Do You Really Need a Speedboat?


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.


52 thoughts on “Do You Really Need a Speedboat?

  1. I do so much agree with you, Otto. And I thank you for your wise words and the fine comparisons, they are big eyeopeners.
    All this equipment collecting dust …
    I certainly don’t need a speed boat, but I’d love to travel the North West Passage 😉
    Warm greetings to Bergen from hometown of Roald Amundsen,

  2. Great post, Otto. Totally agree with you on this. I like to keep things as simple as possible, enjoy occasional experiments and don’t want to carry heavy gear so this basically defines which tools I’m using. I still don’t have a full-format DSLR or flash or filters etc. because that’s just not my kind of photography. It’s also interesting that you publish this now as I spent a couple if days last week to make cyanotypes – photographs without a camera – like Anna Atkins, the first female photographer. And, having grown up near the sea, I’m used to diving without any gear at all – you can’t go as deep or as far but it’s still so much fun and you’re totally free 🙂

    1. I am glad you feel in line with my statements here. And as much as I do have a DSLR (and lots of other equipment), like you, I like to make it as simple as possible. Sometimes the only thing I need is a simple point-and-shoot camera. 🙂

  3. Well said, Otto.

    I agree, except that in my case, since I took up photography, I have moved house twice and each time find the need for a different lens to achieve what I want to Photograph (with changing interests). With limited funds it can be hard to make the right decision.

    But I was lucky in Dec 2010 when I first shopped for a DSLR in that I had a good salesman who talked me out of a more expensive camera body, especially when I said I had less than perfect vision and would always have to use Autofocus.

    I read dozens and dozens of reviews on-line before deciding on lenses, then sampled my chosen 3-4 lens ‘picks’ in-store (with the same salesman I might add). If you’re inexperienced like me, having a highly-regarded store and knowledgable salesman can be mandatory.

    (for those interested, I still love the Canon EOS 500D body I first bought in Dec 2010 which was the lightest DSLR body at that time and fit my hand perfectly. Simple menus and still working just fine in 2016). Now lenses……they’re another story.

    1. As you say, we often change our needs for equipment, but too often we think we need more expensive cameras and lenses than necessary. You were lucky to find a knowledgeable salesman back in 2010. I find most of them don’t even know what they sell, unfortunately. Thanks for sharing your experience, Vicki.

  4. Yea…so true..when I desire some new lens or even camera…I force myself to think and wonder if I would take better photos with the new acquisition..the answer is of course …no! So I have my camera of some 8 years old now and 3 lenses..2 too many!
    As so often…such a good article, Otto

  5. I have been wanting a longer reach telephoto lens. My photos when shooting wildlife are certainly lacking in closeness, or clarity. I finally found a gently used one, and I’m thrilled with the results. The type of photos I like to shoot, telephoto is kind of a must. I have people ask me why I don’t go full frame. I don’t “really” need one, I prefer to carry something a bit smaller. and the cost. Just like you said, you only need, what you really need.

  6. Thanks so much for such a timely article–for me. I want to get a new camera–not a point&shoot, but a Big Girl camera. But I realize that I don’t really want all the bells and whistles that come with so many cameras. I don’t need to know how to use every last button on the camera. So maybe I should learn more about my point&shoot and stick with it. This article makes me really stop and think. Much appreciated, Otto.

    1. I would always recommend to learn to handle the camera you have, first. If it can’t do things you want to do, then it’s time to look for another replacement or addition. Like Paula writes, if it doesn’t improve you photography you don’t need a new camera. 🙂

  7. I seem to occupy the other extreme. One Camera, one lens, I did invest in an anti-static cloth but thats been it so far. Two three years in, I have yet to work out how my camera works, I leave it for the most part in auto and know nothing about the more technical aspects of photography.

    Not very intrested in these aspects.

    I notice when I got my first computer I imediatly learned how it worked, how to repair it, strip it apart and build one from scratch. I realized what an essential tool it was, I am dyslexic so I avoided writing after leaving school, computer was a seriously important tool. Without one I can’t write.

    I suspect what I may like about photography is something I can do without a camera, which is just to stop and pay attention to what is going on around me and think about it. Camera adds something to the processes but I am not lost here without it.

    1. An interesting perspective on technology. And, yes absolutely, at times technology can make a big difference. But often—like in photography—it has a tendency to get in the way. Thanks for sharing your experience, Jeb. Very useful insight and thoughts.

  8. Hej Otto…long time…no Words…
    Som “gammal dykare” tar jag till mig dina reflektioner och visst går det att jämföra med fotandet…och för den delen med allt som kräver utrustning (dyr eller billig) för genomförandet.
    Den smärtsamma sanningen är här som alltid, att om du har förmågan, känslan och begåvningen så klarar du dig med minimal utrustning. Men, om inte detta finns så kräver bristande självförtroende prylar, prylar…och åter prylar…so sad:)
    Hoppas att du har det gott var du än är…jag/vi har precis sålt vårt Stockholmshem och flyttat upp till vårt paradis i norr…vilket innebär både lugn och ro…och ännu mer resande:)

    1. Hei, Gertie. Kjekt at du tar deg tid til å stikke innom. Du har så rett, alt for ofte blir utstyr en erstatning for manglende følelsesmessig engasjement og evne til å formidle på et dypere plan. Noen ganger er utstyr selvsagt nødvendig, men i de aller fleste tilfeller er enkelt det beste. Gratulerer med flyttingen nordover. Jeg regner med at det blir en trivelig omstilling fra hektiske Stockhom. Selv er jeg tilbake i Seattle og omgitt av storbylivet. 🙂

  9. That is a cool picture and just an excellent example for gears used for photography. They are complex and many to go depending on what goal. I agreed with you about gears or equipments. I am glad to see that you disclaim out right that you are not against desiring the best gears as well. I have observed that some just polarize this to the an extreme. I have to admit that I also love gears and not that I have the speedboat but I also enjoy reading about them and keeping up with them. More importantly to learn the weakness (or lack of) of my own equipment to over come or get around and to make good decision about them.

    1. It is indeed easy to become very polarized when discussing gear, and I think you have a good point. We can enjoy technology and also be concerned about the creative aspect of photography.

  10. Your points are so well taken. Because I tend to understand everything from computers to cameras as tools, I’m often a late adapter: I add to my inventory when a need arises that my present equipment can’t handle. That happened to me with my laptop on my recent trip. I may have been one of the last in the world still using Windows Vista, and it just couldn’t keep up with my needs. Hello, iPad.

    With cameras, it’s the same. I started with a good body and a good, all-purpose lens. Then, I added the telephoto and macro, but only because they would allow me to do things, like shoot birds, that I otherwise couldn’t do. Now, I realize I need something else: a lens hood. That’s not big (i.e., expensive) but it’s a perfect example of purchasing to meet a need. I suppose a tripod might be down the road, but since I prefer being on-the-go with my camera, I’m still at the point where I can’t quite imagine I “need” one. In short, I’m a marketer’s nightmare — utterly impervious to advertisements, and likely only to purchase what I decide I need.

    1. A marketer’s nightmare, yes, but an example to follow. Why should we even think about buying new equipment before we really need it? And of, course I know the pulling of advertisements and my own desires, but I try to hold them at bay as much as possible. By the way, you think Vista is old? I still have a computer with Windows XP which I still use (not on a daily basis, however). 😉

  11. Hi Otto,
    So true! This post serves as such a useful reminder of what’s important in life. There is only so much time, and being sure to be present to enjoy the moment is part of not always needing a speedboat. It’s so easy to get caught up in preparing (and to enjoy the thrill of trying out new equipment) but all of that takes you right out of the moment. Right out of the chance to realize that “it’s okay” just the way it is. Thank you again, for such wise counsel!

  12. Maybe it’s a little odd but I find that I become quite attached to equipment that I’ve shared experiences with and don’t want to lose a ‘friend’ by upgrading! It has the added benefit of knowing and understanding what I’ve got without having to learn how to use something all over again so my actions are more intuitive 🙂

  13. “Instead of drooling for what you don’t have, then rather enjoy and make the best of what you have.” This is a great mantra for life! All of us could use this reminder, not only as it applies to photography but to all of our supposed needs and desires. I am so technically challenged that I need equipment that is simple and straightforward and I need time to learn how to work with it. Ansel Adams did not have all these fancy bells and whistles…but his imagery continues to please and wow viewers.

  14. This is a timely piece for me as I search to replace a long lost camera. I know “photographers” who are always on the search for the shiniest new toy and some who get buy with their oldest favourite. I have learned that capturing the perfect image is not always about who has the most toys.

  15. The saying may well be hackneyed but it is still valid: ‘Buying a Nikon doesn’t make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner’. There is rather more to photography than the equipment.

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