A recent social media post prompted me to write this. Back in March, I purchased a new lens, the Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3. Why? Well, I got a great deal on it at WPPI and my Canon 70-300mm, while still working perfectly, is 10 years old and I thought the little extra reach would be nice. Also, I rarely buy new gear so I was a bit impulsive. A moment of weakness if you will.

Yesterday I went to a couple of local forest preserves just to get out for a bit. The first stop as I pulled into the parking lot I saw two Sandhill Cranes in the grass. So cool. Good thing they were there as there wasn’t really much else of interest to take photos of. I took a few of the dew drops on the grass and that was about it. Just a quick stop and all with my 100-400mm lens.

Next stop was one of my favorite places to wander so I parked and went down my usual path. Shot a few spring growth leaves, dandelions and just was enjoying being outside basically. Then I caught sight of a Red-Breasted Grosbeak building a nest so I took a couple of shots of that. I am not a birder, nor do I have any interest in becoming a bird photographer but I am an opportunistic photographer. I photograph what I see. Yesterday, that meant birds.

As I walked back to my car I found these Barn Swallows (cover image) hanging out on one of the signs in the parking lot. How can you not shoot them if they’re there, in front of you? Especially since I went out with no real plan, no subjects in mind and just wanted to get out of the house and be in nature for a while.

I posted a few of the images on social media and asked for help identifying the birds because I had zero clues what any of them were. I joked that “I get a 100-400mm lens and all of a sudden I’m a bird photographer,” but in reality, there is no chance of that because while they are beautiful and I enjoy seeing them, they are of no real interest to me. That statement prompted someone to ask, “If you aren’t planning to shoot wildlife photography with it, what do you plan to use it for. Just curious.”

Fair question I suppose, since the 100-400mm is considered a “wildlife” lens, but that thought never entered my mind when I purchased it. I shoot mainly architecture, detail shots and landscape type work. Why do we have to limit what a lens is ‘supposed’ to be for? Well, we don’t of course but it made me think how sometimes we need to not listen to the advertising, not listen to the technical aspects of what a camera and/or lens is best used for. Use it for what you want. Be creative. Think outside the box and all that. If I had thought the 100-400mm as a wildlife lens I never would have purchased it.

No matter what gear you have, camera, lenses, phones, tablets, etc. shoot what you want, what you feel, what you’re passionate about. Don’t let what you have dictate what you take photos of, you are in charge, your creativity, your passions, what and how you see. Push the limits of your gear, ask what if, can I do this, what happens when? Of course, there are limits, but testing those limits and pushing yourself to see the possibilities will make you a better photographer.