Why I Keep Writing About Gear And Process

Recently I was asked why I’m always writing about the gear I use and the photography process. Rather than just focusing on the end result – making photographs I’m happy with.

It’s a great question, and one I’ll try to answer here.

I believe it mostly comes down to why I photograph.

More important than having a photograph is the experience I go through in seeking it out and making it.

This is why 35hunter has hunter in the title.

From the outset I’ve been hunting for beautiful compositions, and hunting for the equipment and process that allow me to do this with the fewest obstacles and the most enjoyment.

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I could make (and have made) a satisfying photograph with my camera phone.

It’s always with me, has a very decent lens, is very quick to use, and with a quick process in Snapseed I can create b/w images I really like.

But the feelings I have using the phone are less enjoyable with the phone, and the experiences less immersive, slightly awkward even.

The phone doesn’t become an extension of my eye, hand and mind in the way my favourite cameras do, it never disappears. 

In short, to use a cliche, the journey is more valuable to me than the destination.

The process of using cameras I love to explore places and find beautiful compositions, is more important than the final photographs themselves.

And this is why I write about the gear and the process, because I’ve spent 12 or 13 years and used hundreds of cameras and lenses to get to the ones I love using now. 

So I’ve talked about that adventure along the way, how I’ve got here, and why I use the cameras I do.

What I don’t do (I hope) is drone on about the fine details of camera spec and bore you all to death. I try to keep 35hunter focused more on the experiences and the feelings and thoughts behind them, than the dry technical ins and outs.

What are your thoughts on talking about photography gear and processes? Does it interest you what other people use, and why? Or do you prefer a photography blog to be purely about the photographs? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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31 thoughts on “Why I Keep Writing About Gear And Process”

    1. Rachel, I’m still surprised that camera cases don’t exist that feature curved grips that make them feel more like cameras. It wouldn’t take much, and many phones have a button on the top right that can be used/set as a shutter button too. And of course modern smartphones have excellent screens, and larger than any compact camera.

          1. Thanks Robert! Now I just to find about £750 down the back of the sofa to but the iPhone X… ; ) Seriously, perhaps this company make the same product for other phone models too.

  1. Writing about gear and processing brings the risk of overthinking the technical stuff too much. But it is up to the writer/blogger to decide if that’s an issue. Not so much for the reader.

    In general, I do miss stories online about why people take certain photos or choose a specific genre – or take photos at all. Probably because I often struggle with that question myself. Perhaps another form of “overthinking”.

    1. I think – or perhaps overthink – about most areas of my life, always have done! So it’s natural that it extends to something I spend plenty of time on, like photography.

      Yes there’s always the danger of overthinking, but with most of my camera/gear thinking, it’s all focused on the same endgame- finding the camera I enjoy using most.

  2. I appreciate any photography conversation that I can learn from. I say keep doing what makes you happy because if you’re passionate about the discussion it will be a better discussion.

  3. Well, this surely resonates.

    Going out with a camera is its own pleasure, quite aside from the ostensible reason, whether my motive is simple record-making or a desire to make art.

    Close familiarity with a favorite cameras, purpose-built – promotes, uh, focus, and enables the quest without the distraction of fiddling, overthinking. How often has a notable shooter talked about a zen-state, where the gear is used yet almost unnoticed, like one’s feet or hands?

    The smartphone is a handyman’s van, ready to do a variety of jobs just well enough: I can ‘fix” the ergos to a certain extent with a Pop Socket “handle”, yet the thing remains a bit awkward, unwieldy, even (flat rectangle that it is) as a mere telephone.

    Your questions posed here at the the end:

    “What are your thoughts on talking about photography gear and processes? Does it interest you what other people use, and why? Or do you prefer a photography blog to be purely about the photographs?”

    Hah! I’ve made a few notes (about 1,000 words so far) while looking over photo discussion forums, blogs, etc., etc., in the last couple months. I conclude that you can’t really talk about art, and what we may end up talking about instead. I will not inflict those on you here.

    1. Yes William, this is thing, as I just said in another comment, all the thinking and experimenting in using different gear comes down to the same goal – finding those cameras I love, and that get out of the way and make the experience the most fluid and immersive and rewarding. Time spent finding the “best” cameras for each of us, then becoming intimately familiar with them, in the long term reduces and eventually eliminates all the endless fiddling and faffing and thinking when you’re using a camera you’re not familiar with and don’t like much.

      Feel free to share a few of those 1000 words at least, I for one greatly enjoy your thoughtful contributions here.

  4. Hi Dan, I couldn’t agree with you more about the phone. My iPhone takes good pictures but I surely don’t enjoy using it. I do sometimes if I need a wider angle than whatever camera I have with me, which just happened last evening. I am so glad that you write about equipment and techniques because I’ve learned more from your blog than any other. You have also helped me clarify my thoughts about gear in general, so thanks for that. Keep up the good work. Hope you are enjoying your bank holiday, or whatever you call it over there!

    1. Thanks Jon, that’s all great to hear. I’m really pleased you’ve learned from the blog (from the posts themselves and I’m sure other people’s contributions) and that it’s helped you clarify your own choices.

      Yes it’s Bank Holiday Monday here and I’m just this evening catching up online after nearly three days off. : )

  5. I for one enjoy reading about the gear you (and others) use and how they use it. More so than just reading about the end results. It’s probably the engineer in me – a trait that led to my 400+ camera collection and many decades of trying all the methods I came across.
    Smart Phone Photography is simple, easy, and limited. Like snapping with a box camera. 😉

    1. Marc, yes for me too reading about other people’s approaches has been enlightening and so helpful over the years. We can get caught in the trap of forever buying new gear to try and find the perfect set up (which I don’t believe exists) but once we perhaps lower our expectations a little and embrace those cameras that are 90% amazing, it’s very rewarding. And for most people with creative urges it’s natural to want to try different equipment, approaches, techniques and so on, I think.

  6. I think you have the balance worked out pretty well. Yes, I like some gear details, but I also like your subjective feeling about the camera. You’re certainly not boring! I’m constantly amazed at how much you produce. Keep up the good work.
    BTW, your 57 topics to write on are truly amazing. I’m saving that email as inspiration, should I ever decide to blog on my Wordspace site, landscapephotodoc.com. Thank you

    1. Thanks Martin for all of your kind and encouraging comments.

      Yes I think it’s important to give a subjective view about all parts of photography, because we all enjoy it (and various gear) for slightly different reasons. It’s good to hear those personal perspectives.

  7. keep writing about things what gives you joy, whether it is gear or art… what is clear, that gear topics are much more popular among readers

    1. Pavel, I think that’s an excellent point. Most of my most popular posts on 35hunter are a camera or lens review.

      It’s similar on Flickr. Before I did my Flickr reset some months back and made everything private (including perhaps 150 images of gear) the pictures with most views were of camera gear. In fact I think it was something like 17 out of the top 20.

      Jim Grey began a process a few months back where he’s updating camera reviews on his site, and publishing new posts that let us know that he’s updated the old review each time. The motivation being the same – gear reviews get more views than anything else.

      I think a major factor is that people search for specific cameras/lenses, so if you have a review of a more unusual camera especially, it’s likely to be found when people do their searches, rather than just a regular new blog post that doesn’t reference any particular camera name etc, and is “lost” online.

      I think it’s good to have a balance. I like reading about how others find certain cameras, from a personal perspective rather than tech spec. But I like reading and talking about all the other topics and aspects around photography too, it’s far from just about gear. And of course I like sharing and seeing photographs too!

  8. I recently discovered your blog and the “gear and process” posts have opened my mind to the possibilities of older/cheaper cameras. I’ve been taking pictures exclusively with an iPhone for a couple of years but miss the feel of a camera. Thanks for making me realize that maybe I don’t need the latest and greatest (and most expensive) camera to add some fun back into my photography.

    I’d like to read more about your use of Snapseed to get repeatable results with a consistent look.

    By the way, I’ve found that Moment phone cases (https://www.shopmoment.com/) improve the handling of my phone and allow the use of a wrist strap, making it far more secure and a bit more camera-like even though I don’t use the Moment lenses or app.

    1. Rob, welcome, and thanks for your input here.

      Yeh as you’ve gathered I love using older digital gear, the challenges it brings (in a good way) and the unbelievable affordability of it. Check out my Digital Classics page, if you haven’t already –

      https://35hunter.blog/digital-classics/

      That is the main shortcoming of a phone camera – it doesn’t look or feel or handle like a proper camera. In many ways this has got worse as phones have become slimmer, smoother (or, put another way, ever more slippery!) and bigger in screen size.

      I had a series of Sony camera phones from about 2005 onwards and the physical form was much more like a slim compact camera, with a proper metal shutter button with the half press to lock focus. And they were thicker, so felt better in the hands, with ribbed or grooved areas to aid grip too. I fairly recently rediscovered my old 2010-ish Sony Elm in a drawer and enjoyed using that again –

      https://35hunter.blog/2018/06/07/beneath-the-old-elm-a-nostalgic-wander-with-an-former-flame/

      As a camera it functions and handles far better than my iPhone 5 or Sony Xperia.

      Re Snapseed, have a look at this post –

      https://35hunter.blog/2018/07/14/how-i-use-snapseed-to-process-black-and-white-photos-in-13-seconds/

      Thanks for the Moment links. Doesn’t look like there’s one for my current phone but I now realise there are options and cases/grips that can make a phone feel more like a camera. Certainly if I only used my phone and not other cameras I’d buy a grip like this in a heartbeat.

      Good to talk with you Rob, hopefully see you on other posts too.

  9. Dan, I really enjoy the conversations here about photography gear and processes! My relative lack of pedigree or knowledge when it comes to photographic, visual arts is a barrier for me when it comes to contributing to nuanced and/or spirited discussions about technical stuff. I’ve scraped by on intuition or inefficient experimentation over the years because the journey and discovery has always been the thing but I still derive quite distinct enjoyment and pleasure out of hearing others “talk shop”. It’s a path to valuable literacy. I can parse just enough to get it around my pea-sized brain. I’m grateful for your thoughtful insights. Those of your other readers, too.

    1. Thank you! I would say I’m somewhere in between too, I like to experiment and explore for myself, but it has been useful over the last few years to learn more about aspects like the aperture size influencing depth of field for example. You learn a certain amount through trial and error then give that more substance and a more refined direction through a bit of background research and learning.

      I must say that I learned a great deal from reading the manuals of very simple cameras. I recall a number of early 80s Canon SureShots that all had very handy manuals explaining things like depth of field, locking focus and recomposing, and so on.

  10. I enjoy reading blogs about other people’s photographic journey, often pictures will speak for themselves but the written word fills the gaps.

    My own journey is very similar, a number of years and too much money spent finding the camera that fits my style, yet not regretting any moment, as they have all been small steps to the enjoyment I get from not only my own photography but the constant source of inspiration I get from seeing other photographers work.

    1. Welcome Andy, thanks for your input here.

      I think we have much in common (along with most people who find their way here) in enjoying talking about photography and reading about other people’s photographic adventures. It’s why blogs are still so great!

      1. I am late to the blogging scene Dan but since setting myself a 12 month One camera project, I decided to write about my days out.

        I seem to have found an enjoyment in writing about the various forays, along with a few other photo related pieces about how I got to my current path.

        1. Andy, I think it’s helpful on two levels, first to track our own evolution, find what works, what we like best, and do more in that direction, and second to share with others who can learn from our experience and maybe try things for themselves they haven’t tried before.

          A year with one camera is a commitment, well done!

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