New Camera or New Destination: What Would You Choose?

Gerry van der Walt All Authors Leave a Comment

We keep on worrying about the equipment we use.

Some people worry about it so much that they don’t actually worry about where they are going as much as what they are gong with.

I have had conversations with photographers who would rather spend a bucket load of money to upgrade their already fantastic camera to the newer model, to be released any day now, rather than travel to new destinations to get new images and experiences.

If I have a D3s and I have been shooting the same area for a long time – why would I want spend money, upgrade to a D4 and continue shooting the same area and subjects?

Oh yes, of course.  My mistake…

The moment you upgrade to the new body your photography ability and images will all get better in relation to how much you actually spent on the new gear. Right?


Ok, moving one…

We discussed this topic in the office a few days ago and we were pretty unanimous in our conclusion – it’s not about the gear, it’s about the destination.

I would personally rather spend money to visit a place like the Masai Mara without a camera rather than paying the same amount of money to upgrade to the latest must-have camera and keep on visiting somewhere like Marievale or the Pilanesberg and keep on photographic the same scenes and subjects I have for years.

Being out in the field with a camera is fantastic – it’s what we live for – but it is just as much about the experience of being out there.

Right, I have kind of digressed from where I wanted to go with this blog post so let’s try and get it back on track.

Check out this image.

Wildlife photography destination - Gerry van der Walt

What camera and lens combo do you think this image was taken with?

It does not matter!

This could have been a Nikon D800 with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens or a Canon 1Dx with a 500mm f/4 – you just cannot tell the difference and that’s the point.

You could have used any gear to take this shot but I am sure you will agree that you will most definitely not be able to get an image like this in the Sabi Sands, Namibia or Botswana.

This image screams East Africa and migration and if you want to get shots like this you have to go there.  There is just no way around it.

The point is this – in order to create a well rounded portfolio of wildlife and nature images you need to travel.  You need to get to different places, see new areas and photograph different reserves and subjects.

Think about it.

If I ask you where the best place would be to photograph leopard you’re not necessarily going to say Madikwe.

Best place to photograph Wild Dog?  I doubt you’re going to answer Pilanesberg.

Pangolin?   Good luck with that!

If you are going to keep on visiting and shooting the same area again and again and again your portfolio of images will not grow.  No cancel that.  It might grow but it will grow very slowly.

Once you start looking around at options and different destinations you will see how the environment and ‘feel’ of an area will give your images a unique and authentic look and by doing so create diversity in your portfolio.

Check out these example.

Wildlife photography destination - Gerry van der Walt

The red dunes and Oryx can only mean one place – Kgalagadi!

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Wildlife photography destination - Gerry van der Walt

Hippo grazing next to the river, lush vegetation in the background – Chobe!

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Wildlife photography destination - Gerry van der Walt

You can see Wild Dogs in many reserves but one place always comes to mind – Madikwe!

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Wildlife photography destination - Gerry van der Walt

Elephants, dusty sunsets.  Yes, you could get lucky but for a good chance at shots like this – Tuli!

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So, if you are keen on wildlife photography and you are wrestling with the decision of buying new equipment or visiting an amazing new destination my advise to you on this cloudy Thursday morning is… travel!!

Use your old camera if you must – it’s not bad just because there are newer models out there – and go to different places.

See and photograph different areas.

Experience more!!

Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt

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Comments 0

  1. Morkel Erasmus

    Excellent points, as usual, Gerry! I concur – I’d rather spend the money to see new places and broaden my portfolio (of experiences and images) than always have the latest camera on the market. Keeping my D3s until there’s a D5 or D6 – and you know what, even then the D3s will be a magnificent camera. That being said I am getting a D800 – but only because I am getting it at a REALLLLY good price 🙂

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  2. Fabian

    well yes equipment is overrated esp if you are already at the level of D3. Cmon! D3 hardly anything better available on the Market, ok D4 , but whats the point. Also differences between Canon and Nikon, well ok lenses are white or black, but otherwise marginal. And if Nikon is leading for a month, then the next Nikon model will be slightly better.
    What I would say and argue for, is you can always skip one generation. So from D200 not to D90 or D300 (same sensor) but jump to D600 (or D400 if ever coming). That make some sense and progress, since AF and high iso will be significantly better. And yes, probably try to get there, to the interesting places, with some skill and luck you can make good photos even with bridge and compact cameras, tho they are comparatively slow or dont have the mm of focal range.

    Skip camera generations, dont skip locations, Greetings from Nairobi!

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  3. Trevor Hardaker

    I probably take things to the other extreme, but I am all about visiting new places and experiencing new things. I already don’t have the latest camera equipment (and haven’t for a little while now…), but I have reasonable equipment and I manage to get the odd acceptable photo. To me, I would rather keep my older equipment and spend my money going to new places. There are so many wildlife spectacles to experience on this planet – we are fortunate in the southern part of Africa to have lots of wildlife opportunities literally on our doorstep, but travelling beyond our borders will open up a whole new world. Yes, occasionally I possibly get a little envious watching other people who have newer and better camera equipment than I do, but I would never swop that for experiences like being within touching distance of Mountain Gorillas and Chimpanzees in Uganda, standing in the midst of a colony of half a million King Penguins on South Georgia, seeing Snow Petrels against a backdrop of the white continent or watching Jaguars in the Pantanal in Brazil for instance. Those are all memories which I will have with me forever and no-one can ever take them away from me. I suppose that is ultimately the difference between someone who is passionate about wildlife and photographs it for pleasure as opposed to someone who is, first and foremost, a photographer and who just happens to aim their camera at some wildlife occasionally…

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  4. John Gore

    Very good points, but it is all relative. Would you like to have an awesome sighting, and not be able to capture it because of crappy camera equipment?

    If you have a top end body, even an older one, then of course you are fine, and no need to have the latest just for the sake of it. But if you have low end lenses, or older low end bodies, then you may kick yourself for years to come for missing the shot because you did not have a decent camera or lens on hand.

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