umbrella next to a beautifully illuminated fern in Queenstown Gardens, it was such a shame that it had to be cancelled this year because of the virus.

By Jakub Soltysiak

How is our #PhotographyForGood concept implemented in your work?

While sharing my photos on various travelling and hiking groups, people often say thank you for letting them see new places that they have never been to. Some say that it is inspiring and gets them thinking about being more adventurous and going out more to explore, other people have told me that they use my photos as inspiration for painting and sketching.

By Jakub Soltysiak

Where can we find you online?




By Jakub Soltysiak

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