Hey, what camera did you use to take that picture?
That's a question that I am often asked at my shows. Years ago I might have jumped right in and told them about the equipment, though recently I have taken a different approach. I, in turn, ask them a question:
What kind of brushes did Monet use to paint
Often that question will perplex the person, but it opens the door to the concept that it's not the camera or equipment (in general) as much as the photographer and what he or she brings to the photograph. Cameras don't have visions.
Yes, good equipment is very important and I will admit that
I love the technical aspect of photography as much as most other people (and I come from a technical / engineering
background). But we will be better photographers if we spend more time concentrating on the art of photography
rather than so much on the science. Content is more important than minor technical nuances.
OK, so we all know (at least deep down) that creating great photographs isn't about what camera we use. Right? Well, truth is, many photographers enjoy the hardware more than the actual process of making photographs, and we know that you are going to ask anyway, so we'll go ahead and tell you. Just remember it's not the camera but the photographer that creates the photograph. Cameras, lenses and film (and now digital storage media) are tools that allow us to create. And some of them are works of art themselves. And, yes, having equipment capable of producing high quality images is very important.
Don's mainstay camera system for most of his landscape, scenic,
commercial and people work is the Fuji 680 2 1/4" (6x8, 6x7 and now 6x4.5 cm) SLR system. Although this system
is not very well known or often seen in use in the field (it was designed as a studio system), it is a wonderful
interchangeable lens, interchangeable bellows system SLR with view-camera front-standard movements and motorized
roll film backs. Don was frustratingly introduced to this camera by John Haley one early morning at the shores
of Mono Lake. Don was photographing with his 4x5 and John with his Fuji 680. The pre-sunrise radial light was amazing
and changing so quickly. John was able to easily capture frame after frame of this wonderful brilliance, while
Don was able to capture only small number of images as he worked his view camera in near darkness. After a repeat
performance that evening and then again the next morning, upon return from his trip Don purchased a Fuji 680 system
. The camera system has proven to be a reliable and trustworthy friend, with excellent optics and, unfortunately,
bulk and weight. It is also not light on the pocketbook. When the
Fuji 680 is too bulky or heavy for some field work and tilt is not a
requirement, Don is also using a Mamiya 7 6x7cm systems and loves
the extremely sharp optics, quietness and lightness of the
The gear gets carried around in several different LowePro camera bags, depending on the mode of travel and the conditions. Main bags are the Pro Trekker AW, the Photo Trekker AW, and the Omni series for really wet brutal conditions. He has just added components from the new, ever-flexible Street and Field system.
Tripods. Don has upgraded tripods from the old friend, a Gitzo 341 to a Gitzo carbon fiber tripod with an Arca Swiss B-1 or a StudioBall head. For lighter travel, he uses a Gitzo 226 tripod with an Arca B-1 head and for "getting' down in the dirt" (aka macro) he uses a Gitzo like the 341 but a 2 series and very short legs and an Aractech ball head. Don also uses the Kirk window mount, Kirk King Cobra gimbal mount (the only type of head when shooting long lenses!) and quick release plates.
Always a big question at workshops and shows. I have just
a few films that I use on a regular basis. As with cameras, film is a tool and each has its own characteristics
and an appropriate application.