Posted by: kerryl29 | October 18, 2021

Tools, Fads and the Cool Kids

At one point earlier this year, I ran into another photographer in the field and he struck up a conversation with me while we were waiting for the wind to die down. The conversation inevitably turned to photographic equipment and technique–it’s remarkable how often this happens, but I digress–and at some point this gentleman mentioned, almost gratuitously, that he didn’t use focus stacking or high dynamic range (HDR) approaches in the field. This guy was at least 20 years younger than I am, so this wasn’t some old school “get off my lawn” attitude being expressed. It became apparent, after I asked a couple of questions (“Why not?” was one of them), that he viewed these techniques–and others–as…faddish, for lack of a better word. A bit more prodding made it clear: these were things the cool kids used, and they used them because they were cool, and because they used cool techniques that made them cool, and that’s what the cool kids do: use cool techniques because it makes them cool. Got that?

Marion Creek Falls Trail, Brooks Range, Alaska

It was all a bit circular, not to mention ridiculous. Let’s address this nonsense.

Chapel Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that I use both focus stacking and HDR. And if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you also know that I’ve been using these techniques for about 15 years. What I probably haven’t mentioned, because it never occurred to me to think about it, is that I have no idea–and have never had any idea–whether these are the kinds of things that “the cool kids” do. (I’m inclined to doubt it; I have a hard time imagining that, whatever “the cool kids” are doing, it has anything to do with photography. But, again, I digress.) If the implication is that these techniques are what amounts to photographic fads, well…I honestly wouldn’t know about that, either. But if they are–or ever were–fads, that presumably would have been the case a long time ago. I wasn’t the first person to mess around with either focus stacking or HDR, and since I’ve been using them for 15 years, well…I would imagine that these approaches are long past the fad stage.

Bluebonnet Field at Sunset, Ellis County, Texas

And this is all beside the point; whether either or both technique is properly classified as a fad or not, I’m not sure it would be possible for me to care less.

Casa Grande from Boulder Meadow, Pinnacles Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

These techniques, and any other I might indulge in, are, from my perspective, simply tools. They are a means to assist in achieving my photographic vision and, as a result, I tend to view them the same way I regard my equipment–cameras, lenses and accessories. All of these things are tools in my metaphorical photographic toolbox; together they all help me carry out the technical part of photography–my chosen art form to express my personal aesthetic. And I’m not sure why anyone would view them any other way. Even the cool kids.

West Maui Sunrise, Papawai Point, Maui, Hawaii


  1. Really interesting photos. Use the tools that you feel is best for you!

    • Thanks, that has always been my intent; the tools I value are those that help me perform a function. Whether they’re trend or not is, in my estimation, utterly irrelevant.

  2. Seems like the guy who thought only the cool kids would use such tools has a fairly narrow point of view. Tools that help accomplish your goals are useful. If they are talked about a lot because they work, I guess they might be mistaken for a fad, but, as you point out, once they’ve been in use for awhile and are proven to be effective, they’ve lost their fad status and joined the mainstream. If using focus stacking and HDR makes me one of the cool kids, it will probably be the first time I’ve ever been in that category!

    • “If using focus stacking and HDR makes me one of the cool kids, it will probably be the first time I’ve ever been in that category!”

      Join the club! Maybe we should have t-shirts made up or something…

  3. […] extremely obvious.  (At first blush, it certainly does to me.)  But apparently, for many people, it isn’t.  Let’s face it, there are photographic techniques and styles that become quasi-fads.  Remember […]

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