2.04.2011

A casual and even tempered rant.


I don't know what it is about some hobbyists that sends me into a frenzy.  I think the thing that really chaps my ass is when a person goes out and buys all the latest, greatest photo stuff and then comes to me and whines about "not having anything to shoot."  "You're lucky," they say,  "You're a professional and you get to photograph really cool stuff all the time."  I laugh to myself and think about the job I had shooting garbage trucks.  Or the fast deadline magazine job of shooting the 300 pound IT guy in the tiny beige office with the last century computer tower and trying to make him look.....positively interesting.

The befuddled whiner packs every piece of gear he can into his oversized bag and heads out on a quest to find something, anything, that might interest him.  Every once in a while I'll do my walk with someone like this.  I made the mistake of doing so recently.  It was an eye-opener about the power of indecision and uncertainty. They were so busy choosing which lens to put on the body or which body to put over their shoulder that they walked right past subject after subject that would delight me.

Like the image above.  It's a flower in a vase in a fast food Sushi restaurant.  It's behind a glass window. The person I was walking with glanced at the window and walked on.  He saw an empty restaurant.  I saw the flower.  I moved in closer, shot at a wide focal length and a fairly wide open aperture.  I love this flower just as it is.  No need to head to PhotoShop to "spruce it up."


I saw this sign in the window of a downtown club and loved the insouciant trashiness of the whole thing.  I snapped a quick photograph for fun.  My hobbyist friend took this as some sort of cue that this was high art and blessed by the professional photographer in tow.  So he grabbed another camera body out of his bag and covered this poster with two different L series zooms.  He also bracketed.  Some hobbyists think "hot girl" = real photo.  Even if it's just an illustration.


By now I was trying to ignore the constant chatter about technique and which lens is sharper and what body has the best dynamic range and all the usual stuff.  We walked by this building and I was intrigued by the light on the bricks and the reflections in the windows.  I snapped a few frames.  It's one of the last ancient, two story office buildings in all of downtown.  My friend was mystified by my choice and kept on walking,  a big camera over each shoulder.

Finally we walked past a green construction fence on the way to the cars.  He was busy putting his cameras away.  The sun was sliding down and downtown was behind us now.  He didn't see much else he wanted to point his cameras at. I snapped away at this series.





He shook his head and made some remark along the lines of, "You should really take more time to look at the stuff that's online.  You'll know what's popular.  You'll never be able to sell this!"  We were supposed to go get coffee after our walk but I decided that I just wasn't in the mood.  He shoved his Canon 1D4 with his 24-70mm L lens in one part of a bag so big it would give an inferiority complex to a Samsonite Steamer Trunk and plunked his Canon 1DS3 with a 70-200 series 2 L lens in the other side and fidgeted with his fanny pack of gadgets.  

Then he finally looked over at my camera.  "Oh," he said, "That's your problem.  That's not L glass!." 
I was carrying around a Canon 7D and the little, dirt cheap, refurbished, $119 18-55 IS zoom lens.  "I don't see how you can shoot anything with that piece of shit." Was the last thing he said before he got in his car and headed off to an evening of post processing and vigorous Photoshopping.

He's right, of course.  It's impossible to do any good photography without spending tens of thousands of dollars.

I have a new rule.  I'll only walk now with non-photographers.  Should suit both of us fine.......



All photos shot this afternoon.  Yes.  We survived the big freeze.

67 comments:

  1. Kirk wrote: "I have a new rule. I'll only walk now with non-photographers."

    Excuse the correction, but it sounds to me like you did walk with a non-photographer.

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  2. Great post. Really like the last shot.

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  3. People say they need to be inspired to create art. I don't know what they're talking about. It comes at you all the time if you're paying attention.

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  4. Well, maybe you should only walk with photographers if they are really PHOTOGRAPHERS, not tech geeks whose particular form of hardware obsession happens to be cameras. These people mostly are not photographers in any meaningful sense; they're tech geeks. Not the same thing at all.

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  5. The red railing in the last shot - how could anyone pass that without snapping a shot! Looks like some drunk walked down the wall with a red marker. Metal graffiti.....

    Don't hold that rule too tight - I might come by for a walk later this year. I promise to bring my OM-1 and 50mm lens - only.

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  6. Kirk, please tell me this is fiction, or at least fictionalized?

    I mean, surely he's a composite of several different gear hobbyists? He didn't really use that kind of insulting language about your lens to your face, did he? The mind boggles!

    Will

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  7. Kirk,

    It's cheaper to get new friends than new equipment. Change your photo shooting buddy out for someone who produces less "noise."

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  8. This story is allegory, right? Not an actual walk with someone real, but an imagined walk with a composite personality from the Internet? If this walk actually happened it sounds like it was unpleasant for both of you.

    I find it hard to walk with other photographers AND with non-photographers. With a photographer there's the inevitable "Your camera is too big/too small/too cheap/IS THAT FILM!?" I can't shoot anything the other guy finds because it would be theft and I'm a little protective of what I find. Not that I should be protective because I've got an aesthetic from Seinfeld: photographs about nothing.

    A non-photographer inevitably says or thinks, "Why are we stopping AGAIN? How can THAT possibly be interesting?" and worst of all "Now THAT'S a picture!"

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  9. Really enjoyed this post. On the flip side the major camera manufacturers just love the goofy gear guy. It sad to see how rude people can be at times.

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  10. Some of us non-professional sorts don't fetishize gear and would just appreciate the company. I'd urge you to reconsider your rule - just be pickier!

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  11. Inspiration is for amateurs.

    -Chuck Close

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  12. That is really unfortunate (your experience I mean.) Anything, looked at right, can be interesting.
    Lately, I have been doing what you did on this walk - taking a camera and a lens (my E-3 and whatever suits my mood) and going out and seeing what I can see that day that suits my mood that day and suits the lens choice I made that day. Often I find that I come home with much nicer things than I would have had I brought the whole pile of junk along. What, really, is the point if the gear gets in the way of seeing?

    Cheers!

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  13. Shame on you for walking around with a cheap lens. You'll give pro photographers a bad name. :^)

    Is that SNOW in the lower left corner of the last photo?

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  14. Bill. Dude. We had snow last night and survived!!!! All the schools and government offices were closed today. And by noon everything was drivable. That white stuff is weird. Maybe we'll get some again next year.

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  15. So you went for a walk with my son in law... how did he get there?

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  16. Kirk, I have followed you for a long time but I have never posted a comment until now. Your 'rants' have always been a treat to my existence. A beacon in the night letting me know that I am not alone. Every day I visit your site hoping that I hit upon a rant and not another lighting story (just kidding). Thanks for helping to keep us 'grounded'.

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  17. Kirk - can you give me the name and address of this guy. I know a science lab that would love him for their specimen collection. JCW

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  18. Kirk,

    Man, I hope this was a made up story about a hypothetical equipment fanatic but sadly it's probably a real person and event. What is it that they say in Texas? "All hat and no cattle"?

    Andy

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  19. Wow - thank God it wasn't me (cannot afford even one Canon DSses hehe) ;-)

    When my brother & me met Joe McNally last year, and had his company for an hour, we mostly asked him about life as a pro photographer for NatGeo and such, about the time he has/had to spend away from his family, all that kind of stuff.

    At one point tho I couldn't stop myself, and asked him what he saw. I saw a trade fair (Photokina) packed full of people, very crowded, very loud, more or less interesting architecture and such. He pointed over to another table of the small coffee shop where we were sitting, and said: "You see that lady over there, reading? She seems so concentrated, so being in the moment, ..." - forgot the rest, because as soon as he pointed me to her, I saw a wonderful picture. Even the light was wonderful.

    I think a walk (or a chat with coffee or whatever) with you, my friend, would be invaluable. Cameras or not; doesn't matter. And that is what I'm trying to do - learn to see.

    Thanks for the post, and the wonderful photos.

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  20. You can buy gear, but you can’t buy talent. What‘s the old saying? ‘Only stupid people get bored.‘ Maybe that should be modified to ‘only stupid photographers can’t find anything to shoot.’

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  21. Really cool. I started shooting with my phone on walks to free my mind of "gadget think" that precludes the shot. Very pure. Hold up phone, click and repeat. Great post.

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  22. Next you will carry and shoot with a 35 prime and a 50 prime. You might even shoot what a mini schnauzer sees from his perspective 6 inches of the ground!(easier with knee pads). OMG What is the world coming to? OMG!!! OMG!!!! Leica Smica go and shoot pictures.

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  23. Why is it that carpenters don't get wrapped up in hammers and saws or painters in brushes and easels? Photography is an attitude toward the world around you, not a bunch of equipment. The cameras and lenses are just the tools and yeah, good tools are a pleasure to use but tools are not the point.

    On a similar note I have a 'friend' that I used to (emphasis on 'used to') go shooting with who won't trip the shutter unless everything is "perfect". He only wants to shoot what he called "A" photos. "B" isn't good enough. He misses a lot of photos because by the time he realizes it might be good, it's gone.

    Like your companion on that walk, photography seems to be about ego to them. It's about impressing others with their gear or the "popular" photos they make rather than a way to relate to the world around you and sharing the experience with others. Your companion would have really sneered at me. Nearly half of the photos (thousands) that I took last year were made with a Canon G10.

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  24. Sounds familiar. I have a 'friend' just like that. Once is more than enough.

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  25. The last of the the 3 tree shots on the bottom is the "one". That shot alone would have made the walk complete if it were me.

    Funny though I always shoot alone I'll say hi to someone I see who look serious about what they are doing. The folks with the big D3's and 1D whatevers always have to have a 70-200 bolted to the front are usually not very friendly and quite frankly stick out like a sore thumb on the street.

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  26. Did this really happen? If so, I suppose the other party is grateful you didn't mention their name or website, but I'd hazard a guess that he is a prominent poster on DPReview.com.

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  27. Hi Kirk. Dang! I wish you'd been using your little Oly Pen! That would really have rung his bell. In the FWIW department, if you were a flyfisherman, you'd find the same thing. Guys on the stream with "Orvis" on everything, who can't find a fish even if it jumped into his/her net.

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  28. You should hear what the "real photographers" say when you show up with your EPL1.

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  29. I feel the same way Kurt does - I'm uncomfortable with other photographers because they may see something that I didn't, and it makes me question my own eye. Non-photographers are always pointing out things saying, "get that!" which equally makes me feel irritated that someone else is pointing out something for me to shoot. But it is obvious the person with whom you walked does not have the eye that you do, and feels the need to make said self feel better by criticizing you.

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  30. Yes, great subjects are out there if you open your eyes. A Steinway piano in the hands of cretin still sounds bad. You once gave a piece of advice to just do a photowalk with one camera and one lens. Good advice. Some people have an equipment fetish not a passion for photography.

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  31. I once had an experience like this shooting my kids little league baseball game with a P&S. A sports photographer from a drive in company glared at me as I sat down inside the fence beside him and his mono-podded monster. After the first inning we compared shots and he gave me his card and left to shoot another game that was about to start.

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  32. I find that if the photowalk is planned to end at a pub, I'm probably with the right sort of people.

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  33. LOL!

    It made me remember how I found your wonderful blog in the first place. You had posted a rather lovely shot of your son at poolside, taken with a Canon G10 and off-camera flash if I remember correctly, up at a certain forum.

    There were a couple of negative comments made about how your photo was not perfectly level (!), and one self-proclaimed expert who really took you to task, as he was quite adamant - after reading at least two books on composition he assured us all - that the otherwise worthy shot was pretty thoroughly undercut by your lack of geometric purity.

    Oh man, it was all *very* funny to read, and meanwhile you were such a gentleman that I clicked on your name, which ultimately and beneficially led me here. I have been an avid fan since. :)

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  34. Brilliant piece, Kirk. It brought a smile to my face.

    The person you describe probably resembles many of the posters on DPReview. You know the ones I mean, those people who criticize everything except top-of-the-range gear but never post a shot or have a link to their work.

    Keep telling it as it is.

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  35. He does come across as a bit of a caricature, but people can be stranger than fiction, for sure. I was in a local high school the other day and saw this somewhat "alternative" looking 10th grade girl come into a biology class with a Nikon D5000 around her neck, fondling it obsessively. By the time I walked over to her to chat she had set a custom white balance using a scrap of paper. Her enthusiasm still makes me grin. Total gear head, knows all the stats of different cameras, but it was more charming than anything. I of course had to pull out my 620 that I "happened" to have in my bag to show her I was a fellow addict. So I guess my point is that some gearheads are less annoying than others...

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  36. The story is an amalgam of the last several times I've been pushed to walk with two different photographers. The patter is the same. And the facts are largely what they are.

    But then there's another rant. Just because I like to walk and shoot doesn't mean I'm laying out an invitation for everyone to go with me. It's a big downtown, everyone is welcome, we just don't have to be joined at the hip...

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  37. I echo what you say, it's the reason I go out on my own, I have met folk as described, the go on and on about this sensor or this lens and carry enough kit to fill a convenience store.

    Invariably they couldn't see a photo unless it bit them on the ass, even then they would mistake it for something else.

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  38. Scary post, thought at first it was purely fictional and written to make a point. You are a patient man, Kirk.

    I like the second of the tree and fence series; nice contrast between the light on the tree and its shadow, and love the shade of green on the fence.

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  39. LOVE the tree shots with the shadows... wow. Love those.

    They may have looked better with a Hassy, though... just sayin'...

    ;-)

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  40. BTW... looking forward to a little shootin' and walkin' before dinner on Friday. Looks like downtown Austin is a pretty cool place.

    I promise to not bug you with questions and - LOL - no one will be envying my gear. Heh.

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  41. Don, You have divine dispensation. Also, we're on the same wavelength. Can't wait.

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  42. Made me laugh! Nice set of pictures you managed to "find" despite the static. Its funny earlier this evening i ran out to return a video rental that was over due. Just outside my door the light caught my eye… i ran right back in and grabbed my little G10 and headed out as the light was sliding from late dusk to street lamp light. In 17 minutes i shot 58 frames, most of which suffered from lack of 'L' glass not to mention a nice big sensor with available dark capability. Collectively they made a great little story. The 1:42 min experience is post on my blog for anyone who's interested
    http://web.me.com/jkt13/oni/occasional_new_images/Entries/2011/2/5_17_minutes.html
    As always i love your posts

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  43. Great food for thought! I have a Canon 7D, a nice selection of Canon lenses, but what I'm shooting with mostly these days is my iPhone4. It's always with me, I "can't" waste a lot of time fussing with settings, so I have to pay more attention to what's actually in front of me, and the quality is good enough to be satisfying in 9x6 prints (most of the time). I feel more involved in my shooting now than I have in a couple of years.

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  44. And here I was hoping that if you ever got to New Zealand we could go on a photo walk together! Oh well, I guess we would have to have settled for coffee!

    Strangely I did consider taking the kit lens (that come with my older 20D) with me today but decided that due to the likely darkness of the bush that it would be better to take the IS 17-85. Single camera and lens and make it work for whatever I found. The main point was the walk in this case. Good to see someone else is on the same wavelength.

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  45. 15-55mm is a nice lens and so practical. I don't know why so many don't like it. Perhaps some sort of snobbery from the age of film?

    I gave away mine to my brother with a heavy hart to accompany my 30D. I know I could easily get another one with IS, but so far my 11-22 works fine in the wide role.

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  46. I'd second the positive comments about that last tree / fence pic - lovely light and great selection of colours. Thanks for posting this Kirk - good to remember that new gear isn't a substitute for going out and shooting.

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  47. I just wish I had the time to shoot more of the things around me but stupid work gets in the way.

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  48. I love this post and the accompanying photos.

    I went on a photo walk this summer with about 50 photographers. When I got to the meeting spot there were basically two groups of people. Those with a camera and perhaps a small shoulder bag and those decked out with pro bodies, black rapid straps, big backbacks and tripods. I remember thinking who do I want to hang out with for the next few hours? The people going for a nice walk or the people decked out for battle !

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  49. After a couple of years on different forums, I have to say I understand what you're on about.

    I guess I differ from you a little, as I have no problem talking about tech and gear. People like to talk about it, and let's be honest, talking about the gearbox on your new (old) Mustang doesn't exclude the option of talking of how it makes you feel to drive it.

    As an avid Olympus user for years, I am quite content eating up the fanboy "that's shit" comments. Sort of. I don't get grumpy over it, ignorance is after all bliss, but I try to explain why it's a silly way of thinking. As long as it doesn't stop me taking photos, I just don't mind. Guy next to me want to ask my opinion on the new Sigma 85/1.4? Why not?

    I guess I'm not enough of a purist. ;)

    Great read none the less.

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  50. I'm certainly not above gear talk. There's a time and place. And it should be layered with a focus on what the gear is really for.

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  51. Enjoyed your post. Reminded me of why I always hunted alone and do my photowork alone. Might be that I'm kind of a grouchy old prick also.

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  52. Kirk, if I tell you I'm not a photographer can we go on a photowalk together? I'll just take my 85mm and one body, I swear. And we can drift apart and come back together.

    Not that I have plans to come to Austin any time soon. Sadly. But if I did, I'd love to take a short stroll with you. And I swear I'd leave all the heavy stuff at home.

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  53. We touched on this on the LDP podcast last Saturday when I had Nicole Young and Jason Cate on the show...kinda serendipitous, eh? :-)

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  54. Reminds me of a story about our old Nebraska football coach who is renowned for his fishing trips. Story goes that he took an acquaintance one time who on the second day made a comment "great weather" and the rest of the time it was just fishing. After word someone asked coach how it went and he responded something to the affect "great guy but talks too much". If I were ever to get a chance to shoot with you, I hereby solemnly swear not to comment on the weather nor any camera hardware :)

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  55. I have a new rule. I'll only walk now with non-photographers.

    I made that my rule years ago after attending one of those trendy photos walks that get organized by on-line forums. I find it hard to work on my own vision when seven otehr people were right there making the same image.

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  56. How about walking with a fellow micro 4/3 enthusiast?? :)?

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  57. We are agreed on that, Kirk. I guess I just don't mind that much.

    However, I get what you're talking about. People can be quite annoying, and to talk truth, I weren't there. I didn't experience the annoyance factor of this person.

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  58. I really like the shot of the old office building in the late afternoon sun. The lighting is intriguing, the lines of composition compelling, and the subject matter interests me from the old brick, to the use of "window" AC units above the doors, to the emptiness of the walkway - a sort of mild desolation from the past - if that makes any sense.

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  59. "You should really take more time to look at the stuff that's online. You'll know what's popular."

    As Yoda said softly to Luke: "That is why you fail"

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  60. An interesting, and apt, piece. Assuming the character is real, and if we forgive his appalling rudeness, I do feel sorry for him. To be honest I might have been this person at one time, but we all grow in different ways. Art is different for everyone, we all need to keep open minds. Let's not be too harsh on this person, there are too many like him, and too many camera clubs that (inadvertently?) encourage gear collecting.

    So what advice do we give such a person? That almost anything, if you wait for the right light, look for the right view, can be a good image. Take one body, one lens and spend the day getting to know them.

    I really like the last image above.

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  61. Some people are such arrogant gear heads. Now. How did you like the fence? And what aperture did you use? Please supply 100% crops.

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  62. I'm learning what I really already knew. I just love my own pictures- they mean something to me and they don't have to have that polished look that all of the online photographers seem to have. I just got a T2i but this, while great in many ways, has made me appreciate my little powershot even more! Thanks.

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  63. I love the part about the evening of post processing. Well said Kurt!

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  64. Great post Kirk, sadly I'm all too aware of this scenario, even more so after returning to college last year to continue my photography studies.

    I capture light- I consider myself an artist more than I consider myself a photographer. People try to impress me by telling me what type of camera they have, but unless it's similar to mine, generally I have no bloody idea what they're on about.

    It's not what you have, it's how you use it. =)

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  65. Very interesting, exactly the same thing happens in HiFi and video. "All the gear but no idea"

    Peter

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  66. A wonderful post to bring back up (came in from G+). It was with great pains that I sold my older digitals - AND film cameras - to get the latest 5DIII... but I still have a bunch of film that needs to be shot. I think I'll get a Holga ...

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