Yes I am stealing the title from the “Got Milk?” campaign, but it is a great question to ask, especially when our propensity as photographers is to often be more mindful of settings and gear than of passion and soul. Steve Gustafson gives us a great reminder that soul should be the goal.
My son told me that he was leaving a big box gym and joining one less than half the size with limited equipment. I asked if it was due to affordability and his answer interesting. “No dad, the big box gym has no soul”. That statement has stuck with me and now it pops in my head when I look at my camera gear. I won’t tell you which two camera brands I own because you will automatically get focused on the brand and miss my point.
I have found that I am shooting one particular camera all the time and the other is petrifying in the bag. Don’t get me wrong. The one in the bag is a great camera and in many ways superior to the other. The other has terrible auto focus, awful shutter lag, and knobs that turn when you don’t want them to. However, it is the camera that I’m always choosing to use. I’m hearing my son’s voice again. This little camera has soul!
Wait! There’s more! The little camera that was less than a third the cost of my other “big name” camera, received a firmware upgrade and now my soulful little camera, has focus peaking. Focus peaking makes it easier for an old guy with poor eyesight like me to use manual focus. My favorite lens ever is a manual focus 105mm, f2.5. With an adapter I can mate it to my little camera even though it is a different brand? Yes!! I am actually using an inferior camera with a manual focus lens and having a great time!
I had the privilege of meeting and talking with Bill Fortney last week. (Don’t waste your time asking him if he knows me. He will respond…Steve WHO?) One thing that rings clear with Bill is that he has more fun than anyone else while he is out shooting images. I now know what he means. The fun of photography is returning for me and that is causing me to see things that I would have previously passed over.

This is a shot of my patio. Rather uninspiring to say the least. As a matter of fact it is proof that I have to get busy with yard work. Notice though that I have circled the a little box of flowers in the bottom right corner. This became my playground while my dear wife was preparing dinner.
Armed with my favorite lens and my “inferior” camera, I was able to take time to experiment and “see”.

This is one result of my playing with different points of focus and angles. This image won’t win any competitions but my wife loved it and I cannot think of a better way to unwind after work. I had fun!
A final thought. Please don’t be reductionistic and think that this is a technique for shooting better images or even suggesting that you have to have a certain type camera to have be inspired as a photographer. My intent is to encourage you to see what moves you. Science tries to reduce you to a collection of atoms and molecules. Rebel against that. You are human and you have passion. Fulfill those passions within proper boundaries. In the same way,cameras are more than a machine designed for reproducing a likeness. Find what camera, lens, or combination actually encourages that passion. You may actually find you have soul!
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