New generation cameras can broaden our photographic potential, but unless we are adept at leveraging technology our potential stagnates. This article discusses the link between technology and our need to develop both physically and mentally.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Photographs have been added to serve as visual breaks. All photographs featured in this article were captured handheld yesterday at Windemere Basin Park in Hamilton Ontario.
Accepting responsibility for our outcomes.
One of the greatest impediments to us leveraging technology effectively is accepting responsibility for our photographic outcomes. Far too often photographers blame their camera gear rather than question their skill set and effective use of their gear.
I find it interesting that the auto-focusing performance of the new OM-1 has been judged to be superior to previous generation Olympus cameras by many owners. And yet we can still find online comments by a number of recent buyers of the OM-1 complaining about the ‘poor’ auto-focusing performance of the camera and what a disappointment it has been.
Obviously these diametrically opposite opinions are valid from the perspectives of the owners as those viewpoints are based on personal experiences.
When it comes to new camera gear I make a couple of basic assumptions. The first is that the engineers who designed the gear are far more intelligent that I could ever hope to be when it comes to designing cameras. Quite simply they know what they’re doing. The second assumption is that no camera company would risk its future by launching new technology that simply didn’t work.
So, when it comes to the divergent opinions noted, my assessment is that the cause of substandard performance is almost always caused by humans… not their gear. The only exception is when a camera leaves the factory with a manufacturing defect.
Skills review and ongoing improvement.
Improvements with technology often need to be accompanied by corresponding improvements in our photographic skills. It is unreasonable to expect that our skills can remain static and still be sufficient to effectively operate every new technology that is introduced.
For example, we could be new to bird photography and have not yet developed at least a minimum competency with eye/hand coordination for birds-in-flight. If this is the case the auto-focusing and tracking technology in a new camera could be a moot point as we don’t possess the skills to effectively harness that technology.
Leveraging technology often requires a significant investment of time and effort for us to learn how to best use it. Our skills with technologies that are not used on a frequent basis can erode over time. Periodic practice can be beneficial.
Experiment and adapt.
Many of the new technologies that are coming to the photography market can expand our capabilities in a number of ways. Some of this is dependent on subject matter and the shooting style of an individual photographer.
Experimenting with new technologies… and even combining them… could result in us needing to adapt our shooting style. Sometimes to a reasonable degree. This can take time and patience before we become fully proficient.
Regular readers will know that I most often use a combination of Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking and Pro Capture L when photographing medium and large sized birds-in-flight. It took a number of months of practice before I could use these technologies in combination with a modicum of competence.
Using the right technology for the opportunity.
Sometimes we can become enamored with a particular technology and use it in situations when other shooting approaches may be a better choice. If our cameras do not provide easy ways to quickly change settings we can develop habitual patterns of shooting that could prove counterproductive.
At the end of the day cameras are nothing more than image creating tools. Our role as photographers is to use the tools we have at our disposal to maximum effect. When faced with identical image opportunities photographers standing next to each other could use very different approaches based on their gear and individual skill sets. We have to keep focused on doing what is right for us given our gear, our skills, and the photographic opportunity.
I very seldom read gear reviews anymore. One of the things that put me off some reviewers was their proclivity to ‘test’ aspects of cameras in situations that were, in my mind, nonsensical. I sometimes asked myself, “Who in their right mind would actually do that and expect to capture a decent photograph or video clip?”
Of course experimenting with camera gear is a good thing to do. As is using it in unorthodox ways just to see what will happen. Sometimes we may stumble on an unusual approach that actually works for us. The difference is having appropriate test expectations rather than judging gear on nonsensical parameters.
Many image opportunities are missed due to the mental conditioning of a photographer. Some folks wait hours for a particular bird to arrive, then get flustered when the bird finally appears, and miss their shots. Having the latest technology in our camera means nothing if we are unable to remain calm and focused when opportunities present themselves.
Ongoing, intensive practice is one way to develop mental conditioning. Once using our gear becomes a Zen-like experience where we are at one with our camera, stress and anxiousness fall away… and are replaced with quiet confidence.
Pretending it’s a paid gig.
Professional photographers can attest to the fact that a paid gig can be a very different photographic experience. Especially in situations when a photographer has tight time lines to deliver the project… with no opportunity for a ‘re-do’.
Going out with your camera gear and pretending you’re on a paid gig can sometimes help create mental focus and discipline. Some folks find that it gets their creative juices flowing differently… and can help them see opportunities with a more critical eye. Levering technology can benefit from pretending you’re on a paid gig as it can help a photographer assess the best technology to use to accomplish their goals.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Crops are noted. Photographs were resized for web use. This is the 1,159 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.
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