Gear, Technique and Vision

Nikon released its D-100 DSLR in 2002. I was just getting started in “serious” photography and so I bought one for an upcoming trip to the Grand Canyon. I was hooked – it was awesome. In 2005 the D-200 was released and I stood in line waiting for the first delivery to arrive at my local camera store. I did the same in 2008 when the D-700 was released. After hearing rumors about the D-800 I assumed I would once again be staking out my place outside the camera store waiting in eager anticipation of what this new toy could help me achieve in my photography. However, the March, 2012 release date came and went and it is now several months later and I am still using my trusty D-700. A photo friend recently asked me when I would be upgrading and I simply said that I didn’t think I would be. First I heard myself saying “wow” and then thought “why”, or rather “why not”. The more I thought about it the more I realized that in the 10 or so years that I have been serious about my photography I have been slowly transitioning away from my initial belief that good images could only be achieved by having good gear.

In the first half (or possibly even the first two thirds) of my photography “career” it really was all about the gear and the technical – I couldn’t find enough books or magazines to tell me how a trick or technique was used to create stunning images. After the frustration of several failed attempts trying to recreate the stunning images died down I started to realize that my approach was missing one important parameter – vision. It was at this point I began to realize that it is relatively easy to teach someone how to create a stunning image from a photograph they have taken of a scene, but it is extremely difficult to teach someone how to see the scene in the first place. For me, this was a turning point – it was a game changer. I am now firmly in the camp that believes gear is temporary but vision must last a lifetime. I recently read an article that included the following statement:

Nobody is impressed with your equipment, the only thing they are going to be impressed with is your images.

I printed this out in big, bold font and pasted it above my monitor. I think it is extremely powerful on many levels. For example, it reminded me of my friends who create amazing images from photos taken with their iPhone. Many have had their work published, many have had their work displayed in world famous galleries, many are running workshops teaching iphoneography, and many are selling their iPhone images. While there is much criticism about the “un”seriousness of creating “real” images using an iphone, before judging those who are seriously using iphones to create images, ask yourself what did you do with your Canon D5 Mark III or Nikon D4????

The image included with this post was taken during a recent work trip to Hawaii. Guess what camera I used to take it? After guessing, ask yourself why you should even care.

While I am sure that one day I will finally succumb to Nikon’s corporate advertising machine, I will only do so when and if I believe the time is right and if the equipment can support where I am trying to go with my photography, as opposed to believing that the new equipment will somehow magically take me there.

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1 comment

  1. My dear departed friend Nancy Rotenberg would always say in response to the oft asked question, “was that taken with film or digital” (this was during the time of transition years ago) “Do you like it?” Of course the viewer would say. YES!. And that was the end of the discussion. 🙂 It took me three generations of cameras to finally buy a new … USED last generation D3X! Sure, I’d love a new D4, however, it will NOT make my images better. Good post as usual Arthur.

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