How I Caught the Photo Bug: News Editor Felix Esser

Felix Esser The Phoblographer Leica M8 MS-Optical Sonnetar 50mm f/1.1

A little over four years ago, when my son was born, I suddenly found myself in a situation where I would take tons of pictures in low light. It occured to me that my Panasonic FZ30, which had served me well for three years at that point, wasn’t really up to the task. So after doing some research, I jumped at the then-new Olympus E-P1 and Panasonic 20/1.7 pancake lens, which was my first step into taking photography more seriously. It didn’t take long until I was bitten by the gear bug–you know, that nasty little creature that lives in your ear and tells you to spend money on new equipment. Now, almost four years later and a lot of cash less wealthy, I’ve made photography my daily routine.

As far back into my childhood as I can remember, I’ve always taken pictures. However, I never took it seriously. It was more like riding a bike for me–something that I’d routinely do, but that I didn’t waste too much energy thinking about. Until that moment four and a half years ago that I mentioned above. It was only after reading into cameras in order to find the one that would fit my needs, that I figured out there was more to photography than just pressing the shutter button and printing the JPEGs in 4×6.

One of the first pictures I took with the Olympus E-P1.

One of the first pictures I took with the Olympus E-P1.

So after I got that E-P1, I started to learn a lot about the technical details of cameras and lenses. When I had my FZ30, I never knew what those different modes were there for, or what RAW shooting was all about. With the E-P1, I finally learned about shutter speed, aperture, pixel density, high ISO noise and yes, even RAW development. It didn’t take long and the geek in me would absorb every little bit of information he could find on the internet, until my brain was satiated. Then, one day, I read about a brand that I had somehow always known, but never really understood: Leica.

Upon perusing Leica fanboy website after Leica fanboy website, and spending a good amount of time on various Leica fora, I had the impression that for taking really great pictures–not just “better” ones like I could with my E-P1–I had to own a Leica M8. So I took my savings and bought one. When I wasn’t happy with the results I got from my first lens, I sold it and bought another one. Then I was unhappy with the focal length, so I sold it and bought two lenses, a wide and a normal, instead. Then I didn’t like those lenses’ signatures and bought yet another pair of lenses, until my savings were depleted and my wife–rightfully–asked me if I was out of my mind.

The Leica M8 paired with a Zeiss lens would spit out the most gorgeous files I've ever handled.

The Leica M8 paired with a Zeiss lens would spit out the most gorgeous files I’ve ever handled.

Well, not really. But that gear-obsessiveness ate away all of my spare money. Until I realized something. As gorgeous as the images that came out of my M8 and my Zeiss lenses were, my Panasonic G1 (which I had also bought in the meantime to complement the E-P1) was just as capable as taking photographs as the M8. In fact, I found the G1 to be so capable of doing a camera’s job (who would’ve guessed it was up to the task) that I decided that it was really the only camera I needed. So when we had to pay some major bills, I made the decision to sell my M8 and all the lenses I had for it. In hindsight, this was probably the best decision I made since buying the Olympus E-P1.

Felix Esser The Phoblographer Panasoni G1 Lumix 20mm f/1.7

But in the end, the G1 is all the camera I need. And he is all the reason I need.

Today, I’m still in love with my Panasonic G1. I added an armada of film cameras to it to compensate for the love that I lost with the Leica M8, but all together, my current gear setup adds up to a fraction of the monetary value that my Leica equipment had. But that’s not really what this is about, is it. I was to tell you how I caught the photo bug. Well, I caught it by reading into gear and developing an interest for the technicalities of photography. I am still interested in gear and gadgets, which is why I’m writing for this site. But as to photography, what matters for me is that I capture scenes and moments of my life.

I don’t focus as much on gear as I did a couple years back. My photography is about what touches my heart, what I find aesthetically pleasing or worth capturing and preserving. Sometimes, I just snap away so moments don’t get lost. Sometimes, I seek an aesthetic value in a scene and thoroughly think about composition, colors and contrast. And every now and then I hear that little voice in my head that tells me to buy something new. But the great thing is that I now know that it’s not the gear that makes the picture–it’s your vision. Which is why I find myself using my phone camera more and more. It’s not about the detail in the pixels. It’s about capturing what I see, and what I care about. And that’s what I do.

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