Great gear, sh!t shots?

So many comments recently on how one doesn’t need to have the BEST gear to take amazing images.

I concur with this entirely. However the second side of the coin offers the other perspective – that having great gear doesn’t automatically ensure you get the best images either.

An amusing example of this is all over the media at the moment. Brooklyn Beckham (son of footballer David Beckham, and presumably with access to the highest end gear) has just published a book of his photography with this shot below and the caption: “elephants in Kenya, so hard to photograph, but incredible to see

While we certainly believe that everyone has to start somewhere on their photographic journey, it would be a massive disappointment for anyone spending thousands of dollars to purchase gear, spend additional thousands of dollars travelling to a bucket-list location and coming away with images like the above.

We encourage everyone to get to know their gear. We’re passionate about that. In fact you could say we’re MAD about it.

And I am not a glass-house-dwelling stone thrower either. So I will own my past amusing attempts into photography as evidence that a) anyone can learn to take good photos no matter where you start and b) great gear doesn’t guarantee a great image.

My high school report showing a miserable fail in Photography class, 11/50 (22%) and my position in the grade, 4th last.
A photograph I took at Australia Zoo in 2015, using a Canon 5D Mk 1 camera and L-Series lens. I thought it was good enough to post on Facebook at the time.

I thought I’d dig up some old images to compare the difference in skills and gear between my first trip to Pilanesberg, South Africa and my last trip and look at what I thought were great images then, and what I think are great images now.

Film Point and Shoot Camera

My first trip was in 2000, where I took a mid-range (film) point and shoot camera on a morning game drive and captured images I thought were wonderful. I came home and lovingly slid them into an album of my trip that I have kept protected in storage ever since.

One of my very first shots of a giraffe in Africa, point and shoot film camera
A herd of zebra in Africa, point and shoot film camera
I was so thrilled to photograph this rhino in Africa, point and shoot film camera

Canon 5D MkI + 24-70mm f2.8 + 100-400mm (manual zoom), AV mode

My next trip was in 2015 where I took my Canon 5D MkII and shot with a 24-70mm f2.8 and a 100-400mm (manual zoom) I borrowed for a one-day safari and I was absolutely THRILLED with the images. I shot on AV mode full-time at that stage, as I didn’t really know how to use manual mode and it shows… these were my top 3 shots of the trip.

Herd of giraffe, Canon 5D Mk1 + 100-400mm lens
Herd of zebra, Canon 5D Mk1 + 100-400mm lens
White rhino, Canon 5D Mk1 + 100-400mm lens

Canon 7D MkII + Sigma 150-600mm lens, manual mode

Our last trip in July 2018, I shot with a Canon 7D MkII and a Sigma 150-600mm lens. We shot for over a week, going out every day for hours at a time, stopping only for food and bathroom breaks.

The difference is very, very apparent. I laugh, and yet at the same time, I am just a little bit proud of the progress these images portray.

Giraffe at sunset, South Africa 2018
Zebra foal, South Africa 2018
Mother rhino and calf, South Africa 2018

As much as we all say ‘the best camera is the one you have on you’ be that a phone with a camera, or a P&S… the truth is, to capture evocative, impactful images, having great gear really does help enormously – with the caveat that you MUST put in the time to understand your gear to truly make it money worth spent, and to ensure that the knowledge of your gear and how it works, is not the barrier to creating the image you can see in your mind.

1 thought on “Great gear, sh!t shots?

  1. Ingrid says:

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one to get crap photos with good gear. The one thing I’ve learned apart from knowing your equipment is that a good composition makes a huge difference in the end result.


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