Do You Own Your Photography, Or Does Your Photography Own You?

Are We Taking Too Many Photos? A friend posted this article on their social media, which I thought was pretty interesting.

Our Kyoto meltdowns. Are we all just photo-clicking monkeys? What’s travel about?

Here's my tangential thoughts.

If you can take photos without having to think about taking photos, and what settings or what lens you need and all that crap and just do it, you're going to get great photos and not miss a single thing or moment. And as a benefit to other people who want to get nice photos of a location too, you won't be in their way in the "good spot" for a second longer than necessary, which will keep everybody moving.

Don't Bring Too Much Junk!

The key to nice travel and vacation photos, and photos in general, is is not taking too much junk. The more camera gear junk you bring, the more you have to think about what lens or what camera body you might need for a particular photo, and the more distracted you become from actually enjoying your vacation. On one of our earlier trips to Taiwan to visit my wife's family many years ago, I brought an entire backpack worth of photo gear, and spent most of that trip thinking about what lens I should be using. I did get some amazing photos from that trip, but it surely was a distraction having that much stuff, and I ended up using only a few different lenses.

Since then, I've wised up. When we're traveling these days, everything has to fit in my small ThinkTank Retrospective 5 bag. Anything more than that and it's either going to be too much gear and a distraction, or too heavy to want to lug around. Photo blogger, Ken Rockwell, has a great article on his website titled, "How To Carry Less", which is a great read too.

Shoot What Works For You

It's also important to have a camera or camera system that works "for you", and that you understand. If you're not going to put the time and effort in to learn how to use a DSLR camera system to the point that it's second nature, you're either not going to get very good photos with it, or you're going to be distracted and not enjoying your vacation, or both! Maybe stick with a phone, or a basic point and shoot camera that's not as complicated.

My current DSLR workhorses, the more modern Canon 7D Mark II high-performance APS-C body on the left, and my older Canon 5D Mark II full-frame body that I use for portraiture and more artistic type photos on the right.

This is part of the reason why I switched from the Nikon to Canon DSLR system back in 2010. One second I'm shooting a nice landscape scene, the next second my kids are doing something cute and I switch to a portraiture or action photo type mode, and the next I have challenging backlighting to deal with and need good fill flash performance, all of which require drastically different settings. Nikon had never given people a way to quickly and easily save and then recall all settings on the camera for different types of shooting, whereas Canon had that figured out long ago with their total recall memory banks. I custom program C1 for Landscapes, C2 for action or portraiture, and C3 for fill flash or reverse-handed selfies exactly to my liking, and then I never have to think about it again. It's easy as pie. I never have to think about what I'm doing while on vacation and just shoot, or at most make one or two incremental adjustments from the baseline I have those custom modes set for, and that's it. When I switch back and forth, the camera is always back to my known and defined baseline, without worrying about missing a setting and screwing up photos, as I always did with Nikon!

Today, Nikon has finally figured that out, but their insistence on micromanaging features between cameras means not all of them have it when they should. The latest Canon 7D Mark II camera body, which has been my primary workhorse over the past few years has three of those total recall memory banks along with a pop-up flash, whereas Nikon's latest equivalent D500 has neither? Why?? The answer is Nikon micromanagement of features yet again, and deciding for photographers which features and modes should be available to them, rather than allowing photographers to decide what they'll use for themselves. There's other things that drove me crazy about Nikon too. My brain just speaks Canon better, and the system does what I want it to do better and easier for me than Nikon, and that's why I shoot what I shoot. The system lets me achieve my goal of getting stunningly good photos, yet also being able to enjoy my vacation and travel at the same time and not miss moments.

You Don't Need To Lug Pro Camera Gear Everywhere To Get Great Photos

Once you obtain some professional level camera gear, there's a tendency to want to take it around everywhere, but you don't have to. Once upon a time on a particular camera gear forum, a member was posting their photos of a particular European city with all of the fancy lenses that they owned. I couldn't resist my temptation to troll them by posting my own photos of the same city, but with my basic 18-55m "kit lens", which was all I had at the time. Not that the other members photos weren't awesome, but many of mine were just as good if not better, which shows that the most important aspect of photography is what's six inches behind the camera. 

Via "The Secrets To Getting Great Photos", my shot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris with my first DSLR, a Nikon D80, and its 18-55mm kit lens. I was at exactly the right place at exactly the right time, lucked out with some amazing atmospheric effects as the sun set, and that made this photo more than having one lens or another did.

These days my photography has taken a decidedly more casual turn. I don't need 1000+ photos every time we go to the beach, not just because that was always excessive before, but because I didn't have time to sort through all of them then, and especially don't have time to sort through a huge photo catalog like that right now. If I can't pick out a few photos that I like right off of my "good camera" and dump them straight over to my phone and onto social media over peer-to-peer WiFi or Bluetooth, the photos just aren't going to get posted or even sorted. Our lives have become way too busy, too complicated, and just plain too crazy, which has required me to streamline my photography workflow even more, and cut down on my photography. I'll never stop taking photos, but I'm definitely more selective with what I shoot these days.

I enjoyed some front yard camping with my son this weekend. All of these, with the exception of the moon shot at the upper right of the first collage were taken with that Fuji X100F. For the moon shot, I broke out the "big gun" Canon 7D Mark II and 100-400L II lens at 400mm. The moon would have been just a tiny spec with my Fuji X100F, which has a 23mm lens in it. You need a camera that's capable of capturing what you want to capture. For normal life photos and vacation shots, the Fuji (or even your phone!) is perfectly capable, but they're not going to reach to the moon.

I really like my new Fuji X100F a lot! I had to pack away all of my DSLR gear while we moved, and I still haven't really taken them out and am still using just the Fuji X100F for the most part, with the exception of that moon shot. No, it doesn't do everything that I need it to, but for a more casual "just be present and enjoy life" camera, it's perfect. It's a single lens, so your mind is never occupied about which focal length or what lens to use, and your mind is just glued to that perspective without wonder or thought, much like a phone. There's value in simplicity, yet this is an amazingly sophisticated camera with a lot of advanced features if you drill down. You don't have to use them, though.

For my more casual photography as of late, this Fuji X100F has been all I've needed. It's much smaller and lighter than a single DSLR body without a lens, and you still need to pack lenses for the DSLR cameras!  

We're going to the Outer Banks for a week at the end of August, and I think I'm still just going to bring the Fuji X100F. The secondary question you have to ask is, is part of the purpose of your vacation actually getting over the top awesome photos that will knock people's socks off? If yes, bring the good stuff! If you just want to be present and enjoy the moment, you don't need to. We're so worn out, beat up, and burned out, that we just want to relax, be present, and enjoy. I want to get great photos of my kids on their boogie boards though, so maybe I'll end up bringing my big camera and the 400mm lens afterall. 

Now the Joint Base Andrews Air Show in DC in September, yeah, I'll be going full tilt craziness with my Canon 7D Mark II and my hot rod Canon 100-400mm L II lens for that for sure, along with an ultra-wide lens. Which gear you bring is often a balancing act. Ask yourself what you're trying to accomplish, and don't bring too much or too little camera for what you're trying to achieve. we can't wait for the air show. Nothing is more spectacular than a 400mm photo up the afterburners of an F-22 Raptor demonstration, an ultra-wide shot standing underneath a B-1B Lancer supersonic bomber, or of the Air Force Thunderbirds streaking across the sky. There's a time and a place for the big guns, and an air show, or a once in a lifetime trip someplace all definitely qualify, but even then you don't need a whole backpack worth of photo gear.

Joint Base Andrews Air Show 2015, click the photo for the blog.

Joint Base Andrews Air Show 2015, click the photo for the blog.

Just for grins and while we're on the topic, here's a photo of my Canon 7D Mark II with a fully extended Canon 100-400mm II lens, right next to my Fuji X100F. It's a beast, and it's still pretty big with just an 18-135mm all-purpose zoom lens, and still a lot bigger with just a 24mm f/2.8 pancake lens. 


Do whatever you want. These are just my ramblings, but I know what works for me. Your mileage may vary. 

We're loving our huge new house, and I can't wait to start decorating the walls with amazing photos that I've taken all over the world, and of people that have been along for the ride with us and that have meant the world to us. I couldn't imagine going to a beautiful place and not taking some really nice photos of it, or going out to dinner with friends that have meant a lot to us and not snapping a few photos of both the cuisine and the company, but that's just me. It's just a question of what gear I bring, and finding camera gear that you understand and that works well for you. It might take a little experimentation. 

There's not much I can't do with my Barcelona setup of a Canon 7D Mark II, an 18-135mm all-purpose zoom, a 12-28mm ultra-wide lens, and then a 24mm f/2.8 pancake lens for close quarters and dinner photos. It works extremely well for me, I don't have to think too much about my photography so that I can enjoy the moment too, and I can get in and out of "the spot" in an instant so that other people can get their photos also. For more casual photos, the Fuji is all I need and beats the heck out of a phone, while not being much bigger than one. I can squeeze that 7D Mark II and 18-135mm and 12-28mm combo in my ThinkTank Retrospective 5 bag, and then the Fuji X100F rather than the Canon 24mm f/2.8 pancake lens into the side pocket and have an even better setup with extra capabilities, while still being amazingly portable and lightweight.

There's not really any right or wrong answers in photography. Just do whatever works best for you, but please try not to be a douche like some of the people in that Kyoto blog! LOL!