observed by Diane » photo journal for those who enjoy vignettes of an ordinary life

Take Your Camera for a Drive in the Country, with the Top Down

When I was little I used to love going for Sunday afternoon drives in the country. Imagine doing that with some old car that was simply good enough to get around, but letting the top down allowing the wind to mess up your hair and to experience the sights, smells, and sounds that are out there. The experience is enriched not by the car you’re in, but by your involvement and how you deal with what comes your way. (Even if what comes your way is an occasional bug, a bit of rain, a dust storm, or perhaps you’ll simply enjoy the pleasures of spring air and bird song.)

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You know how so many photography blogs and photography networks have a focus on what gear the photographer uses? Initially this intimidated me but, not for long. I’ll admit I do have a wish list of lenses and a camera that I plan to add to my arsenal but I’m definitely not hung up on the fact I don’t have the highest end camera or a vast array of lenses and other photographic paraphernalia. I wrote about this several months ago, saying how I work with what I have and feel quite strongly that the value of a photographer is not measured by the camera s/he has or the gear in the bag.

Thanks to a twitter from Shelli Pabis, I was directed by curiosity to a short blog post by another photographer. It was really just common sense but when I read his third suggestion, I could have jumped out of the screen and given the guy a great big hug and a tweak on the cheek. He began by stating outright, “Don’t get hung up on gear.” No kidding! He is so absolutely correct and this is how I feel, in spades.

I encourage you not to judge yourself or others by their gear. Gear does not a photographer make, to use a play on an old cliche. Just think about some of the photographers a hundred years ago for instance — many made their mark in history based on their images and the skill with which they used those old clunky cameras. It was the photographer — the person behind the lens — that made the difference. How you use your camera and equipment together with an artistic eye is far more important than what equipment you have. In fact, I firmly believe a person is better off not going out and buying this-or-that lens or some high end camera until you are so adept at getting the most out of your current equipment that you can make it walk on water. Well, almost.

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that some photographers who upgrade to a higher end camera and buy the lens-of-the-month, are doing themselves no favours (unless they first are getting absolutely every bit possible out of their current camera & equipment). All too often, the photographer relies upon the camera or the lens to do the work rather than progressing & developing their own skill level. I sure wouldn’t want to drive a car that was real pretty, had all the newest bells and whistles, but the guys didn’t bother to build a good set of brakes, drive train, and motor underneath before dressing it up with the pretty stuff — would you?

Yes I sometimes drool when I see images taken with a macro lens and often get a case of macro-envy. I don’t have a macro lens and likely won’t get one for a very long time in the future. In the meantime, I’m squeezing every bit out of my little Nikon and am proud of what I’m able to do with that little camera. I continue to stretch my capabilities — wringing every bit out of my lowly camera by experimenting & learning all that I can about every possible setting, bits of available light, exposure combinations, and moving targets to boot. I’ll upgrade my equipment — eventually, little by little. But what’s the hurry? I’m learning more and more as I tinker ‘under the hood’ of my little Nikon.

Sure, I can see making the jump from a point-and-shoot to a DSLR if a person is wanting to get more serious about their photography, but to go out and buy a top end Canon, Nikon, or whatever or the lens-of-the-month, that’s where I believe it’s better to keep the dollars in your pocket and take that little camera for some fun test rides! Take that camera for a drive in the country, with the top down (both metaphorically and literally).

{{UPDATE: Since this was originally posted, I have upgraded my camera though I continue to use my little Nikon as a dynamite back-up camera. As with all photographers, my photo accessories continue to grow. The general idea here should be emphasized in that it’s not the equipment but the person behind the lens and how they use the equipment that really makes the difference! Enjoy.}}

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Diane is an on-location freelance photographer based near Grande Prairie, serving all points in Alberta plus northern BC. Visit Diane Schuller Photographs.

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Roberta - June 26, 2009 - 10:20 am

I’ve said the same thing many a time as well; and know plenty of top photographers that will also tell you the same in a heartbeat. I only upgraded my camera because I needed higher megapixels for a couple of projects. Otherwise I’d still be using a pro-sumer camera. The bigger camera hasn’t changed my style or made me any better though. It’s just given me bigger picture files (which require more storage space on the computer & disks).

You know, for the macro lens you want, there are some cheaper options. What about extension tubes? Or a Lensbaby with the macro lens add-on? Both of those options are much cheaper than a dedicated macro lens.

Gayle - June 27, 2009 - 9:32 am

Diane, this is so perfect! My yesterday’s post was about not needing a macro lens!

Toni - June 27, 2009 - 6:10 pm

I love my macro lens. It isn’t a high end one, by any stretch of the imagination, but it rarely leaves my camera. I use it for more than macro shots, too. I think the important thing is what one does with the equipment one has, just as you do, Diane, and what I attempt to do. I am a detail person and can’t imagine not having my macro lens to capture the detail that I love. Your quote about not getting hung up on gear sounds exactly like something David duChemin says on his blog, http://www.pixelatedimage.com/blog – in fact his tagline is “gear is good, vision is better”. You should check out his book, “Within the Frame”, in which he talks about vision. I think you’d enjoy it.

shelli - mama of letters - June 30, 2009 - 3:40 pm

Great post, Diane. (And thank you for the link!) I also came across a quote on Twitter (sorry I don’t remember the person who said it right now), and I retweeted it: “Photography is about practice, not purchase.”

I also feel I need to master what I’ve got before I move on to more expensive equipment. Well, I don’t feel I can justify the cost unless I know I’m really going to put my all into my “practice.”

It is fun to hear you use a Nikon also. Would you mind telling me which camera you use?

DesignTies - July 2, 2009 - 9:56 am

Your philosophy about camera gear can apply to pretty much anything. You don’t need the latest state-of-the-art gadgets to create wonderful things. Cookie batter mixed in the latest KitchenAid dooesn’t make better tasting cookies than cookie batter mixed with a wood spoon. Actually, I think the opposite is true!!

Using your imagination and creativity to make the most of what you have is a big part of the challenge and the fun 🙂

Kelly

sherri - July 6, 2009 - 12:33 am

I’m glad I found this capture. Somehow I missed it earlier. The colors are really exceptional and give it such a great feel. Makes the scene seem entirely different than I imagine it was. I imagine it hot and dirty, but the colors give it a slow motion and quiet feeling.