It’s the Photographer, Not the Equipment

Camera Equipment. The Never-ending Quest!

For many years now, I’ve been a person who’s been caught up in the equipment game… partly because my father – a frequent traveller to european countries – is an equipment enthusiast and for as long as I can remember, has always brought home classic cameras like the Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super B, the Hasselblad 500c, the Canon AE-1, the Yashica FX3, and some decent cameras like the Minolta X700 and the Minolta X7A. He used to buy these cameras and marvel at the quality of the construction, the ingenuity of the makers and the remarkable optics. The pictures that these cameras took were also remarkable…

Then I got my own camera for the first time… as a present. It was a Carena, a Taiwan-made camera that my father bought in Hong Kong. One that looked exactly like the Minolta X7A and later on, one of my father’s 2 Zeiss Ikons, a camera that I’d been eyeing for a while…

Well, I started taking more pictures than before (which was still not many). Now, some of those pictures were good, and some of them were bad… I especially had a tough time understanding on-camera flash and messed up entire rolls of film with that on both of my cameras…

Beautiful RelicsYears later, after working with film in the dark room, and a whole lot of ‘gowing up’, I bought myself a Nikon F3 that I’d had my eye on for quite a while. I spent about Rs. 10,000 (~ USD 200) on it and I was suddenly taking much nicer pictures… unfortunately I don’t have any of these digitised or I’d actually be able to convince you!

So, now where am I going with all this? Where’s the tip? I’m getting to it, don’t rush!

Better Camera = Better Pictures?

Well, not really. My buddy Umesh had just an Electro 35 GTN Rangefinder camera and created great images when I was messing them up back in college! He still uses his tiny Sony P-72 to create great pictures!

What I’ve found is that with time, my understanding of the principles of photography have grown… especially my understanding and appreciation of the principles of composition, lighting and design. Allowing me to take better pictures “in my mind”.

Previsualisation

Let’s back-up a Moment… I’m Taking Pictures in my Mind?

Well, not literally, but yes, that’s where they start off… When I’m looking through the viewfinder or just looking at a scene, I imagine it the way I want to see it. Ansel Adams, the master of the Zone system called this Previsualisation. You imagine the picture the way it can be finally, and then expose, develop and print it to achieve that previsualised image. So where does the gear get into the picture? Simple answer… It doesn’t! your equipment is just a tool in aiding the process of previsualisation. It makes the job simpler. It does not define what you previsualise… It just helps you attain what you have previsualised.

Let me put it this way, its not the brushes that make a work of art! Its the artist! If anything, a well balanced brush will make is easier for the artist to paint the picture, but the brush does not make the picture itself, its the artist. The same applies for photography. You may have just a Sony P-72, but you can still make stunning pictures!

Previz? Here’s an example

[on the banks of the cauveri] [forgotten wayside temple] Now lets see, these two pictures to the left… They did not start out that way. They started out being plain old dull pictures, but when I took the photographs, I knew that i was going to tone them in this particular fashion. I also knew that i was going to remove almost all detail in the darker areas and make them silhouettes… I did all this with the RAW file format. No Photoshop. Read my previous post to learn a bit more about RAW.

In the good old days, such toning, dodging and burning would be done in the dark room. Today its done in Photoshop or an equivalent photo editor. Its all a part of the evolution of photography so do try to learn how to use these new tools. In the end, that’s what they are… tools made for you to accomplish what you see in your mind’s eye.

Happy previz, shooting and post production! 😉