It seems that when two or more photographers gather, the talk always turns to equipment. Which brand is best, what's the latest and greatest, if only I had this or that, what post processing software are you using, etc, etc, etc. Is equipment really all that important? Well, yes and no. To capture images, you obviously have to have equipment, but you can capture those images effectively and beautifully regardless of brand name or model number. People who argue about brands and models are missing the larger picture - the purpose of all the equipment we lug around. Today's modern equipment is amazingly good and effective, but equipment is just that - equipment. It is a tool by which to capture an emotion or moment. Cameras, whether they are digital, film, SLR, DSLR, view, point & shoot or whatever cannot compose even the simplest of scenes. They cannot determine lens choice, depth of field, the proper shutter speed for the chosen effect, or perspective. Certainly equipment is important, but equipment pales in importance to artistic vision. That artistic vision is what separates a "snap shot" from a "photograph". That vision is the most rewarding and frustrating part of nature photography, and certainly the part I struggle with most. As in music or other artistic pursuits, there are those who seemed to be blessed with a certain natural ability that most of us don't enjoy. Having that natural ability doesn't mean they don't work as hard as other, it just means they are just better
at it. I envy those people and greatly admire their work, for these are the people who advance the art form. People like Ansel Adams, Clyde Butcher, Galen Rowell, and others.
I'm often asked what brand of equipment I use, but when you get right down to it, what brand you choose really isn't all that important. I use Nikon because that's what I started with years ago and that's what I'm comfortable with. However, I don't consider my camera as being the most important piece of equipment. That honor would go to my support system - the tripod. Similar to a star quarterback or pitcher, the camera gets most of the attention while the support system does the grunt work. While less glamorous than the camera, the support system, in my opinion, is far more important if you wish to capture quality images. In my opinion, buying a truly sturdy and stable tripod is more important than buying the "best" camera. Putting the world's best camera on a shaky platform will still render unacceptable results. As with everything in life, a stable foundation is required to build upon.
Another question I hear every now and then is that of digital versus film. I converted to digital back in 2005 and love it, but I also hope that digital never fully replaces film. There's just something romantic about the smell and atmosphere of the traditional black & white darkroom, and the magic of seeing the image you worked so hard to capture wondrously appear before your eyes. I hope there will always be a place for large format film photography.
Besides the usual camera equipment I carry, I often find the most useful and important equipment in my bag has nothing to do with photography, but everything to do with making photography more comfortable and, at times, even bearable. Nature photography obviously means spending a lot of time outdoors, and here in Florida that can mean unrelenting sun and hordes of biting/stinging insects. My camera bag always includes a small container of insect repellent, a bottle of SPF36 or higher sun screen, extra batteries for each and every component, a compass, TP, and a AA Mini-Maglite. If a GPS unit will be needed I throw that in as well. I find protection from the elements and some degree of comfort essential in that it allows me to concentrate on the task at hand instead of swatting mosquitoes.
For me, nature photography started simply as a way to record my adventures and trips so I could revisit them for years to come. What began as an afterthought gradually evolved into a consuming passion.
I am very fortunate in that my dad was an avid outdoorsman, and he passed his love for the outdoors along to my brothers and me. I can vividly remember quail hunting with my dad when I was young, trudging along trying to keep up through thick cover on a freezing morning, and I still have great memories of bream fishing with my grandparents and enjoying with them that special time in late afternoon when everything grew still and quiet right before the crickets and frogs erupted into their beautiful night song.
Those days are gone forever now, but I can never thank my parents and grandparents enough for the gifts and experiences I had growing up. I can think of no better repayment than by passing those gifts along to my children and grandchildren, and by sharing the outdoors I love and cherish so much with others through nature photography. I shoot what pleases me, in a style that's comfortable for me. Thankfully, I have received much positive feedback and encouragement which keeps me pushing forward in search for more beauty to capture with my camera.
Being in nature is not an option to me, it is a requirement. It is a time of reflection, appreciation, introspection, observation, and rebirth. It's where I recharge my soul and free myself from the turmoil within the world. Whether I'm deep in the swamp, walking along on the beach, or merely enjoying some leisure time in a hammock, it's a very spiritual experience. The pleasure I derive from being in nature is extreme and intense, but that pleasure and enjoyment comes with responsibilities. In my Christian religion we are charged with being conscientious stewards of the earth, and I take that seriously. I hope you will also.
Thank you for visiting my website. I hope you enjoy my work and will visit often, and remember, please enjoy nature responsibly.