Get Back to Basics

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry Leave a Comment

Photographic gear.

It’s a thing that we need but not a thing that defines our craft.

With the release of the Nikon Df there has again been a huge amount of debate around whether it is or isn’t a great camera.

Seriously, does it matter?

The theme is like flogging a dead horse but have we not gotten to a stage where we should focus more on the art side of wildlife photography?

With art I am not referring to black and white wildlife images that have been over processed and called art but rather the true essence of photography which is, in it’s truest form, an art.

The focus on gear and f-stops and low light shooting abilities only serves to draw our attention away from actually getting out there and capturing the moments, the stories of nature.

Should our craft and art not focus on and be appreciated based on the images we create and share?

When you look at an image like this, what is the first questions that comes to mind?

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlfe Photography

If your first question revolves around what camera or lens was used you are missing the point.

As wildlife photographers we need to get back to basics.  We need to use whatever gear we have at our disposal to capture moments and make images that showcase the fragile beauty of nature.  Gear is just the vehicle and should not be the focus.

I know there are some of you out there who will immediately agree with me but be honest with yourself.

When you arrive at a sighting and there are other photographers there, do you sneak a peak to see what gear they are using?

Do you see a ‘better’ camera than yours and think, even just for a brief moment, damn it must be great to use that camera?

Wildlife photography is, or at least should be, about the moments.

The content of your frames.

About the stories.

It’s about making images that, even if they break the rules, just work.

Yes, get the best gear you can afford because the reality is that you need a camera to make images, but for the love of nature, do not make it the focus of your photographic journey.

Get back to basics, focus your photographic passion on your subject and just capture the moment.

Play around, try new things and do not get stuck into gear-whoring by always wanting, needing, the latest piece of equipment.

Photographic gear.

It’s a thing that we need but not a thing that defines our craft.

Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt

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Comments 0

  1. Andrew Cromhout

    What ever happened to “f8 and be there”? The Wild-Eye guys can get all technical about this, however it was generally a journalistic term I think, that basically (getting back to basics!!!), implied, set your f stop that you will almost always probably have enough depth of field and light, and all you had to then do is pitch up at the scene and get the shot.

    As an amateur, the first thing I want to do is get the shot. I don’t always have the time or opportunity as those using their skills and perfecting their craft every day. Yes, with practice and knowledge I can surely do better than f8 and be there, but I would rather have a technically poor shot that tells a story than not getting a shot with no story to be told. To my average audience, they first see the image and read the story into it, long before they even try and crit the technical aspects of it, if ever. (obviously I am not talking about people like the other Wild-Eye readers, who naturally look at images more discerningly.

    I loved the articles this week, about rules, the golden hour, back to basics, etc. Please explain to me how I am going to ask the cheetah that is stalking the gazelle, at 14h00 in the harshest sun, to please hang on for 2 – 3 hours while we wait for the golden hour, and please when it makes its move for that kill, please move slowly that I can track it with my lens and get my rule of thirds correct. I must also ask it to do this once or twice so that I can get my f stop, and shutter speed right, by maybe upping my ISO, and please chase the gazelle around to the other side of the vehicle, so that the sun is behind me! Somehow I seem to realise that wildlife and wedding photography are universes, not just worlds or planets apart. The we get onto the subject of birds in flight….., oh no, too difficult I say. Another subject on its own Wild-Eye (yes?).
    Of course I must try and improve my bad habits and equipment into new habits and skills.

    I am booked to join Wild-Eye on the Mana Pools trip next year. I can’t wait for the opportunity to meet our host and steal from him and my fellow photographers. I am of course not going to steal with my hands, but my eyes and my ears. I am going to look over my shoulder to see what everybody else is using. Ah you say, this is the “fool” that this article was intended for and he seems to have missed the point. Whoah I say, I am re-enforcing the point.

    Let’s face the facts. 90% of so called professional or serious photographers use about a handful of brands. That must surely tell a story of its own. Yes I use ….., okay I also won’t go there. I use my brand because I resonate with it. I trust it, I believe it remains up to speed with technology. I love it. It is robust, looks good, and trustworthy. I have a long association with it. I have the same feelings for my wife. It is in marketing terms, brand affinity. Because I find all these things in my brand/wife, it doesn’t mean your brand/wife is not as good as mine. What I do though, is look over my shoulder at your wife to see what I can learn from her. (No not for other reasons – I am too old and ugly). Maybe she makes a better salad than me, or the same salad with a different presentation. MAYBE she takes better photo’s than me. Maybe she has a new tripod gadget that has just helped her up her photographic game?!

    Last year I joined the Great Migration safari. Fantastic people and fantastic lessons. We all had different budgets in our bag and we all had different photographic and other goals. Short story to this though is that I gained tremendous ideas and knowledge. I gained great tips and ideas for my GoPro, and help with plug ins for FREE. Why? Because I did looked and asked around! I was also pushed by looking around and seeing the skill and results around me. I wanted to up my game, and help and ideas were there.

    So, before I walk off into the setting sun and enjoy my glass of wine this evening, (no let’s not get into the debate of Cabernet or Syrah otherwise we could end up intoxicated), what about f8 and be there? I give this long comment to hopefully give some of our agreement and approval of the articles this last week, but also to challenge another article to be written. F8 and be there, is very similar to a mik and druk, (point and shoot) camera. Basically the camera can and will do all the work if you simply turn it on, aim, and shoot. But hey, that’s not true. These cameras, (around R5000), have fast become great little machines, with great flexibility and functionality. Gone are the days that they were simply digital instamatics. I often look at friends images from these cameras, and technicalities aside, have to admire the quality they are getting. Often they are getting the shot while we are still fumbling with settings, depth of field, etc, etc. I certainly believe there is a place for these machines in many a camera bag and not only a hand bag, so how about an article on these much aligned cameras, (in certain circles), Wild-Eye? Let’s have the real pros and cons!

    Happy week-end fellow photographers, (hic!)

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