Ver­ity Mil­li­gan


Practical Photography (UK) - - Contents -

How to avoid equip­ment envy and get the shot, every time.

THIS IS A COL­UMN ABOUT KIT. HOW­EVER, I can­not prom­ise that it will con­tain the in­tri­cate tech­ni­cal de­tails you might ex­pect from a land­scape pho­tog­ra­pher. The most com­mon ques­tion that comes up if I bump into an­other pho­tog­ra­pher out in the field is, “So, what are you shoot­ing with?” In­nocu­ous, right? Well, it would be if part of me didn’t im­me­di­ately panic about my cam­era’s cre­den­tials. For the most part, of course, I an­swer and there’s a nod that ei­ther sig­nals ap­proval or in­dif­fer­ence.

Ear­lier this year, on the Isle of Har­ris, af­ter a par­tic­u­larly ex­hil­a­rat­ing morn­ing shoot­ing a hail storm, a lovely chap who I’d shared the scene with asked me which lens I was shoot­ing with. Upon in­spec­tion, he took a sharp in­take of breath and ex­claimed, “Hope­fully it’s the MkIII be­cause the MkII had some real is­sues”. When I checked later, feel­ing a lit­tle stupid for not know­ing, I dis­cov­ered it was the MkII.

Af­ter en­coun­ters like that I re­alise that a lot of how I feel about the land­scape is less about the medium, and much more about the mo­ment. I’m un­likely to no­tice the nu­ances be­tween lens mod­els un­less there is a tan­gi­ble dif­fer­ence to the fi­nal out­put, like when I used a prime lens for the first time and had my mind blown at just how sharp the image came out.

I of­ten won­der how im­por­tant kit is, and how easy it can be to get caught up in equip­ment envy. I don’t have a pref­er­ence or loy­alty when it comes to a cer­tain cam­era brand, and look­ing back I’ve ended up with one brand or an­other due more to ac­ci­dent than de­sign. The big­gest fac­tor for me is the qual­ity of avail­able lenses, and that old adage is true – you get what you


pay for. In­vest­ing in good qual­ity glass in­stead of try­ing to make a cheaper lens do some­thing that it can­not was prob­a­bly one of my bet­ter creative de­ci­sions. I do a lot of com­mer­cial ar­chi­tec­tural work, and for that I in­vested in a tilt-shift lens to en­sure all my par­al­lels were, well, par­al­lel. It’s some­thing I can tech­ni­cally do with a wide-an­gle, but then comes the dif­fi­culty of dis­tor­tion and cor­rec­tion.

Like­wise, in­vest­ing in a de­cent tele­photo, de­spite be­ing an added weight, opened new worlds of com­po­si­tion. I’ve built up my col­lec­tion over many years, and it’s dif­fi­cult to fi­nan­cially jus­tify pur­chas­ing a ton of lenses at the be­gin­ning, but that’s where ex­pe­ri­ence comes in. I started out with a cropped sen­sor and a widean­gle, and I cut my teeth with that setup be­fore I ven­tured into wa­ters new. This gave me an in­sight into the lim­i­ta­tions of fo­cal lengths and en­abled me to make in­formed choices about new pur­chases. Now, when peo­ple ask for ad­vice re­gard­ing es­sen­tial pieces of kit for a land­scape pho­tog­ra­pher, I’ll gladly rec­om­mend a wide-an­gle and, if it’s fea­si­ble, a tele­photo equiv­a­lent to 70-200mm.

Kit is im­por­tant, but know­ing your kit is the most im­por­tant thing of all. Light comes and goes in the briefest of sec­onds, and if you’re un­sure of how to get the best out of your setup, you might end up miss­ing an in­cred­i­ble mo­ment. Trust me, I know.

Ver­ity Mil­li­gan is an award-win­ning land­scape, ar­chi­tec­tural and com­mer­cial pho­tog­ra­pher based in Birm­ing­ham. She runs work­shops and her clients in­clude Amer­i­can Ex­press, York­shire Tea & Visit Bri­tain. ver­i­tymil­li­gan­pho­tog­ra­

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