GAS - Gear Acquisition Syndrome

A past and current photographic trend is the quoting of the Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO used to make an exposure.  This is a common inquiry within camera club members when reviewing fellow member photographs.  (There are others regarding various rules of composition, but that’s another topic.)  Fine-art photographers, that being those with a BFA or MFA from a distinguish higher institution of artistic learning, seem to list these three technical exposure factors for each photo plus the camera and lens used as this endows the work with greater significance and worth and possibly value.  I find this obsession interesting, but irrelevant.

Personally, I do not know why these three pieces of technical information about a photograph are needed.  They communicate nothing about the photograph’s emotional state of mind, his/her purpose or intention for the photograph, they do not speak to her/his sensibilities or motivations, or what she/he hopes to communicate with the photograph.  These three technical aspects of a specific exposure have no baring on what camera/lens setting you or I would have used were we all together at the same location, on the same day, or at the same time.  Painters do not go on and on about what specific type of brush they use, or what brand of paint, whether oil or water colour, or what paper/canvas they use.  So why this technical obsession with photography?  I suspect it has to do with the technical nature and aspects of the photographic craft a person must master before it becomes second nature to them that impacts the desire to continue quoting the exposure settings.  For me, they are irrelevant.  In fact I doubt, even if pressed for the specifics for a photograph, would I be able to recall, or even have a desire to ascertain these settings.

A photographer I know uses his camera to capture a record of his growing family and post the images to a variety of social media platforms.  He regularly acquires, to him, a new camera and lens, is excited and enthused at the prospect of capturing more meaningful images and posting them as quickly as possible, directly to social media.   After a short period of time, he announces he’s going to acquire yet another newer/better camera or a better lens.  And he sets out to do so.  The digital camera industry is more than happy to oblige and meet, or even exceed, his desire.  That’s what keeps the camera companies in business.  And so the newer camera/lens combination is obtained and old one sold off.  However, it’s not too long before the newest and greatest needs to be replaced by some newer and great photographic technology.  And, so it goes.  Once or twice a year, or perhaps more often, depending on his image capturing success or failure, a new piece of photographic technology shows up and the old one quietly disappears.  The images continue to proliferate on social media and his growing family’s life continues to be recorded in faithful accuracy and timelessness.  However, the images on social media do not appear to reflect the constant striving for technological perfection the photographer strives to achieve.  The images faithfully capture all the meaningful moments in a growing family’s life, but still there is the longing for better technology.

More than one renowned photographer, over time, has stated that great images occur not between the front element of the camera’s lens and the digital sensor, but at that distance from the back of the photographer’s head and the camera’s viewfinder.

To record the light reflecting off subjects, be they people, trees, rocks, water, buildings, etc., is technical matter.  Today’s digital camera’s can be placed on the A(utomatic) setting and a perfectly acceptable image is obtainable.  Finding that unique, fleeting expression on a child’s face that lasts but a moment and then quickly vanishes requires patience and increased observational skills by the image creator and an ability to anticipate and allow a spark of inspiration to inform the movement of the index finger.  Putting your camera in burst mode and making 10 - 15 quick exposures in hopes of capturing the right one is an approach, but upon reviewing the 15 images, realising the desired moment was missed and going at it again is, in my opinion, an exercise in frustration.

Now, if you’re perfectly happy with the quick fire approach and simply want to document your growing families life and special moments, then pretty much any digital camera today will suffice.  And if this is your ultimate goal, then go for, have fun, post the cutest images to social media, revel in reviewing them all a some future date and be happy and full of joy.  But also, keep your extra money in the bank for some other worthy purchase, because the latest and greatest new camera technology will never meet your goals if what you really want to do is create an image of a rock that is ”more than a rock”, or capture that furtive expression on a child’s face as she sits and contemplates her expanding world.

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