On Technical Details in Photography

I am well aware of a compelling impulse of photographers to discuss, with collector’s dedication, the equipment and materials they and their colleagues use, down to the smallest detail. I have never known painters to debate with such intensity the kind of canvas, paper, brushes, and paints used in their creative work.

From: Ansel Adams, Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs, 1982.

I am re-reading this book again, and keep finding details that still resonate more than three decades later. In the age of the Internet, perhaps this is even more true than when it was written, with endless (and pointless) debates about the best sensor, best camera, best lens, whatever. I, for one, have only ever been in one photographic ‘club’ (the Photographic Society at the University of Surrey, which had a very unique spirit, with a focus on community) and do not subscribe to any photography magazines, physical or virtual. In a sense I find this ironic, because I am at heart a very technical person, and one of the attractions of photography for me is this very technicality, and the proficiency required to produce consistently good work. Still, I completely understand Adams’ view here, which is shared by many photographers I admire. In the end, the gear is just the tool, it’s the work itself that matters.


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