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It’s the Light, Not the Camera!

Morgan Stanley, Times Square, NYC

I shoot with a small collection of digital cameras, most of which are of some vintage. Often, I will chance upon fellow photography enthusiasts when I am out and about shooting. We strike up a brief conversation. Our dialogue quickly separates into one of two camps. We may discuss the quality of light or subjects we are capturing. Or, I will get this: So what camera do you have? Oh? How many megapixels does it have? If the camera I’m shooting with has fewer megapixels than theirs, (which is most often the case) they will, with barely contained smugness, devote the rest of the conversation to their newly acquired “superior” DSLR and its costly attributes. Often, they will insist on talking rather than shooting as the most beautiful light of the day slips away.

Morgan Stanley, Times Square, NYC

To each his own. I must admit that I had the same focus for a number of years. I pored over online camera reviews trying to discern the minute differences between makes and models of digital cameras. I spent lots of disposable income (remember disposable income?) buying the latest gear and gadgets. In hindsight, it made the hobby of photography less enjoyable, and more a source of frustration. It distracted me from the craft of shooting good photos. Now, I know better.

The photo above, recorded in Times Square, New York City, was shot with one of my favorite vintage digital cameras. Introduced in 2003, the 6 megapixel Canon 10D is ancient by digital standards. And, the lens I used for this shot, a Tamron 19-35mm f3.5-4.5 is at least 15 years old, and discontinued by the manufacturer. I purchased this camera and lens used for less than $200 (US) total. Yet, they are still very usable tools that can produce great results under most conditions. Indeed, some of the best value can be found in used cameras sold by photographers who constantly feel the need to upgrade.

Focus on Your Subject, Not the Camera!

Focus on what, when and how you shoot, not on the equipment. The Internet has in some ways, made us far more materialistic, and fueled the empty notion that better photos are always one upgrade away. Good photos come from gaining expertise in making a good image. Once your equipment meets a certain modest level of technical requirements, it becomes less important to the quality of your images.

One of my favorite cameras to date, made by Olympus in 2004 (Olympus E-300), received rather lukewarm reviews in online media. Yet, some of my best photos were shot with this model, and I still consider it a highly useful photographic tool. What mattered most was the incredible places and experiences I recorded with this camera. The camera did its job of recording what I witnessed. It was up to me to learn to use that tool skillfully. Once I learned how to work with the strengths and weaknesses of this camera, I focused on producing enjoyable images.

Some of the most memorable images I’ve seen were recorded decades ago. What makes them worthy is the compelling merger of light and subject, not the equipment used to capture it. Focus on the light before you and you will find more pleasure in this craft. Even the learning curve one must travel to become a better photographer becomes more enjoyable when it is not cluttered with lots of stuff. Its all about the light, not the camera!

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