Sunday, August 14, 2016

It's not about the gear, except when it is

No matter how technique, all about the image, a photographer may be. He or she inevitably talks about gear. I fall somewhere in the middle, as I love to try new or different gear. While I understand that ultimately it's the person making the decisions about how the gear is used which determines the outcome of the photo. I also understand that having the right gear makes getting that photo a lot easier. Also, certain gear is part of what develops the photographer's style over time. Certain lenses, lighting, or some combination of both are a key part of developing a "look" specific to a particular photographer.

For a very long time, I shot with Canon gear. As I could afford it, I upgraded my way through their camera line. Starting with Rebels, working my way through full frame 5D bodies, ultimately landing in Canon's 1D series. 1D bodies not only are capable of stunning images, but they can also hold up my Jeep on a trail for tire change. 1D's are built that tough. Sometime 2-3 years ago, several friends of mine who I regard as the best of the best photographers started switching to Fuji mirrorless cameras. The draw being that the Fuji gear is capable of the same image quality as the professional Canon and Nikon gear. At a fraction of the gear weight. Having just come off of con season, where the weight of carrying a Canon 1Ds mk2 and Canon 1D mk3, plus three pro DSLR lenses had really worn me down. The thought of being able to carry much lighter gear and still maintain my image quality was very appealing.

The very last week of 2013, I received a Fuji X-E1 with a Fuji 18-55mm and Fuji 35mm 1.4. What I quickly discovered was three things. Fuji is indeed very capable of delivering incredible photos, Fuji doesn't have a bad lens in it's lineup, and that none of the gear I bought was right for me. So, I did what I do with gear, bought and sold to get Fuji gear which best fit how I liked to shoot. Which is the near standard prime trinity. 24mm, 85mm, and 135mm. 35mm is the norm for that trio over 24mm, but 24mm is what I had come to love shooting.

This presented a problem, as Fuji was still developing it's lens lineup. Fuji is brilliant about offering focal lengths in lenses which when multiplied by the crop factor of the Fuji sensor, gives the focal lengths people are used to shooting on full frame DSLRs. The problem I had was that none of my focal lengths were available yet. Which led me to going through gear like an addict trying to make things work. Finally last year Fuji released a 24mm equivalent 16mm 1.4, and 135mm equivalent 90mm f2. Of course my making things work had changed my style some, as well as the type of events I shoot changed more towards the con/event opposed to weddings and portraits.

I enjoyed the 16mm and 90mm along with the 85mm equivalent 56mm 1.2 for a short time. Some critiques made me realize that my work was not up to it's normal standards. The suggestion was made that maybe it was time to try zooms for my work since Fuji now had 24-70mm and 70-200mm equivalent 2.8 zooms available. So I switched out to the Fuji 16-55 and 50-140 zooms. My work got a little better. More importantly, I realized why my work had gotten worse in the first place. I also realized that there was something different missing from my work now with the zooms, which I did not like. Again, doing what I do, I found a buyer for both zooms and re acquired two of my favorite focal lenses, the 16mm 1.4 and 56mm 1.2.

I am only going with two lenses to get back to the simplicity in shooting which comes from only having two lenses that my friend Mark Schueler always talked about with me. It feels like a coming home. Comfortable and familiar. Now armed with the knowledge and experience gained from the past year, I feel like I am finally at a place where my photography can improve.

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