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.”


For quite a long time, I’ve been incredibly interested in getting into medium and large format photography. The unreal level of detail that this format can provide has always piqued my interest. Also, the sheer challenge of only getting one frame to get the shot perfect is really unlike anything I currently shoot.

Unfortunately for me right now, the cost to get into it is rather prohibitive (at least compared to my current situation shooting almost exclusively digital).

Thankfully there are awesome videos like this one (about large format landscape photographer Joe Freeman) to keep me occupied until my bank account can match my photography desires—Check it out:

Through the Ground Glass from Taylor Hawkins on Vimeo.

Here’s hoping I’ve got a long-lost relative somewhere with some large format gear for me to break into… but for now, I guess I’ll be taking the “large format state of mind” into my shooting—taking my time and making as few exposures as necessary to make the perfect image.