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You're in Control

Galen Rowell observed in one of his books that "99 percent of the world's cameras are capable of taking publishable pictures, yet most of the world's photographs aren't publishable quality." It's not the camera that makes the photograph, it's the photographer.

I generally recommend that people buy the best camera and lenses they can afford which might seem like a contradiction given the topic at hand. If the photographer makes the photo, it might seem as if any camera would do. But if for no other reason, having the best tools you can means you can't use your camera as an excuse. Not that having a lesser camera means you necessarily will have a harder time getting good shots, or that it means you can blame your gear when you don't of course. But it is nice having a camera that doesn't get in your way.

What you want is to have as little as you can between you and your subject. That means first and foremost being familiar with the camera you do have. You need to be able to change lenses without thinking about it. You have to be able to adjust aperture and shutter speed as if by second nature.

Quick, which control knob on your camera adjusts the aperture? Which direction do you turn it to open up the lens? If you don't know, you should. Fumbling with your gear when the light is changing quickly wastes time. The camera may be the best camera Nikon or Canon makes, but you have to know how to use it. Even the best camera is useless without someone who knows how to press the shutter release.

Tripods often confuse the inexperienced. The first one I owned starting out had the legendary Bogen 3047 pan-tilt head on top. It had separate knobs to control the three possible axes of movement. I bought it based on recommendations and because it seemed like it would afford the ultimate in control, limiting movement only in the direction I wanted. It turned out though to be a disaster since all three knobs were identical and I was always loosening the wrong knob. I found that a good ball head allowed me to work much faster with more assurance so my old Bogen got replaced by an Arca-Swiss, and then later still by a Markins ball. Sometimes you only learn these sorts of lessons when you're out in the field shooting, but as much as possible it's good to familiarize yourself at home, where the consequences of messing up are lower.

Take the time to read the instruction manual that came with each piece of photo equipment you own. Academic knowledge is no substitute for practical experience with a piece of equipment, but it gives you a solid foundation to start from. If you still need the manual by the time you get on location, you didn't study it enough before you left home.

The more years you spend honing your craft, the more experienced you will likely become. Whether you've been doing this for years or are just starting out, your photos are your photos. The camera is just a tool.

You're in control. Use it wisely.

Date posted: November 25, 2012


Copyright © 2012 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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The Myth of Being Born with It
You Must Have a Really Good Camera

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