I love getting away from the studio and making great portraits outside, in nature, without the support and equipment that I have in the studio. Although I lose the control that the studio gives me, I gain a creative drive that is sometimes lacking in the studio. Given that I have fewer options available to me while on location I must be more creative with what I do have.
Dali handed the last bag of gear down the cold aluminium ladder and we started winding our way along the trail cut into the cliff face. We shuffled along 30 feet above the churning white water, close enough to feel the spray on our faces. The width of the trail made me feel pretty safe but as I looked over our team of 12 I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself and wonder, “What in the world were you thinking!”
Regarding gear for a documentary photography situation, I thought I would use a recent trip I made to central Asia as a case study. I was working for an NGO, documenting the lives of the Kyrgyz yak herders living in the high mountains bordered by China, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. On this trip I had to fit everything (including my clothes and personal items) in my camera bag and one small carry on.
A painter is much more than his or her paint brush or canvas, but without these tools a painter can not share the beautiful art in their head with others around them. A photographer without their camera is much the same. I may have the most beautiful image in my mind or even in front of my eyes, but without at least a simple camera I are unable to share that image with others.
When I travel I love to photograph interesting urban scenes at night. The drama of the light changes these environments and brings an otherworldly look to the scene. When you shoot at night you tend to have pools of light. Only certain areas are lit while others are in shadow, bringing a certain mystery that daylight removes. Achieving spectacular results at night requires a specific and particular mindset and setup.
The big question from many people starting out in photography is, “What gear do I need to make great images?” The answers to this question seem to fall into two camps. Camp #1 says that you need the latest greatest gear that includes all the bells and whistles so that you can compete in this quickly changing world of digital media. Camp #2 says... your gear is a tool that helps you reach your goal. Define your goal and then buy only the gear that actually contributes to reaching that goal.