Your Camera As A Conversation Starter
One often hears of photographers using a particular camera because of its stealth fighter like characteristics with the mystical ability to somehow cover the photographer with the Harry Potter cloak of invisibility. Many Leicaphiles of course make such claims, as do those using Sony RX1s and similar tools , though as I have often said "you want stealth?. Use an iPhone". No one will give you a second glance!
On the flip side of the coin, other "aspiring to be pro" photographers ask " what can I get so people know I am the "pro of the show" my response, forget it, how you handle yourself and the your gear will mark you as a "Pro" unless of course you really want to go mad with big tripods, medium format and studio lights. Short of going to extremes the only people who will think "there goes the Pro of the show” will be the true "gear heads" who actually know their D3s from D100s.
In truth I reckon despite protestations to the contrary a great many folk, if totally honest ( Leica owners included) buy their expensive gear because they want to be noticed and recognized for their impeccable taste and conspicuous affluence. Basically having owned a huge array of gear over the years I can tell you in absolute brutal honesty, you’re kidding yourselves and wasting a lot of money in the process if this is your motivation, almost no-one cares what you are shooting with.
But a camera can be a great conversation starter and when on holidays in a foreign land might be just the ticket to find out a little more about the locals and open up some useful dialogue.
And here in lies today's little lesson, if your camera is going to fire up some verbal banter it will need to be something different, and no that does not mean the latest Canon DSLR, I mean something that looks clearly different to a ubiquitous black bodied DSLR. When I think about the people with cameras I saw on our recent overseas holidays there are only a very few that made me take a second glance. In fact I can say exactly who they were, and lets not forget I actually do know the difference between a D3 and a D800 etc .
Who were these people then? A Japanese girl having a fine time lying on her stomach with a Fuji X100, a middle aged fellow shooting a 5x4 Toyo Monorail View Camera, another with a pristine Canon F1 (film camera) and a young guy with an RB67 Mamiya. That's it, sorry but all those Nikon D800, Canon 5Ds etc, I didn't notice you.
Before going to the US and Canada on both previous trips I spent quite some time sorting out my NEX 5n kit, I made all sorts of accessories including handgrips, optical viewfinders, stabilizing straps etc. All the bits were chosen and made to improve the flexibility of the tool and to make shooting easier, additionally I made several ergonomic modifications to the NEX 5n body.
The last thing on my mind was "hey this custom rig is going to get me noticed", frankly I am not a gregarious sort, I enjoy quite introspection and anonymity when away from teaching. I just want to take photos, I'm the guy that on a tour gets left behind because he's so focused on getting the shots he don't notice everyone had moved on. My wife, the lovely Miss Wendy on the other hand generally loves a chat with anyone.
So here we were roaming the US of A and getting pulled up at every turn by people asking about my camera, I hear guys saying things like "there’s a serious photographer". At Yosemite I struck up a conversation with a wonderful fellow who it turned out actually knew some friends of mine in my home town Goulburn, 18,000 km away!
I had several young girls ask "what camera is that, it looks cool?" guys asking about my camera grips and optical viewfinder and photographers ask " where did you get that grip?
An issue that caught me of guard was I kept getting pulled up by couples who asked me to take their photos in front of monuments, or well known landscape scenes etc. Usually this interlude led to a little conversation and it was actually quite a nice distraction, it seemed the general consensus on their part was I looked like I knew what I was doing because my gear was so odd and I seemed to automatically know my way around it, therefore I was a good bet for getting a nice family pic.
Meanwhile all those snapping hordes at Yosemite, Venice Beach, Grand Canyon, Seattles' Space Needle and a myriad of other places we visited never raised a glance with their ubiquitous Canikon DSLRs.
Honestly this is the first time in my life as a Photographer when the gear has truly drawn attention to itself and honestly being on an OS holiday it wasn’t a bad thing and it was not the wrong sort of attention either. I imagine you know what I mean by that last statement, the attention one gets when using some enormous telephoto on a DSLR and you're immediately assumed to be some sort of paparazzi or terrorist or worse still a peeping Tom.
The custom NEX 5n rig is not intimidating, it just looks neat (I reckon) yet I have had people say " that must cost heaps", as we all know it is a very reasonably if not bargain priced option, so that shows just how little the average punter knows about the cost of photo stuff. Best of all the rig allowed me to capture around 12000 images over the past 3 holidays with absolute confidence and without weighing me down too much. And just in case your wondering, yes I pretty much carried it with me all day every day.
Overall I reckon I sold about 12 NEX 5n' during the first 2 trips, I will of course be forwarding my bank account details to Sony soon in keen hope of their gratitude and appreciation or perhaps they might see fit to send me one of the new A 6000s.