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Saturday, January 14, 2012
"It's Not About The Gear, It's Only A Tool"
Why do experienced photographers always seem to tell photographers who are just starting out that "It's not about the gear, it's only a tool"? To the unexperienced layperson, it seems that it sounds rather pedantic and egotistical. To most beginners it sounds like the experienced photographer is looking down at the starting photographer.
On the flip-side, photography neophytes tend to always sound off about "Oh, I could get that shot if I had the equipment that the professional has." Unfortunately, that's not the case. It comes from experience and knowledge. Knowing how to use the equipment that you have in your hands is key. Knowing all of the features of your camera is the key to getting the shots that you want. Even the most basic DSLR is enough to get the shots that you require and is more than enough to learn enough technique to become a very good photographer.
In my personal opinion, I think the phrase of "It's not about the gear, it's only a tool" is meant to keep beginning photographers concentrating on their technique as opposed to getting hooked on gear addiction or the "I can get great photos too if I just had the ...latest and greatest gear" syndrome. I don't think the phrase was meant to be used for people who are already confident in their technique. We know the limitations of our equipment so we know when to upgrade unlike beginning photographers who are just starting out and do not need to be hooked on the "upgrade because something new came out." The upgrade should only happen when the camera's features give you enough options that it will make a significant increase in your photographic flexibility to justify it. Beginning photographers don't have the necessary technical knowledge in photography to know when to justify the increase. It's only because 'they want it." To those who are beginners. Learn your craft, then think about the necessary tools to take you to the next step in your journey.
I spent 4 and a half years trying to learn everything that I could with regards to my camera, and technique for photography before I upgraded from my D50 to the D300s. In fact, I've grown very attached to my D300s, and my recent acquisition list has all pretty much been lenses rather than camera frames that I need to pursue the photography genre of my choice. I've only put 4800 frames through my D300s, and am nowhere near requiring to upgrade that frame. At least it gives me enough time to get the two lenses that I really need for the photography I want to do. (yep, you guessed it, wildlife...). I'm hopefully gonna get out to Boundary Bay and shoot some snowy owls over the next week or so. But with a 70-200mm VRII as my main lens of any telephoto length, it's going to require my getting close to get some decent shots and running the risk of driving some birders frothingly insane. Either that or taking some shots, like what Moose suggested in his blog (keeping some of the owl's environment in the frame instead of focussing on "filling the frame"). The 300mm f/2.8 VRII and the 600mm f/4 are a definite requirement. But I figure those lenses will come in time. My motto has always been "use what I have now; not what I wish for." I'll get my 600mm sometime around 2017 and the 300mm in 2019 (Update: July 24, 2013 - I have my 600mm f/4 courtesy of a fellow photographer and wonderful friend; Christian Sasse and the savings that I have made on purchasing his lens has put enough into my pocket to move up my purchase of the 300mm f/2.8 VRII to January or May of 2015). So I have a lot of shooting to do between now and then. Maybe I just might upgrade to the D5 when it comes out.
Until then, I have to figure out what pieces of equipment that I can acquire to get me out to 400mm (the prime supertelephoto range for wildlife). There are three options in Nikon to achieve the hallowed ground of 400mm. Buy a 400mm f/2.8 VR at a brain-stunning price of a $9,000 CDN. Obtain the TC-20EIII to give me an effective range on my 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII to 140-400mm f/5.6 with VR and a $600.00 price tag or get myself an 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 D ED with VR at a price tag of $1499.99. Or I can use technique to try to get closer which doesn't cost me anything. Sometimes though, you can't use technique and that's where the knowledge of your surroundings and your equipment helps you make the decision on whether to upgrade your equipment list or not.
In that regards, I have the knowledge base to be able to make the personal decision to upgrade my equipment or not. If you are an experienced photographer, you will know when the decision to upgrade your equipment is right or not. If you are a beginner, focus on learning your current camera that you have right now, until you are getting great shots with greater regularity, then with experience you will gain the knowledge to know when to upgrade.