• Backwater Review

Money Doesn't Buy Happiness: The Joy of Frugal Photography

Updated: Apr 30, 2019

by Caroline Bergeron

Longwood Gardens in Winter

From a young age, I have been fascinated by the world of photography. The array of expensive cameras and their limitless accessories has always impressed me. The language used – ISO, focal length, f-stops – seemed hard to understand and was intimidating. I was always in awe of traveling photographers who seemed to master all of that. It also seemed like a field beyond my grasp. So, for much of my life, I continued to admire them at a distance, being blown away by their captures.


Oak Alley Plantation, Louisiana

As my husband and I started our family, I played with various point-and-shoot cameras. I loved trying to photograph each of my babies with different angles and lighting, sometimes converting the picture in black and white to increase contrast or to create a mood. I soon became more interested in pursuing this hobby. It was time to try a different kind of camera -- one that would let me choose my settings: a DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex camera). I received a Nikon D3200, now discontinued but still readily available on Amazon.com, ebay.ca and Kijiji.ca. Thank goodness for books such as Nikon D3200 for Dummies, or Pinterest. I could self-teach everything. This model is the entry level for DSLR cameras. It is somewhat inexpensive, and it has kept its price over the recent years. It does not have the new wireless or Bluetooth technology, which is a down side for those who love to share, but it takes great pictures. I loved it then, and I still love it today. It has been on many of my travels, and has not deceived me in my recording of events and places. I did not need to spend a lot of money, and it brings me happiness.



Macro Photography

Over the past few years, I have invested in several lenses, which often cost more that the cameras themselves. Of course, you can purchase Nikon lenses of all kinds, and pay the price. The Nikon DX 55-200mm and the Nikon DX 18-55mm which came with my camera are essentials, and I love the Opteka 6.5mm Fish-Eye as well as the AF Nikkor 50mm lenses that were given to me as presents. However, for those with a budget in mind, there are other options. I have not been disappointed with the 1.2 IS High Definition Wide-Angle and Macro lens by Japan Optics purchased in New Orleans during a family trip. It is easily screwed on my camera with a Hoya HMC 52mm ring. For distant subjects, I like to play with my Opteka 420-8—mm f/8.3 HD Telephoto Zoom lens, for which I use a simple Wireless Universal Remote Control, as well as a Amazon Basics 60-Inch Lightweight tripod. For fun and experimentation, I also, this year, bought a clear 80mm crystal ball prop for photography. This is such a fun tool!


Gazing Ball on Varadero Beach

Earlier this year, I debated whether or not to invest in a better, or newer camera. As many of my accessories have been purchased for a Nikon camera, I wanted to continue with that brand. What I wanted most was a camera capable of communicating via Bluetooth or wifi. My pet peeve in photography: transferring pictures to my computer. When I started shopping, with a budget still in mind, I realized that my current camera was still good enough for me; the additional hundreds of dollars required for one that afforded me the ease of transfer were not justifiable. I then decided to invest in a small point-and-shoot camera, the Nikon CoolPix B700, which has a lot of cool features, such as star trails, moon, and bird watching capacities. It is quite a vibrant little camera, which complements its heavier, more versatile sister. Again, not an expensive one for what you get, but still. I love it!



Pelican in Flight, Nikon Coolpix B700

Had I not been so intimidated by the gear, the image, and the lifestyle of professional photographers in my youth, would I have pursued a career in this art and/or have purchased more advanced photography equipment at an earlier age. Maybe parts of me wish I had. One day, who knows, I might splurge. For now, however, I will continue to use my valued possessions, and will continue having fun experimenting during my travels. It is perhaps a bigger challenge, but it is an entertaining one. My photos are those of an amateur, but I like them. They make me happy, and I did not have to break the bank.



Other musts to take on hikes or travels:


Evecase Camera Bag Backpack, a sturdy practical tool to carry all your gear

Joby tripod, an absolute must for hikers

Altura Electronic Flash, for studio lovers


Do you have a favourite piece of equipment? Let us know in the comments below.


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