I’ve never been a Gear Guy, a Toy Boy, or a Next Big Thing Nerd. And, while I do enjoy technology as much as the next person, there’s a part of me that deeply detests the arms race culture of new, next, now that infiltrates every aspect of modern photography. I personally feel that if you are seeking better photos you should invest in experiences, not equipment. Yet as a pragmatist, I’m forced to acknowledge that certain gear can certainly help elevate your photography.
There is one piece of non-photographic gear in particular that has helped me get more unique and interesting shots than any new camera, lens, or filter. What is this miracle product? Well, that would be a dashing pair of olive green fishing waders.
Your author rocking his photo fashion at an extreme level
I bought my first pair of waders on a month-long photography trip to New Zealand in 2012. I started with hip waders and later graduated to full chest waders. As if I had grown a pair of wings, I found that they opened up new realms of photography for me. No longer was I confined to stream banks, lakeshores, and dry sand. Should a photo demand it, I could now stand crotch, navel, or even nipple deep in icy rivers or lakes, happily photographing away with nary a worry for the dampness of my body’s most sensitive parts.
No more was I stuck in the land of if only. “Wow, there’s a great shot out near that submerged tree trunk, if only I could get to it.” Or “I know those icebergs would make amazing subjects for a wide angle photo, if only I could somehow reach them.” With those if only obstacles removed, I could focus on the far more important task at hand: taking the photos I wanted to take.
For example, those icebergs I mentioned a paragraph ago… they were floating merrily away on Hooker Lake in Mt. Cook National Park in New Zealand. So beautiful, so sculpted, so unusual; they were just begging to be used in a photo. Two nights in a row I made the gobsmackingly-gorgeous trek out to the lake with my waders dangling from the back of my pack, looking more like a fish-loving hobo than a photographer.
Arriving at the milky blue waters of the lake, I kicked off my hiking shoes, wriggled into the waders, and with the gracefulness of a ballerina smashing pies with her face, I plunged into the water. I carefully ambled up to the most interesting ‘berg, dinging my shins horribly in the process (a painful reminder that about 90% of an iceberg lies hidden underwater). Then, blissfully immune to the 35-degree water surrounding me, I waited until the last light of day blew a rosy kiss across the top of Aoraki / Mt. Cook, and snapped one of my favorite portfolio shots:
This is a shot I otherwise would not have gotten were it not for my unassuming fishing waders. Ultimately though, the waders are not really just waders, but rather a metaphor for what I believe all gear purchases should be – a way to remove obstacles between you and your creative freedom. Buying equipment should not be a way to temporarily relieve the farty symptoms of GAS, a way to impress the pixel-peepers, or a chance to be as cool as [insert influential photographer here]. Gear, simply put, should act as a tool to help you achieve your own unique vision as a photographer.
Got any other weird pieces of non-photo gear that help you with your photography? Share them in the comments below!