It’s strange what we remember. One memory that stands out in my mind is my father taking me to a store in London to purchase a new camera with exchangeable lenses. The store was long and narrow with a counter that stretched almost the length of the shop. Behind the counter on the wall there were all sorts of boxes. Cameras, lenses, flashes, tripods and accessories all over the place.
I must have been around 12 at the time and I remember my father talking to the clerk for over an hour about what the right camera was for him.
Now my father was many things – a just man, a kind father, a strict teacher, a funny storyteller, an avid golfer (not a very good one I might add), a football fan (and by football I mean soccer, but as my father was British he always called it football) and a man who just got a little lucky (referring to his decision to move overseas back in the 80s). But the one thing my father was not was a good photographer.
Listening to my father that day I was convinced he knew quite a lot about cameras, but when I got older I realized how little he knew.
As a child, I didn’t know any better. A picture was a picture and he did take some nice shots from time to time, but as I learned later on he really didn’t know the first thing about taking photos.
In essence, for him his photos were really hit or miss.
I, on the other hand, was never very interested in taking photos. Even when my father donated his old camera to me the day he bought his first semi-pro camera I barely took three rolls of film over the next few years.
Taking pictures was frustrating because I never knew if I had gotten the picture just right and had to wait to get the roll developed to find out. Since I didn’t take many pictures that meant waiting quite some time.
But the digital cameras came out and suddenly taking photos became fun.
Click, click and there you have it, evidence staring you in the face in the LCD screen. You know immediately whether you needed to take another shot or if you were good to go. How wonderful.
My first digital camera was a 4 mega-pixel compact Pentax. I was able to capture some good pictures on our honeymoon with that camera, but I soon learned its limitations: speed being the key one.
From the moment I turned on the camera before I could take a photo there was a 4-6 second delay and while that wasn’t much at the time it did get annoying when you wanted to capture the moment.
So I looked into getting a DLSR or what most people would consider a professional type camera. The Nikon D70 caught my eye, but the price kept me away so I went with another Pentax.
I wasn’t disappointed and for the two whole months I had the camera it was a joy to use. Sadly the best pictures I took with it died with the camera when my bungalow was destroyed by the tsunami that ravaged Thailand and much of South Asia back in 2008.
When I was able to scrounge the money again to get another camera the D70 happened to be on sale, so I didn’t hesitate and have never looked back.
Since that time I have added a D40, a flash and two lenses to my collection.
This Friday, with any luck, I will be picking up the iPhone 4GS which will give me another camera that I will have at my disposal everywhere I go.
So with access to such fantastic cameras are my photos that good? Yes, but I suppose that’s natural because digital cameras allow me to take so many more photos than I would be able to with film. I can take about 4000 shots on my D40 so that can last most people, myself included, for an entire vacation.
Then I can sit down and delete the shots that aren’t worth keeping which might amount to 30% or more. Then of the other 70% there may be 10% that are really good so now I sit down and adjust them in photoshop.
Color enhancements, cropping, red-eye reduction and the like allow an average user to take a simple photo and make it look amazing.
But as Ken Rockwell says, “If you can shoot well, all you need is a disposable, toy camera or a camera phone to create great work. If you’re not talented, it doesn’t matter if you buy a Nikon D3X or Leica; your work will still be uninspired.
“It’s always better to spend your time and money on learning art and photography, not by spending it on more cameras.
“Why is it that with over 60 years of improvements in cameras, lens sharpness and film grain, resolution and dynamic range that no one has been able to equal what Ansel Adams did back in the 1940s?”
The reason is that it’s all about the photographer and not the equipment.
He continued by saying that, “The right equipment just makes it easier, faster or more convenient for you to get the results you need.”
In life, we spend our time and money upgrading things in hopes that they will make us better photographers, web designer, magician or leader. But the truth is the only way we become those things is if we invest the time, the energy and the money in ourselves.
Most people refuse to listen to this advice because it’s the long way round, we keep hoping to find a shortcut, but if we keep at it we must face the fact that in life it’s what’s within us that makes the major difference in our results.
So is a $25 camera better than a $5000 one? No, of course not.
But in the hands of the right photographer that $25 camera can take masterpieces.
Don’t be fooled by the hype, invest in yourself and reap the benefits.
ps. Here is a picture that I particularly like that I took in color and wasn’t anything special, but with a few tweaks I believe it’s one of my best pictures.