This article originally appeared in my newsletter.

4 min readNov 22, 2020


I’m not as good at stopping to smell the roses as I’d like. I’m focusing on it this year, by taking regular moments of pause to appreciate the little things in front of me. It’s hard to break the pattern of only paying attention to what you always pay attention to, but I suspect it will get easier with time.​
But there’s one thing they don’t tell you. One secret that everyone working at those stores know, but are keeping it a secret from the buying public. This is a secret held so dear, that I hesitate to even bring it out into the light. A secret that will improve your photography while saving you a fortune at the same time.

Perhaps you can also consider looking to expand your realm of attention; making more room to dwell on the beauty of life, as Marcus advises. A few moments each day to notice the beauty around us might be all we need.

Unfortunately, most of the pictures weren’t up to my expectations, so I did some research. That’s when I found out that the lenses I bought were sub-par. I then sprung for two lenses in the Canon L class. One was putty white in color and the other had the status symbol red ring around it. Now, I can compete with the big guys.

Except my images still weren’t quite good enough. I expected high-contrast, well-saturated, tack-sharp images and I just wasn’t getting them. Maybe I had faulty lenses. I let a friend who was a professional photographer borrow my lenses. The pictures he took with them were fantastic.

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WTF? They still weren’t very good. Maybe there’s something wrong with the camera. Maybe the lenses need to be calibrated to this body. Yeah! That’s it, lens calibration. Now, we’re talking.

My first DSLR was the Canon 20D. I bought it in late 2005 along with a couple of kit zooms. At the time, I didn’t; realize they were ‘kit’ lenses, so I went out in my ignorance trying to capture a great image. After all, this was an expensive camera — it had to take great pictures.

Camera stores are no different. And while the major brick and mortar outlets are down to a dozen or so around the country, the online presence is still strong. And, of course, if you are a photographer, you are on the email list of several. They entice you weekly with ads and specials. The savvier will produce articles regaling the newest technology and make you feel like a troglodyte if your equipment is more than a few months old.

So, I got me a 40D. Bigger, badder and brighter than the 20, with this awesome LCD screen on the back that was way bigger than my old one. At least now, I could chimp adequately. So, I clamped on the 70–200 lens and went searching for wild beasts to capture. Finally, after patiently beating through the brush, I came upon the rare and elusive grey squirrel.

They make sure you know one unassailable fact. That your photography would be so much better, that it would rise to new and formerly unattainable heights, if only. If only you bought a new body. If only you got the latest, more expensive lens that has more letters after the name than yours. If only.
By this point, time had passed. The 30D had come and gone and the new 40D was just out. I surfed and googled and browsed and researched. This was it. The holy grail. Or at least the holiest grail I could afford. There was the 1D, but that was crazy expensive.
Hopefully, in time, I (and you) can become the kind of person who would fall into that 0.006% of commuters who stopped to listen to a fine classical performer in the middle of the Metro.