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The gear that changed my (photographic) life: reader responses part 2

Reader responses part two – gear that changed my life

Photo of Canon AE-1 by DPR member WoifC

We’ve compiled more of our favorite responses to the question we’ve been asking – both of ourselves and our readers – “What was the piece of gear that made the biggest difference to your photography?” We enjoyed reading all of your stories and have picked out a few of our very favorites to highlight.

This time around, we saw many responses expressing gratitude toward the person who inspired them to pursue photography, in addition to the gear that made the difference. There were also several responses naming the books that changed their photographic lives, which is a sentiment we can definitely get behind.

Reading your answers to this question has been a true joy in times when joy has been harder to come by than usual. We’re grateful to share in the remembrances of the people, books, cameras and lenses that spurred each of our readers further down a path pursuing photography. Thanks to all who took the time to respond, and if you haven’t yet it’s not too late! Leave a comment and tell us your story.

Pentax K10D

Doc Pockets: I was to take a 15-week road trip in a quest to photograph what most will call lousy winter weather. A 1996 4X4 F350 with a service body took us from the Sonoran Desert (home) to and across all the Canadian provinces ending in the Maritimes then driving down the American East Coast…. Three bodies, two DA* 2.8 zooms and a wide prime was chosen.

Drenched in downpours (Vancouver Island), blizzard -blasted (Cabot Trail), sand-blasted (Lake Superior’s shorelines) and one spent two hours with the 50-150mm 2.8 DA* attached in 20 feet of silty water (thanks to my sister) without the slightest problem. To this day those cameras work!

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‘My friend Peter’

JeffieBoy: He is about 5 yrs older than me and for 40+ years has been a mentor and someone I have looked up to. The first time we met, he walked into the room and mumbled something like F5.6 under his breath.

He later explained that he was teaching himself to quantify light In his mind’s eye so he would always be ready to get a good exposure. I practised for a month or more and eventually got very good at it… My cameras were always ready because I was unconsciously presetting everything as light changed.

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Michael Reichmann

Chris Butler: It wasn’t an “it” but a “who” that changed my concept of what I could do with with a camera. Specifically, it was Michael Reichmann’s 2000 comparison of digital images to film, in which he had the audacity to prove the 3 megapixel D30 could produce images as good or better than film. I sold all my considerable film gear and never looked back. Well done, Michael, and RIP.

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Pentax SFXn

Photo of Pentax SFXn by DPR member arthur01

arthur01: …the game changer for me, as a wedding photographer using film, was the underrated Pentax SFXn. It was the first time I used autofocus. As a person wearing glasses and struggling to achieve sharp focus as it got dark towards the end of the after ceremony shots it made all the difference. It prolonged my wedding career.

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‘The New Joy of Photography’ (1985 edition) by the Editors of Eastman Kodak Co.

donnybrook: I was a young field engineer that had just bought a used Minolta XG-7 and a few lenses off a colleague to upgrade my point and shoot film camera. That book basically taught me photography and I would review it before going on vacation trips with my film SLR for years. Not just aperture and exposure compensation but balance, composition, vision and light. Lots of great shots to admire and motivate.

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Nikon D5300

Photo by DPR member Aphidman with Nikon D5300

Aphidman: In 2013 I discovered that 35mm film could not be found outside of cities, and realized it was time to change technologies. Used Air Miles points to get the D5300. It re-ignited my love of photography that had been dormant since my teenage years. Used it to discover what kinds of photography I enjoyed most; 4 years later, upgraded to a D7500… which addressed all the things that held me back with the D5300. An adult daughter now uses that D5300, for which I will always have fond memories.

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Nikkormat Ftn

Photo via Wikimedia Commons by E Magnuson

CTaylorTX: It was January 15, 1972. Fairhaven Camera in East Haven, CT. I was 16, and had saved for a year and was ready to buy my first 35mm SLR. The man behind the counter had already loaded the batteries into a Pentax Spotmatic SP1000. My mom looked at me and said “I have another $50, is there something you would like better than this?” I pointed at a Nikkormat Ftn with 50mm f/1.4 Auto-Nikkor – “yes, that!” … While I still love the Pentaxes, the Nikkormat opened the doors to shooting Nikon for the next two decades.

Oh, yes, how do I know the exact date? On the ride back home, the car’s A.M. radio informed me that ‘American Pie’ was now #1 on ‘America’s Top 40’. Thanks for the memory, Kasey Kasem.

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Canon TS-E 17mm F4L

Photo by DPR member John Crowe with Canon 17mm F4 L TS-E

John Crowe: After striving to improve my ultra wide angle photography for 25 years, through three different formats, I sold the 4×5 and 120 cameras and went all in on the Canon 17mm f4 L TS-E. That was almost 10 years ago, and soon realized that not only could I correct perspective but that I could also shift and stitch images together to create even wider views! It took a couple more years for the stitching software to catch up, but once it did, I could achieve the kind of results that I had been searching to create for decades.

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Sony a6000

Photo by DPR member Luddhi with the Sony a6000

Luddhi: …I was rarely taking my camera out as it was too heavy to take bush-walking so I pestered my local camera shop trying out all the lighter cameras until – against the advice of the shop, I bought a Sony a6000. This changed my life. I was able to carry it in my jacket pocket.

I carried it in my hand for about 6 hours through Washpool National Park after I tore my jacket pocket. I could take satisfactory photos one handed – important when holding onto a tree to lean out and take a shot of a ravine. Also whereas my grandchildren would flinch when they saw me with the 50D they practically ignore(d) the a6000. So I now have some good and some funny shots of my grandchildren that I otherwise would not have got.

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Canon AE-1

Photo by DPR member WoifC taken with the Canon AE-1 and Ilford FP4

WoifC: When I was 6 or 7 years old, my mother gave me a Canon AE-1 no one used… There was no film in it and I walked around, tried to focus on anything I found interesting and was soooo proud that I was allowed to push the shutter release button. That’s 30 years ago but I still remember that day and know that this was the day I fell in love for photography.

My son is now 8 years old (since Monday) and loves to take photos too. Sometimes he asks me to borrow my X-T2… and walks around taking photos like I did when i was as old as him. Maybe we will share this hobby when he is older. I hope so.

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Speed Graphic

Photo of minor league baseball images created by DPR member SRHEdD using 35mm and Speed Graphic cameras

SRHEdD: I worked for a rural ad agency and shot 35mm Nikons, but we hired a photographer with a Sinar 4×5 from a larger metropolitan area at great expense. On vacation, I saw an old Speed Graphic in its fiberboard case with two lenses and a half dozen film holders for $200 at an antique shop. It worked perfectly. I bought a Polaroid back when I got home and instantly replaced having to hire anyone else.

I shot food for a major poultry company, team photos for a minor league baseball team, and some great still lifes used for our clients’ annual reports, etc. I think it was then that I was comfortable calling myself a professional photographer.

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Foba camera stand

Photo of DPR member Jim Kasson with Foba camera stand

Jim Kasson: Lots of gear has allowed me to do things I couldn’t otherwise do. I couldn’t have done Staccato before the D3. I couldn’t have done much of Timescapes without the Betterlight scanning back. But the piece of gear that has changed my life the most in the past few years is a Foba camera stand. Setups that were a pain are now effortless.

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