When the Gear Matters.. A Photographer's Journey

It seems that everyone has a camera these days. I love that fact. As much as I love to "live in the moment", having the ability to capture the moment forever means everything to me. I started into photography when I was a little girl. I remember my mom having a simple black 35mm camera, that I can't recall the model or make of. It didn't matter to me. The first camera I remember was black. However it had a bright orange cat cut out on the front. If anyone remembers this camera, I would love to hear in the comments what it may have been. Of course, by writing this blog, I just used a solid 20 minutes of my time trying to google image search the camera. No luck. It was similar to this tiger camera. Perfect to attract this lady!

I remember taking photos of anything I could. Flowers, pets, family and many [MANY] blurry what-is-its. Growing up shooting film is something I will never forget. The surprise that came along with finishing a roll, waiting for it to be developed and picking up the prints was a thrill. I can't say I kept any of those images from back in the day. However, I can say I would do anything to get them back. Funny how we don't always appreciate what we have in the moment.


Of course, I also had my share of disposable cameras. I was always drawn to Kodaks. Maybe it was the red and yellow? I would beg my parents to purchase them. You can imagine how amazed I was when the waterproof ones became available. But as a child who lived in Kingston and only had access to a blowup kid's pool... what did I REALLY need this for. It didn't stop me. They were just TOO COOL.


I never saw this as a failure. I loved the art. I saw it as a second chance to learn the techniques again, to use the equipment again, to be in the small dark room again. At the end of this semester, I again, was given a failing grade. I asked my teacher why I wasn't able to pass. "You aren't creative enough Ashlee." and that was it. In hindsight, taking an image of a broken egg in someone's hand wasn't that creative... I can agree with him now. But I was your typical teenager. I didn't take no for an answer and I kept doing what I wanted. 


Fast forward to high school. This was my first experience with the technical side of photography. In grade 10, I was able to take a course. My school still had a dark room, where we were taken through the steps of shooting, developing the film and processing the negatives into prints. I still remember the smell of that room, the red lights and the various techniques one could use to create artistic effects. This is where my love of photography bloomed. I finally was taught lighting, rule of thirds, camera settings... the list goes on. When it came to the end of the semester, I was given a failing grade.


I was addicted. There weren't any jobs for this 16 year old to develop film in a dark room - so I found the next best thing. I was over the moon when I applied to Loblaws to work in their PhotoLab. I remember dressing in my best "professional" clothing and bringing in five pieces of my "work" into the interview. Looking back, I can imagine the manager laughing at this method to get the job. I wasn't TAKING photos for this job. I was in charge of processing the film, loading them into a computer, clicking print and working the cash desk. The Lab wasn't very popular. We had our regulars, but being next to Walmart - many didn't even know we existed! I still loved every moment of being there.

This job gave me experience. It also allowed me to purchase my first camera, a Canon PowerShot A700. My first digital camera. My world was forever changed. This 6 megapixel baby was my world. I still have her. I remember the moment I was able to purchase this camera. No more begging my parents for money for costly film. No more limits. I had a 1 GB SD card, and I thought I had it made. 


Of course, I couldn't stop at just one. After some practice, I knew I needed more. That is when I added my second baby to the family. RIP my sweet Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3, this one didn't last long in my possession. It was quickly given to my mother, when her digital camera was stolen at my sweet 16 birthday party [Don't worry, my friends would have never done this. The party was my first -and last- house party. Rule of thumb, it's never a good idea to put your address on public internet events! OOPS!]. My mother used it for years and it eventually didn't work anymore. I miss having it. It was lovely. 

I continued to shoot with my trusty Canon PowerShot for a few years. I wasn't as obsessed with photography at that point in my life. I also had a cell phone, those images were "good enough" for me. That is, until I was going on my first REAL trip. I was headed to sunny Cancun, Mexico! The guy I was seeing at the time asked me what my dream camera was. My answer was easy. Nikon D60. To my surprise he flagged down a Sales Rep at Future Shop and said "I'll take it". He assured me this was "his camera"... hilarious. We both knew it was mine.

I was beyond excited. It had a kit lens. I needed more. I've always felt the need to have more. We went to Best Buy and that's when I splurged on a 55-200mm. This lens was heavier than most of the cameras I owned prior, but I knew it would be worth it for the trip.

We went, we saw, I captured... I lost every single image from that trip I took. Take it as a sign if you will.. I soon "lost" him.


I wanted a change. Whenever I feel the need for change, I tend to reflect back on what I've done or had in my life. The same can be said when it comes to my gear. Of course, I always focus on improvement. So how can you improve on an old camera? Well, you can purchase a digital camera... that's waterproof!! This camera was a game changer. I was finally able to have an "all season" camera that could easily travel with me and allow me to get creative underwater (goodbye kid's pools, hello... Lake Ontario? Okay, I still haven't traveled with it.. one day.)

Schiller Photographic

Schiller Photographic

Four/19 Photography

Four/19 Photography

I had a taste of the sweet life and that life is a DSLR in hand. I upgraded. I purchased a Nikon D7100. This camera was a dream. Only problem? I had a broken hand when I purchased it. It was simply too HEAVY for me to hold. So back it went.

That's when I "downgraded" to the Nikon D5200. This camera is what started my business. I finally felt I knew how to capture a really great image. I had total control. This camera went everywhere with me and captured some of my favorite memories. Some days I wish I still had it. However, I sold her. She went to a friend who is a creator and wanted to start her photography journey. There is something about watching the images captured by another's eye on my old lady. It's surreal. I don't believe that gear makes the photographer - however there is something to be said to the emotional attachment we have to our gear. I didn't sell my trusty D5200 without upgrading - I've owned a camera as long as I can remember.  

Kaley Notel Photography

Kaley Notel Photography

My love. My everything. My peace. My baby. I wouldn't have this camera without the help of my father. I find everything comes full circle. Family sparked my love of photography and consistently fuel my passion. This my friends, is what I shoot with now. Nikon D750, the greatest camera I've owned within my photography journey. No other camera can compare to this one. My life would be incomplete without it.

This post wouldn't be complete without some honorable mentions. I own three other cameras, all thrifted for less than $12/each! I will forever love my "oldies" just as much as I enjoy the power and ability of newer cameras. Nothing beats film and physical prints.

I really hope if you made it through this post, you enjoyed seeing the journey with my gear. I do believe that you don't need the latest camera to take a great image, I do however believe that if you want to upgrade, do it. Whatever helps fuel your passion as a photographer deserves the best for you. My only advice is to never forget where you came from and the lessons each camera can teach you. I would LOVE to hear what you currently use - leave your comments below!