After many long months of waiting, my new D850 has finally arrived! If you read my previous article about the joy/trauma of being on backorder, you’ll probably have some inkling of how excited I am at the moment. But as this is not my first new arrival and most, if not all of you, have experienced the same situation, I thought I’d take a moment to try and describe our universal moment.
I’ve never been a father. I’ve never gone through the trauma of sitting in the waiting room, surrounded by all the other expectant soon-to-be papas, waiting with baited breath for word that my child has arrived safely in the world. But, as an analogy, I think it may be a good, if unusual, place to start.
First making the decision to take the plunge on a new piece of equipment can also be a life altering experience, especially if your finances are on the tight end. Immediately you start to wonder whether or not you’re making the right call. Even if have taken your time and done your research, even if you have objectively thought through your purchase and made sure you are making the right decision for your business, when you actually go to hand over your credit card to cover an invoice with a few too many extra zeros on the end... Well, even the most careful shopper may experience a case of the alligator arms. Like the moment you are told you will be a father, a bunch of questions rush through your head. Am I even ready for this? And, if your camera was on backorder like mine, you my have a long wait to find out the answer.
Eventually your new bundle of joy arrives. It’s even more beautiful than you imagined. Even if it isn’t your first new arrival, you are still overcome with a powerful sense of possibility. You wonder what their life will hold in store. You imagine all the things your new offspring will achieve. How many happy times lie ahead? Like a new pair of white Nikes you're afraid to scuff, you think of how you will try with all your heart to keep them safe.
Obviously, introducing a new person into the world is decidedly more significant than any material purchase can ever be. But whenever I am blessed to be able to open up a new camera box, I often find myself filled with the same sense of optimism.
As I first held my D850, I went through the usual paces. We all know them. Picking up the newborn gently at first. Afraid the simple act of lifting it off the table will lead our inner klutz to somehow break it before we ever even get a chance to use it. We look it over closely, taking notice of all the ways it is both identical and dramatically different than the cameras we’ve held before.
Our fingers wrap firmly around the grip. We make the mind muscle connection that will allow this new mechanical body part to function as an extension of our own hand. Gently caress the shutter button, not yet ready to pull the trigger.
No, there are still a few items on the checklist to address before we get to actually fire off any frames. We have to charge the batteries. We have to set up the menu. We have to figure out how to reconfigure our camera case to make sure everything fits nicely with the new cameras dimensions. We have to attach the camera strap, a process that I surmise is intended to take five minutes, but, as I am clinically inept at virtually any form of assembly, the process of figuring out how to maneuver the strap into the little metallic triangle always seems to take me a full swear-word filled half an hour. Yes, you may openly laugh at me now.
And since you’re already laughing, it may be the right time to admit my tendency since I was a child to give human qualities to inanimate objects. So, since they will now be sharing a camera case, I also take a second to introduce the new camera to its predecessor who will be relinquishing its role as starter and assuming a new backup role to the flashy rookie.
Once all the preliminaries have been completed, it’s time for the main event. The first shot. Maybe for you, it's a picture of your couch. Your backyard. An accidental closeup selfie of yourself as you stare at the front of the camera wondering “what does that button do?”
For me, there’s only one subject worthy of being the initial model for a new camera. And, while he may not move quite as quickly as he did the first time he was forced to parade himself in front of my lens, and his countenance may contain a few more strands of gray than his previous portrait, fourteen years of experience have well prepared him to strike a pose.
It’s tempting to look at that first frame and think that the wonder of this new machine is its ability to add even more megapixels to your masterpieces. But as I snapped that photograph it dawned on me that the real reason the arrival of a new camera is so exhilarating to me has nothing to do with technical specs on a spreadsheet. Instead, adding a new camera to the family represents something far bigger. Possibility.
When I bought my very first Nikon D200, it was purely an impulse buy. I had no intention whatsoever of building a career in photography. It was just a fun diversion from the doldrums of my day-to-day life. But that impulse buy changed my life. Within the lifespan of that camera, I quickly migrated from screenwriter with a day job to photographer published in some of the biggest magazines in the world. While still a hobby at that point, those years opened up a sense of possibility and introduced me to new interests and activities that I never knew existed.
When I moved to the D700 a few years later, I was taking my first tentative steps towards moving from a snap shooter to an artist. Like most of life’s transitions, I had no idea it was happening at the time. But when I opened that camera box, I was an advanced amateur just fascinated by full frame. By the time I sold it to make way for the D800, I was an award-winning photographer and had lived out my dream of seeing my work in exhibitions.
The D800 was a necessary technical upgrade. My D700 files put me on the radar of a few companies, the 36 megapixel image sensor in the D800 would allow me the tech specs to fulfill their jobs. In the five years since I’ve had the D800, my photography career has transitioned once again. Leaving the day job and the word “hobby” far behind, my new camera would now officially lay claim to the title of “workhorse.” It was now responsible not only for creating beautiful art, but for also for providing the food on my table. My humble dreams had come true. The D800 was my partner in discovering new ones.
So, when I opened up the new camera box to my new D850, I was overcome by a far more significant emotion than admiration for it’s higher pixel count or articulating LCD. I was instead overcome by a sense of wonder. Wondering what this next chapter in the journey will entail. Wondering what moments I’ll be able to capture while looking through this particular viewfinder. Like staring into the eyes of a new born child, excited for the dreams to come.