It would be great to hear your views too and the whole point of the exercise is that it doesn't have to be new gear, it might be an exhibition you visited, a book you read, another photographer, etc.
Here's my 'Top 5':
- Visiting Costa Rica. I'd always had a passing interest in photography and enjoyed the outdoors, but it was on a trip to Costa Rica where it all came together so magically. For such a small country, it's crammed with 5% of the globe's biodiversity in it and it's simply breathtaking. I'd recommend an operator like Exodus, where you can more efficiently get around to the key sites and the local guide that supported our trip was exceptional.
- Asking for honest feedback. It's great to hear compliments, but we're probably going to improve more with some honest, constructive feedback. Although there have been plenty of times I've been excited about a shot (usually because of the story behind the shot), it's sometimes good (albeit sometimes painful) to hear what someone who wasn't there thinks!
- Photo magazine subscription. Although there are tons of books that will promise to help improve photography, I find a monthly subscription to a magazine a great way to get regular 'bite-size' chunks of inspiration and guidance. I'd recommend Digital Camera in the UK.
- Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Speaking of books, if I can't make the exhibition, I'll always hope that Father Christmas gets me the hardback 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year' book. It's the world's best wildlife photography competition and the winning photos are incredible (except if it's a wolf in sheep's clothing!).
- Other people's photos. Obvious enough, but before I head anywhere or snap a particular subject, I always check out Flickr to see what other people have done. Not to copy directly, but to inspire me.
So that's my Top 5 - not a whiff of a piece of gear! What would yours be?