Julian Ray Photography

The Circle

The Circle

I’d like to ask you for your patience as I’m starting at the end of the blog post this time. Read on and hopefully it will make sense.

Name five photographs that are memorable to you. They can be anything. A wartime image, a picture of a kitten, of a celebrity, or some famous event. They can be something you saw last week or many years ago. They can be silly or serious. The key here is to try and recollect the ones that truly moved you in some primal way.

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These are the five images I’ve chosen for the this post.
Stuart Franklin
Stuart Franklin "Tiananmen Square 1989"

Sally Mann
Sally Mann "The last time Emmett modeled nude"

Victor R. Caivano
Victor R. Caivano "Iraq Hug"

Alfred Stieglitz
Alfred Stieglitz "Georgia O'Keeffe, 1918"

Tom Stoddart
Tom Stoddart "Food Theft"

Though I cannot say these five pictures are my all time most memorable, they are the images that came to mind today.

Now, take a few moments to jot down why each image you chose has or had a lasting impression on you.

Are these images memorable because they jolted you into another state of awareness? Did they make you laugh, cry, or evoke some other emotion? Did any of your five pictures somehow change the way you look at a person, place or event? Can you remember where you were when you first saw them? Do you recall who you were with, the time of day or year? When you look at these images again do they still have that same effect on you?

Your descriptions don’t have to be long or detailed but the more you can articulate your impressions the more this blog posting will make sense.

Now, do you know what f-stop, shutter speed, lens, pixel bit depth, or ISO was used? What was the format, emulsion, software, developer, or brand of lens used in creating that image?

Would knowing this information change the effect of your five images?

Just as a fantastic meal is a direct reflection on the cook, the ingredients, and the people eating it, not on the brand of stove used, so too, your memorable images are a reflection on the photographer’s eye, their subject, and your state of mind when you first saw it.

I cannot say it enough. The camera does not matter. Nor does the number of pixels, the name on the body, or how much it cost. What does matter is your ability to see.

No matter where I am, traveling on assignment, teaching a class, or somewhere talking about my work, many people quickly drift from talking about the images to discussing the cameras that took them. Most of my photographer colleagues have this same experience.

It is what you take, not what you take it with. The only bad camera is the one you don’t have with you.

Yes, some equipment is better than other. Some gear is easier to use, has more resolution, or sensitivity but many images that are truly catalytic were taken with less than the best. In fact, today many important images are taken with the humble cell phone.

So I encourage you to get out and see, feel, and look. Your pictures will improve the more you look through your camera, not at it.

Yes this is a blog about the technical tools of the trade but it is so to try and advance the results. So I occasionally bring things full circle and restate why the tools are important.


I know I’ve been promising to talk a little bit about the equipment I take when I travel and next post I will.

I look forward to seeing you out there.

Julian Ray

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