Most photographers I know love gear and equipment. Theres no doubt about it, shiny new stuff is fun and exciting. Sometimes that shiny new gear’s even useful and dare I say necessary when it comes to photography. Photographers, myself included can sometimes let our gear overpower and interfere with our power to create and make images. When it comes to photography and gear there is certainly times when one can have too much of a good thing.
Those who have been following my blog know that at the end of October I sold off some of my excess Canon equipment and purchased a small Nikon system consisting of a Nikon D810 and a handful of Nikkor lenses. So as not to bore anyone with the reason I did this, essentially I wanted to test out the Exmor sensor in the D810. For my photography I find the additional dynamic range of the sensor useful. I considered the the 36 megapixel sensor to be and additional benefit but not something I felt I required. Needless to say I’ve been very impressed with both the D810, the Exmor sensor as well as the small kit of Nikon lenses I put together. The greatest benefit however, has been minimizing my kit and working with a much more limited group of lenses.
Working with a smaller kit has allowed me to refocus on creating images instead of fumbling with lens choices and focal lengths. It’s been refreshing to say the least to essentially be working with a 3 lens kit of a 16-35mm, 24-120mm and 70-200mm with the D810. My Canon kit consists of 16-35mm,24-70mm,70-300mm,100mm Macro lens and 24mm and 17mm TS-E lenses. Granted I did not always lug all these lenses around but I would still have to make a conscious choice prior to heading out into the field as to what lenses I would keep in the bag. I also keep a Canon 100-400mm in the front seat of my truck in case I stumble along some wildlife while driving around the park. Needless to say, my Canon kit gives me a lot of choice. Perhaps to much choice.
Besides the benefit of more mental focus when working with a smaller kit, the added benefit of creating stronger images has also became apparent when photographing in Rocky Mountain National Park last week. It was a snowy winter day in Rocky. A perfect day as far as I’m concerned for landscape photography. Heavy snow and fog enveloping the tree’s, peaks and valley of Rocky.
After spending a good bit of the morning photographing the conditions in and around Horseshoe Park, I stumbled upon a group of twenty or more Bull Elk that had bedded down to weather the storm out. It was a poignant scene. The large group of Bull’s, covered in snow, large antlers still in tact congregated together with snow falling. For a split second I panicked. The longest lens I had in my Nikon kit was a 200mm. There was no way I was going to be able to make a meaningful image as the Elk were to far off in the distance with that short of a lens.
As I was berating myself for not having a longer lens with me, some of the Bulls got up and moved across the meadow in a line for the cover of the trees. I had my 70-200mm on my D810 and figured I’d make an attempt to photograph the line of Bulls. I figured with the higher resolution of the D810 I could possibly crop the image later to help negate the shorter focal length of my 70-200mm. I framed the four Bull Elk walking across the meadow and a funny thing happened. I realized the shorter focal length was a benefit, not a hinderance. Showing these majestic creatures in their habitat was more powerful than a frame filling head shot of an Elk would be.
The image I captured of the four Bull Elk walking across the meadow in heavy snow turned out to be my favorite image of the day. When I got back to my computer and started sorting through my images it occurred to me that if I had a longer lens with me I would have completely missed the shot. Most likely I would have had a longer focal length lens on my camera and would have likely been making an attempt to photograph one or two of the Elk with a longer focal length, completely missing the wider image of the Elk in their habitat. It was a bit of an epiphany for me. Photographing with less instead of more helped me as opposed to hindered me. Overtime it’s easy to end up with more than is necessary. Try working with less and keep it simple, the results might surprise you.