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Author Topic: Your Camera Does NOT Matter  (Read 48892 times)
mrleonard
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« on: March 15, 2008, 10:47:07 PM »
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I am an occasional reader of both Luminous Landscape AND Ken Rockwell's site. Both of them occasionally give me some info I find useful (technical, photoshop hints etc.). I have, however, found them to be both rather meager in any meaningful content as related to discussions of art, artistic process, aesthetics et al. I find Alain Briot's articles on the creative process to be sophomoric and dull...overstating the obvious and lacking any new, fresh ideas or insights. This is just my opinion.
 As to the rebuttal...The question IS the problem. "The Camera Doesn't Matter" is just a rewording of the "pithy aphorism" -It's not the camera, it's the photographer.
I am not sure if Michael understands the question....Let me put it this way:
 You may have heard the riddle: "If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?" . The most technically cogent answer would be....NO. A tree falling creates sound waves....and a 'sound' is a measurement of the sound waves (to our ears...noise, music…whatever). Therefore, if there is nothing to measure the sound waves…there is no sound. The problem however is that this ignores the "essence" of the question...the question is not a scientific inquiry but rather a philosophical dispute: "Is there an objective reality that exists outside of our perception of it". THIS is the real question in the case of a tree falling, and I think the real question in the case of the camera is: "Does a technical improvement in a creative tool directly correlate to an aesthetical improvement in that creative process." OR "Can an improvement in precision foment an improvement in creative decision" OR "It not the medium, it is the message" OR…well…You could go on and on. The question is obvious.

  I must start by saying I don't appreciate the patronizing tone of Michael’s rebuttal. As if reading his point of view is somehow the final word on the subject. Throwing around words like "stupid" "horseshit" and "mindless vapidity" does not elevate his position in any way…all it does is get my back up. And so I start...

  Photography is an art and a craft. As a craft it is only of interest to speak of its merits or qualities purely in terms of its commercial value. As a craft it is as interesting a subject to discuss as it is to have a discussion about the K&N air filter on my motorcycle (well…it IS interesting to me , actually). Maybe Michael is more comfortable talking about technical matters because (in my opinion) his work is lacking of much artistic content or style. I could never look at one of his photos and recognize a distinctive personal style or trait, and his work does not move me on any emotional level. He is very technically proficient, and because he is always traveling and shooting full-time, he has shot some unique moments. But an artist creates his own moments. Currently, in Toronto, there is an exhibition at Stephen Bulger's photo gallery by Larry Towell (http://www.bulgergallery.com/). As this gallery is rather close to my own gallery I have looked at these quite often. I am amazed by his composition...and all how works have a signature style. These are just photos shot around his Ontario farm (Larry Towell is a Magnum photographer btw....google him). Very few of us photographers can reach the quality if this photographer...that's not my point though. These could have been shot with any camera....the composition is the thing (in this case).
  Michael (or at least I think it was him...from photos I’ve seen) once came into my gallery and looked at one of my own photo works hanging on the wall. He was looking at it from six inches away. I suppose he was discerning the quality of this digital print purely on its technical merits. I tend to think this is looking at art through a loupe....or not seeing the forest for the trees.(I print with an Epson 2200, at 1440 dpi with Imageprint 5.6 and the image in question was shot with a Rollie 35 camera, Agfa Scala scanned on a Minolta Dimage Dual IV...not at all interesting really, but for the sake of full disclosure).

  There is an artist currently on exhibition here that created her works with a Lomo Frogeye film P&S camera printed 36" by 24". The inherent 'noise' qualities are quite pleasing...Looks great! Noise is very interesting to me. This is when the subject matter expands beyond its frame. I think it is a byproduct of when inert , static, immaterial particles come alive from creative processes.Examples of desirable noise that comes to mind... feedback 'noise' in Jimi Hendrix' guitar.Video feedback. Fractals. The 'warm' qualities of old analog stereo systems. Vintage synthesizers.

 One of my more 'successful' images is a composite of two images...one shot on a  P&S digital , the other from a 60's 'half-frame' film P&S  camera scan.I have the luxury of shooting with a Canon 5d and L lenses....but that is mostly so that I look 'professional' for some commercial work I do.
 
  O.K....Im rambling on a bit. I dont usually have the time or bother to post on web forums or have these type of interactions/discussions via the internet...and it's late and i'm tired...

To sum up...Landscape photography has been shot to death...and it is very difficult to shoot anything very original.It is usually in this arena that discussions of technical quality are given so much merit. Would love to show some examples of what I was talking about. I know Flash and Director...but i'm pretty daft at all this html stuff..lol.Anyway....it's pretty much a watershed for digital photo technology. The megapixels can increase, but it won't make a difference until the lenses can be improved to match. This is at the high end,'technical' end of things....only of interest for commercial concerns. For artists...FOR ART....times have never been better. Go out and spend 150$ on a camera and create some amazing photos. It's not the camera...it's the photographer!
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2008, 11:10:56 PM »
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Go out and spend 150$ on a camera and create some amazing photos. It's not the camera...it's the photographer!

If the camera does not matter, why spend that much? Why not get a webcam? Or make a pinhole camera from an oatmeal box and a sheet of tinfoil and some duct tape?
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mfunnell
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« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2008, 11:28:55 PM »
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I regularly use 4 different types of camera for the types of photography I do.  None are especially expensive, though I do have some midling-expensive lenses (and some cheap ones).  I have taken (IMO) some good photos with each.  But I don't for a moment think one camera can take the same good photo as another.  Each serves a different purpose.  There are some types of photos I can't properly take with any of my cameras.  Should I want to take those types of photos, I'll need to get the appropriate equipment.  What is so bad/wrong/inappropriate about saying this?  I don't get it.

   ...Mike

(And, before anyone says there's some magical camera that can take any kind of photo I'll say "x-ray" )
« Last Edit: March 15, 2008, 11:30:14 PM by mfunnell » Logged

Some digital cameras, some film cameras, some lenses & other kit.

Day-to-day photos on [span style='color:quot']flick[/span][span style='color:quot']r[/span], some of my better ones at [span style='color:quot']d[/span][span style='color:quot']A[/span].
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« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2008, 11:57:56 PM »
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mrleonard said "There is an artist currently on exhibition here that created her works with a Lomo Frogeye film P&S camera printed 36" by 24"."

This begs the question, was the choice of this camera a deliberate creative one, or was that the only camera the artist had access to?

If it was a creative choice then that is quite simply an artist or craftsman choosing an appropriate medium or tool.  Which of course proves the point that tools do matter from both a creative and technical point of view.

And as Mike says - what's so wrong with that?

ps - a friendly reminder, it's considered good form to add a 'signature, and maybe even a web link, to initial posts so everyone knows who you are  
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Nick Rains
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mrleonard
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« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2008, 12:32:56 AM »
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mrleonard said "There is an artist currently on exhibition here that created her works with a Lomo Frogeye film P&S camera printed 36" by 24"."

This begs the question, was the choice of this camera a deliberate creative one, or was that the only camera the artist had access to?

If it was a creative choice then that is quite simply an artist or craftsman choosing an appropriate medium or tool.  Which of course proves the point that tools do matter from both a creative and technical point of view.

And as Mike says - what's so wrong with that?

ps - a friendly reminder, it's considered good form to add a 'signature, and maybe even a web link, to initial posts so everyone knows who you are 
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=181837\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
Whos begging?

Good form add a signature weblink whatnow?? This is seriously my 2nd web posting so I have no idea what you are talking about....and it should not really matter.

As to your question of choice... The ARTIST made it...not the camera...And I wouldn't count on them doing anything appropriate...they are human after all.No worries...there's been a history of some good results from their happy mistakes.Who said tools don't matter? Are you sure you know what I'm saying? Y'dig?
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Analog6
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« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2008, 12:33:23 AM »
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Here is what I posted on POTN.  I stand by this view.  The camera supports the vision but you cannot support the vision with crappy equipment.

-----------------------------------------------------

It is true that it is vision that makes a great photograph and great photographers, but it sure helps to have the best equipment you can afford to capture it.

Ansel Adams came from a wealthy family and had the best equipment of his day. He spent hours in his wet darkroom getting the prints just so. GHis finished prints often bore little resemblance to the image the camera captured in terms of contrast, saturation etc.

If he was alive now in our modern times, I bet he would just love to have photoshop and get in there and tweak those images so the capture matched his vision.

I'm not throwing out my 20D or 300D and going back to a box brownie any time soon - although I still do play with my TLR 6x6 occasionally (after I've tested the exposure on the digital)!
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mfunnell
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« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2008, 01:03:56 AM »
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ps - a friendly reminder, it's considered good form to add a 'signature, and maybe even a web link, to initial posts so everyone knows who you are 
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=181837\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
Fair enough.  I've added a signature and hope that's sufficient for "good form's sake".  If not, I'll stand to be corrected.  This may be an iterative process

   ...Mike
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Some digital cameras, some film cameras, some lenses & other kit.

Day-to-day photos on [span style='color:quot']flick[/span][span style='color:quot']r[/span], some of my better ones at [span style='color:quot']d[/span][span style='color:quot']A[/span].
Nick Rains
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« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2008, 01:10:07 AM »
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Good form add a signature weblink whatnow?? This is seriously my 2nd web posting so I have no idea what you are talking about....and it should not really matter.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=181840\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Sorry if I caused any offence, I'm just pointing out that readers of posts like to have a context - ie to know a little about the poster, if they choose to.

This is quite normal on forums and there is a facility under My Controls (top right) to set up a small signature that's added to your posts. Nothing sinister, just adds to the communication.
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Nick Rains
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« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2008, 01:18:10 AM »
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Fair enough.  I've added a signature and hope that's sufficient for "good form's sake".  If not, I'll stand to be corrected.  This may be an iterative process

   ...Mike
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=181845\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

No worries Mike, I was replying to the OP but nevertheless, thanks for the new sig.

Cheers
« Last Edit: March 16, 2008, 01:20:00 AM by Nick Rains » Logged

Nick Rains
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mfunnell
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« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2008, 01:56:17 AM »
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This begs the question, was the choice of this camera a deliberate creative one, or was that the only camera the artist had access to?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=181837\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
Well, here's a photo where the artist only had access to a Holga (read the notes that go with it by clicking on the thumbnail):
[a href=\"http://trueblood.deviantart.com/art/sidewalkng-18080693\" target=\"_blank\"] )

That doesn't mean I won't use "lesser" equipment.  IMO, this is a "good" photo in that it produced at least one visceral and entirely negative reaction:

(OK, the selective colour is a little cliched: I'm still undecided about that, two years on!)

It was taken with a pocket-sized P&S digicam (a great little camera, BTW) used deliberately outside "its comfort zone" to produce the "technical lack of quality" I was after.  Used within its comfort zone, the same camera can produce images of (IMO) quite decent technical quality.  But would I use it to shoot wildlife or football?  Not by choice.  If it were the only camera I had with me, however, I'd try to come up with something, anything...  (and, of course, I might not succeed).

Which leaves me having rambled on for quite a bit.  To what point, perhaps, I don't quite know, except to say that equipment controls what a photographer can produce - and so does matter - while the photographer controls what is produced.  Equipment may constrain a photographer from taking a certain photo - but can't stop 'em from taking a different photo that may be just as "good" in an abstract sense.

Maybe this was Ken Rockwell's point.  If so, I wish he'd just said so, instead of making categorical statements that equipment doesn't matter at all, at all.

   ...Mike
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Some digital cameras, some film cameras, some lenses & other kit.

Day-to-day photos on [span style='color:quot']flick[/span][span style='color:quot']r[/span], some of my better ones at [span style='color:quot']d[/span][span style='color:quot']A[/span].
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« Reply #10 on: March 16, 2008, 02:36:29 AM »
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But I don't for a moment think one camera can take the same good photo as another.  Each serves a different purpose.  There are some types of photos I can't properly take with any of my cameras.  Should I want to take those types of photos, I'll need to get the appropriate equipment.  What is so bad/wrong/inappropriate about saying this?  I don't get it.

There's nothing wrong with saying that. You're using your experience to choose the best available tool for a particular job.

Oddly enough, the example of the master photographer who deliberately chooses a Lomo Frogeye or Holga or pinhole camera or a cellphone for a particular artistic effect proves Rockwell wrong; that the choice of camera does matter. The Lomo Frogeye was not chosen because the camera choice was irrelevant, but because its combination of perspective, lens distortions, vignetting, and the film tonality/grain combined to create an effect the photographer found desirable. The choice of camera is just as important when technical perfection is NOT desired as when technical quality IS desired.

Now of course with digital, one can replicate pretty much any color, tonality, vignetting, blur, or grain effect you like. But if you have a Holga, it may be easier to actually use it to get the Holga look than to get it via digital effects. Or it may be easier to duplicate the "look" digitally than buy a Holga and deal with film. Or the shooting conditions may dictate using a DSLR and simulating the look digitally. But in any case, saying the choice is irrelevant is untrue.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2008, 02:38:43 AM by Jonathan Wienke » Logged

barryfitzgerald
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« Reply #11 on: March 16, 2008, 04:29:36 AM »
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I see they now sell a Holga "special edition" white one, just for that exclusive look!

Being honest, I have never tried one, but I predict a massive increase in ebay sold holga cameras.

Maybe its time to whip out my 1929 120 roll film camera, with real glass lens ;-)

These are all just tools for us to use, and enjoy..I like the fun part about photography, the experimentation.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2008, 04:30:31 AM by barryfitzgerald » Logged
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« Reply #12 on: March 16, 2008, 05:46:46 AM »
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I own several cameras. Some because they have specific capabilities, others because I actually enjoy using them, and as a consequence take images with them which I find personally very satisfying. I'm NOT going to mention brands, but surely this is as much a part of photography as any other - actually enjoying the act of using a camera to take an image which you want to capture. And for different people, different brands may well suit them better - which this thread seems to bear out (Holga's and all - and NO I don't own, nor do I want to own a Holga!). So I'd say that the camera that you use MAY matter - if it doesn't then great.
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Moynihan
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« Reply #13 on: March 16, 2008, 06:33:51 AM »
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So much posting in multiple threads on this topic, and Mr. Rockwell's statement.

I read Rockwell's little essay on this subject about a year ago. Two things I have learned from visiting Rockwell's site.

1. He often states personal preference as objective, or universal fact. He is of course not unique in doing so, but it is humorous at times, and could be misleading to the uninitiated.

2. He is the king of hyperbole.

But if you use Nikon or Canon equipment, he is another source of information, to be filtered as necessary. His "cheap" camera piece was simply an ham-handed, hyperbolic way of encourgaging point & shoot owners not to dispair in the sea of spendy DSLR's. And while it is a bit over the top, I think it was well meant by Rockwell.

Exspecially when you consider what is his apparent shooting style. Color JPEG (he is also a contrarian on RAW), 1/3-2/3 stop under-exposed with the saturation settings on the camera set-to-the-max. This look can be well duplicated by his cheap camera of choice, the Canon A550.
I had one, and now have a A570IS for light travel stuff. I got some very nice color iso 100  desert landscape details out of it a few months back.

If you check what his actual camera recommendations are in another part of his site, it kind of all figures together. As long as you want Color JPEG 1/3-2/3 stop under-exposed with the saturation settings on the camera set-to-the-max.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2008, 06:58:11 AM »
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This is getting more fascinating every day.

Nobody, including Michael, ever stated that it is impossible to create interesting art with cheap gear.

I, for one, have defended several time on this forum the proposition that ultra focus on high end gear can damage the recognition of photography as an art form (I won't develop this point here), but I do also fully understand that there are many areas of photography where gear DOES totally and utterly matter. Some will find this lacking romantism, but I don't believe that those forms of photography where gear matters are lesser art than the one created with cheap gear.

So, from a purely logical standpoing, one positive counter example  is enough to counter a general negative proposition, and it is therefore incorrect to state that "camera doesn't matter". You can write "camera doesn't matter to me" or "camera doesn't matter to X", but that's it.

Cheers,
Bernard
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A few images online here!
michael
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« Reply #15 on: March 16, 2008, 08:06:17 AM »
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I'm deliberately staying out of the fray. So much noise – so little music.

Just as there are those that think I've misinterpreted Mr. Rockwell, similarly there are those who haven't been around here long enough and have therefore done so with me as well.

To which my response is this article from a couple of years ago.

Michael
« Last Edit: March 16, 2008, 08:06:53 AM by michael » Logged
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« Reply #16 on: March 16, 2008, 08:17:18 AM »
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I'm deliberately staying out of the fray. So much noise – so little music.

Just as there are those that think I've misinterpreted Mr. Rockwell, similarly there are those who haven't been around here long enough and have therefore done so with me as well.

To which my response is this article from a couple of years ago.

Michael
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The "Funky Cam"  LOL - I'd forgotten about that
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witz
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« Reply #17 on: March 16, 2008, 08:17:44 AM »
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I'm deliberately staying out of the fray. So much noise – so little music.

Just as there are those that think I've misinterpreted Mr. Rockwell, similarly there are those who haven't been around here long enough and have therefore done so with me as well.

To which my response is this article from a couple of years ago.

Michael
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micheal... keep up the good work...

to all others.... do your best with what you have.

discussions like this remind me why I stopped going to asmp meetings 20 years ago.... boring

botom line.... both matter.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2008, 08:19:32 AM by witzke » Logged
barryfitzgerald
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« Reply #18 on: March 16, 2008, 08:51:19 AM »
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I know I argued that the camera does not matter, but I will accept a Leica M8, as a prize for "putting up a good fight" ;-), and for putting something up to at least make a point.

I can see both points of the argument, and accept that it is easy to misjudge comments on both articles. I think even Ken Rockwell knows that certain needs and specific equipment are needed for some tasks. And that Michael knows himself that there is a gear mania culture in this area..and that you really don't always need "ultra quality" bodies and lenses.

The spirit of the debate is still with Rockwell IMO, whilst he did go OTT on some points, I think it was to highlight his thoughts. I am not here to put words into people's mouths..but that is what I got from it. Nobody here need feel bad for being poor and having junky cameras and lenses, and neither should anyone feel bad for buying high quality equipement. Ken highlighted to me, and some others..how important it is to really "concentrate" on taking photos, and doing the best you can..rather than the more usual lens testing, pixel peeping..oh my camera is not good enough stuff, we see so often on forums, and we are all guilty of doing that from time to time.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2008, 08:55:12 AM by barryfitzgerald » Logged
Slough
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« Reply #19 on: March 16, 2008, 09:13:27 AM »
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As stated by many, no-one is saying you cannot take A grade photos with cheap equipment, assuming enough talent. Especially when the goal is artistry alone. What I and others object to is absolute statements such as "your camera does not matter" because very often the equipment is as important as the user.

Ken is funny, in the strange sense of the word. He rails against gear fetishists (his word), and measurebators (his rather distasteful made up word). And yet take a look at his site, and it is full of techno-babble, with almost nothing about technique, and field craft. Most if not all of the latest 'articles' are 'reviews' of equipment, though all too often he has either never held the item in question, or he has spent 10 minutes fondling a prototype on display at a Nikon stand in a trade fair.

I suppose if you want to take garish pictures, with little in the way of composition, then Ken is your man.

I note that Michael allows people to comment on his views, and even to make negative remarks on his work, unlike Ken. It is interesting to Google Ken's name. It is quite surprising that one person can generate so much enmity.
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