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New thread: Skillz vs hardware?

Discussion in 'Sports Photography' started by steveking, Sep 9, 2008.

  1. OK, I thought I'd take this one to a new thread and not totally hijack the one by JSTAT...

    Ah but skills really matter. Read this about the Masters cover of SI in 2001 made by Fred Vuich.


    He shot it with a Mamiya 7 (6x7 format) and a 43mm lens. Granted a Mamiya is a great camera, but this one is a film camera, and he did use good film in picking Fujichrome Astia too. Once you read the article I hope you'll agree that it's the photographer that makes the image, good equipment only assists.

    To that point I can say that I've come a long way since shooting with my first DSLR, D100, and the 24-85 f3.5-5.4 and 80-200 f4.5-5.6 lenses. Some of my best images to date were taken with that combo, none in low light mind you, but since my abilities and preparation have improved dramatically I can say that so have my images.

    Compare these images below and then tell me which one(s) is/are better. Hint, NONE were taken with the D2X.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

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    Answer: Like a parent I'm most proud of all of these based upon how much I've learned from each of them, and what I've done beyond each moment.

    #1, taken with D100 & 80-400
    #2, taken with D100 & 80-200
    #3, taken with D100 & 24-85
    #4, taken with D2H & 400 AF-S I f2.8

    The better WE are as photographers then the better images we produce. The old saying of putting 100 monkeys at 100 typewriters for 100 years will produce a work as good as Shakespeare is total garbage, just like what the typewriters would produce based upon who/what is banging on the keys. The same goes for photography and images, even though I'm compared to a monkey at times! :biggrin:
  2. a great thread, steve
    and points VERY WELL TAKEN

    i hope that gordon will see pic #4.....
    he loves his D2H

    thanks for the thread
  3. Johnny Yuma

    Johnny Yuma

    Jun 27, 2007
    SE MI
    I agree.
    I am a self-employed finish carpenter. I own the best tools you can buy. When it comes to buying tools the only thing that matters to me is performance.

    I guarantee their is not anyone here, that's not a top-notch woodworker, that can take my tools and create better cabinetry then I do.

    Give me a D3 w/ a 400 2.8 and I guarantee the pictures I get will not be much better then what I would get w/ my D200 and a 70-300.
  4. Great thread Steve ... "If you buy an expensive pen, will you write a good story". . . ?
  5. Oldtime


    Jul 5, 2006
    Durham, NC
    Anyone can buy the best car -does that make them a good driver??
    Anyone can buy the best tools-But do the have the skills to use them??
    Anyone can push a shutter on great expensive photo gear-Will they get remarkable pictures??? Most likely NOT
    Great thread Steve- Having just come back from Sports Shooters Bootcamp this past weekend, I am in awe of the quality and the thought that these guy's and gal's put into there craft. You could give these guys point and shots and they would blow most of us out of the water- It's not the tool all the time it's the vision to see the world differently, to see the light differently,to see the angles differently- These pro's don't set it on aperture priority and fire away -they know light and it's affects and they know how to read that light and translate that into camera settings which capture the most interesting and awe inspiring images from that moment in time.
    All of the pros teaching and working at SSBoot camp started some where with cheaper gear and found away to squeeze the most out of it, thus opening doors to new and better opportunities. Learn to use the gear you have so you can get the most out of it,then move on to something new

    A camera is a camera it's the eye behind the shutter that makes the ultimate decision

    My advice, learn light!!! find different angles!!!
  6. when people say wow look at that lens and camera and say that is why your pictures are good, I reply with did you tell your wife that dinner tonight was good because of the nice frying pan you have. DUH, gear doesn't hurt but knowing how to use it change on the fly and making it an extension of yourself is where the real value is
  7. Mike, that's a great one I'll have to remember. The tools have certainly helped me, but it's time behind the lens, taking lots of crappy shots and learning what went wrong, and learning from the good ones too that have improved my skills over time....
  8. Tools help, but it is always skill at least that is how I feel.

    This shot was in my first of maybe 100 shots of hockey ever.


    Picture info, Fall 2006, D70, 300 2.8(borrowed, also first time using), f5, 1/250th, ISO 250 or so, can't see it in EXIF.

    Granted I have greatly improved on my cropping, as well as shooting, but a good-great photographer can take a great image with any gear.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Late summer 2008, D300, 300 2.8 (my own), f3.5, 1/250th, ISO 200

    Come on David Burnett didn't rely on the latest gear at the 2008 Olympics, he was using a 4x5 speed graphic.

    Granted the latest advances in tools help a ton as the Olympics have shown. But they had to have vision, and a start somewhere we all just can't pick up the latest and greatest and be a great photog.
  9. Thanks gang,

    I was going for the idea that you all picked up on, when your skills are better so are the shots that you take. Drew and Jason got it and made very good succinct points too. Now that Mark has returned from SportsShooter boot camp he can attest to the difference it makes, and he was already good at what he does!
    Geoff even posted two very good examples showing how much better his skills have gotten without big equipment upgrades.

    I'm hoping that these examples will help many people get the idea, go upgrade YOU before you upgrade the equipment, it's a much better investment to make.
    Listen, learn, watch, repeat often, it works wonders. :smile:
  10. Steve, not sure why you needed to start a whole thread off my quote and TRY to pull my punk card, but let me help YOU understand what I meant. A few others understood it in the other thread. Maybe I should start a thread in regards to your ignorance...nah, I'm a nice guy, I'll do it here.

    (just give me a minute to put on the purple dinosaur suit)
    First, I never said photography as a whole, I was referring to one genre of photography, SPORTS. And I stand by it, IMO sports photography is 90% gear and 10% skill.

    Now I'm not talking about portraits of athletes or wide angle Tiger Woods' swing pic on the cover of SI, no I'm talking about reaching the action, about crisp, sharp, detailed images with creamy backgrounds.

    Steve, you also misread that Sports Shooter article. Vuich said, "I shoot all of our course scenics with this camera." (referring to the Mamiya 7 (6x7 format) and a 43mm lens). Key word "scenics". Ever see one of those Mamiya 7 shooting at a football game aimed at Manning or Brady...( :frown: now you have me crying again over the Terrific Tom injury :frown: ).

    Just look at Randy's pics since he picked up a 400 2.8 VR. His images were already kick ***** before, but now look at them. He even admits to the big difference. If not, why keep it? Can you get those same images from where he was standing with a 50mm? Also, read his threads, how many state they wish they had that lens?

    Sure, lot's of us use smaller lenses for stuff like Basketball, but how good would your P&S pics look compared to a D3 with a 1.4 or 2.8 lens?

    I was watching a video on YouTube the other day about a Getty sports photographer talking about what it takes to shoot like the pros. Of course he mentioned skills, but he pushed equipment more than anything else.

    Look at the sidelines at ANY pro sporting event and tell me how many cheap lenses/bodies you see. If it's ALL skill then why do all the pros preach about getting good glass?

    Heck, we all do it here! We all try and persuade the individual who's in a quandary over getting a 70-300 4.5-5.6 or 70-200 2.8 to buy the 70-200! And that's whether they have skills or not!
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 10, 2008
  11. Yeah, then complain over why you didn't have that gear to start with.:wink:

    Why not learn off the pro gear?

    I must have missed the skills test one needs to take before purchasing upgrades.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 9, 2008
  12. bkatz


    Jan 4, 2008
    New Jersey
    Sure it would be great to learn off pro gear and it sure helps to have a lens that is sharp all the way through - but it is still the ability to see the picture and capture it.

    Would I have a few more keepers with better gear of course - but if I can't see the action first what does it matter.

    I have a an acquaintance/parent on my daughter's team, who had money to burn and didn't like paying for my photos. He went out and spent a mint on a new canon. After the first week when he compared his images to mine he went out and bought an equivalent to a 70-200mm VR - one of the big grey pro lenses and then another $400 on a monopod solution. after 2 more games he now sits on the sidelines in his chair and only takes pictures of his kids when they play the ball (they are both goalies).

    My pictures from 2 years ago vs today are much better and although I have upgraded from a D80 to a D300 I still use the same lens most games. There is a definite improvement in the shots. My only investment recently was the grip to go from 5 FPS to 8FPS.

    My friend who I sold the D80 to asked me to take a few shots with it recently of his son playing and it is still the eye. Did I miss the FPS sure but I still had a ton more keepers then the old days.

    So - does having the right tools help - sure - makes it easier for the artist to do their work, but give them an old piece of equipment that is capable and they will still outshoot the amateur with awesome equipment.

    Sorry for the rant!
  13. You're also comparing yourself to an amatuer. I never said a complete non-photog could keep up with the pros. Your friend quit after two games, that's not the 10% of skill I was talking about.

    I've seen it here, someone is excellent at sports/action photography, but they blow at studio portraits. Some of us can shoot all genres of photography, others only have skills in one or two areas. Sports is one of the easier ones to learn and I've heard that from dozens of photogs.

    All I'm saying is that this area of photography is easier with better gear and a little knowledge, compared to the other genres.

  14. Sport in general is the one theme that most photographers say they cover. However, whilst good kit helps, it certainly is not the be and end all.

    Sport can and often is the hardest gig in photography due to the movement of whichever sport one is covering. Testament to this is the sheer volume of work going up online, which sometimes is nothing better than average.

    Working as a pro sports photographer moves the goal posts even further as when this happens, things are taken out of your control. I have covered many many events where your location is dictated by a club and you have no say on where you can sit. This takes me back to kit and obviously a 300/400/500mm lens can and will help, but you still have to make the shots and get them away.

    I shoot for newspapers and I consider my standard very high. However, my agency advise that my portrait and street work is better than my sport !

    Most sport photographers are very perceptive people as the shutter is released before or on the moment, exactly when required. However, getting to know your sport can and does help. Example being my Rugby work. Been covering it for a long time. I no longer watch the ball unless in hand. When it is on the floor I watch the backs and how the scrum half shapes up, cause that tells me where the play is going......

  15. jStat


    Dec 11, 2007
    Janesville, WI
    I tend to think of it like this: Your eye recognizes the scene and preps your body to take the shot; your brain calculates the when/how/where on the player/subject and their movements; good equipment helps make it look the best it can be.
  16. Having the best equipment will give you less excuses as to why you didn't get the shot.
  17. I agree.

    Looks like I'll chime in here again. I am under the notion that some of us feel that the equipment is the one that does most of the work. Well I can tell you it isn't. Yeah the high end specs are awesome 8+FPS, High ISO capability, ect. Well for those of you that think the pros just "spray and pray", its not that easy. For me learning from strobed hockey has taught me to anticipate the action, therefore I rarely "spray and pray." When walking out of a soccer game, I normally come out with about 250 shots I want to keep out of a total 300 or so. I have learned to be patient and not shoot anything, wait for the play to develop, therefore, even with the higher end cameras, I could theoretically get "the" shot with a D40. Yeah I would have to be in sunlight or a decent lighted field, but still. What I am trying to say is its not just the camera, otherwise, like a few parents have said while working the booth in hockey, "how does your automatic photo system work", thinking we have a camera on a mount that follows the action. For one there is no way that would work as it would be tough to do in the first place, and then you would only get shots of people with the puck.

    The camera can't tell you when to shoot, what to shoot, and where to shoot it from. I'd say to be fair give a pro photog a D40 and a 70-300 and as well as an amateur and see what they come up with. Any sport, and let them do all the thinking, I bet 10 out of 10 the Pro gets a better shot, due to the fact he/she knows what to do.

    Then again, I'll put it into a little perspective, If you owned a D3 with all the best glass, would you trust a relative to shoot your wedding? Its in a way the same concept.

    There is a lot more thinking in sports photography than you think.
  18. Completely different genre of photography.
  19. In a way it is, but still, think about it. For one give an amateur with P&S capabilities a D3 on the spot at a sporting event. Would they be able to understand the concepts of M,A,P,S? No Auto selection, sports mode, etc. Can they make the settings the way they should? Even a person with some knowledge could have trouble.

    Well even in sports, it happens. I have seen many D3s with very little actuations go up on the used market stating that the camera is just too much for them, therefore, they don't know the basics before trying the big gun out. They thought it would help their photography, obviously it didn't. Many of us learned on the lower end cameras, and in my opinion the D70 was and still is a great camera.

    Like I said it still takes a lot of skill, as there are a lot more factors than just sitting in a spot and shooting.
  20. biggstr6


    Apr 26, 2005
    PL . Youre argument could be made (wrongly) for all genres of photography.

    The new equipment definitely makes it easier ,but obviously you need both skill & equipment.

    Think about the sports shooters before auto focus.Think about wedding , or portrait photographers before meters in cameras. Dont you think things like ,studios,backdrops, studio lights ,light meters ,gobos,light modifiers,stands, etc. make the photographers jobs easier.OF course they do , but you still have to practice and learn how to skillfully handle those tools.

    Even Digital itself has made it much easier than film . You can learn from your'e mistakes so much quicker ,than shooting ,sending your film off and getting the results back a week later and then trying to remember what your'e settings were for a particular shot.Which by the way. Studio photographers had this advantange over sports shooters along time ago with poloroid backs ,and of course they could control thier light.

    Equipment + Skill = good photography (in all genres)
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 10, 2008
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