Does the Photographer Matter?

Photography over the last decade experienced many innovations.  The advent of digital photography created an explosion of interest for many people.  No longer are we bound by the expense of film and development.  We can take an infinite amount of photos and delete the disappointments with ease and with no expense except for the time used to take the image.

Reflecting on academics

The sophistication of today’s camera surpasses the simplicity of past models.  This development is a double-edged sword.  It allows us to capture images without understanding ISO sensitivity, shutter speed, and aperture, the three elements necessary to properly expose an image.  I, and other, photographers hear people comment how easy it is to take a picture.  Some people believe if you purchase an expensive enough camera, you can rip it out the box and start creating postcard-quality photos.

Kings College

Some have made the following statements regarding my images. “That’s a beautiful picture.  You must have a nice camera.”  or my favorite response “Those were some nice photos.  YOU didn’t take them did you? (This was from a family member!)”  I receive the comments in the spirit in which they were given.  However, have you ever seen a beautiful painting and thought, “Wow, this artist must have some nice brushes!”  People didn’t concern themselves with Michelangelo’s equipment used to paint the Sistine Chapel; nor did anyone care about the make and model of Miles Davis’s trumpet.  Yet, photography seems to be the exception where more credit is given to the tool than the artist.  When was the last time you visited your favorite restaurant and concerned yourself about the type of stove used?

Iron Fence

I’ve worked with a friend for a few months to help him with his photography.  He has a great point ‘n shoot camera.  He believes he needs a better camera to improve his images.  I urge him to improve his photography skills before upgrading his camera.  A better camera not only makes taking great shots easier.   It makes taking bad shots easier as well.  If you do not understand the principles involved in taking great shots, guess which ones you’ll end up with the most.

Punting along the river

I challenged him some time ago to use my camera and I would use his.  We went to Cambridge, UK.  It is a beautiful area with a river running through the city and the historic Cambridge University situated along the river.  I gave him my Digital Rebel XT and a choice of lenses.  He chose to use the lens with a 15x zoom so he could have wide angle and telephoto capability.

Red Peppers

He was initially frustrated with the controls, but he found his comfort zone and he believed this was the missing ingredient for his recipe in taking great photos.  I enjoyed using his point ‘n shoot camera and I looked forward to seeing my images on the computer.

Kings College

We downloaded our images and began to examine the results.  As we looked at his photos, he realized what he saw on the LCD wasn’t showing up on the computer.  The reality is the equipment didn’t make his shots better.  He’s realizing the challenge is how to transform what he visualizes into a good photograph.  A great camera can do many things, but it cannot interpret our vision.

Downtown Cambridge, UK

Every person purchasing a nice camera does not need to read photography books and take classes.  Yet, capturing beautiful and lasting images takes time and it’s not the camera, but the photographer that matters.

Every photo in this post was taken with his camera, Canon S90.

“Gear is Good, Vision is Better.” – David duChemin


A Day in Denmark
Copenhagen Train Station

It was less than a week after my family returned to Detroit and I was making preparations to leave again. I received an assignment to travel for a month. Ironically, I was given the assignment two days prior to my vacation and I was scheduled to leave two days after my vacation. Thankfully, I had a helpful Program Office.

The trip required a connecting flight in Copenhagen, Denmark. Originally, I wanted to arrive on Tuesday and take the second flight on Wednesday so I could spend the evening in the city. However, the approval process took a little longer than I expected. So, I departed on Wednesday which meant it would be a LONG travel day.

My day of travel began Wednesday morning at 5:00 and I knew it would be strenuous because I didn’t sleep the entire night. The taxi arrived at 5:00 AM and I took two trains to London’s Heathrow Airport. I arrived approximately 90 minutes prior to my two-hour flight. The flight to Copenhagen was smooth and uneventful. I arrived shortly after 12:30 PM. Yet, my next flight wasn’t until 8:45 PM. Now, I had approximately eight hours of free time.

A co-worker told me I could place my luggage in the airport storage area. When I went to check-in my luggage, the lady told me it would be 80! I initially thought 80 Euros which corresponds to nearly $100 dollars. However, it was 80 Kroners which corresponds to approximately $14. The next step was to the train station within the airport. The ticket was about $6 and I was off to downtown Copenhagen. SIDE NOTE: I love me Detroit city. Yet, I find it troubling that I can get to downtown easier from the Paris and Copenhagen train station/airport, where English is not the native language, than I can from my own city’s airport.

I walked around and within minutes I was at the town square.

Tribal rhythms

There were various restaurants and boutiques in the area; some stores were familiar and some not-so-familiar.   I was impressed with the tribal musicians playing music in the square.  Their style of music was very similar to the what we saw in Paris.  After walking around I went into a souvenir shop to purchase postcards. I saw some great photos and I asked the lady where the locations were. She told me it was a six-minute walk. I’m glad I asked because when I arrived I liked what I saw.

Sittin' at the pier

I considered going on a local ferry around the city. However, I didn’t want to rush back to the airport and I knew I’d spend a day in Copenhagen during my return to England. So, I relented.

Waiting for tourists

A few hours later, I made my way back to the airport to prepare for my next flight, and glad I made the effort to see the town.

When we take the time to venture outside our comfort zone, we actually expand our areas of opportunity. Taking the time to ride a train in a foreign land literally opened the door to a beautiful city waiting for me to discover and photograph it.