Understanding the real meaning of photography - Mohamed Hakem's Photography

One has to pass through a lot to understand the real meaning of photography. let me tell you my story. I loved photography at a very young age, The Idea of freezing a moment to last forever blasted my mind. I took photos of everything around me, my toys, pets, friends and family. My father also loved photography so I’m used to having a camera bag full of lenses around. I started using film cameras from Kentucky fried chicken and got my first SLR at the age of 9. It was a Nikon FM2 with a 50mm 1.8 and a 24mm 2.8. I lived my life with those 2 lenses and enjoyed photography so much. Printing and camera accessories are somehow limited in my country so whenever you wanted to print a picture cleanly you really have to do a lot of effort. Then the digital ERA came and photography had seen crazy progress. Instead of all the hassle of the manual system and spending a lot of money on printing and films, now you can take unlimited photos and share it to the world instantly! That is pretty much mind blowing.

I started my digital career with some point and shoots but still the film SLR found its way. I then bought the first digital SLR. It was a Nikon D70. It wasn’t a full frame of course and I was somehow disappointed that I have to re calculate the focal lengths, but still amazed by the idea of shooting infinitely. Then I spent money again and got a D5000 with its 18-55 lens. The difference between the 2 bodies was 2 years. 2 bodies in 2 years despite having my FM2 for more than 15 years. Anyway I got a zoom then a SIGMA 70-200 2.8, then a Sigma 10-20. I then started to feel that the D5000 is plasticy and ordered a D7000. I was very happy with D7000 that I thought that it will last and I have to invest only on the Lenses. Until a tried a D700 and all the memories of the full frame filled my head again! I couldn’t look back to the D7000 view finder so I sold and got a D700 and was very happy with it. An Excellent camera in every aspect!. The again I started to feel that the Sigma lenses are not up to the standard of a flagship Nikon Camera and started replacing my lenses with top of the line. I got a 24-70, a 50mm G an 85mm and so.

D800 came out and I was dazzled by the sensor, highest ever score in dXo, a massive 36MP, impressive! I couldn’t wait until I got one from the first shipment; it was the first D800 to enter Egypt. Splashed again a lot of hard earned money on yet another top Nikon glass. My photos became more popular and my photography life become better… at least that what I thought. I spent nearly 2 years with this system until I noticed something. I noticed that I missed many events without taking the camera. Many moments passed in front of my eyes that I wished to capture but I didn’t. My friends started telling me that we nearly had no photos together for the last year. My nephew came to the world and the camera wasn’t there at the hospital. I started to get worried.. have I lost my passion? Is It possible that I lost interest?? I found that all the photos I have taken were on Assignments, for magazines or a dedicated photography trip. I found that I have taken no casual photos which is by the way the most important in photography or else it will become boring and business related only. What I realized was photography became heavy to me. Heavy in every aspect starting from a camera bag, to the work flow, to the Idea that every photo is like 80MB on my hard drive. I thought of buying a small point and shoot camera but degrading the image quality after using a D800 was not appealing to me.

It was sort of frustrating, I got what I dreamt of , the best camera to have and yet im not half as happy as I was with the film and the FM2. Then I started searching for a small camera that maybe will fill the gap. I always liked Fuji back in the days when I was using their films so I got a used X100 from eBay and shipped it to Egypt and made a promise to myself that this will be the last money I will spend on cameras. I received the X100. When I opened it, I got a nostalgic feeling when I was having a dedicated dial for the shutter and aperture, metal feeling and build quality of the old cameras. A good first impression. Slow autofocus, unlike to the perfect D800, less than third the MP count, fixed lens, decreased ISO range and much less. I was thinking yes a very good camera to have but still incomparable to the SLRs. I usually carry a small cross-bag for my mobile, wallet and stuff so I put the X100 which fitted nicely in the bag. I noticed that the camera is with me anywhere I go. I found myself that I was able to take street shots while going home from work, I was able to document every family gathering, friends outing with perfect image quality. The file sizes did not matter at all, an 8GB would allow 1600 pictures. I felt like I began to enjoy and restore my passion in photography again. I traveled with the fuji only and took photos that I sometimes get confuse by which camera did I capture this. I began to understand how a lot of professionals migrate from DSLRs to one Leica with 1 lens. I felt that I was back in the days of my film camera when everything didn’t matter except the photographers Eye. I started thinking about the composition, the framing, I instantly knew how the picture would be before taking the picture, thanks to the fixed lens. I was thinking more on the story behind the photo than the pixel count and zooming and geeky stuff that interferes with the artistic vision. I realized the ugly truth of technology. A really double edged weapon it is. Now Billions of photos are captured daily and everybody has access to tutorials and can showcase their work to the world. But the truth is, the marketing now focuses on how to sell not like before when the camera was just a tool for an artist. Marketing teams now encourage you to change the body every year and buy lenses and tripods and bags to an extend that most of the photography websites are now camera reviews! I remember back in the days when photography magazines were just photos with the story behind each photo and its settings and the feelings of the photographer.

Today websites are dedicated for Cameras only! I realized that my photos are getting better not because of the camera, it’s because of the dedication and passion that I had. If I had stayed with the same camera I would have reached the same level. The money and effort and time lost in reading which camera is better or Canon or Nikon, built in wifi or an expeed4 processor should have been spent on the photography as in taking pictures. Imagine a footballer spends half his time searching and reading shoes review!

Photography is not in Gear! Photography is an Art, you first need to be an artist to increase your level of passion before upgrading a camera!. Modern computers does not make better programmers, soccer shoes won’t let you a soccer player. Fine brushes did not make Picasso a painter.

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