OGDEN CHESNUTT

ONE OF the things I like about getting older is that everyone of a younger generation just assumes you have all the answers. With the passage of time and a bit of grey hair, people expect you to have it all figured out, that you ve become an expert in all subjects —even if you have a strong track record of being an idiot, like me. Nevertheless, I like it when people make such assumptions about me. It makes it really easy to have fun with them. And so I raised a mischievous eyebrow when a young man at the camera club recently asked how a photographer can find his own style. He may as well have been asking how many worms are in the earth or what it feels like to pee on the moon. I looked at him quizzically as the angel on my left shoulder got shouted down by the devil on my right. It s all about what gear you have,”I said, casually. No one has ever taken a good picture with a bad camera. You need all the best features to inspire your creativity. I remember the days before lightmeters came about. Dark days indeed.’ He looked deflated. He sighed and shrugged, and as he glanced down I followed his eyes to the Fujifilm FinePix S5000 he clutched in his hands. I guess photography s not meant for me,  he said.  I lost my job last year. No way can I afford a new camera. Suddenly, I felt like a right a*** for giving a flippant answer to an honest question, and I felt even worse that he was so caught up in the perceived deficiency of his gear. Of course, ita natural by-product of a hobby so wrapped up in technology, but even since the dawn of autofocus, clever marketing has made us feel like our creative tools are inadequate. Got to keep us wanting the next amazing camera on the market! I read a great quotation by someone recently, which pointed out that every great photo you like and admire, whether it s your own or a classic in history, was taken with old kit. We re so fixated on the next best camera that we forget our old bodies take pictures just fine. Now, Inever been one for having too much in the way of gear These days this is dictated by finances, but back when I was a weatherman and life was full of limos and caviar, I still refrained from accumulating too much new photographic equipment because I always believed that if you carry too much gear with you, you ll always be second-guessing your choice of lens or body. But with the accelerated life cycles of cameras these days, how is anyone ever going to master what they have when they re constantly upgrading? I think one of the key steps to finding your own style is knowing your camera well enough to trust it to break the rules. You need to know how far you can push it. But how do you know what you can get away with on your Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 when aGF3 is launched some nine months later and you re saving up your pennies to upgrade? That s when it hit me maybe my flippant response, minus the sarcasm, does actually show that Ilearned something over the years. Maybe I do have it all figured out! You know what, your camera is actually fine,’I told the young man.  Finding your style is down to a couple of things: first, knowing your camera well enough, whatever it is, to anticipate what it s going to suggest you do, and then knowing how to undo it. He beamed at me like Bob Cratchit just back from a long lunch.  So this old bridge camera is really good enough?,he said. course it is! New equipment isn t going to solve a deficiency in your images. Experience in getting it wrong will do that. And passion. Finding your own style is also down to enjoying what you do. Passion for a subject feeds your creativity, and that s what canbe taught or bought.’ Suddenly his face once again went glum.  I m not a very creative person,’he whimpered. I looked at him like you would a tenner on the street in a puddle of sick. What s one to do?  Maybe that s why you lost your job?’I muttered under my breath. Excuse me? I guess I don t have the answer for everything after all,  I said  But the art filters on those new Olympus PENs are so good they can be creative for you!

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