You Have Some New Photography Equipment: Why Learning and Using That New Gear Matters

You Have Some New Photography Equipment: Why Learning and Using That New Gear Matters

As photographers, our friends, relatives, and significant others sometimes despair at trying to find what may appeal to us and be within their holiday budgets. We may casually let them know that we are super excited about this new gadget that will "really" improve our photography if we only had that one newfangled gizmo. Whether it’s a brand new piece of kit or something that’s been in our bags sitting from a few years ago, we still need to learn what that "new" tool can do.

Personally, I’m always learning when it comes to photography which is one of the reasons I enjoy photographic artistry so much. There’s this inherent mix of creative intelligence and engineering know-how with a bit of math and physics thrown in that complements our work. For many of us, this is why we enjoy photography simply because it has such a broad way to create whether we are technicians or artists. The toolkit that we have gives us different avenues to pursue and sometimes we need to choose a path and really learn what the possibilities are. Drumming down to the essentials and then moving away with broad strokes will help us grow as artists, but we need the time to grow with our own skill set to realize what’s possible with the tools we have. 

Patience is a skill set I struggle with and yet I know that growth takes time and consistent perseverance to really and truly be achieved. I advocate that practice just as much as mentorship matters in this regard. I also know that some new tool, whether it’s a lens, camera, or gear will not make my work any better. Learning how that new tool can be used and what I can do to work to its and my own advantages will make it worthwhile owning with the addition of the time I put into learning how to use it.

Eureka Sand Dunes Death Valley Image by JT Blenker

Getting specific to me personally about a kit I’m still learning about, I picked up a new Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens almost three years ago and have used it all over the USA for landscape, astrophotography, and portraiture. The Eureka Sand Dune image above was taken with the lens and it a fantastic piece of glass, but I still don’t feel I know the lens as well as my trusty Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens. I find little things I love and dislike about the lens in certain settings but the dexterity is its real value. I feel I need to commit more time and energy to really knowing it’s limits and testing them, but many times I simply need to work on other things. I choose my 70-200mm as a default at times because it’s a lens I know I can really create images that are magical, but I also know its limits when it comes to my shooting style. I thoroughly understand it’s strengths and weaknesses in the way I photograph. I also have five years with the lens and more time creating work with it. The time I put into using the lens makes my comfort level and my knowledge of its capabilities that much more thorough.   

Another piece of kit that is overall new to me is a Syrp Genie 3-Axis Motion Control Kit, but I’ve come to love what I can create with it. It’s flexibility given the situations I work in and travel for is fantastic, but I almost sold it after only a few months. I had tried out the Syrp Genie Mini Panning Motion Control System and went ahead and committed to a full kit, but after an entire winter, I had barely touched any of the equipment. I didn’t invest the time to learn what could be created with it until almost a year after I purchased all the components. I decided I needed to spend a considerable amount of time to really get up to speed and figure out the limits to the kit itself. I made a few very time intensive mistakes, but I feel really comfortable working with a motion control kit now. It took the investment of my time to really understand the value of the tools I already had. Below is a quick time-lapse from Mobius Arch in the Alabama Hills.

You should always be growing and learning new things with your process, your gear, and your abilities. Photography is truly a passion that has no limit but ourselves, which is why I want to say: don’t quit using those tools too quickly. If you received a new lens this holiday season, learn what it can do with you at the helm. If you picked up some education like from the Fstoppers Store, watch it more than once and take notes. Apply what those mentors are offering you. If you were given a light meter, learn how the tool can help make your life easier and your understanding of light that much more in depth. All of these things only make you a better and more accomplished artist that has invested their time into themselves and something they love. 

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Spy Black's picture

RTFM? Nah, that's no fun...

Vicky Stephens's picture

Excellent article JT. Thank you.