Gear-tography?


Iron Bridge

I love photography, and I love photography gear! I mean, who doesn't?

Well, OK, maybe the love of photog gear is an affliction unique to photographers, but believe me - it's a thing!

When I think back to my very first digital camera, which was a roughly 2 mega pixel point & shoot, I am astonished at how far the gear - and my relationship with it - has come. In fact I can think back even farther and remember my first 35 mm SLR (which I am still threatening to blow the dust off and get shooting some black & white with) and I recall the feeling of acquiring that nice new camera. Pretty soon I was buying a telephoto zoom lens to go with it and a handful of other accessories. There is almost no limit to how far you can go with this and I definitely enjoyed the pursuit of new gear as I went along.

Now days I have a primary Digital SLR (DSLR) and a secondary backup DSLR, a small collection of lenses and a bunch of accessories to go with those cameras. Hmm... feels familiar even now more than 30 years after my first 35 mm SLR. The temptation to acquire gear, or as some have called it GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) truly is "a thing". But what kind of thing is it? Does better gear mean better images? Does more money spent on accessories make the photographer a better photographer? Or is it really just retail therapy? Well, I think maybe there is a balance here that is partly individual experience and partly functional reality.

I don't think there is much question that the best quality cameras and lenses are capable of producing the highest quality of result, so we need to give a nod to the functional reality of good gear. On the other hand, there is also no question that very basic gear in skilled and talented hands is capable of producing truly amazing results as well.

So ultimately there is nothing wrong with wanting to have good equipment, providing we don't fool ourselves into thinking it is the gear that makes the photographer. Clearly that is not the case. We continue to study masters such as Henry Cartier-Bresson and Ansel Adams and draw inspiration and wisdom from the work they did. We can be assured that the gear we shoot with today is vastly superior to anything ever available to those masters, yet we still recognize their mastery. We still look back at their works and aspire to do anything close to that tremendous. So for me, as one who calls himself a "photographer", I work at staying focused on constant improvement in the art of photography rather than pining away wondering how I can step up to that next level of high-end gear. Don't get me wrong - I still love to look at the gear and ponder how nice it would be to own more of it. I still experience a wee little pang of jealousy when a friend acquires some nice new piece of equipment. However it is important, in my opinion, for all us photographers - from beginner to pro - to recognize that the gear we have provides us the ability to go out and make great images, no matter how basic or advanced that gear might be.

Like the old iron bridge pictured here. It's only about 2 kilometers away from the nice new replacement, but at the end of the day they will both get you across the river.

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