Travel Lightly

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Travel lightly.

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?

Comments 5

  1. Karlo

    Hey David,

    It’s funny that you posted this. I did a weekend trip with the family over the weekend and my goal was to bring as little gear as possible. On Day 1, I brought out my Holga w/ Film. On Day 2, I brought out just 2 lenses for my camera, plus my Holga, On Day 3 (the zoo) I brought just my camera phone.

    While at the zoo, I saw a Mom w/ 2 kids. She was carrying 2 Nikon bodies, a LowePro bag, and a contraption (which I was curious about but didn’t ask) that affixed her camera to her chest. I thought to myself “Is she on assignment? She must be.” I later saw her again by Ostrich & Rhino exhibit. She was snapping away “in the zone” and her kids were waiting patiently. I was happy to see it from the outside in. It just seemed unnecessary to me.

  2. David Burke

    Hi Karlo!
    It’s funny how when we take a step back and see as an outsider, how overcomplicated we can make things. From your trip which are your favorite images? I have to get a HOLGA!

    Miss ya bro!

  3. Dave Baker

    Hey David… This was a really great post, and I can really relate it to shooting video. In my current job I am in and out of hospital clinical spaces, offices, and operation rooms, and having “less” is definitely “more” in tight spaces. It teaches you to use your creativity and maximize your space/environment. I think there is a lot to be said about learning what your essential toolkit should be filled with and not letting the next eye catching gizmo (which we all love) weigh you down. Thanks for the post!

    1. Post
      Author
      David Burke

      Ah yes, you are living the experience exactly. Yes we LOVE the new gagetry, but is it really necessary? Doubtful. Miss you guys and hope you are doing well!

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