Vision..

20 02 2011

Vision – It reaches beyond the thing that is, into the conception of what can be. Imagination gives you the picture. Vision gives you the impulse to make the picture your own.
Robert Collier

 

Many photographers tend to be gadget hounds. In their quest to make better pictures, they continually look for better equipment. The fact of the matter is; a good photographer with cheap gear will make better photographs than a bad photographer with the best gear. So what’s the secret behind great photographs? I believe the answer is vision.


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Understanding Shutter/Flash Sync in 9 minutes..

6 02 2011

Everything you need to know about flash sync only in 9 minutes…

Also take a moment to visit Paul Duncan blog with also lot’s of good photographic information.





Divine Composition With Fibonacci’s Ratio (The Rule of Thirds on Steroids)

5 12 2010

Its been a while i don’t post anything to the blog, really busy. After reading a post from DPS regarding the rules of third, very interesting and i should share it…

Are you a stickler for little details? Well, if you’re a photographer, you had better be. Discovering the rule of thirds is a big milestone for any photographer. Suddenly, you realize that all you ever did before was center your subject right smack dab in the middle of the frame, because that’s where the camera’s focus grid is located. Makes sense right? The rule of thirds took you to new heights in your photographic journey, moving your subject off to one side or another in your frame, or to the top or bottom. But don’t some of these photos look a bit crowded being so close to either side of the frame? Sure it works in some cases, but what if there was still another rule you could incorporate into your photographic repertoire?

Enter Fibonacci’s Ratio…

Also known as the Golden Mean, Phi, or Divine Proportion, this law was made famous by Leonardo Fibonacci around 1200 A.D. He noticed that there was an absolute ratio that appears often throughout nature, a sort of design that is universally efficient in living things and pleasing to the human eye. Hence, the “divine proportion” nickname.

Since the Renaissance, artists and architects have designed their work to approximate this ratio of 1:1.618. It’s found all over the Parthenon, in famous works of art like the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, and it’s still used today. The divine proportion has been used by companies like Apple to design products, it’s said to have been used by Twitter to create their new profile page, and has been used by major companies all over the world to design logos. It’s not talked about in most photography circles because it’s a somewhat advanced method of composition and can be confusing to a lot of people. It’s so much easier to just talk about the “rule of thirds” because it’s exact, precise and easy to follow.

This ratio can be used in many ways to compose a photograph. Lightroom 3 even has a golden ratio overlay option when you go to crop on image. This way, you can line up a grid of the golden ratio to coincide with lines or points of interest in your photograph. At this point, you may be quite confused. If you are, please take a few moments to watch any one (or all) of these videos that seek to explain this ratio.

Video 1: Natures Number: 1.618
Video 2: Nature by Numbers
Video 3: Golden Ratio

Ok, hopefully that made things a bit more clear? By now you should know that this is NOT a conspiracy theory or fuzzy math. This is a real aspect of composition that has been used by historical famous artists and architects, and Fortune 500 companies. When applied to photography, this ratio can produce aesthetically pleasing compositions that can be magnets for the human sub-conscious. When you take the sweet spot of the Fibonnaci Ratio and recreate it four times into a grid, you get what looks to be a rule of thirds grid. However, upon closer inspection you will see that this grid is not an exact splitting of the frame into three pieces. Instead of a 3 piece grid that goes 1+1+1=frame, you get a grid that goes 1+.618+1=frame. Here are a few examples a Phi grid placed over some images that I’ve used it on in the past…

In the above example, I placed the slightly more dominant eye of the horse on one of the Phi intersections. Consider that if I had placed a rule of thirds grid over this photo and lined the eye up with that, the head would be crowding the left side of the frame. In this photo, the head isn’t center, it’s not crowding either side. It’s just right, would you agree? Let’s take a look at another…

This one is slightly different. If you’re a REAL stickler for details, you may have noticed that there is a slight difference between the intersecting lines of the Phi graph, and the sweet spot of Phi itself. In this image, I made sure to align the head of my subject within the spiral and placed the left eye approximately over the sweet spot. Ok, moving on…

In this photograph, from Key West, I lined up the horizon with the top line of the Phi grid. In my opinion, when you line up the horizon with a rule of thirds grid, the separation is too…obvious. I think it would leave a bit too much of what isn’t the subject in the image. In this photo, the sky and clouds are the perfect compliment to what I’m trying to convey in the photo: The church on the bottom right, and the famous Duval street on the left. But with any more sky than is already present in the photo, the viewer might think the sky is actually the subject. Here’s one more…

In this example, I used multiple lines on the Phi grid for my final composition. I lined up the doors with both vertical lines, as well as the bottom horizontal line. This provided for a perfect amount of ceiling to lead the viewers eye to the door. Here’s a few more examples without the grid. See if you can imagine the grid over the images and determine why the image was composed the way it was.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article has shed some light on a somewhat mysterious subject in the world of photography. Fibonacci’s Ratio is a powerful tool for composing your photographs, and it shouldn’t be dismissed as a minor difference from the rule of thirds. While the grids look similar, using Phi can sometimes mean the difference between a photo that just clicks, and one that doesn’t quite feel right. I’m certainly not saying that the rule of thirds doesn’t have a place in photography, but Phi is a far superior and much more intelligent and historically proven method for composing a scene.

If you’d like to start incorporating this powerful composition tool into your photography, you’re in luck! I’ve included a PNG overlay of both the Fibonacci Spiral and the Fibonacci Grid. Just click this download link to start using them. These overlays are for use in Photoshop. Just place them into the file you are working on, then scale them to the correct size of the image.

 

original post: http://www.digital-photography-school.com/divine-composition-with-fibonaccis-ratio-the-rule-of-thirds-on-steroids#ixzz17FJHgNlS

 





Creating Mood in Photography

17 10 2010

The night will come.., originally uploaded by DinBrasco.

Over time the art of photography has changed greatly, from the Kodak Brownie to the Canon Digital series. But one thing has not changed, and that is the creativity that can be achieved.
But what separates a good photograph from a great one? Technical skill is certainly important but is by no means the determining criteria. A technically superb photograph can be emotionless and flat if care is not taken. In fact, the number one determining factor for a great photograph is mood; the emotion conveyed in one image can, and should speak to the viewer and portray what the photographer was feeling in the moment that the image was taken.

But how does one capture emotion in a photograph? What is emotion or mood? Emotion in photography is thoughts, feelings, and ideas conveyed in a split second (the instant the photo was taken) that elicit the same or similar thoughts, feelings or ideas from the viewer. Sound complicated? In some ways it is, in others it is just a matter of common sense. This article will give several suggestions and techniques to better improve the emotion of your photographs.

The first step to improving the mood of your photographs is to simply stop and look around you. What do you see? Are there people moving quickly around you? Anyone sitting still? What demeanor does that person have? Is he smiling, frowning, or watching the sunset? All of these emotions can be captured on film, and can portray entirely different moods. Different expressions, varying angles, and different viewpoints can help to achieve emotion in images.

Another effective tool for achieving mood or tone of a photograph is the use of color. Bright contrasting colors give a sharp, hard hitting mood, while soft muted colors can give a sad, nostalgic or even romantic tone.

Another way to invoke emotion is through the use of Black and white photography. Black and white is perhaps the most creative medium available in photography. It can be used to convey many tones; classy, timeless, modern, and poignant are only a few. An image shot in color might appear to be a completely different image when shot in black and white.

Another way to infuse a photograph with emotion is to pay attention to the lighting conditions. A photograph taken in low light will present a much softer, more muted tone than one taken in the midday sun. The same
principle holds true for overcast skies and low lighting indoors. Another aspect of lighting is to watch for shadows. The shadows cast during midday will be different than those of the morning or early evening.

Different types of filters can be used to convey various tones or moods as well. A diffuser filter can be used to soften edges on images, giving a romantic tone. A polarizer can make color saturation appear deeper, and colored filters used with Black and white film can make overcast skies look quite sinister. There are many different filters on the market ranging from magnifying to every color of the rainbow. There is even one that has a rainbow on it so you can add a rainbow to your landscapes.

Technical skill is certainly important, and as more and more sophisticated equipment becomes available on the market it will continue to be an important part of photography. But infusing your photographs with emotion will make your photographs all the more unique and you’ll be able to take greater pride knowing that you captured that elusive shot, that special photograph that no one else has.





Photographers Rights

27 09 2010

photographe

Photographers Rights

1. You can make a photograph of anything and anyone on any public property, except where a specific law prohibits it.

i.e. streets, sidewalks, town squares, parks, government buildings open to the public, and public libraries.

2. You may shoot on private property if it is open to the public, but you are obligated to stop if the owner requests it.

i.e. malls, retail stores, restaurants, banks, and office building lobbies.

3. Private property owners can prevent photography ON their property, but not photography OF their property from a public location.

4. Anyone can be photographed without consent when they are in a public place unless there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

i.e. private homes, restrooms, dressing rooms, medical facilities, and phone booths.

5. Despite common misconceptions, the following subjects are almost always permissible:

* accidents, fire scenes, criminal activities
* children, celebrities, law enforcement officers
* bridges, infrastructure, transportation facilities
* residential, commercial, and industrial buildings

6. Security is rarely an acceptable reason for restricting photography. Photographing from a public place cannot infringe on trade secrets, nor is it terrorist activity.

7. Private parties cannot detain you against your will unless a serious crime was committed in their presence. Those that do so may be subject to criminal and civil charges.

8. It is a crime for someone to threaten injury, detention, confiscation, or arrest because you are making photographs.

9. You are not obligated to provide your identity or reason for photographing unless questioned by a law enforcement officer and state law requires it.

10. Private parties have no right to confiscate your equipment without a court order. Even law enforcement officers must obtain one unless making an arrest. No one can force you to delete photos you have made.

These are general guidelines regarding the right to make photos and should not be interpreted as legal advice. If you need legal help, please contact a lawyer.





How to Drive Your Camera

16 09 2010

You adjust your camera the same way you drive a car. It sounds lame, but it’s very true.

You see where you are relative to the road and traffic, and adjust accordingly. It’s easy. Today I run all my cameras in Automatic, and adjust as needed to get the shots I want.

Every camera, regardless of how advanced and automatic, still requires occasional tweaking to get the best technical results just as your car requires constant steering to stay in lane. Take your hands off the wheel and you crash; ignore your camera’s tweaks and you get crappy pictures.

Better cameras require less frequent attention, but no camera can figure out what you’re trying to do all by itself all of the time, regardless of how automated it is.

Let me explain what does what, and you’ll be on your way to better photos.

Brakes and Throttle: Exposure

Exposure, how much light hits the picture, is like the brakes and throttle.

When we drive, we know how fast we’re going and we use the brakes and throttle to get us to the speed we need. It’s easy.

Setting the exposure is as easy. Today it’s usually called Exposure Compensation in camera instruction books and labeled “+/-” on the camera or in its menus.

All you do is look at your LCD (or film at the lab), and make your next shot lighter or darker as needed. That’s all there is to this; it’s simple!

This process needs to become as natural as riding the throttle to keep your desired speed up and down hills. It should become second nature so you shouldn’t have to think about it.

It is tougher with film, because you have to wait longer to see the results before you can apply them. It is exactly the same process, just with a longer delay in the loop. See also Modern Exposure.

Steering: White Balance

Steering is like setting white balance. It’s how much left or right (red or blue) you need to keep you where you need to be. Turning a corner, a big change, is like changing from Daylight to Tungsten. Small changes, like keeping yourself in the same lane, are the same as WB trims. WB trims are what gets you perfect color, and the big steps are what gets you close.

We use the same reiterative process of looking at the results and making changes for the next shot. It’s the same as adjusting the wheel as you drift out of lane.

If your shot is too red or blue, reset the WB and try again. See my white balance page for examples and explanations of which way to turn the dials.

Finer Tuning

Most cameras have many more controls for setting color saturation, contrast and more. It’s critical to play with these, too. They are usually hidden in menus with weird names.

I love wild color, so I typically crank my Nikons up to the max and my Canons up to +3 saturation. I detail what I use for each camera in their respective reviews.

Even if I usually set my cameras one way for what I usually shoot, when I shoot something different, I may change these settings, too.

Successive Approximation and Reiteration

It is critical to see what you have, and make changes as you go.

No camera is always dead-on. When I rate cameras, important to me is how often they get it right, but none does it perfectly all the time.

Many cameras constantly overexpose. No big deal; for these cameras I know to leave the exposure compensation set to -2/3 as a starting point.

It’s the same for color balance (white balance). Some cameras and films are warmer (oranger) or cooler (bluer) than I prefer, so I always set them a certain way when I start shooting.

The more you shoot, the more your experience will tell you where to leave the settings to start.

Intimacy

It is critical to be intimate with your camera, film or digital. Time and experience will enlighten you with how to set the camera for different situations even before you shoot them, since you’ve shot them before and remembered.

If you use only one camera it’s much easier to know how to set it intuitively in every condition. This is more critical with film, where you can’t instantly see how the camera’s meter responds.

Only idiots and hobbyists try to shoot with a zillion kinds of camera. This means they’re starting from scratch every time they pick a different one from their collection. It drives me crazy reviewing all the cameras I do, since it makes it difficult to know any of them in depth. Luckily with digital it’s easy to get back up to speed, but with film cameras this can be death.

Don’t be silly. The best photographers have one old camera they’ve used for years, and know it in their sleep. More important then what kind of camera you have is how well you know it.

Virtuoso musicians can get their sound on any instrument because they hear what they’re doing as they play. In photography it’s the same thing, but since we don’t have instant feedback it takes us a little longer to accustom ourselves to a new camera.

Setting the Destination: Good Photos

There is no absolute “good.” Photography is art, so whatever looks good to you is good. Know what you want, and go for it. If you don’t know what you like, have fun, and do more of what looks good to you. That’s how my style developed. Just like a mescaline-crazed fruit fly, I’m attracted to crazy colors, so I do more of them. Don’t follow anyone else, do what turns you on.

As I tried different films, digital camera settings and techniques, I liked some better or worse than others. I kept doing more of what looked good to me. It’s easy, but you need to know how and when to make changes. You also need to stick with one thing at a time to learn it. If you’re changing more than one thing at a time it makes it hard to discover anything.

When I started, I was afraid to take any setting off its default. Today, even on automatic, it’s normal under some odd conditions for me to have to dial in up to two full stops of exposure compensation, and under normal conditions to use +/- 2/3 of a stop. Don’t be gentle if your camera needs a good smack to get what you want out of it. I was too chicken as a kid to use any exposure compensation and often got crappy pictures.

Getting a technically great photo is trivial if you follow the instructions above.

Making a genuinely great photo is difficult, since you have to be in the right place at the right time and apply a whole lot more.

For instance, even with GPS navigation and Mercedes Radar-controlled cruise control that sees cars in front of you and can stop and start your car and go up to 125 MPH automatically, you still need to tell your car where you want to go.

Even these systems still can’t even keep your car in lane. Cameras are just like cars, but much more advanced, and even they can’t find a good picture all by themselves.

You still need to set the destination for your car just as you need to see the picture first for your camera. Setting the destination for a trip is like seeing a good photo as you’re walking around. It can’t be automated as the technical issues are today.





Your Camera Doesn’t Matter

16 08 2010

Morning View - Sungai Pinang Jetty

I took 12 hours starring at this photo which belong to friend of mine, realvista. I’m the ones who drag him into the real photography scene, but he a step further than me! I don’t know why, but something in there! His courage, philosophy and his expression of art. Thats make me remember to the Ken Rockwell post back to 2009 and my post on blog ‘Whats Make A Photographer a Professional’. And i really like what Ken Rockwell have told that ‘Don’t presume the most expensive gear is the best. Having too much camera equipment is the best way to get the worst photos‘. Hope this post will help you think more on Photography Itself not about gears!!

By: © 2009 Ken Rockwell

See renowned pro Chase Jarvis‘ art book, The Best Camera, shot entirely on his iPhone.See the online eork shot exclusively on his iPhone.

If you can shoot well, all you need is a disposable, toy camera or a camera phone to create great work. If you’re not talented, it doesn’t matter if you buy a Nikon D3X or Leica; your work will still be uninspired.

It’s always better to spend your time and money on learning art and photography, not by spending it on more cameras.

Why is it that with over 60 years of improvements in cameras, lens sharpness and film grain, resolution and dynamic range that no one has been able to equal what Ansel Adams did back in the 1940s?

Ansel didn’t even have Photoshop! How did he do it? Most attempts fall short, some are as good but different like Jack Dykinga, but no one is the same.

Try to tell an American he can’t, and he will: Man Uses Barbie Fishing Rod for Record Catch!

Why is it that photographers loaded with the most extraordinary gear who use the internet to get the exact GPS coordinates of Jack’s or Ansel’s photo locations and hike out there with the image in hand to ensure an exact copy (illegal by US copyright laws and common decency), that they get something that might look similar, but lacks all the impact and emotion of the original they thought they copied?

I’m not kidding. A bunch of these turkeys used university astronomers to predict the one time in almost two decades that the conditions would match and had 300 of the clueless converge at just the right spot. They still didn’t get the clouds, snow or shadows right. This makes Ansel or any other creative artist cringe. Of course they didn’t get anything like what they wanted. Art is a lot more.

Compelling photographs come from inspiration, not duplication.

Someone asked “If I got a camera with only 6 or 7 MP, can I make good pictures with it?”

That reminds me about the guy who breaks a wrist and asks his doctor: “Doctor, will I be able to play the piano after this heals?” The doctor replies “Absolutely, no problem!” The man laughs, and points out that that’s great, because he never could play the piano before!

Buying a Bösendorfer doesn’t mean you can play the piano. Buying a great camera doesn’t mean you can create compelling photographs. Good pianists can play on anything and a good photographer can make great images with a disposable camera.

As we all saw in The Blues Brothers, give Brother Ray a keyboard with a sticky action and he’ll play so movingly that the whole town will be up and dancing.

Cameras don’t take pictures, photographers do. Cameras are just another artist’s tool.

Why is it that even though everyone knows that Photoshop can be used to take any bad image and turn it into a masterpiece, that even after hours of massaging these images look worse than when one started?

Maybe because it’s entirely an artist’s eye, patience and skill that makes an image and not his tools. Even Ansel said “The single most important component
of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”

A camera catches your imagination. No imagination, no photo – just crap. The word “image” comes from the word “imagination.” It doesn’t come come from “lens sharpness” or “noise levels.” David LaChapelle’s work is all about his imagination, not his camera. Setting up these crazy shots is the hard part. Once set up, any camera could catch them. Give me David LaChapelle’s camera and I won’t get anything like he does, even if you give me the same star performers.

The only reason I have a huge lens in my photo on my home page is so I don’t have to say “photographer” or “photography.” The lens makes it obvious much quicker than words. That’s what visual communication is all about: thinking long and hard to make your point clearly and quickly. I haven’t used that huge lens in years.

Just about any camera, regardless of how good or bad it is, can be used to create outstanding photographs for magazine covers, winning photo contests and hanging in art galleries. The quality of a lens or camera has almost nothing do with the quality of images it can be used to produce.

Joe Holmes’ limited-edition 13 x 19″ prints of his American Museum of Natural History series sell at Manhattan’s Jen Bekman Gallery for $650 each. They’re made on a D70.

Another San Diego pro, Kirsten Gallon earns her living using Nikon’s two very cheapest lenses, the 18-55 and 70-300 G.

There are plenty of shows selling shots from Holgas for a lot more money, just that those folks don’t tell me about it. Holgas sell for $14.95, brand new, here. You can see an award-winning shot made with a Holga hanging in Washington, D.C.’s Hemicycle Gallery of the Corcoran Museum of Art in their 2006 Eyes of History competition of the White House News Photographers Association here.

Walker Evans once said “People always ask me what camera I use. It’s not the camera, it’s – – – ” and he tapped his temple with his index finger.

Jesus Christ’s dad Joseph built a masterpiece of a wooden staircase in a church in New Mexico in 1873, and does anyone care what tools he used? Search all you want, you’ll find plenty of scholarly discussion but never of the tools.

Your equipment DOES NOT affect the quality of your image. The less time and effort you spend worrying about your equipment the more time and effort you can spend creating great images. The right equipment just makes it easier, faster or more convenient for you to get the results you need.

“Any good modern lens is corrected for maximum definition at the larger stops. Using a small stop only increases depth…” Ansel Adams, June 3, 1937, in a reply to Edward Weston asking for lens suggestions, page 244 of Ansel’s autobiography. Ansel made fantastically sharp images seventy years ago without wasting time worrying about how sharp his lenses were. With seventy years of improvement we’re far better off concentrating on making stunning photos than photographing test charts. Of course these large format lenses of the 1930s and today are slow, about f/5.6 typically. Small format and digital lenses work best at about 2 stops down.

Buying new gear will NOT improve your photography. For decades I thought “if I only had that new lens” that all my photo wants would be satisfied. Nope. I still want that “one more lens,” and I’ve been shooting for over 30 years. There is always one more lens. Get over it. See “The Station” by Robert J. Hastings, as published in “Dear Abby” in 1999, for a better explanation.

The camera’s only job is to get out of the way of making photographs.

Ernst Haas commented on this in a workshop in 1985:

Two laddies from Nova Scotia had made a huge effort to be there and were great Leica fans, worked in a camera store, saved to have them and held Ernst on high for being a Leica user (although he used Nikons on his Marlboro shoots, when the chips were down).

About four days into the workshop, he finally maxxed out on the Leica adoration these kids displayed, and in the midst of a discussion, when one of them asked one more question aimed at establishing the superiority of Wetzlar, Ernst said, “Leica, schmeica.  The camera doesn’t make a bit of difference.  All of them can record what you are seeing.  But, you have to SEE.”

Nobody talked about Leica, Nikon, Canon or any other brand of camera equipment for the rest of the workshop.

He also said, “Best wide-angle lens?  ‘Two steps backward’ and ‘look for the ah-ha’.”

(This Haas anecdote comes from Murad Saÿen, the famous photographer from Oxford, Maine over whom people are all abuzz. Many say he emerged from the back woods as a cross between Eliot Porter and Henri Cartier Bresson. I found at least three websites claiming to be Haas’ official one here and here.)

You can see some of the world’s best photography here by a fellow who says the same thing here. Here’s another load of data which also confirms why owning more lenses just makes worse photos. I made these B/W photos here with a 50 year old $3 box camera more primitive than today’s disposables.

Andreas Feininger (French, b. 1905 – d. 1999), said “Photographers — idiots, of which there are so many — say, “Oh, if only I had a Nikon or a Leica, I could make great photographs.” That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard in my life. It’s nothing but a matter of seeing, thinking, and interest. That’s what makes a good photograph. And then rejecting anything that would be bad for the picture. The wrong light, the wrong background, time and so on. Just don’t do it, not matter how beautiful the subject is.”

People know cars don’t drive themselves, typewriters don’t write novels by themselves and that Rembrandt’s brushes didn’t paint by themselves. So why do some otherwise intelligent people think cameras drive around and make pictures all by themselves? The most advanced, exotic and expensive car can’t even stay in the same lane on the freeway by itself, much less drive you home. No matter how advanced your camera you still need to be responsible for getting it to the right place at the right time and pointing it in the right direction to get the photo you want. Every camera requires you to make manual adjustments now and then as well, regardless of how advanced it is. Never blame a camera for not knowing everything or making a wrong exposure or fuzzy image.

Even a good driver in a crummy car like a Geo Metro can escape from multi-car police chases in broad daylight. It’s the driver, not the car. Read that one here.

Here’s how I came to discover this:

When it comes to the arts, be it music, photography, surfing or anything, there is a mountain to be overcome. What happens is that for the first 20 years or so that you study any art you just know that if you had a better instrument, camera or surfboard that you would be just as good as the pros. You waste a lot of time worrying about your equipment and trying to afford better. After that first 20 years you finally get as good as all the other world-renowned artists, and one day when someone comes up to you asking for advice you have an epiphany where you realize that it’s never been the equipment at all.

You finally realize that the right gear you’ve spent so much time accumulating just makes it easier to get your sound or your look or your moves, but that you could get them, albeit with a little more effort, on the same garbage with which you started. You realize the most important thing for the gear to do is just get out of your way. You then also realize that if you had spent all the time you wasted worrying about acquiring better gear woodshedding, making photos or catching more rides that you would have gotten where you wanted to be much sooner.

I met Phil Collins at a screening in December 2003. It came out that people always recognize his sound when they hear it. Some folks decided to play his drums when he walked away during a session, and guess what? It didn’t sound like him. Likewise, on a hired kit (or “rented drum set” as we say in the USA) Phil still sounds like Phil. So do you still think it’s his drums that give him his sound?

A fan from Michigan teaches auto racing at a large circuit. The daughter of one of his students wanted to come learn. She flew out and showed up at the track in an rented Chevy Cavalier. She outran the other students, middle aged balding guys with Corvettes and 911s. Why? Simple: she paid attention to the instructor and was smooth and steady and took the right lines, not posing while ham-fisting a lot of horsepower to try to make up for patience and skill. The dudes were really ticked, especially that they were outrun by a GIRL, and a 16 year old one at that.

Sure, if you’re a pro driver you’re good enough to elicit every ounce of performance from a car and will be limited by its performance, but if you’re like most people the car, camera, running shoes or whatever have little to nothing to do with your performance since you are always the defining factor, not the tools.

Catch any virtuoso who’s a complete master of their tools away from his or her sponsors and they’ll share this with you.

So why do the artists whose works you admire tend to use fancy, expensive tools if the quality of the work is the same? Simple:

1.) Good tools just get out of the way and make it easier to get the results you want. Lesser tools may take more work.
2.) They add durability for people who use these tools hard all day, every day.
3.) Advanced users may find some of the minor extra features convenient. These conveniences make the photographer’s life easier, but they don’t make the photos any better.
4.) Hey, there’s nothing wrong with the best tools, and if you have the money to blow why not? Just don’t ever start thinking that the fancy tools are what created the work.

So why do I show snaps of myself with a huge lens on my pages? Simple: it saves me from having to say “Ken Rockwell Photography,” which sounds lame and takes up more space. The big camera gets the message across much better and faster so I can just say “Ken Rockwell.”

Here are photos made by a guy in the Philipines – with a cell phone camera!

One last example: I bought a used camera that wouldn’t focus properly. It went back to the dealer a couple of times for repair, each time coming back the same way. As an artist I knew how to compensate for this error, which was a pain because I always had to apply a manual offset to the focus setting. In any case, I made one of my very favorite images of all time while testing it. This image here has won me all sorts of awards and even hung in a Los Angeles gallery where an original Ansel Adams came down and this image was hung. When my image came down Ansel went right up again. Remember, this was made with a camera that was returned to the dealer which they agreed was unrepairable.

The important part of that image is that I stayed around after my friends all blew off for dinner, while I suspected we were going to have an extraordinary sky event (the magenta sky, just like the photo shows.) I made a 4 minute exposure with a normal lens. I could have made it on the same $3 box camera that made the B/W images here and it would have looked the same.

Likewise, I occasionally get hate mail and phone calls from guys (never women) who disagree with my personal choice of tools. They take it personally just because I prefer something different than they do. Like anyone cares? These folks mean well, they probably just haven’t made it past that mountain and still think that every tool has some absolute level of goodness, regardless of the application. They consider tools as physical extensions of their body so of course they take it personally if I poke fun of a certain tool as not being good for what I’m doing. For instance, the Leica collectors here have a real problem with this page. All gear has different values depending on what you want to do with it. What’s great for you may not be for me, and vice-versa.

Just about any camera, regardless of how good or bad it is, can be used to create outstanding photographs for magazine covers, winning photo contests and hanging in art galleries. The quality of a lens or camera has almost nothing do with the quality of images it can be used to produce.

You probably already have all the equipment you need, if you’d just learn to make the best of it. Better gear will not make you any better photos, since the gear can’t make you a better photographer.

Photographers make photos, not cameras.

It’s sad how few people realize any of this, and spend all their time blaming poor results on their equipment, instead of spending that time learning how to see and learning how to manipulate and interpret light.

Buying newer cameras will ensure you get the same results you always have. Education is the way to better images, not more cameras.

Don’t blame anything lacking in your photos on your equipment. If you doubt this, go to a good photo museum or photo history book and see the splendid technical quality people got 50 or 100 years ago. The advantage of modern equipment is convenience, NOT image quality. Go look at the B/W images in my Death Valley Gallery. Look sharp to you? They were made on a 50 year old fixed-focus, fixed exposure box camera for which I paid $3. This camera is more primitive than today’s disposables.

I have made technically and artistically wonderful images on a $10 camera I bought at Goodwill, and have turned out a lot of crap with a $10,000 lens on my motor driven Nikon.

The great Edward Steichen photographed Isadora Duncan at the Acropolis, Athens in 1921. He used a Kodak borrowed from the head waiter at his hotel. The images are, of course, brilliant. Steichen had not taken his own camera because the original plan had been to work only with movie equipment. This image was on display at The Whitney in 2000 – 2001.

You need to learn to see and compose. The more time you waste worrying about your equipment the less time you’ll have to put into creating great images. Worry about your images, not your equipment.

Everyone knows that the brand of typewriter (or the ability to fix that typewriter) has nothing to do with the ability to compose a compelling novel, although a better typewriter may make typing a little more pleasant. So why do so many otherwise reasonable people think that what sort of camera one has, or the intimate knowledge of shutter speeds, lens design or camera technology has anything do with the ability to create an interesting photo other than catering to the convenience of the photographer?

“…anytime I go anywhere with a camera, whether it be my top-of-the-line pro body with fifteen lenses and smart flash or a simple point-and-shoot, I might take the best photograph of my life. If, however, I trapped myself into believing that success of my style would only come through in the grainless technical perfection of a cumbersome larger format or the heady fine art of a preconceptualized composition, then I would lose much of the magic that drew me to photography in the first place.” Galen Rowell.

Just as one needs to know how to use a typewriter to compose a script, one does need to know how to operate a camera to make photos, but that’s only a tiny part of the process. Do you have any idea what brand of computer or software I used to create what you’re reading right now? Of course not, unless you read my about page. It matters to me, but not to you, the viewer. Likewise, no one who looks at your pictures can tell or cares about what camera you used. It just doesn’t matter.

Knowing how to do something is entirely different from being able to do it at all, much less do it well.

We all know how to play the piano: you just press the keys and step on the pedals now and then. The ability to play it, much less the ability to stir emotion in those who hear your playing, is an entirely different matter.

Don’t presume the most expensive gear is the best. Having too much camera equipment is the best way to get the worst photos.

The more expensive cameras and lenses don’t do much of anything significant for the huge increases in price.