A Guest Post by Chennai based amateur photographer – S Senthil Kumaran.
Everyone, with a very few exceptions, has this problem. I never had the right gear. I constantly feel that I am missing the opportunity to create great photographs because I do not have the right gear. Frustrating!
- I do not have a 600mm lens with teleconverters, so I missed many excellent bird photographs.
- I do not have a sturdy tripod with Gimbal head, so my shots were not tack sharp.
- I do not have a D3, so I could not take a decent shot in low light.
- I do not have a SB900 with Better Beamer, so my backlit birds are dark. I do not have enough lights, so I could not take a beautiful picture in outdoor locations.
- I do not have a PcketWizard, so I could not light the outdoor shots the way I wanted.
- I do not have a good Graduated ND filter, so my landscapes are not good.
And I am not making enough money to buy all I need. The list is endless. The more I read about all the photographic gear out there and the more I see the images of the top class photographers, the more frustrated I become. With all these limitations, how am I going to realize my true potential? Sounds familiar?
Until, I discovered that I am not realizing my potential anyway, with the right gear or not. Am I realizing my potential with whatever I already have? It was difficult to accept, but the answer was a big no. Also, I will not be able to buy all those missing things in the near future. The day will come. Till then, I am have to create my best photographs with what I have. Now, the question is how I am going to make it happen.
I decided to begin with my limitations. When I looked hard, it stuck me that most of my learnings were more gear centric and less on techniques. I have learnt so much on how to make the gear work for me, including the gear I do not have. I have spent so much time learning things which I may never need. So I decided to focus more on the technique. As a first step, I stopped reading anything about the gear which I do not have. What is the point? I don’t have them anyway. I started reading more about the techniques and started practicing them. I soon realized that lack of gear can be compensated with right technique in most of the situations. Of course, not all, but most.
I also found out that learning and practicing the techniques good fun enjoyment and satisfying. I took up photography as my hobby exactly for that reaon. Right? Over time and with effort, my shots showed improvement. My biggest grudge was not having a long telephoto lens since I took up bird photography bit more seriously. The longest lens I had was 200mm. All the articles and books said you need minimum of 400mm for bird photography. My bird photographs with that lens were bad since the birds were almost always at infinity for that lens and hence cropping did not help. The lens was not long enough for bird photography.
Then I decided, if the lens is not going to take me close to the bird, I will take the lens close to the bird.
That decision opened completely different avenues for learning. How to get closer to the bird? What are the effective techniques? How close can I get by walking, by squatting, by crawling, by car? How each bird reacts to my presence? How to cheat the bird? How to improvise on the spot? Lots of possibilities and options. Learning them and practicing them were very interesting. The process of getting close to a bird itself is so much fun. I began to enjoy it.
With practice and accumulated knowledge, I was able to get much closer to birds than I knew was possible. I was able to patiently wait. I was able to calm the bird.
All these made be a better photographer than I was. I may not have the best of the gear but I am a better photographer now. I enjoy photography much more now. The sense of achievement and satisfaction I get when I get really close to a bird and fill the frame with it in my 200mm lens is very high. I doubt whether I will get the same enjoyment or satisfaction, had I used a 600mm lens instead. The images below were taken with at 200mm with very minor cropping during post processing to improve framing.
The yearning for better gear is still there in me but I do not rue over the lack of it anymore.
See more of S Senthil Kumaran’s work at his – website .