Thursday, January 10, 2008

It's not all equipment

Concordia Lutheran swimmer Luke Hoffman for The News-Sentinel's Prep Sports Page. Photo by Chad Ryan

I have to admit that it's frustrating to continually hear people talk to me when I'm on assignments, assuming they could shoot the same pictures that I do if they had my cameras, lenses, etc. Well, I'm not saying they can't, but what really bothers me about those conversations is that people generally seem to think that my pictures are strictly products of the equipment I use. I can say, confidently, that is not the case. I won't say my equipment doesn't help, but not to the extent people assume it does. Honestly, if more expensive gear makes the job so much easier, I can't see why everyone doesn't go out and invest $50,000 or so to get it.

I use the Canon EOS 1D series of cameras - currently I have two original 1D cameras (4.2 mp) and one Mark IIn (8.4mp). All of these cameras have every auto feature known to man. I shoot almost 100 percent of the time, however, in manual mode. I want to control everything. My cameras can shoot 8.5 frames per second unless I am shooting on strobes - then it's one and done (see photo below). Almost 75 percent of the time, I use the first or second frame in any given series because I am timing the action, so the motor drive isn't as big a factor as many think it is. Even with my speedlights and other strobes, I set the ratios manually to control how the light looks. Rarely do I use the auto-exposure functions on my flashes. My point here is the camera can do a lot of thinking, but not near as much as a photographer who knows what's going on.

The biggest advantage I get on an equipment-specific basis is from the large f/2.8 aperature of the lenses I shoot use. They allow a lot of light into the camera and allow for shallow depth of field. Those lenses are available to everybody, it's just a matter of who thinks it's important enough to drop the coin on them. Beyond that, the pictures I make are products of my imagination, my determination, my concentration on several elements of composition, my judgement of peak action and knowing when to use what camera/lens combination for a given situation ... just to name a few.

I would never assume that if I had Sports Illustrated photographer Peter Read Miller's gear bag I could make the same pictures he does. The fact is: pictures are in your head. Sometimes you do need special gear for them. But sometimes you need to just quit worrying about what someone else uses and go out and make your own pictures.

But, people will continue to talk to me, asking questions they already know the answers to and assuming they can do what I do. I'll give the same response I always give: just smile and continue to answer the questions my time will allow.

Mad Ants guard Earl Calloway, left, steals the basketball out of the hands of Sioux Falls' Jason Klotz as he takes a shot in the first half of the Ants' 100-92 win over Sioux Falls on Thursday, January 3, at Memorial Coliseum. Photo by Chad Ryan


Blogger J Q Taxpayer said...

Very well stated. A camera only takes a photo. The photographer see the CONTENT that makes a photo better then most.

There are times when a little luck helps out but for the most part photographer skill is 90% of the photo. The other 10% can go to equipment.

I had a teacher way to many years ago take an "instormatic" camera and show what he could do. We used our Nikons and so forth and could not even come close. This freshman learned a very valued lesson within the first month of class.

Take care an continue to take the great photos.

11:46 PM  
Blogger Chad said...

Thanks for the affirmation J.Q. Great story too. It just gets tiring all the time. People really need to learn that top-level photography is not just as easy as the Canon and Nikon advertisements make it out to be.

3:42 PM  
Blogger Jon Olinger said...

I've trained with you for too many years not to know the effort and talent you pour into your art. any art... I would like to see some photo's of your "other art" online though:)

10:44 AM  
Blogger Chad said...

Hey Jon,

Good to hear from you again. You know, it's funny you mention photos of my "other art" because I have been thinking about doing a photo shoot with some guys from the school. I've got some decent ideas for some action photos. I'll try to work that in the schedule in the coming weeks.

Take care.

3:45 PM  

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