Gear Is Good – Vision Is Better

Bald Eagle Photo by Scott Bourne

Gear Is Good – Vision Is Better

I want to share some quick thoughts about gear and perspective. Not lens perspective – read on…

I am on the wrong side of 60 years old. But all is not lost. There are some advantages to getting old (besides discounts at the buffet and movie theater.) New research shows that the aging process actually improves certain abilities: Older people appear to be better and faster at grasping the big picture than young people. How is this relevant to photography?

No play on words – I am better at seeing the “big picture” than I used to be. No doubt about it. I have a firmer grasp on what’s important. And what’s important is getting out there with my camera, every chance I get – and making compelling photos that protect memories and tell stories.

Screen Shot 2019-02-07 at 6.52.54 AM

The photo you see attached to this post was made about six years ago. It was during my initial investigation into mirrorless cameras. This picture is from a camera that most of the forum experts would denounce. A lowly consumer/ prosumer camera with a consumer grade lens. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 with an Olympus 75-300 f/4.8 – 6.7 lens.

Bald Eagle Photo by Scott Bourne

As I listen to the people on the camera forums – I hear that you need better (bigger) sensors. You need better DOF. You need better low-light capability. Etc. I agree that some of those things are nice to have, certainly not required, but I will quote David duChemin:

“Gear is good – vision is better.”

The guys in the camera forums aren’t always right. This photo has been licensed half a dozen times, despite the fact that it is from a 16MP camera with a smaller sensor using a consumer-grade lens.

Please read carefully – I agree that good gear is — good! Would I have preferred to have an Olympus OM-D E-M1X back then? You bet. But pay attention to this second part – that didn’t stop me from being happy about the chance to make a portrait of this beautiful bald eagle surveying the Alaskan scenery. If you can’t afford (or justify the purchase of) the latest and greatest camera gear – so what?

Amateur photographers spend WAY too much time obsessing over gear and using their lack of it as an excuse to sit on the couch instead of going out into the world to tell stories with whatever camera they have. Please don’t fall into that trap. I’d rather see you brag about a great photo that you made than the gear you used to make it.

Photography is such a gift to you to me and the world. Go do more of it and spend less time fretting about gear on the camera forums. You will be happier and the world will be better off.

Thanks for listening.

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11 Responses

  1. As another photographer “on the wrong side of 70”, I couldn’t agree more. When photographers try to talk you into buying their type of camera (instead of you seeing them use it and seeing the results), you know it’s time to move the discussion on to other things. And I agree 1000% that photography is such a joyful gift. But today when it’s 15° with blowing snow, I’ll have to settle with sticking my 300mm lens out the back door and hoping for a few birds to linger by.

  2. Very true Scott, and I’ll be joining you on the wrong side of 60 in a couple more months. When I go to workshops they ask what do you hope to get out of this. My answer is always the same, to be able to see things better, I haven’t need technical help in years. But after 10 years of this I’m still in the process of learning to see the scene. I actually love working with other photographers, they see things differently than me and by that I learn to expand what I see.

    Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t lust after a new E-M1X. Ironically I may put off upgrading to the E-M1X because I may get the opportunity to go to South Africa and Australia if things work out.

    As always, I enjoy your direct no nonsense posts.

  3. Refreshing insight and encouragement to just get out and shoot to improve your vision rather than the noise of improving your gear. Thanks!

  4. I will be 64 this summer and I have not taken a lot of photos in the last 2yrs. No real reason. Maybe I think I’m not as capable although I am in pretty good physical shape. I need to get my butt out there and start shooting more. This article certainly gives me that motivation. Thanks.

  5. Very true. When we stop obsessing about gear, and concentrate on vision, our photography will improve. I have a friend who is a gearhead and I think his photos suffer for his unfamiliarity with all his various cameras and lenses. His photos do not improve with the latest and greatest camera gear. I’m working on improving my photographs and my vision, not my gear collection. 🙂

  6. I could not agree more Scott! You can’t get better by sitting on the couch, get out and shoot! People have to stop saying, “I don’t have a full frame camera”, it’s crap. Get out and shoot with what you have, have fun while you’re doing it and you will get better!

  7. Agreed. I’ve seen amazing photos taken with an iPhone, DSLR, mirrorless, you name it. Given the right vision, any camera can take amazing photos. Of course some cameras have more limitations than others. Gear matters to an extent, but it’s just a tool. Vision is super important! You can have the best camera, and still take bad photos because the vision isn’t there.

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