Camera and equipment is for photographers what air tanks, suits, goggles and fins are for divers. You cannot photograph without a camera (or some camera-like devise such as a cell phone), just as you cannot dive without proper diving equipment.
All artists need some kind of equipment for their creative work, except for maybe performing artists who may depend only and fully on their own body. For painters and writers the essential equipment is relatively simple, whereas for photographs, it’s much more complex and certainly more technology infused. Maybe that’s the reason why cameras and accessories become more than tools for quite a few photographers; almost become desired goals in and of themselves. If someone wants to collect cameras and other technical wonders, there is nothing wrong with that. However, it doesn’t necessarily make you a better photographer and may not even be necessary at all.
As stated in the beginning, we do need equipment for our execution of the craft, and in some situations, a lot of equipment is required. Nevertheless, most often we can make do with a most basic camera. If expressing yourself through photography is your concern, don’t get hang up in the technological spiral in which you always need to get the latest and the most advanced tools available.
The tools are only that, tools. They are means to a goal, not the goal itself. Yes, we can all be fascinated with the buttons and dials and the unlimited technological possibilities advanced cameras can offer, but it really doesn’t make us enjoy the creative process any more. It’s true, you may not be able to get some very special photos without heavy equipment, but that same equipment won’t make you better in general. Instead of drooling for what you don’t have, then rather enjoy and make the best of what you have.
The comparison with diving in the beginning wasn’t arbitrary. Divers don’t get hang-up with equipment as some photographers do with their cameras. They want to explore the underwater world, and the equipment is just a necessary mean. Yes, they are of course interested in the latest technological development, too, but they have a practical approach to it all.
What more is, I don’t necessarily believe that divers with all their equipment has a more profound experience in the water than the child playing with a shovel and a bucket in the same waters has. Yes, of course the experience is different, but not the joy, not the wonder and not the feeling of exploring ones boundaries. I am not going after divers—I am a diver myself—but I think we sometimes need to keep our feet on the ground, or the toes in the water, not to lose sight of what the purpose really is.
The desire for equipment seems like an inevitable part of the progress as we develop our craft or—to stay with the water-analogue—our skills in and comfort with water. As kids, we are happy with the shovel and bucket or even just water itself. Growing older, we might want to try out surfboards, paddleboards, jumping from cliffs, paddling kayaks or snorkelling. As grownups, our desires have amplified, now we might want to have a speedboat or a yacht or go diving with proper equipment. Nevertheless, I honestly believe the joy of the kid on the beach is no smaller than the joy of those with all their expensive equipment.
Don’t get me wrong though, once again, I am not arguing against using speedboats, diving or any other heavy equipment depending activities, but I am saying if you are going for a swim along the beach you don’t need that speedboat or that diving equipment. On the other hand, if you are to explore the Northwest Passage, of course, you need a boat that can withstand the pressure of ice as well as other equipment that makes you survive winter’s cold. When the Norwegian, Roald Amundsen, first completed the passage in 1903-06, he was better equipment than circumnavigators were of the time. He had to.
My point is this: Make up your mind what kind of interaction you want with water and then select the proper equipment that makes it possible for you to do what you set out to do. Like in photography, understand what kind of photos you are pursuing and choose the camera and equipment accordingly. In most cases, you don’t need a speedboat.
This is my third post in which I use the interaction of water as an analogue for the creative process, whether you are a photographer or any other kind of artist. The others are Jump In and Enjoy of last week and The Joy of Water.
Facts about the photo: The photo was taken with a Panasonic Lumix LX100 with the zoom set 10.9 mm, equally to 24 mm for a full frame camera. Shutter speed: 1/125 of a second. Aperture: f/4.0. The photo was processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.