It’s not about the camera! Well, maybe it is, but not as much as you’d think. When I started my “Along the Air Line…” project in late 2001, I was using a compact Olympus camera at just 2 megapixels. Even then, I’d have people see my work and say, “That’s beautiful. You must have a great camera!” I don’t know another photographer that hasn’t heard much the same thing, and grimaced at the implication that anyone could take the same pictures if only they had the best equipment. I won awards with photos from that simple camera.
Over the years, I’ve upgraded to a 4 megapixel Olympus compact camera; a 5-year old used Canon D-60 DSLR at 6 megapixels, and in 2010 a modern Canon 7D DSLR at 18 megapixels. While my equipment has improved, it isn’t nearly professional grade: I just can’t afford it. For lenses, I used an 18-135mm EF-S “kit lens” for general photography; a 100mm EF Macro (my favorite); and a 70-300mm EF Zoom telephoto. The 70-300 has been retired as it aged and became less sharp. For telephoto images and general portability, it was replaced with a Canon PowerShot SX-40, and then an SX-50, an SX-60, and now an SX-70 - a series of compact cameras with incredible long zoom lenses allowing both JPG to RAW images. RAW files allow much more lattitude in editing which I do using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I also do much more now with flash on macro images, using various low-tech light diffusers. The Canon PowerShots do have serious limitations (slow to focus, narrow aperture range, serious digital noise in low light, and more) but compensate by being light, always with me, and flexible from macro to super long telephoto without having to swap lenses. Oh, and roughly $500.
If it’s not about the camera, what is it about? In my case, it’s about seeing differently: seeing what others pass by; seeing from a different perspective; capturing transient moments; documenting what can be seen and when.
The Web Site:
People who have seen my “Along the Air Line…” web site may well be disappointed when they visit the trail. To the casual noontime visitor, the trail is a pleasant outing – but reveals only a small fraction of what I’ve documented over 18+ years and more than 13,000 miles of near-daily walks.
I’ve also worked consciously to make the trail appear wilder than the suburban rail-trail it really is. At my web site, you won’t often see the trail itself, nearby houses, or the walkers, joggers, bikers, or horseback riders that crowd the trail on fine weather weekends. While my web site focuses on nature, there is much about the trail that is not natural: many of the most common plants are invasive, including multiflora roses, Morrow’s honeysuckle, burning bush, garlic mustard, phragmites, tick trefoil, bittersweet, and barberry. That doesn’t mean they’re not picture-worthy; just that "natural nature" in New England is usually an oxymoron.
While I try for an aesthetic beauty in my trail photos, I post many, many pictures that I wouldn’t consider worthy of display. They’re there because they illustrate a point and are the best I’ve got at the time. With well over 24,000 photos taken in all seasons, the site provides identifications of plants and animals, documents what time of year they might be seen, and often adds anecdotes about their behavior or ecological significance. It’s a “virtual trail”. In winter, try enjoying the warmer month photos from various years. During the dog days of summer, remind yourself of snow with a visit to winter pages.