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Embracing Limitations

Fujifilm X100S Camera
Fujifilm X100S Camera
This little camera goes everywhere with me. It’s got big camera image quality in a tiny little package. With a fixed 23mm lens it’s not the camera for everything, but I’m constantly surprised at just how versatile it it.

Many, many photographers are very caught up in the equipment they use or want to use. Anyone who has been around photographers for any length of time will have heard the age old Nikon vs. Canon discussion (if you’ve been on one of our courses I’m sure you’ll have heard David and I joking with each other about this one). I’m not going to say that equipment is entirely unimportant, but I think Ansel Adams has a really good way of putting this…

“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” – Ansel Adams

The twelve inches behind the camera. That’s you. That’s your eyes and your brain! Sure we all love to play with the latest toys, but that doesn’t make us a good photographer. The good news is that upgrading your eyes and your brain is something that won’t break the bank. The best way to improve your photography is to grab whatever camera you already have and to use it on a regular basis. When I say you should use your camera, what I’m really saying is that you should use your eyes and brain. Practice seeing images. Practice being creative. Practice designing compositions. Look at a familiar scene and think “how could I represent this in a way that hasn’t been done before”.

One of the things that gets in the way of using your eyes is having too much equipment to choose from. You’ll look at a scene and find yourself in a state of analysis paralysis where there are so many options you’ll spend more time choosing the camera and lens combination than actually taking photos. I know this as I used to be one of those photographers who would carry around a huge bag of gear. These days I take a different approach. The camera that goes everywhere with me is my Fujifilm X100S. This little camera has a 16 megapixel APS-C sensor and a fixed 23mm f/2.0 lens. This means I can’t zoom and I can’t change lens. My only choice with this camera is to get closer to or further from my subject. Sure, I’ll miss some shots and it definitely isn’t the ideal wildlife photography camera, but I’ve been surprised at just how much I can do with this little camera. If I’m taking my interchangeable lens cameras out, I’ll often choose just one lens – again these are likely to be prime lenses as I’d rather sacrifice zoom for better image quality and better low-light possibilities (as most primes are capable of much wider apertures than their zoom equivalents).

Why not try sticking to a single camera and lens when you’re next out and about experimenting with your photography. See if restricting the kit helps to free your creativity. If nothing else I’ll give your back a break from carrying that big heavy bag!

This shot was taken at the Staffordshire County Show. Had I been there with a lot of equipment I would have been photographing a tight crop of the bikes flying through the air. Only having a 23mm lens to us has left me shooting a wider shot, which helps to set the scene.
This shot was taken at the Staffordshire County Show. Had I been there with a lot of equipment I would have been photographing a tight crop of the bikes flying through the air. Only having a 23mm lens to us has left me shooting a wider shot, which helps to set the scene.
Staffordshire County Show Tractor
Another shot from the county show. I found that getting up close with a tight crop gives this tractor a menacing expression.
High Peak Junction tunnel roof
Limiting yourself forces you to be creative. This abstract shot reminds me of the grooves in a vinyl record, but is actually the corrugated roof of a disused railway tunnel
Derbyshire Dales Waterfall
Of course, the other major benefit of taking less with you is that it’s much easier to carry to amazing locations like this waterfall in the Derbyshire Dales.