In the End What Will You be Known For?

Kids Destroy Photographic Print by photographer Jay Goodrich
Kids Destroy Photographic Print © Jay Goodrich

I have witnessed some major changes in photography throughout my career. I remember the days when you had no choice but to get the shot in the camera. If you missed, that was it, the scene was history. You took a chance every day that you set out on an assignment or a project with the film that you chose, the lenses that you carried, and all of the miscellaneous gear that you brought to accompany your specific mission. Now you have more options than ever. You have choices. “A little bit of variety.”--Natural Born Killers. You can create black and white images after the fact. You can process images as if they were shot with a Lomo camera. Even cross process or bleach bypass an image with a click of your mouse.

And now more than ever before, photographers are discussing, to the point of arguing, over the most minute technical limitations of every new piece of equipment that is being released. They tout those creating with iPhones. Complain about autofocus. Freak out over diffraction. Complain about noise levels in digital sensors. The list could take up this whole post. Does owning a brand new Canon 1DX make you a better photographer than me? Or Ansel Adams? Art Wolfe? Frans Lanting? Or any other pro out there? Or any other photographer out there? I recently read an interesting post by Trey Ratcliff discussing why he is not even interested in the brand new Nikon D4. Did you become a photographer to spend thousands upon thousands on equipment? Or is photography a true enlightenment for you? A creative passion? Is there a voice in your head that makes you see the world and create a picture because of what you see?

I say it often, and to many people, over and over again--simplify and free you mind. I cannot tell you how many images I have created with my iPhone that I truly love. In the same thought, I tend to use a specific tool for a specific task. I don’t create an HDR image because that is what the competition or trends are doing. Nor do I shoot with the most expensive Canon equipment for the same. In fact, I am currently in the process of lightening up all of my all of my gear. I just purchased a thirteen inch Mac Book Air to replace my seventeen inch Mac Book Pro. I am switching many of my f2.8 aperture lenses to lighter f4 ones. Freeing my mind so my soul will follow. And I have to tell you it is an enlightening experience.

In the end, do you want to be known for blowing your kid’s college education on camera bodies and lenses? Or do you want to be known for capturing a brief, fleeting moment in time that speaks to someone else’s soul? I will choose the latter every single time. And if you take all of my cameras away. Smash all of the computers. Burn all of the paper. Destroy all of the forests. I will keep those visuals I have seen throughout my life, to myself and share those experiences through the campfire with only those closest to me. My life will always be complete. Now the biggest question is--will yours?


    Jay, photography has been, is and will always be foremost about the subject and the photographer. A poorly composed and uninteresting subject will be what it is regardless of the technology used to capture its image. That said, better imaging technology can allow the photographer to render a better view of a subject to the viewer, but there comes a point at which minor changes cannot impact that view significantly. I think that the digital world has probably reached that point.


    Good points

    I am about to make what may be my last camera body purchase. I keep asking myself after looking at some of my previous images this question, “Do you really need a “better camera” when you can take the pictures you currently have in your portfolio?” The answer is no I really don’t have to have it, but one more after so much time would be nice. So, I will do it.

    As far as memories, Richard Bach said it best. “You sit down at a table and exchange pieces of paper. Then you airplane flies away with a new owner. The thing that no one can take away from you is the memories of flights in that airplane. They are yours alone.”

    The same is true of scenes we see and experiences we have with those we hold dear.

    You are so right Charles. Someone recently asked me about my 180 and I told them to type in the tail number N180XV into google you will see it. It brought back all these old memories. Great memories. And a few nightmares, but that was such an amazing experience and point in my life that I truly will never forget.

    Jay – thanks. You said it well. Photography is (ultimately) art – and art speaks to our souls. We love beauty. Currently I use my son’s old Pentax K 200D with the kit 18 – 55mm and a real cheap Pentax 70 – 300mm lens. And I am learning again (I’m 50 plus) how to take good photos that speaks to me, as well as others. Not that I would not like to have a Nikon D700 and the Three Kings. If I will ever be able to afford it? Not easily. So, what must I do?? Use and enjoy what I have. Good blog!

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