Lately I have been thinking about how my photography has changed, and particularly in the last two years or so. So here is my story:
After losing one of my film cameras on a trip to Tunisia nine years ago, I decided to buy a digital point and shoot. I travelled to several countries with it as my main camera until one day back in 2008 I decided to buy a second hand dslr. I used that camera, one of those Canon Rebels, for over six years and I only had one lense, the 18-55mm. I was interested in learning how to make photographs; I wanted to see how the aperture and the shutter affected my images and wanted to focus on being able to see the world with just that one lense. After all, you don't need much in order to make an image, right?
Last year I attended a photography course to consolidate what I had taught myself over the years. My professor saw the images I had taken and was quite surprised to see that I had been using such a simple combination of gear and a few basic ideas of post processing in Lightroom to create those pictures. The shutter release of my camera had it's own life, it was so loose...he was amazed. All those years I knew that I could buy a new camera body or a new lense, but I just wanted to learn how things worked first. So he somehow made me realize that I had outgrown the possibilities of what I had and that it was time to save for something new. So, after several months of work, I was able to fund a full frame camera which performs really well in low light conditions which is really useful in landscape photography. My Canon 6D totally changed the way I made photographs. I was very pleased with the quality of my RAW files and all the possibilities that I had with my 24-105mm lense. I totally fell in love with the wide angle and all that I could fit in my 35mm sensor, so I wanted more, something wider than a 24mm, so a couple of months later, right before our trip to Iceland, I got the 17-40mm lense. I am not concerned about my starting aperture being 4, because as a landscape photographer I can work just fine with the variable of time, and as you see in my work, I'm quite addicted to long exposure photography anyways. So just with a camera, tripod, two wide angle zoom lenses and several filters I went off on an incredible trip to Iceland and came back with some of my favorite photographs which became part of my landscape portfolio.
I couldn't be happier, my photography had totally changed and I was paying more attention to the pictures I was taking. Before, I would come back with thousands of photos and I used to choose 200 out of them as my final selection. Now, however, I take the time to compose, I choose what time of the day to shoot and I have become more picky when I select what to post process. It was a matter of learning what makes a good photograph. Also visiting art galeries and taking the time to look at other photographers work, for me all of that, including the changes in my camera backpack have had a huge impact on my photography.
However, I soon realized that I didn't want to carry all those things in my bag whenever I decided to go out to shoot or scout for new locations. Having all that gear slowed me down, not just because of the weight, but because I had the possibility to choose. I wasn't used to that, I had worked with film and digital cameras with just one lense and I was not used to being able to choose, after all that was all I had. So I started looking at something that I could carry with me all day in my bag, and that's when I decided to get a Canon G16 as an everyday companion.
However, months later I decided that it wasn't exactly what I had expected. Yes, I had a small camera that I could carry in my bag which was able to shoot RAW files and I could work with in full manual mode. And yes, it still it makes me feel happier than shooting with my phone, but I guess I don't feel as excited when I import the photos to my computer. So, this particular camera has become a replacement of my phone. Just that. I take it to work in case I see something interesting that catches my attention or just for the daily snapshots of family and friends. Sometimes it also helps me when I go to search new locations and I use it to try out different compositions. However, as I said before, I feel that it has some limitations for the kind of photography that I make and therefore it has a specific purpose in my bag.
So, as I was saying before, several months passed and I realized that it wasn't exactly what I had expected when I bought the little Canon, so I began to do a little bit of research again...something I had never done before. I wanted to have a camera with me all the time but I was getting frustrated with the gear I had. It seemed like gear had become more important than my photographs...I guess I kept looking and came across the Fujifilm Xpro 1. Apparently this camera had been on the market for several years but I didn't care. I was excited by the images, the colors, the textures and just the quality that the camera produced, so I found a good deal on the body with two lenses the 35mm 1.4 and the 18-55mm kit lense. I wasn't interested in having the latest body of the brand, I just wanted to do something specific with it, and yeah, the Fuji was and is good enough for it. I nailed it! Yes, it may have a slow autofocus, and it may not have all the latest features (which by the way, this is not something that I look for in a camera) but the quality I got the first day I took it out made me smile and feel really happy.
So the Fuji was essential in our last trip to the US and Canada. Whenever I wanted to take the time to compose, work more on the image, do long exposures, make the effort to get something portfolio like, I used to carry the big dslr with all the extra gear I usually use to shoot landscape photographs. Other times, like when we wanted to walk around NYC all day long, I used to take my Fuji and still manage to get "useful" shots.
Just recently, I decided to limit myself to one camera and one focal length. I don't usually carry more than one lense anyways, but it's usually the zoom lense cause you never know what you may find. So working with one focal length has been interesting because it made me think about my composition, it made me zoom with my feet and overall, think in a totally different way.
So as you see, whenever I am looking into getting a new piece of gear, I am trying to look for a purpose for it in my bag. In two years, my backpack has changed completely and I use every single thing it's in there, it just depends what do I want to do on that day. The mirrorless isn't going to replace my dslr, because I use each of them for a specific reason. I don't have the intention to change systems so far (ask me in a couple of years), although I have to admit that I love what I am creating with the Fuji and how comfortable it is to use it...and yes, to be honest, I may have started to look at something else...dejavu...and there goes all over again...but that will come in a new blog post.
I just try to remember that all I need is a camera and a lense, because the rest is outside my door waiting for me to explore it. And in my case it is true that sometimes I want all the accessories and gear to produce work, and other times, I just want to create memories and explore with a simple tool that still will get the job done.
What about you? What is your experience?