Every once and a while I stumble across a dusty forgotten folder on my hard drive, full of photos so old I don't even remember taking them. Like this 2002 shot of an Azteca adrepens ant from Paraguay:

Taken with a Nikon Coolpix 995.

I was terrible at photography.

I mean, I still make impressive numbers of truly bad photographs, but I know better than to show them in public.

Many of my early photographs are similar: the subject is dropped unimaginatively in the middle of the picture, not doing anything interesting, and the image is lit by blindingly bright flash. I suspect I was just happy to get something in focus.

For contrast, here is a recent capture of a related ant species:

Azteca workers scavenge the headless carcass of a Colombian leafcutter ant. Photographed with a Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 7D camera.

While the second image was taken with more expensive equipment, the heavy gear is not why the second photo is more compelling. Rather, I have learned the patience to photograph the animals actively doing something, and to compose a photograph with interesting lines and intentional subject placement. Getting better at photography is not a matter of improving one's gear so much as improving one's craft.