Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rock On

rock on, originally uploaded by Ryan Wenner.
In May I had the opportunity to take a bike trip covering about 375 miles…318 of those were between Washington DC and McKeesport Pa on the C&O Canal trail / Allegheny Passage trails. The rest of the mileage came from exploring towns and sights along the way. It was one of the coolest trips I've taken thus far in my life and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get a little exercise and learn some lessons about themselves. This photo was taken along the C&O towpath trail, in Great Falls National Park.

Anyhow, I didn’t start this post to write about biking or vacations, I’m here to write about photography as a process…

Over the course of the past week, I’ve talked to two people who are in to photography as a hobby, both of whom I’ve recently met. Both people, upon finding out I take photos, asked me the same first question: “what camera do you use?” The person I spoke with most recently went on to ask me what lens I was using. When I couldn’t remember the focal length of one of the lenses I used, besides feeling slightly embarrassed, I came to the realization that some time ago I fundamentally shifted the way I approach photography mentally. Photography is an art form and a process. I’ve known this for a long time; some people see a great image and think it’s because ‘that person has a good camera’ when in actuality, taking good photos is a function of much more than equipment alone. There are certainly limitations of all equipment, and having nicer stuff enables you to do more / faster / better. However, learning good technique is more important than having the best gear, and this is a point that beginning photographers need to take to heart.

Don’t get me wrong, I regularly geek out over equipment when I’m looking to add something new to my arsenal of photographic toys, but once I’ve made my purchase, my mind sometimes focuses more on the capabilities of each piece of equipment rather than committing to memory technical specifications. That’s why sometimes I forget if a certain lens I have is 50 or 55mm at the long end, or why, as I write this article I can’t remember how many megapixels three of the cameras I regularly use are. Some technical details just aren’t that important to me when I’m out shooting. More than anything I associate a field of view and a purpose mentally with the lenses I use, and I know all the cameras I use are modern enough that resolution is a non-issue. (The megapixel ‘war’ and things like photosite density and sensor size could be a whole other article)

Some of the photos on this blog were taken with a full frame sensor and “L” lenses. Some with a 1.6 crop sensor and a ‘kit’ lens. However, I think the greater part of the photos displayed at this point have been taken with “point and shoot” cameras (albeit, high-end versions…namely a G10 I used to own, and a S90).

There are plenty of times where I’m out living life and photography isn’t my primary focus. Times like the bike trip I just took, where a nice SLR setup would have been a big burden in terms of bulk and weight (even though it would have improved the quality and type of images I could have taken.) In this case, my pocketable S90 (point-and-shoot) was more than enough to capture some good images. Learning some good basic skills along with learning to work within the limitations of your equipment will help with this. There’s a saying that goes something like “the best camera is the one that’s always with you.”

So, to those who ask “which camera do I use?” Now my answer is: “Whatever one is in my hand at the moment. “