St. Louis Arch -or- Wishing You Had a Better Camera

There are some shots that just make you say, “eh” and there are others that make you wish you could squeeze another few million pixels of resolution out of your camera. This shot is in the latter category.

The St. Louis Arch
The St. Louis Arch (click to view the whole album)

In 2008 I wandered to Missouri (yes, literally wandered, just going where the intertstate took me) and found myself in St. Louis. I knew, of course, about this whole arch business. I’d seen it in a million photos but that did little to prepare me for the real thing. I’m fairly certain that the majority of people who read this will have already visited this particular locale on their own so I won’t blather on about it but suffice to say that it is a grand photographic opportunity. We’ll leave it at that. Oh, and the rest of the city is nothing to sneeze at either.

All this talk of ‘Better Camera’ brings to mind for me the ‘equipment snobbery’ that seems to be endemic in the photographic trades. It seems that a lot of people seem convinced that they just need a better camera to take better pictures. Luckily, that’s mostly marketing hype from those who want to sell you new photographic equipment. This photo was taken on an old Canon PowerShot and it still makes me perfectly happy in all it’s 6-megapixel ancientness. I think there are cellphones now that have better cameras than this. The art is within the photographer, not the camera. So take your cellphones and rumble forth to make some magic.


  1. Agreed. But on some more exacting photography, equipment matters. Maybe not the most expensive cameras (I don’t have one), but I wouldn’t trade my f/2.8 lenses for anything. 🙂 But most photography doesn’t require the best equipment. Like this image. 🙂

    • Yeah, agreed, on some things the equipment does matter but one certainly doesn’t need a pricey camera to get started. Really this post is sort of my way of trying to encourage newbies. 🙂

      • I agree. It’s not the camera to get started, it’s the eye. I had a friend who bought a pretty expensive camera, and she didn’t have time to work everything out manually, so I just said, shoot what your eye sees, and let the camera do its job. Take time to develop your vision. I love seeing what people see with their camera. It’s pure joy to me.

  2. I have seen some stunning pictures done with iPhones and some not-so stunning work done with semi-pro equipment.
    Look at Sally Mann’s body of work, she uses a 100-year-old bellows camera and a wet plate collodion camera and makes some really stunning photos.
    Long story shot, I agree that the equipment won’t make for better photographers. And that people starting out should know this before venturing to a photo store and being finagled into buying expensive gear.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Jeremy. Yes, I’ve seen some absolutely delightful work done with classic equipment. I think sometimes the necessity to really concentrate on the shot is helpful to the artistic process. When you can just rattle off a thousand photos an hour, you’re not really concentrating so much as getting lucky eventually. If you have to spend an hour setting up your equipment, then you know you’ve really dialed in your attention!

      • Definitely, I would love to have an old bellows camera. Or, especially, an old TLR. But I was nearly too broke to afford what I have. I even bought cheap vintage lenses to keep the price from getting too high. So no autofocus. And I am so grateful for that. I have learned to take my time with shooting subjects, and really hone in on the subject instead of just pointing and hoping it comes out right. I am still learning, but it was posts like this that made me realize that I didn’t need to save up a grand or more to buy a midrange camera. All I needed was what I was looking for it to do and if I was any good at photography I would make the low end work.

  3. Rob,
    I am with you on the camera snobbery issue. I think that for most photography a top quality compact, half the price of an SLR, will do all you need, many of my pictures are taken with a compact. The other big plus with a compact is that it is so easy to carry with you all the time and not miss that ‘wish I had a camera with me’ moment, and that with the sound turned off they are silent if you like taking pictures of people.
    Good picture.

    • yeah, agreed. Sometimes just having a camera is what counts. Personally, I’m nuts enough to carry around a large SLR in my pack all the time, but then not everyone’s as willing to carry around such bulkiness as I am. 🙂

      Thanks and thanks for stopping by!

  4. I used to take accordion lessons from a guy who played the crappiest old beat up accordion you could imagine, but he made it sound divine. I learned that a good accordion is much better than a crappy one for all kinds of reasons, but you need a good accordionist to make good music. I suspect cameras are similar.

  5. Great shots…I love St. Louis, went there about 9 years ago after visiting some distant relatives a couple of hours away; went up in the arch, went on a boat ride up the Mississippi, to some Indian mounds across the river in Illinois…the entire trip was fantastic…You really caught the spirit of a great town with your pics!

  6. Your photo of the Gateway Arch makes me homesick. I’m from the St. Louis Metro Area (IL) and moved down to Dothan, AL 6 years ago after my mother died. Speaking of beautiful photo opps, check out Dothan sometime. The city has beautiful murals painted on downtown buildings and peanut statues scattered around town. One year there was even an Elvis Peanut displayed outside a building, but somebody stole it.

  7. i liked the perspective..ive never seen the arch and so seeing it posted brings me closer than i would get to it..thanks for sharing..btw your writing is great ..i can hear the

  8. I love the arch. Well, maybe I’m a bit biased since I live in St. Louis… 😉 But just standing right next to it and looking straight up, 630 feet into the sky, is one of the most incredible feelings in the world. You feel so small…and no picture can capture that. But yours came pretty close!

    Thanks for liking my post, too. I really appreciate it 😀

  9. Rob, this image is perfect just the way it is. I like your angle.

    By the way, apart from saying thanks for visiting my blog, I will soon post my own “Photo that started it all” inspired by you. Just so we can compare who’s got the bigger date stamp… (wink)

    Keep on inspiring others,

  10. I Live 90min From The Ole ARCH…
    …so YEAH, I’ve Shot-Me-Some-ARCH!
    Just Be Leary Of That’Them’Thar’SUNSHINE.
    It’s A PAIN In Yer Arse When Doin’ ARCH Photos In Sweet St. Louis, FO SHO! hehehe
    And Camera Quality Aside, Sir…
    …If You Know What You’re Doing…
    …The ARCH Will (nearly) ALWAYS Look NICE!
    I Love This Photo!

  11. I had the exact same problem when I was in St. Louis over the summer! It’s such a historic landmark, but IMPOSSIBLE to photograph the entire thing or even get a very good close up.

  12. I too live in St. Louis and have shot the arch many many times. I can’t imagine StL before it.

    Recently, a wealthy St. Louis-lover donated a large amount of money to build a viewing platform directly across the Mississippi River from the arch. From there, you can see the Arch, the Old Courthouse directly underneath, and the whole cityscape. I used to shoot from the same location, but before the platform was built. It must be nice…pre-platform, you had to climb over a brick wall and trudge through waist-high weeds. It’s a very quick drive from downtown, or a longer walk across Eads Bridge.

    • Oh really? That sounds grand. I wandered around a bit looking for the right angle to shoot that combo. I found a reasonable shot from the city side but it would be better from the other. Another reason to go back, I guess!

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