Interview with Stef Kocyla

Next in this series is an interview with Stef Kocyla, proud husband and father of two, from France, who really loves travel and photography! A lover of the wilderness and the outdoors, make sure you check out where he is over on his Instagram.
© Stef Kocyla

© Stef Kocyla

Stef Kocyla
Travel Photographer

Tell us a bit about yourself, your photography kit and why you decided to get into travel photography?
I really wanted to come back home from my travels with beautiful pictures. My favourite locations to shoot in so far are Norway and Sweden for their breathtaking landscapes. In my kit have a DLSR Sony A7r III, with a Zeiss lens 16-35mm f/4 and a Sony lens 50mm f/1,8. I made a blog for people, who are willing to learn photography, and my main recommendation is to learn the basics of composition and practice as often as possible, no matter what kind of camera you have (smartphone, compact or reflex).

So where have you been travelling lately and what inspires you to travel?
I would like to say that I travel with my family. To me and my wife it is worth more to us, travelling when we can share moments with our kids. We travelled mostly in Europe and almost visited every European country once at least. We travel mostly by car, we have a caravan so we are able to visit places at our own pace. We love our own country and we have been almost everywhere in France. As we live in Northern France, Belgium, The Netherlands and England are really close to us, and we like spending time in these countries. We love their landscapes, their coastlines and the architecture of their cities, and the people of course. We’ve been many times as well to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. We also travelled to North America, my youngest brother lives in New Brunswick, Canada. When we had no children, me and my wife travelled to many Mediterranean islands, such as Crete, Majorca, Sicily or Sardinia.

Wow, sounds like you've seen a lot, what do you get up to in these locations?
As a family, we are attracted by natural environments and wilderness, rather than big cities. We love camping in big open spaces, in Northern Europe and in particular Scandinavia, there is plenty of it. A caravan is more convenient for us than a RV, because once we have settled it, we can take our car to explore the surroundings. We can go where the RV’s can’t, it’s much more fun and less worries than driving such a vehicle.

Hiking is our main activity, it’s a great way to explore the wilderness and take wonderful photographs of it. The fact that we have the time to fully enjoy sunsets and sunrises together breathes a breath of freshair into our modern world. We like fishing on the shores of Northern Europe. Scotland, Ireland, Norway and Sweden have amazing fishing spots. For me, it gives me quality time with my cildren and together, we love to spend a few hours outside. Even we catch no fish, we catch at least good time together! We also like to kayak when it’s possible, it’s a fabulous way to reach remote spots, and see them like few people can. Above all, what really matters is to share those moments, where we can create amazing common memories for our family.
© Stef Kocyla - kayaking to Briksdalbreen, Norway

© Stef Kocyla - kayaking to Briksdalbreen, Norway

How do you decide on where to visit?
The main reason we plan to visit, is because we've seen beautiful pictures of it. The pictures have to make us dream of the location. We chose our destinations depending on the wilderness character and the beauty of the place. We'd rather go off the beaten track, and even if a place is famous, we always seek a way to discover it from another angle. That’s my motto as a photographer: do not take the same pictures as everyone, no matter how touristy the place is.

We also like cities, rather medium or smallcities, to do some shopping and find things we don’t have in France. When we are abroad, our goal is to live like the locals. We love losing our points of reference, and eat the local food. Of course, we love to explore new places and meet the locals, it is a rewarding and refreshing experience to learn from them about their culture and way of life.

Where have you enjoyed shooting?

As a landscape photographer, I’m deeply attracted to scenic and spectacular sceneries,but not to say dramatic sceneries. In Europe, the most beautiful places I’ve been are Norway, Scotland and the Alps. From snow-capped mountains and glaciers to the deep fjords, Norway has certainly the most extreme landscapes in Europe. Scotland’s landscapes took my breath away, made of misty lochs, moorlands and rocks. Always seeking for the best light, I really enjoy making photos in Scotland. In the Italian part of the Alps only, the Dolomites, you can see a large variety of very picturesque vertical rock formations. At sunrise and sunset, the colour of the Dolomite rock ranges from orange to purple, which makes it unique in the world. The most beautiful big cities I shot were New York, Amsterdam and Paris. What I do like the most though is to photograph small cities and villages in all the countries we visited.

© Stef Kocyla - Glencoe, Scotland

© Stef Kocyla - Glencoe, Scotland

Are there any hidden gems you'd recommend?
Nowadays, gems don’t stay hidden for a long time, so it’s more about when you have to visit those fabulous places rather than where you can find them. As a matter of fact, we try to visit beautiful spots when it’s not too crowded. However, there are still places which remain uncrowded, because they are quite remote. If you go to Norway, I would recommend you to visit the Lofoten islands, it’s a place which is more and more visited but still, there is no mass tourism. A pure beauty next to the Lofoten islands is Senja island, which is as beautiful as the Lofoten but less visited, this is a real hidden gem! As you are above the Polar Circle, you can see the Midnight sun in the Summer or experience the polar night in the Winter. The Swedish Lapland is also a hidden gem, there are fantastic national parks (Sarek NP is a pure beauty) where you can meet the Nordic wildlife (Mooses, bears, eagles…). Everywhere in these areas you can hike on scenic paths which lead you to the most beautiful remote places.
© Stef Kocyla - Lofoten, Norway

© Stef Kocyla - Lofoten, Norway

Do you have any top tips on how to take great travel photography, in this Northern Europe or anywhere else?
Taking great photographs in Northern Europe is not difficult, everywhere you look at is beautiful! My first tip to take great photographs is to pay attention to your composition. Make sure you have a nice foreground, try to find another angle than the classical ones and shoot. The other tip is to look for the most beautiful light, and wait for it if necessary. At sunrise or sunset you can have the best opportunities to take fantastic photographs. Another great tip is to include reflections in your frame. Water is almost everywhere in Scandinavia, I took my favourite photographs at sunrise by the fjords or lakes, the conditions were just perfect. If you are to visit the most Northern parts of Scandinavia in the Summer, my best tip would be to go to shoot at night, or should I say under the Midnight sun, this is a 24-hour daylight experience. This light is the most beautiful I’ve seen ever, it’s too beautiful to sleep! And you can always take a nap later!
© Stef Kocyla - Lago di Carezza, Italy

© Stef Kocyla - Lago di Carezza, Italy

What're your next travel plans?
Next Summer we plan to make a road trip in the US, we want to roam around in California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. It’s an old dream which comes true. Our children are even more excited than we are ! Our goal is to visit some iconic places and National Parks, such as Yosemite, Big Sur, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and more, with another angle than the usual one, seen a thousand times. I also have the project to photograph the road as way of life, like in Jack Kerouac’s book “On The Road”. This road trip is the perfect opportunity to make that happen. Later this year we want to go back to the Dolomites to see autumnal colours in the trees, before the first snowfall. Next Winter I would like to go back to Northern Norway to capture the Northern lights. We have always been there in the Summer, I would love to see those landscapes white covered with green lights dancing in the sky!

Awesome - have a great time, and thanks so much for sharing your story with us!

Follow their journey on Instagram, @stef_kocyla.
Jordan AtkinsonComment