By Dennis Mook
I shoot pictures for stock, and not long ago my wife and I went on a photographing expedition in the West.
Because it is of interest to me, I made conscious observations as to what types and brands of photo gear were being used by others in the parks. We toured the Tetons and Yellowstone for six and a half days. I wanted to see if assertions that smart phones are replacing traditional cameras would be borne out there.
Here are my observations of over a thousand individuals with whom I crossed paths in the parks. My figures are of course anecdotal and not scientific in nature.
- Many more individuals were using high quality DSLRs than I expected. I would estimate 35% of those I observed. (By the way, most of the tourists I observed were Japanese, about a 50-50 ratio of younger to older.)
- For every seven Canon DSLRs I saw, I saw three Nikon DSLRs; I did see one Sony DSLR; I did not see any Pentax or other brands of DSLR.
- I observed only one person with a medium-format DSLR.
- Of the 65% who were using non-DSLRs, 99% were using point and shoot digital cameras; I was able to identify two film SLRs.
- I observed very few photographing with smart phones.
- Of the maybe 10 individuals who were using smart phones for photography, all but two were young (18–24) Japanese females. The others were a young Japanese male and a middle-aged white woman of unknown nationality.
- I saw one person using an iPad, a woman of about 30.
- The number of tripods in use amazed me! I would say about 35 to 40% of the DSLR users used tripods.
- There seemed to be almost as many point and shoot cameras with EVFs as there were without; however, most people were not using the EVFs but were holding the cameras out in front of them. Most of the cameras with EVFs appeared to be in the superzoom category.
- A lot of people have spent a lot of money on long lenses. There were a good number of non-tourist photographers lined up with cameras on tripods sporting big glass, looking for wildlife.
My conclusions are:
1. People who come to national parks seem to bring cameras to adequately record their travels rather than submit to the limitations of smart phones.
2. People traveling to visit national parks evidently don't hesitate to spend their money on higher quality cameras rather than bring low-end point and shoots.
3. A lot more people use tripods than I would have imagined.
[Ed. Note: Dennis tells me that the reason why the lower half of the bison with the malevolent stare is darker is because it was wet—he'd just forded the Yellowstone river. I think he's obviously considering wading back across again in order to subtract one from the world's supply of photographers.]
Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Stephen Best: "I'm currently on extended holiday in Italy (posting from Otranto on my iPhone) and am amazed at the number of people with big black DSLRs and taking pictures of everything. (I've actually shot very little but have some ideas for a future project or two...but maybe am just being lazy.) Lots of iPhones being used too. I guess for many photography and travel are synonymous."
Taran: "Thanks for the article. It's great to see I am not alone in peeping at gear on vacation. I always like to ask the question: 'Is that photographer having more fun than me?' If the answer is yes, I really check out his/her kit. Sad, but true."
John Camp: "The last big story I covered as a newspaper reporter was the Yellowstone fire of 1988. I had a photographer with me. At one point, the two of us were driving between fire access points, and we saw a group of seven or eight men in a field, gathered in a circle, a bit hunched over at the head and shoulders, like a football huddle—but they were moving, slowly, this way and that, wandering across the field. It looked so odd that we stopped to see what the heck was going on, and it turned out that they all had video cameras, and had gathered around and were filming a porcupine."
Jim: "In January, I was one of about 17 people with tripods at Zambriski Point in Death Valley at dawn. I would guess there were two people without cameras or tripods. I think all cameras were high end DSLRs. I got a nice, but not very unique photo! Perhaps I should have taken photographs of them!"
Richard Sintchak: "I just went through the Tetons and Yellowstone over 5–6 days this last June with my 10-year-old son and 72-year-old father. Carried my Rolleiflex 'triple-set': a 1960s Rolleiwide, a 3.5E Planar, and a Tele-Rolleiflex (all three fit like perfect triplets in my LowePro Orion belt pack), and shot all B&W. Reading this gave me pause to think back...I do not remember seeing a single photographer. I'm sure there we people around me shooting like mad. I honestly can barely remember noticing any other cameras let alone notice what they were carrying. I'm not saying this to sound haughty, I really do not remember."
Mike replies: Obviously that's because, by your standards, there were no other photographers. [g]