Rain + pollen = yellow soup : Camera + Subject + Photographer = Picture
If you have no subject to be photographed, I guess the concept of photography reduces itself to nothingness. I’m beginning to think that might apply to my photography more and more. It’s like the question of which comes first, the chicken or the egg? I guess without either of them you have nothing, at least in the long-term. If you have a subject plus camera plus photographer you have pictures. Without any one of these you don’t. But that’s not what I want to discuss first since that is a scary rabbit hole to go down. Today my mind is rummaging around the relationship between the camera and pictures.
In the past if you wanted to capture up close details you needed a macro lenses mounted on a DSLR with interchangeable lenses. Yes, I know that is not totally true. A lot of compact cameras, like my LX7 for example, take pretty good macros, but today I’m limiting myself to higher quality pictures made with larger sensor cameras to focus on one aspect of some changes within photography. With today’s higher mega-pixel cameras it is possible to crop-zoom and get pictures like the above. It isn’t as good as what could be gotten with a macro lens, but maybe it is good enough.
Likewise, if you wanted to record details of a subject that was off in the distance, you needed a long focal length lens; but today with crop-zooming you can, to a degree, avoid the need for such lenses. Long focal length lenses are also generally a lot slower so they also need cameras with sensors that are capable of working at higher ISO levels.
In the past a photographer had to decide what type of photography he or she wished to pursue before getting the camera and lenses. This also generally meant that they got a DSLR with the ability to use multiple lenses. For these reasons, a DSLR is a general purpose camera and many even use them for family pictures, street photography, etc., even though they might not be the optimum choice in all cases … especially if you need a smaller, lighter, more discreet camera.
In the immediate future, longer focal length lenses, heavier DSLR cameras, multiple lenses, etc. might not be as necessary in some cases. In some cases (it is a matter of degree), a single discreet camera with a fixed lens and higher mega-pixel high quality sensor might suffice.
There are other aspects of the relationship between cameras and pictures. They too are related to what most people think of when thinking of what came first, the chicken or the egg. The camera and lens combination sets limits on what a good photographer can take pictures of. Without the macro lens or the really long focal length lens, the photographer is limited in how much cropping they can do to compensate. In addition, the camera-lens combination has a minimum focus distance that affects the macro capabilities. The speed of the camera in focusing, etc. also limits its use for sports and action shots, etc. And there are many other aspects which limit the use of a camera. Knowing these limitations of your camera causes you to look for only things you can photograph with it. For example, if I go out with a wide-angle lens on my camera I don’t look for distant wildlife to photograph.
Since I have been interested in photographing as much as I can, I have acquired multiple cameras and lenses for use in different types of photography, different subjects, different lighting, etc. But I’m thinking of changing that. I’m considering chucking all of my cameras and lenses and starting over. I’m thinking about getting one camera and only a lens or two and then spending my time learning how far I can push it to take all the pictures possible and not worry about those beyond the limits of the camera. If you look back through the history of photography, you will find that the good photographers only used a few cameras and lenses in their lifetimes and they tended to concentrate on only a single type of subject. Most of them spent a lifetime learning and specializing on one type of subject, etc. Another way of looking at it, is that I don’t have 20 – 50 years ahead of me nor do I have endless funds to keep trying something different.
This isn’t a new idea of mine. I have toyed with this idea for simplifying my photography over and over. Usually it comes down to I really don’t wish to spend such a large sum on one camera that I would really prefer to have and carry so I keep adding lenses, etc. to what I have, but in the end I end up spending even more money over time. It is also a question of “can I make it work for me?” Can I satisfy myself with one camera? Over the last few years I have experimented with this idea. I even went down to just one camera for a short period. In addition I have tended to select one lens and one camera and then use them exclusively over a period of a week or two. Another issue is that I haven’t figured out what that one camera and lens would be. I have waited and watched as new technology resulted in better and better cameras thinking that the next one will be the one. That kind of thinking doesn’t work since there will always be something better.
Before I make such a drastic change, I have a few more questions to answer. I think it comes down to deciding when the risk is worth it. Should I pick a camera, sell my existing ones, and start over? Do I know enough now to pick the one camera? Has technology progressed enough for me to do this? What are the odds of me ending up spending less money in the long run and getting sufficient enjoyment out of my photography? Will I be cutting off my potential supply of subjects to the point where I find little to photograph and end up killing my hobby?