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Getting Here from There

April 24, 2017

Getting Here from There

          About ten years ago, I attended the dedication ceremony of a house of meditation. A friend of mine had a DSLR and a movie camera. While he was filming the ceremony, he asked me to take candid photos of attendees using his DSLR. The camera, a Nikon D50, was set on auto so all I had to do was aim and shoot. I felt comfortable taking candid shots and have always seemed to grab them at just the right moment.

          I had not had a camera for a few years, having sold my Mamiya 35mm film camera on eBay. The Nikon felt comfortable to me and was easy to focus and shoot. Without doing research, I bought one for myself and, keeping the camera on Auto, continued for a couple of years taking candid shots of people and animals.

          Another friend from the House of Meditation had told me she joined the Harrisburg Camera Club and encouraged me to join and participate in their competitions. Of course, my photos were definitely not competition worthy at that time, but I found that listening to the judges’ critiques during the competitions to be a great learning experience. My knowledge of my camera and of photography progressed. And so did my desire to have more and more accessories for the Nikon. What started with a camera that came with an 18-55 lens grew to include a Sigma 18-200 lens, a Nikon 70-300 lens, a 28-80 Nikon lens, a flash attachment, a tripod, camera bag and finally, when I could no longer get what I perceived I wanted with the D50, a Nikon D7000, another faster lens, more filters and a larger camera bag, heavier tripod and ball head.

          Somewhere amid all the acquisitions and experiments, I realized that the photography I loved most was street photography. The event at the House of Meditation should have given me a clue. Photographing people when they were unaware of being photographed and catching them in interesting behaviors and interactions was what I enjoyed.

          I was never happy with the focusing of the D7000, and I found its size and weight too cumbersome for street photography. Talk about being obvious lugging that thing around. A heavy camera with a long lens says “professional photographer” even if you aren’t one. And I’m not getting any younger, so the weight around my neck or on my shoulder was painful within minutes.

          Then someone sent me a review of a new Fuji on the market, the X100s which I then acquired and found its size allowed me to inconspicuously take photos while in a crowd of people or on the street. The design in silver metal looks like an old range finder camera and it is the size of a point and shoot which doesn’t attract attention. It has a plethora of features the Nikon did not and it makes street photography so much easier.

          The D7000 and the D50 and the accoutrements I accumulated sat on the shelf until I sold them.

          I would like to say that I had no desire to acquire another camera, but I can’t. The X100s has a fixed lens and I wanted a camera with the same kind of features but with the ability to change lenses. Enter the Fuji XT1 with an 18-135mm lens. The two Fujis and one lens give me the ability to do all of the kinds of photography I like to do, provide me with enough pixels to enlarge photos to a size I want, and still be able to carry the cameras around the streets without drawing attention to myself or weighing me down. I have no desire to add lenses or flash attachments or filters or any other paraphernalia.

          Was it necessary for me to go through all of that photography gear to get to this point of being satisfied with what I now have and use? To accumulate all of it to discover I don’t need it or need something else? I’ll never know the answer to that, obviously. Changing technology seems to carry with it an addictive desire to constantly upgrade. But at what point do we “find ourselves” photographically and settle on the piece of equipment that allows us to do what we love? At what point do we discover we don’t need all that stuff ? When do we stop fearing the equipment status quo and just concentrate on becoming a better photographer? I hope I have reached my turning point.