Why the Craft of Photography is Learned and Not Purchased

With all the new and improved digital and mirrorless camera gear available these days everybody’s out there shooting. That’s mostly what we see in the field, a lot of shooting going on. High capacity memory cards and high-end cameras have pushed information gathering to new limits.

But, we are here to tell you, photography is learned and not purchased.

Yosemite Photography Expeditions in Yosemite Valley
Tunnel View: Yosemite Valley

I never thought I’d see the day of 1 TB memory cards for still photography. High capacity cards seem to be developed for movie making, not still photography. I’m not sure what percentage of photographs are being generated through technical expertise and creative intention. My guess is its pretty low. Spray and pray, after setting the camera to program mode is the rule for many.

It’s all about the shiny new gear and less about actually learning the craft and creating something unique. On our photography expeditions, I’m always impressed by the caliber of camera equipment I’m seeing, not just a few pro cameras, but a lot of high-end equipment. There’s more than I’ve seen in the last 15 years of teaching photography workshops in Yosemite Valley, California’s Big Sur, the Eastern Sierra, and Iceland, in addition to Privately arranged landscape workshops in Yellowstone National park and the Grand Tetons.

On our photography expeditions, we always try to cut through all the bells and whistles on our client’s cameras and quickly move forward into the creative and intentional part of the photographic process as soon as possible. The most important part!

Many don’t realize, the capturing of an image through the lens really hasn’t changed since film days.

The frame or sensor is merely a canvas for controlling the light. This, in addition to the rules of composition, is what it’s always been about and will always remain that way for the unforeseen future.

Learning Landscape Photography
       Private landscape Photography lessons in Yosemite Valley

Every time when we head up to Yosemite Valley to hold our photography expeditions, there’s a place I’m sure many of you know about, called Tunnel View. This expansive view of the valley is quite impressive from this location. It’s almost impossible not to get a good shot here. For many, it’s their first view of Yosemite Valley.

What’s also impressive, aside from the vista, is the number of photographers that are always lined up along this low rising stone wall. Each looking eagle-eyed outward, all pointing their cameras in the direction of this stunning beauty. All waiting for the opportune moment of light and clouds as they dance over the valley, hopefully falling into place.

The more dedicated photographers are all set up with their tripods ready. You’ll then have a layer of iPhone and smartphone photographers on top of that. These photographers, mostly tourists, posing for a quick selfie are puzzled as to what all these photographers are doing there. Then they jump back into their cars as they continue their drive into the valley to continue to experience much more of what this magical place has to offer.

Some of the equipment I see being used by these dedicated photographers is quite impressive. For the most part, it’s pricey and brand new. All of the top brands represented in all their glory. Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Fuji for the most part, and a few large format film cameras as well.

What’s striking about this scene is the number of automatic timers going off, beeping away in rapid succession.

There are always many photographers standing there, sometimes shoulder to shoulder with most asking the other one, “so, what are your settings?” follow by, “What lens should I be using for this shot? Wide or telephoto?” This same conversation among strangers hasn’t changed here for years. Maybe there’s a selected few who get to business not uttering a single word, except for a random comment on the weather or how the valley has changed over the years.

I  really enjoy hearing these conversations, as I’ve picked up quite a few clients over the years this way by offering a tip or two while waiting for one of our scheduled group or private Yosemite photography expedition clients to arrive. This place has always been a good spot to meet them, get aquatinted and get them started on their multi-day experience with Jansen Photo Expeditions.

As I listen in, more of the conversations lead to what is the latest and greatest new camera and how much better their photographs would be if they only had purchased it for their photography trip to Yosemite. Then they explain about the one they are getting next to replace the slightly worn 3-year-old model they’re presently using. Now, I’m not pooh-poohing new gear, we all love new photography gear.

Iceland Photography Expeditions
                 Iceland Photography Expeditions ©MarkJansenPhotography.com

But frankly, I’m always surprised at the frequency people to seem to replace their cameras these days. Especially with many recent Models from Nikon, Canon, and Sony. I certainly understand wanting to upgrade to a better lens or requiring more megapixels for billboard size prints or replacing a camera if it’s exhausted its service life. Most cameras produced in the higher end range as far as digital SLRs and mirrorless cameras are superior products for 30 x 40 sized prints or less. But seldom do people print these days. Online posting is the norm for most.

Many of those amazing images you’re seeing printed and shown on the web have been produced from relatively beat camera equipment, with years of use and perhaps many shutter replacements. Most pro body equipment produced by Nikon and Canon are designed to last a lifetime of banging around and functioning in extreme conditions. I always suggest going with a better faster lens before replacing the body.

The great part about it for everybody these days is every camera of a certain level produced in the last 10 years is top notch. Aside from new bells and whistles, they throw in to get you to buy another new one, your pretty much good to go for quite a number of years. Most of the non-professionals are buying this equipment for landscape, sports, or just travel pleasure will probably never need to purchase another camera in their lifetime.

Landscape Photography Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park “Grand Prismatic” ©MarkJansenPhotography.com

This brings me back to that Yosemite Vista. The more you practice, the more you’ll learn, the better your photography will get. Having the latest greatest camera gear doesn’t make a great photograph.

What makes a great photograph is the photographer gets out there and spends as much time as they can learning how to get the best out of the camera they already own.

The Playing Field in the digital SLR and Mirrorless photography world is as level as it’s ever going to be. Now everyone has a shot at creating that epic photograph. If you have money burning a hole in your pocket, invest in yourself with some solid private or a group photography workshops or perhaps an upgraded lens. The only limitations are your creative vision and your desire to learn about composition, exposure and the photographic process.

Now quit lusting after a new camera and get out there and shoot!

All the best,

Mark Jansen

If you’d like more information about our upcoming workshops and how to get the most out of the camera you have, contact us at: JansenPhotoExpeditions

Other blogs you might be interested in:

Yosemite Valley and Iceland: Lands of Great Light

Photography in Yosemite: Expect an Adventure

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Mark’s interest in photography and love for landscape photography draws him into some amazing places and he freely shares this knowledge on his photography workshops. He researches his subjects extensively, making many trips to selected areas waiting for the perfect light, an interesting approach to the subject, and just the right moment. His goal of "freezing time for others to enjoy" is what drives him to create his visions and teach workshops.

Mark offers photographic workshops in numerous U.S. and International locations with his business, Jansen Photo Expeditions. He is an expert and personable instructor, expedition leader and award winning, visionary photographer. 

Mark has over 25 years of professional fine art and photographic experience. He has a passion for landscape and classic aviation photography and provides large scale commercial installations of his fine art photographic murals and print works throughout California. He works with both small and large corporate businesses in helping them project a powerful impact through his images.


About Mark and Holly
Mark and Holly Jansen
Jansen Photo Expeditions
(805) 701-8807 or

Email: Mark@markJansenphotography.com

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