Photography Has Nothing To Do With Cameras

"Photography has nothing to do with cameras." ~ Lucas Gentry

We had been up since before dawn, walking through Yosemite valley to the trailhead by the light of our headlamps. Climbing up the steep sides of the granite hills basked in the rising sun, our planning and effort was rewarded with commanding views of the valley below us, and spectacular formations of the high country, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls. Before moving on, we paused to take a picture. We wanted to remember this moment, its beauty, and share it with others. We lined up the shot, making sure to capture everyone's faces without blocking the incredible scale of the surrounding landmarks. Not five feet away from us was another family doing the same, except they were facing the wrong way. Their orientation meant that their picture would capture their family, yes, but in the background would be the dark green and gray hillside, completely missing the beauty all around them.

I share this story for a few reasons. First, I have been perplexed by it, even haunted, ever since. If someone can explain what, if any, logic there is in taking a picture of family and friends overlooking a world famous site and not including any of the famous landmark, please do. Second, this isn't the only time I've experienced this. You know what I'm about to say. You finally find someone you've judged looks nice enough based solely on outward appearance that you trust them enough to hand them your camera and ask if they could take your picture. You get in position, they fumble around and ask if the camera is turned on, then awkwardly take a few pictures and hand the camera back asking "is it ok?" You knew instantly based on where they were standing and pointing the camera that they didn't frame the picture right, nor use the right settings to avoid washing out the entire picture, but you smile and say it looks great because it isn't worth the hassle to try to explain the details that go in to taking good pictures.

Finally, I share this story because it proves, in an exaggerated manner, that capturing stunning images truly has very little to do with the equipment used to do so. A stunning image is created through planning, scouting an area, researching the weather and potential light at certain hours of the day, preparing for the perfect moment, and of course, luck. All of these elements have nothing to do with how expensive your camera is. But no, you say, your smartphone simply will never measure up to a DSLR’s massive sensor and library of features. True, but even smartphone cameras of today are infinitely better than standalone cameras of ten years ago, and both are useless if pointed in the wrong direction. Similarly, an artist’s brush, or a sculptor’s chisel, are useless in my hands, but in Michelangelo’s they produce the finest art the world has ever seen. My point is this: there are very few shots that the average photographer is going to take which require the complexity of a high-end camera. How often will you need a telephoto lens to zoom hundreds of yards on a white Himalayan tiger?…In the vast majority of cases, an amazing shot requires a good eye, some good planning, and a lot of luck. The camera is secondary. So if you want that amazing shot, save yourself some money, and instead do the work and preparation.

Again, I quote, "photography has nothing to do with cameras." ~ Lucas Gentry