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One Piece of Non-Photo Gear that Changed My Photography

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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.

Milford Sound Photography New Zealand

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.

hooker-lake-mt-cook-waders

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:

Aoraki Mount Cook Hooker Lake Icebergs New Zealand

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!

About Author Joshua Cripps

Joshua Cripps started making remarkable photos while he was still in the womb. His first significant image, titled Sonogram, was praised for its graininess, deliberate blurring of details, and gritty black and white mood. Earning two thumbs up from his parents, this photo only hinted at things to come. Since then Josh has won countless awards and accolades, including more than one “Certificate of Participation,” dozens of “Good Sportsmanship” plaques, and the coveted “Busy Bookworm” award. His mantel long ago collapsed under the weight of gold-painted, plastic trophies.

Currently Josh spends over 700 days every year in the field seeking out the finest landscapes on earth. He has a mighty beard and sings in a rich baritone. Hiking at least 45 miles to capture every photo, Josh ensures that every image he crafts represents the very heart of the wilderness. While you were reading this Joshua Cripps did 93 push-ups, won more awards, and became internationally re-renowned.