It’s probably the most common question I get asked when out on assignment. The one that most photographers dread.

“So…what gear are you using?”, generally followed up with an “Oh, I shoot with BRAND X too!”, and capped off with an “Now, I’ve got the [INSERT LENS HERE], how do you like your [LENS ON CAMERA]?”

Tools of the trade — all fitting into one small Domke bag.

Tools of the trade — all fitting into one small Domke bag.

I know. It sounds snobby and cynical the way that comes across. But I promise that it’s really not.

You wouldn’t ask a writer which brand of pen he prefers, a painter which brush he just purchased, or what kind of cordless drill your carpenter is using. In a strange way, taking photos are some strange amalgamation of all three — the pen, the brush, and the power tool.

Whenever I have the time, I put away the “big guns” and go back to basics and shoot a few rolls of B/W with this little beauty:

1960’s-Era Nikon S2 Rangefinder — Madison, WI

1960’s-Era Nikon S2 Rangefinder — Madison, WI

One 50mm lens. No meter. Hell, not even a battery (spring loaded shutter is always a winner). Take away the fluff of digital photography and focus on what matters — Composition, tone, balance, story, and emotion.

And that’s where the frustration I mentioned earlier really comes from. People are fascinated with technological “stuff” and forget what I’m really trying to do while I’m out there — tell stories through photographic art.

This isn’t meant to be a rant against photo-gearheads or hating on digital photography. (I’m just as guilty of “lens envy” from time to time myself) Just a thought to remember the next time you pick up your photo bag:

“Never let your camera get in the way of good photography.”