We can't deny the fact that an overwhelming majority of the stories and articles we see online are about professional photographers and going all-out in shooting. So for a day while traveling, I thought I would step back, reflect, and shoot like how I did before I started taking photography way too seriously.
Earlier this year, I explored a different approach in teaching photography. Where I come from, the industry is heavily saturated by group workshops and seminars for photography and though this has proven effective for most, I firmly believe that a personalized approach is always better in making sure that one teaches photography effectively. Since then, I started teaching through one-on-one mentoring sessions and have taught a good number photographers of varying skills and experience in the craft. The most common that I've seen are what I would call "casual photographers". These are hobbyist photographers, often with an unrelated day job, but would always seek opportunities to go out and take pictures. They may not be taking photos professionally but many of them are actually more passionate about the craft than most.
A couple of days back, while on a quick vacation, I thought of being exactly that to relax for the day. I had a couple of cameras and a handful of lenses with me along with my set of filters and a travel tripod. But to cherish the experience of taking photos without the complexity of all the gear choices and all the logistics of it, I left the hotel room with just one camera and one lens in my backpack. I left my 5Ds in the other bag sitting on the bed and carried the more casual EOS RP with a 24-105mm lens which I thought would be a good kit to walk around with.
As a first step in this exercise I told myself not to be selective in shooting. I've been so passionate about landscape photography for so long that I often ignore many potential scenes unrelated to my genre of interest. I was in a town called San Juan in the province of La Union in the north-west corner of the Philippines. The place is well known as a destination for surfers so the fact that the weather wasn't too pleasant actually gave me a bit of anticipation that there would be a lot of surfers in the water.
As I was getting excited, I thought to myself how a casual photographer would roam around the place and take photos. How differently would I shoot if I let go of all the gear choices in my head and let go of wanting to do certain things that I usually would do when shooting outdoors? I thought that I should free my mind of wanting clearer skies in the background and looking for interesting foreground elements on the beach. This was a search for what's good in the scene no matter how bad the weather was or how unfavorable environmental conditions were.
In the process, I realized that years back, I would have been the epitome of a casual photographer. I was in school and was buried in books the entire week and on the weekends, if I had time or energy left, I would look for a nearby place to go and seek an opportunity to practice photography. For most of it, I didn't even care about how good or bad my photos were, I just really wanted to practice and enjoy the creative process of photography.
Another crucial fact in the mix was that I did not have what most would deem the best gear over all. What I did have was a camera that did exactly what I needed it to do which was capture what I envisioned. I realized that the casual photographer is actually one that often chooses practical gear that would cater to his or her needs instead of buying the best camera every single time a new one came. This came to mind because the camera I had with me, the EOS RP, somehow felt very much like the camera that I would call my growing-up camera, the Canon 6D. I used mine for so many years without really a strong desire for a higher model simply because while there were cameras with higher specs than mine, what I had actually did the job. I didn't need very fast FPS ratings and massive megapixel sensors. I just needed a sensor that gave me quality photos and a body that would take the photos that I wanted it to take when I need it taken. It was a plus that this time around, it was in a smaller mirrorless body that felt more like an on-the-go kit while not compromising output.
What I truly enjoyed out of this exercise was the fact that I basically dropped everything and let my feet guide me where my eyes thought there would be something nice to photograph. Since most of the times that I've held a camera in the past year were about producing images that would please my clients or showcase a grand vista, this was a pleasant experience of focusing on just finding things and expressing myself through my photos.
Photography really tends to get complicated one way or another as you develop your skills. Whether you're a professional or a serious hobbyist, sometimes, it might be a good exercise to let go of these complexities and assume the role of a casual photographer. The exercise might not be something profitable or something that would get your career going but sometimes it might be good to focus your energy on the creative side of photography and less on the technical one. It's not just lighter on the back, it equips you with inspiration instead of gear, for a change.