The Noisy Photographer: Stop Talking

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, UT
Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, UT

A couple years ago, I spent several days shooting in the Moab area at Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. Unfortunately, the sun played hide ‘n’ seek, and it was mostly “hide.” On two mornings I was at Mesa Arch, hoping to capture the glow that comes with sunrise as I had on a previous trip. It was not to be. The sky remained overcast and I didn’t get any memorable shots like the one I captured a couple of years earlier (above). Not surprisingly, there were 8 other photographers there (typical for Mesa Arch, although I had it to myself a couple years before) and we were tripod-to-tripod, waiting for sunrise. It was December and very cold, but that’s we signed up for.

Stop TalkingWhat I didn’t sign up for was endless yammering. Naturally, there was talk about the sunrise and comments about the chill, but then it devolved to, “Have you ever photographed _____?” It became sort of a competition about who had been where, and most of it wasn’t related to photography.  I flew 2,500 miles and drove another 300 to take in the beauty of the national parks, and instead of soaking it in, I had to listen to chatter. Can’t we just enjoy silence for a few minutes and experience what we came to see?

They probably thought I was unfriendly, because I was pointedly silent. I often chat with other photographers at a destination, but not when I’m actually shooting. I would have been content to keep the talk to a minimum so I could enjoy the arch and the landscape around me. Instead, it mindless babbling.

Thanks for listening (assuming you can hear me over the blather.)

Gear Snobs, Photography Edition

If you have ever been a regular visitor to an online photography forum, you have undoubtedly encountered a Gear Snob. Usually a “he,” he is happy to help you spend your money on only the best equipment, because that’s what he has.

I encountered my first Gear Snob about ten years ago at an outdoor photography workshop. The leader was demonstrating his Really Right Stuff tripod with RRS ball head and L-bracket. He reassured us we needed to buy an expensive rig in order to be successful outdoor photographers. Never mind that his equipment cost close to $1,000 (as he pointedly reminded us). He was clear: this truly is the Right Stuff and if you settle for less, you’ll be sorry. (I agree that a $69 Walmart tripod is a waste of money, but there are many other excellent options to consider that cost far less than his.)

Fast forward to the present, where Gear Snobs lie in wait for innocent questions about purchasing tripods, cameras, lenses, and camera bags. When a new user asks for buying advice, the Gear Snob reflexively recommends only the expensive option. Why? Because that’s what he has. Never mind that there are probably less expensive options that are perfectly suited to the user’s needs. The Gear Snob emphasizes that one should only invest in the best if they’re serious about their photography. Often, their argument is, “If you buy X, you’ll eventually outgrow it and end up spending money replacing it.” True. I did that with my first car (and many cars thereafter) and my first house and subsequent homes. I also sold those cars and houses when I “upgraded.” And, I bought cars and houses I could truly afford and that fit my lifestyle and needs. Silly me.

Ultimately, the Gear Snob isn’t really interested in being helpful, he wants to boast that he has premium lenses, the most expensive camera model, the best camera bag, and other top-shelf equipment. Nothing wrong with that, but the user doesn’t want to be your Mini-Me. They wanted to know what features or brands were worth the money, and which were optional or could be passed on. The Gear Snob should have asked, “What’s your budget?”

There is an argument to be made for spending more money on better equipment. However, most of us gradually upgrade as we can afford and need to, and sell our old equipment to someone who can get good use from it. Most of us have other spending priorities and budget considerations. So, Gear Snobs, join us in the real world and concentrate on the photography, not the accessories.