I was on the train once looking at some 4×6 machine prints I had just picked up of my vacation when the woman sitting next to me commented “those are beautiful! what sort of camera did you use to take those?” I reached into my pocket and pulled out an Olympus point and shoot and exclaimed “this one”. “Oh” she replied with surprise. That was it, nothing more was spoken between us for the rest of the trip.

Non Photographers have always given the camera more credit than it deserves but what photographers who’ve been working for a while learn is that cameras are just tools, and more important than tools, knowledge and working methods make for good photography.Every craftsman learns to choose and use their tools to realize what they want. Like most photographers my tools change according to what I’m working on.

Cameras for me seem to change like the cells in your body, every seven years  or so they are replaced.  This can be a serious financial hardship for all but the rich and famous, but for the rest of us,  the advent of Ebay was the great equalizer. Ebay and the shift to digital photography have benefited large format fine art photographers by making photo equipment that was financially beyond reach a few years ago available for a fraction of what it once cost.

Since starting this blog I am again getting that lady on the train question as well as “how do I take pictures like yours?”  So for everyone out there that cares and my insurance company just in case, here’s the equipment I use besides my Android based smartphone which gets used a lot. I use a Lumix digital point and shoot, a 35mm Leica M4 with Summicron M 35mm 2.0 and 50mm 2.0 lenses, a Lumix G1 digital with 14-42mm and 45-200mm zoom lenses and it takes the Leica M lenses with an adapter. I work with three large format cameras, a 4×5 Linhof Kardan Lt, an Ebony 45S and a 5×7 Shen Hoa. and lenses ranging from 65mm to 400mm.

My method for shooting the kinds of subject matter I’m interested in is this: If I have all the time in the world, I’m not on private property and I find a place to park reasonably close to where I want to set up, I use a tripod. When I can’t,  I window mount the Ebony(which I have found works best for this method) use a 3′ cable release and a small mirror to see the controls on the lens. My film holders, focusing loupe and exposure meter sit next to me on the passenger seat. While exposing I remain still as to not rock the car’s suspension.

So, want to achieve excellent results? Stop thinking about the camera.  I know, digital photography enables you to shoot away with reckless abandon, driving your percentage of good pictures up, but unless you know what you’re looking to achieve, it’s still a crap shoot. Learn as much as possible and be thoughtful and fastidious in your methods. Reads like a fortune cookie doesn’t it?

 

 

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