A while back, I was talking with a fellow website owner who writes excellent articles on photographic technique. He is non-camera specific and just concentrates on how to make beautiful images with any camera.
He asked me if he could post one of my Nikon D2x articles on his website. Since it was a high-quality website, I said he could. A few weeks later he contacted me and said that my article was getting very high usage on his site. He then wrote a few articles on camera hardware. To his surprise, the articles on camera equipment were being read 4-to-1 over his articles on photographic technique.
That made me think! What is photography about, anyway?
Are we, as photographers, simply collectors of fine cameras? Or, do we actually use those cameras once we get them? Why do articles on hardware pull better readership than articles on technique? I've been puzzling over this issue for several days and have come to some conclusions. Let me go back in time first though...
When I first started in SLR photography, back in 1979 or so, I had a basic manual 35mm SLR with only a light meter, a shutter speed dial, and an aperture control. I learned how the camera worked in a few days of taking pictures, and then concentrated on technique. I learned to see a good composition by actually taking pictures, and reading a lot of good books. I didn't read more than one or two books on camera hardware, though. Mostly, I read about technique.
My first Nikon was an FM. It was a fully manual camera. Then, I later bought a Nikon FE, which added an A-Mode for Automatic. I could set it on A-Mode, then all I had to do was adjust the aperture, and the camera set the shutter speed. Really cool! My next major upgrade was to a Nikon F4. Now, this camera had a lot more dials, and buttons. So, I studied the manual, and gradually learned about its P, S, A, and M modes. Next came the Nikon F5, then the Nikon D100, and finally now, the Nikon D2x.
My Nikon D2x has all the modes that my Nikon FM, FE, F4, and F5 did. It also has Shooting Banks, Custom Banks, White Balance, Sharpness, Hue, JPEG, TIFF, NEF, Color Spaces, an ISO range, Noise Control, Contrast Control, a buffer, a cropped mode, various frame speeds, autofocus in manual or continuous, Single AF, Dynamic AF, Dynamic AF with Close Subject Priority, Group-Dynamic AF, an intervalometer, spot-metering, 3D Matrix Metering, Regular Matrix Metering, Center-Weighted Metering, iTTL, dTTL, TTL, D Lenses, G Lenses, DX Lenses, Non-CPU Lenses, histograms, focus-tracking, and sooooo much more!
I think I know why people are reading camera how-to articles 4-to-1 over technique articles. It is simply because our cameras are so complex that it takes weeks or months of study to understand even a portion of their capabilities. And, by the time we understand our cameras really well, a new one is beckoning us. And, of course, the new camera has about 25 more features to digest than our current one.
The benefit of this complexity is that we can walk up to a subject, attempt a good composition, and get a good exposure 99% of the time. We have to think less about the exposure. In trade we have to become computer scientists to understand our cameras.
Where is a digital Nikon FM? Why can't we go back in time to a simple camera with a single meter, a shutter speed dial, and an aperture control? Couldn't a nice digital sensor be substituted for the film? Maybe they could call it the Nikon DM. D igital M anual SLR!
Look, I am pushing 50 years old really hard now, and, I miss the "good old days." I long for the time when my kids were little, my wife and I were slim and fit, and cameras were simple.
Do any of you, my readers, feel these same emotions?
Keep on capturing time...