Tyson V. Rininger's Blog

TVRPhotography – If it moves, Shoot It!

The Equipment I use….

I get asked all the time what equipment I use to create the images that grace my website or client publications. The simple answer is, a camera and a bunch of applicable lenses. Of course it’s a rather vague answer, but would a more precise one make a difference in someone else’s photographic results? Most likely not.

Now I’m not trying to sound sarcastic or mean, but usually the question is asked in this way: “Wow! Cool shot. What camera did you use?” While the question itself is a valid one, the implication it provides is rather demeaning. In other words, it wasn’t really me who conceptualized the image, coordinated the players, organized the formation, visualized the proper lighting and positioning and selected the right tool for the job, it was the camera that did all the work.

Would it really have mattered if I used a Nikon instead of a Canon, or the other way around? Would it have made a difference if I used a 28-200 instead of a 70-200 when the focal length needed was 135mm? Probably not. So does it really matter what equipment a photographer uses? In most cases, no it doesn’t.

Just like choosing a certain brand of hammer won’t make your house last longer, a photographer’s job is to use what he or she already knows about photography and apply it to the specific tool of their trade. If you hand me a camera that is missing certain features of a more expensive model, it’s my job to find a way around those limitations. If you put me in a Formula One racing car and Michael Schumacher in a Pinto, chances are he’ll still beat me on the track. The tool only assists in achieving the desired outcome. If one does not know how to use that tool, it’s useless.

I once heard a great quote; “It is not the arrow that hit the target, but rather the archer’s skill that put it there.”

When I was in high school I recall building a pinhole camera out of a shoebox. When asked what type of camera created that image, I took pleasure in noticing the looks on everyone’s faces. My challenge to you is to put to work a basic manual camera and apply your magic. The fundamentals of photography apply to any camera no matter how few or how many features that camera may have.

Have fun, and remember it’s you who creates the image, the camera is simply a tool.

Edit: To be fair, many think being a professional requires professional equipment, therefore who am I to talk. In an optimal world, that would be the correct logic and it would only be fair to my clients that I have professional, reliable gear. But, this is the real world where my camera gear reflects the conditions of the market and what it will bear.

To answer the pending question literally, at this moment I use a consumer-level Canon 5D and a used 28-135 I found on Ebay for the majority of my photos. The rest of my lenses, though considered high-end are all from the pre image-stabilization days. A 400 2.8 Series II, an original 70-200 2.8 and a 17-35 2.8 from the days of film.

The real eye-opener came when I borrowed a $6,000 camera body and a few $2,000 pro lenses from a competing manufacturer. While the equipment itself was quite spectacular and a pleasure to use, the photos from my 4 year-old 5D came out superior not because it was a better camera, but rather I was unfamiliar with the tools presented to me.

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9 responses to “The Equipment I use….

  1. Mike Lynaugh September 29, 2010 at 11:33 PM

    Perfectly put Tyson! I get asked the same question all the time and I have to bite my tongue while answering it via email over and over and over again.

  2. Adrian Lang September 29, 2010 at 11:48 PM

    Thank you, Tyson, for putting it so bluntly. I don’t know what percentage you would attribute to a good photograph in terms of skill, but, I put it at about 99% creativity (having the eye for creating an incredible image) and 1% equipment. I say that because I’ve seen lots of big glass and poor images by the owners of that expensive gear.

  3. Gerald Voigt September 30, 2010 at 1:50 AM

    For some of use who are aspiring to be better, your insights and experience is a valuable tool to us. True the real talent is in the eye of the photographer. Many people can walk by something a hundred times and not see an image worth capturing, but a photographer’s eye will. Access, location and timing is also an important part of your success. Its like every time I’m without my camera, the opportunity I’ve really be hoping for is presented. That White Tailed Buck doesn’t run away when I enter the clearing. That Red Tailed Hawk could care less if I am standing just a few yards away. Its all about being at the right place at the right time with your camera and the know how to use it!

  4. Bill September 30, 2010 at 4:13 AM

    Tyson,

    I agree that the equipment doesn’t the photo make, and you certainly are a skilled, artistic, and accomplished photographer. I love and search out your work.
    Your work is surely some of the best out there, that’s why I so often peruse and enjoy your work, and you have learned your craft well, and no doubt paid your dues, so to speak. Most people only aspire to create works of art as wonderful as you do on a routine basis. So to be clear, this is not an attack on your capabilities.

    But:
    1. I don’t think it is people’s intent to say it is your equipment that made the photograph when they ask about the equipment, but people just have an interest in the tools of an artist, and there isn’t an easy way for people to comprehend how to ask or understand the artistic creativity and expression in creating a photograph such as you do, so equipment is an easy thing for them to understand.
    2. To say that equipment doesn’t play a major role is a little misleading, in my view. Every accomplished photog will say that resolution isn’t a big deal, when asked about the resolution, yet they all have cameras that shoot at the highest resolution available. Same with the rest of the camera. They say, well every camera has an ISO setting, an aperature, and a shutter speed, so they can all take the same picture, which I basically agree with, but they all have the top of the line camera body, and they will give some reason, such as durability, fit, etc. As for durability, most any camera will shoot 50-100,000 shots before quitting, and you could buy 8 of these cameras for the price of a top of the line model, and then upgrade to the new version every year or two, and still save money.
    3. Lenses. If gear isn’t a big issue, then why spend $3,000 to $7,000 on a single lens, and have 4 to 5 of the different top lenses. The less expensive lenses are a little slower in aperature, but for most instances that doesn’t matter, and when it does, then that shows that the gear is a factor. Does it matter if you use a 28-200 or a 70-200 when the focal length needed is 135. Yes it does, and I believe you know it does. The 28-200 will not be nearly as sharp a lens, that’s why you would use the 70-200, as well as the lower aperatures available.
    4. Brand. Does it matter if you use Nikon, Canon, or probably even Sony/Minolta, No, you can get the same quality gear from all. But could you use Panasonic or Casio. No, not the same class category, so a little like apples and oranges.

    In conclusion, gear does matter. If you don’t think so, trade me your gear for mine. A Canon Digital Rebel, 70-300 IS, and 50 F1.4. No I don’t expect you too, but please at least acknowledge that your gear does play a role. That’s why you have what you have, to some degree. It lets you create the photographic art you create. Could you get the same basic shot with lesser equipment? Absolutely, but it may not be as sharp, or have quite the pop/impact, and you may not be able to get all the same type shots.

    Now for what you probably really want to say, and maybe what your post is conveying. Could I take pictures like you if I had your gear, and would your photos be better than mine if you used my gear. No, my photos wouldn’t be as artful, nor as beautiful as yours, and yes, your photos with my gear would still be better than mine.

    I understand and accept I don’t have what it takes to create photos like you do, and the best gear available wont allow me to do it, but better gear would improve the quality/sharpness, if not the art of my photos.

    Just to assure you, this is by no means an attack on you. I love your work, and have collected a couple of your works (books), and hope to get more.

    Regards and with due respect,
    Bill

    • tvrphoto September 30, 2010 at 4:54 PM

      Hi Bill, I completely understand where you are coming from and what you’ve said is a very fair statement. I’ve added an amendment to the piece that may better explain where I’m coming from and why I feel justified in making my claims regarding equipment. Thank you for the kind words and taking the time to illustrate your point. It was well taken. Very best, Tyson.

  5. Mike arnild September 30, 2010 at 4:53 AM

    who is Joel Schumacher?

    • tvrphoto September 30, 2010 at 4:50 PM

      Who is Joel Schumacher? Why he directed Phantom of The Opera, I believe. A very important person in the automotive racing industry! Just kidding Mike, and good catch! I meant to say Micheal Schumacher. Thanks for keeping me on my toes!

  6. Richard Mallory Allnutt September 30, 2010 at 2:33 PM

    You put if very well Tyson. I regularly get similar comments. The worst of which is “Your camera takes great pictures!” It’s meant well, but boy… it does sting a little at times.

  7. Larry Grace September 30, 2010 at 4:09 PM

    Tyson, you have a way with words and your answer to this question is a HOME RUN!

    Here’s quote that I have been using to answer the same question: It’s not the camera, but who’s behind the camera. -Anonymous

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