It’s Not In The Equipment

People always ask me what kind of camera do you use? And my response always seems to be the same? “I really don’t know.” I tend to use the Canon products because I bought into it early when I started and once you begin to get the pieces you want it to remain interchangeable. I tend to buy a new camera about every other year and really don’t pay attention to what model number or pixel count they are up to. The camera just becomes an extension of myself and they all basically accomplish the same things. What is important to me is that it shoots full frame so that I get exactly what I am framing. It needs to be fast so that it flows with my impulse. It needs to be fully adjustable in manual mode so I have absolute control of the image. It needs to be able to shoot in very low light and have a good quality at ISO1600 so I can hand hold and move around the theater to shoot performing arts and dance, live. It has to have the best optics that you can possibly afford. To me photography is mostly an impression of light. It’s the feelings and emotions I get when connected to my subject, animate or inanimate. I have done a great deal of study on the history of photography and have seen awesome images created with a pinhole camera as well as the glitz and glamour of large format fashion. The camera is just the tool. Younger photographers always want to get into discussions about the technical aspects of the tool and this kind of drives me a little bonkers. It’s would be like asking my friends Giorgio Tuscani what kind of a brush he uses to create his extraordinary paintings or David Vandeerpool what kind of pencils he uses to create all those amazing drawings. Or to take it to an extreme what kind of lube a porn star uses to create his art. It’s really not about the tools at all it about your connection to the subject and how you wield those tools to express that connection. I have a variety of different cameras; my absolute favorite was a totally manual Hasselblad, a bare bones basic box, medium format, with many different lenses to express the images in a variety of ways. I began in an area of film and used to shoot lots of different films. Back then every film had a different quality, grain structure, saturation point, or tonal range. Choosing a film was far more important than choosing a camera because it completely impacts the final look of the image. There were some brands I was drawn to over others. We still have some of this control in the modern cameras and can program a few of the properties, but for the most part it is all controlled by the quality/color of light and then all the rest is skewed in post production. To me the most important lessen to learn is exposure and how the exposure impacts the over all images. I still place my shadows where I want them and let the highlights fall where they will. To me the image is all about the shadow after all my life is about darkness and it’s the tone in the shadow I am most obsessed with exploring.