As we were walking to the beach, all 5 kids in tow, anxiety levels were starting to peak. “Did we remember the sunblock for the kids, the sunblock for us, the 20 plastic sand toys, the beach chairs, towels, floatie devices, snacks, cooler,lunches, drinks, ice, sunglasses, hats, and everything else? What are we forgetting?”. At the same time these thoughts are running through my mind, I am struggling to maneuver the overloaded beach cart so that none of the contents fall on the ground. The kids are excited, ready to beach out and I am unable to relish in their joy because I am so focused on “The Stuff.”. Something is wrong here. Needless to say we made it to the beach and had a great day, but in the end we just needed the necessities: our family, water floaties and sunblock. All of the extras were not needed or used. This was a great lesson for me which translates into all areas of my life – especially photography.
Since this blog is about photography, I thought this was a great story to share as it relates to photography.
How many of us think “If I just had X, I would be a better photographer”? We then proceed to get X and add it to our arsenal of stuff. If you are anything like me, the novelty wears off quickly and soon you find it weighing you down as you carry your gear bag.
When it comes to gear, what is important? IMHO your heart and mind are the two most important pieces of gear you need, but let’s hit that topic in the future.
When you set out to photograph an assignment – what’s important? Providing a great service and performing your duties to the best of your ability ranks up there pretty high. Just like my beach experience of being more focused on the stuff than the joy of my children, you can find yourself in the same predicament fumbling with all of your stuff instead of focusing on your photographic duties. To put it in plain terms, it’s time to “Travel Lightly”.
I don’t know what your photographic vision is or what you strive to record, but I do know that you can achieve it with your minimum toolset time and time again. When I was first starting out, I was a gear fanatic. This camera, that lens, this flash Tupperware attachment, these memory cards, this reflector, blah blah blah.. Before I knew it, I would be on jobs and be overwhelmed with my choices of stuff. Clutter gives me anxiety. This was the same thing. Ultimately I managed, by grabbing my trusty defaults and executing the assignments well. However I began to ask myself, “What is important? Is all of this gear necessary? The majority of it stays back, so why bring it?”. So my journey began to have less stuff.
Now days when I am covering assignments I have a minimum toolset with me that enables me to focus on the important work ahead of me rather than all of the stuff I am carrying with me. (Note this does not include backup. Backup is another topic to share.) I am not overwhelmed with choices to make a photograph. I just use what I have and make photographs. It’s freeing, rewarding and efficient. It brings joy because I am more in tune with what is going on than with what lens to put on my camera. I have developed the way I see light and use it instead of putting a large Tupperware type device on my flash gun, which removes all shadow and character from an image (turns out shadows and contrast are cool!).
I am sure through the years my defaults will change and evolve, but for right now I am content. I am going to use what I have and continue to make photographs. I have a default assignment kit and a personal kit. They are different because the rigors of assignment work call for durability, but they are both simple.
Like I mentioned earlier, your heart and mind are your most important pieces of gear. We should all build on these first and foremost.
What have your experiences been with too much stuff? Are you traveling lightly?