A Good Pair of Shoes

It’s all I need. Just one little camera and one lens. And good shoes!

David Hurn

I write a lot about cameras here on this blog. And I write a lot about lenses. I like to review photo books. What I often write too little about are the much more important things for taking good photos. The seeing. The feeling. The curiosity. The understanding. The light.

And shoes.

Yes, exactly, shoes… OK, actually I mean feet, but since I don’t live in the tropics and have too soft soles, shoes are important too.

No, I have not gone completely mad now. It’s just that something happened to me some weeks ago that made me very thoughtful – and humble.

I’ve had a bit of trouble with my right knee since a small accident on a fence a few years ago. Sometimes more, sometimes less. The other day I was in Berlin on business and walked around the city quite a lot – well, not that much actually, but obviously more than I usually do at the moment. And without knowing exactly what the problem was, my knee got so bad that I could hardly walk for at least a week afterwards. At least not without strong pain.

About walking and photography…

That made me realise once again that at least my kind of photography has a lot to do with walking. Many of my pictures were taken on very long walks through cities. What would happen if I could no longer do that? That really scared me all of a sudden.

Of course, there are worse things in life and you can be a photographer even without being super good on your feet. I even read something about a blind photographer the other day. Since I unfortunately don’t have this strength, I would suffer quite a bit from this limitation.

Cartier-Bresson was known for walking several kilometres through Paris every day. Now I don’t live in such a huge city and I don’t have the time to walk all day. But when I’m out somewhere with my camera, it’s on foot. And so I couldn’t help but think of how I often walked 20, sometimes even 30 kilometres a day through cities during my The Europeans Project.

Walking in history

Without the ability and possibility to walk many kilometres, the fascination for Belfast/Northern Ireland and its history, for example, would have remained hidden from me. I was able to see and feel because I could walk – walk long distances. Only because of that I understood how fragile this city and its society is – but also what hopes for a different life are everywhere. Visible in the city itself – in its scars, its fences and its signs. It didn’t take a single photo of a human being to see that. But it did take time, healthy feet – and good shoes.

I only noticed that today of all days is the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement of 10 April 1998 when I heard it on the radio. It really is a coincidence… but then again, maybe it’s not…

Fortunately, my knee is feeling better again. And I have decided to walk more with the camera again. What’s the saying? Use it or lose it – and that doesn’t only apply to the knee… 😉

Oh yes, I still have the shoes from the cover picture. But I’ve worn them down so much in the four months I’ve been travelling through Europe that today they’re only good for gardening.

My good old shoes… 😉

There is always light somewhere – go out and shoot!


  • Hi Peter,

    New to your site. I would say that more important than good shoes for walking is good FEET. I have several foot problems; some genetic and some from overuse. After several visits to the podiatrist and physiatrist (a rehab MD), I now use a few orthotics and various foot pads, etc. Makes all the difference.

    • Hello Rene,

      welcome and thank you for your comment. Of course it’s not about shoes, but about feet, knees, joints, health, etc. Hence my example with the knee. The shoes thing is of course more metaphorical and also refers to the quote from David Hurn. But nevertheless, shoes should not be underestimated. How did a famous landscape photographer once answer the question of what equipment you need to take great photos like he did? “An alarm clock and good shoes”. 😉


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