Objects of Beauty, 5.

In Objects of Beauty Series, Travel by David19 Comments

Nikon D3s, Zeiss 50/1.4. Gitzo Ocean Traveler tripod.

Heading off this morning with Emily (my Jeep) and my buddy Corwin for 3 days of adventure, working our way around some logging roads and offroad trails, basically looking to get into trouble, find something scenic to photograph, and unplug from the matrix. In the back, somewhere, will be a scarred Gitzo tripod and a banged-up Nikon D3s.

I love my cameras, but that love has little to do with the brand or the buttons and dials. It’s got to do with the feel of it in my hands and the memories of holding cameras around the world since I was young. I love the heft of a good camera, and appreciate great design, and the sound of a shutter. I love my tripods, this one especially, because the machining is so nice, and the carbon fibre just looks better each time it earns a battle scar from rocks or cobblestones. But more than that, it has to with making beauty, knowing that what comes from the collaboration with these tools is an expression of my soul and a reflection of the people and places that have been the point of so many journeys. I guess that’s why I’m so apathetic about the endless gear debates. Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Hasselblad, Voigtlander, Leica – all of them have been my traveling companions; we’ve been places together and in making beautiful things they too become beautiful.


  1. When I had to retire my Pentax which I really loved, I was fortunate enough to have an awesome photojournalist as my friend. His work supplied him with Nikon and his personal gear was Canon. I was able to play with fine cameras that few of us are able to get our hands on and, ultimately I decided to go with the Nikon as it simply fit my hand better. Sensors, megapixels etc have no meaning when the camera is not comfortable to hold. I really bonded with my old D200 and we got some great photos together! Sadly it took a bad fall onto some rocks recently and the cost of repair was prohibitive for my budget. I still can’t bear to simply toss it away, we have too many memories together. So, David, I can relate to this post.

  2. David, I enjoy learning about your cameras, your gear, your travels and all of your experiences. As an aspiring photographer, your books and blogs have helped me in my evolution.

    I research your gear – then I buy as similar a product as possible that goes with my beer budget. Albeit, I recently ordered a small red moleskine notebook!

    One day I fully expect to remove “aspiring” from my credentials and join your ranks as a professional. I think I’ll go back and reread Vision Mongers now.

  3. David, you hit it right on the head:”what feels good in your hand is most important”.

    When a D3 or D700 is in my hands, I struggle. Give me any Canon and it feels intuitive. I’m sure others feel the same, but loving a Nikon.

    You get used to your rig and make it work for your style. But the the piece I will defer to is the Zeiss 50 1.4. It makes a difference. I use Zeiss Contax glass on my “cheap” Canon Rebel film cameras and the image has it’s own life because of it.

  4. Author

    GDub- I didn’t take you to be snarky. I do think we mean different things by our words. I am a big fan of discussing gear, learning about it, and using it to serve our art. I see a distinction between that productive discussion and the endless gear lust and bickering, posturing, etc that gets substituted for actual creation. In the end, however, I am not asking for concensus on my blog. Whatever it takes for you to do what you love and love what you do is fine with me. I hope you don’t become apathetic, I just hope you love your art more than the camera. Gear is still good. But vision’s better. 🙂

  5. David, Sorry if my statement came off as snarky. That wasn’t my intention. My point, however, is that the gear in the “Objects of Beauty, 5” image is VERY expensive. Not everyone who’s interested in photography has access to high end stuff. I recently purchased my first really expensive (for me) camera. Before pulling the trigger, I found the “endless gear debates” to be, for the most part, very useful for helping me make an informed decision. The upshot is that the camera is AWESOME! It’s also a beast to tame, so again I’m finding the “endless gear debates” to be helpful with my learning process. Will this camera make me a better photographer? Of course not. But the technical bells and whistles that make the camera expensive and somewhat complicated also make it a better tool. I’m sure that after I’ve used it for a while, and got my mojo on it, I too will become “apathetic” about the thing itself. But for now the “buttons and dials” are new and exciting, and I feel very priveledged to be using such a fine, technically advanced piece of gear. And yes, it too is an “object of beauty”–not for its “mojo” but for its newness and potential.

  6. With you on this. Had an interesting conversation in the concert pit on Saturday with a fellow photographer, who was asking me about what cameras I use (I still tape my logos). I wound up telling a story about photographing a marching band in Oaxaca.

  7. David…I hear you on your last point. While teaching seminars about light, composition or other points, invariably the group starts getting completely off topic chattering on about hardware/software potentially missing the real point about actually creating the image. It takes a firm but guiding hand to keep them on point. The roots of the diversion is of course the consistent sales onslaught of buying the next bigger-better-best as the “magic bullet” to their solution to ‘seeing’ and creating images.

  8. Greg, I don’t think I mention gear all the time. But the reason its a constant is that I write and teach in a context (popular photography education) where the gear is too often the focus. And I write about it because it bothers me and I prefer my writing to be personal and honest.

  9. As always, well said. But there’s one thing that keeps coming to my mind when I read your posts (and don’t understand me wrong, they are wonderful) – why are you coming to the question of gear ALL THE TIME ? If gear doesn’t bother you, and you all about creating art, why are you always mentioning that fact? (the fact that gear doesn’t matter)

  10. GDub, I’m not apathetic about gear, I’m apathetic about the pointless debates about gear. I don’t take trivialize it at all.

  11. Still curious: what kind of head is on the tripod, and is it a kirk quick release?

  12. David… You’re “apathetic” about gear because you have access to GREAT gear. It’s a privilege. Don’t trivialize it.

  13. …and my oldest and most favourite… Kodak Hawkeye Brownie… complete with flash attachment… crsip memories and blurry photos

  14. I once did a series of images around my grandad’s old Ricoh Elnica 35m. It enthralled me because it went on every trip he ever made, and just knowing he held it and saw scenes through it I may never see made it important. They turn out to be so much more than just another tool, don’t they?

  15. David, well said. I often tease with others about “brands” but I’ve loved every camera I’ve owned from 2 1/4’s to my Nikon D3.

  16. Thinking about how much fun it has been over the years to take photographs, what I miss most about my film camera is the sound of the shutter firing and the motor drive advancing the next frame. It was such a positive sound like the camera was saying, “Next, I’m ready, go for it!”

  17. I just went back through the whole series of 5. I love this idea and may steal (borrow?) it myself. I sometimes say that my camera is the best in the world. Not the best model, just my camera itself, because it’s my own and what we’ve shared. 🙂

  18. David…know the feeling and understand all too well the apathy regarding the relentless hardware/software geek-dweeb babble. But you’re right about well designed tools that just work right and feel right. Along with the usual digi-stuff in the bag is my 40 year old 6×7 MF camera that feels like a well designed hammer in the hand but with the precision of a Porsche.

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