Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Top 5 Gear Of The Year 2014

It's that time of the year when photography magazines and bloggers publish their opinions of the best new equipment released over the previous 12 months. Not wanting to be left out, I have created my own "Top 5" gear of the year list.

In my opinion, these five items are the absolute best things for photographers. If you use them, your photography will no doubt be improved by leaps and bounds. "Essential" is the one word I would use to describe what is listed below. Without further ado, here are my 2014 "awards" for gear of the year.

#5 - Legs
The Forgotten - Tehachapi, California
Legs can get you to all sorts of places, including to great photography locations. They can take you to new scenes and to new vantage points of familiar scenes. Legs will take you here and there. Perhaps, most importantly, they'll get you off the couch and out where the great image sits waiting to be created.

Another great feature of legs is the ability to move you backwards or forwards, up or down. Often small moves can make significant improvements to an image, and legs can make that happen.

No need for a telephoto lens because legs can move you closer in. No need for a wide angle lens because legs can move you further away. Legs will get you to just the right spot to best capture the image.

There are leg alternatives for those with physical disabilities. The wheel chair, especially, is a good option.

Legs improve your photography by getting you to the scene and then allowing you to get to the exact place you need to be within the scene. This mobility is underrated and too often ignored.

#4 - Fingers
Brownie Target Six-20 - Stallion Springs, California
Photography without fingers is extraordinarily difficult. Fingers allow you to hold your camera. Fingers allow you to operate your camera. Fingers are the mechanism required to capture the decisive moment.

Every scene has an instant that is the decisive moment for that scene. Sometimes that instant lasts for minutes, sometimes it lasts for a fraction of a second. Quick action by your fingers are often required to catch the decisive moment. In other words, fingers are an essential element to capturing great images.

#3 - Eyes
Though The Lens - Stallion Springs, California
Eyes allow you to see. Photographers see a scene, and then narrow that sight to what they think might make a good photograph. Eyes permit discovery. In a way, photography is a frozen moment of sight.

A great feature of eyes is the ability to scan--to look about and piece it all together in a meaningful way. The world in front of the photographer is like a jigsaw puzzle, and eyes quickly and (seemingly) easily put that puzzle together.

Eyes can scan the viewfinder to not only see all of the elements, but to also find things that don't belong. This allows the photographer to refine the image. The eyes are what determines if a photograph is good or not.

#2 - Head
Shadow Catcher - Stallion Springs, California
The head is where the brain is. It's where we analyze and think. Ansel Adams said, "The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it."

It is in the head that the photograph is designed. The head figures out what all of the settings should be. The head determines what should and should not be included in a photograph. The head makes all sorts of calculations and decisions that determines the outcome of an image.

It can be argued that the head is the most important thing in photography. Yet so many seem to snap photographs without really ever using it! Or, perhaps they use it a little, but not as much as they should or could. 

#1 - Heart
Don't Take My Picture In The Heart Blanket - Stallion Springs, California
The heart is the seat of your emotions. This is where you feel. If not for the heart, everything would be metaphorically cold.

If photography was the result of careful calculations it would be science. But photography is not science, it is art. It is emotional. Photographs can (and should) grab us deep inside. Photographs without emotion are lifeless and boring.

Photography is not for the faint of heart, either. Failure is a part of photography. Photography can be uncomfortable. Photography is an adventure, but not typically an easy adventure.

Heart is such a big part of photography that whatever I say here is an understatement. It is the difference between a mediocre photograph and a great photograph. No great image exists without heart.

Conclusion

Today is Christmas Eve, and tomorrow morning most people will wake up and unwrap gifts. Some of those gifts will be cameras and lenses and other photography gear. None of that will ever make you a better photographer.

Interestingly, you already have the "gear" that you need to be a great photographer. It's never about equipment, it's always about the artist.

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