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Blog // Images
November 5, 2015

Ansel Adams On Choosing A Camera

One of my favourite photography books is Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs. As the title suggests the book features 40 of Adams most iconic photographs. I love Adams work, but what brings me back to this book again and again isn’t just the images, it’s the accompanying text, where the photographer shares in detail […]

One of my favourite photography books is Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs. As the title suggests the book features 40 of Adams most iconic photographs. I love Adams work, but what brings me back to this book again and again isn’t just the images, it’s the accompanying text, where the photographer shares in detail the story of how each image was made, along with his thoughts on the world of photography.

Although photo technology has changed a lot since Adams’ time, some of his advice still feels fresh and relevant for today. Take his advice on choosing a camera.

“There are many excellent cameras available, and the photographer should select one that performs well for him and that is well made throughout its system, of course within limits of cost and need. In addition, there is a “feel” about a particular camera; an emotional empathy seems to develop toward certain equipment. I sometimes sense that the camera itself may encourage the photographer to relate to particular subjects favourable to the camera’s format and other characteristics. This is, of course, a subjective appreciation of the capabilities of the eye and the camera.”

I love the way Adams’ describes the emotional response we have to a camera and how that response can shape our approach to photography. His words describe, succinctly and with eloquence, the ideas I tried to express in Cameras Are Not Machines – They Are Artistic Instruments. For me, there is a difference in the way I approach making photos depending on the instrument in my hands, be it an iPhone, with its minimal controls and screen based interface, or the FujiFilm x100s with its classic style, pancake lens and dial controls, or the D800e with a full blown, heavy duty dSLR look and fast autofocus lenses.

Perhaps as photographers we are starting to tune into this aspect of our craft; the instrumental interface? Bring together a group of travel photographers five years ago, for example, and it would have mostly been Nikon and Canon shooters discussing the relative merits of these two once-dominant formats. But, now, a similar group would also feature FujiFilm, Sony, Olympus, and an increasing number of Leica users.

We should be willing to let our choice of camera system be personal and subjective, reflecting what Adams described as the “…appreciation of the capabilities of the eye and the camera.” How the camera feels in our hands, and how well suited it is for the kind of photos we hope to make is infinitely more important than the number of megapixels or the rating some anonymous reviewer might give.

Moonrise by Ansel Adams Hernandez New Mexico 1941

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