20 Perfect Things
Perfect Thing #19. Shooting What You Love. Shot this on the island of Goree in Senegal last month. A day to wander, shoot, and hang out with a friend. Life is about these kinds of moments.
I should be slaving away on a million things right now but I’m feeling a little sheepish over the neglect this blog’s suffered recently. This month’s Outside magazine has a feature called 51 Perfect Things and I keep coming back to it; I think what most resonates with me is that in a time when it seems critical reviews and nit-picking get all the page space, it’s nice to see something so celebratory of simple pleasures. Might be overstepping it call them perfect, but in a world where perfection so seldom comes, these are as close to it as I’ve ever found. These are the things in which I’ve taken particular pleasure over the last year or two.
#1. Chai at the summit of Khardun La, the highest motorable road in the world. For extra points get there on a Royal Enfield Thunderbird.
#2. Film. Digitial gets the glory. But having recently returned to shooting film in an effort to stay fresh and creative, I can’t believe I stayed away for so long.
#3. A steaming bowl of Pho ga in Vietnam. Vietnam is colourful and friendly and I’m dying to go back. Put the camera down and enjoy the local food. On a cold day nothing beats hot noodle soup.
#4. Hasselblads, Leicas, and Carl Zeiss. We’re surrounded by plastic these days. Getting your hands on some old-school engineering makes shooting such a pleasure. Walking around with a 1980’s Hassleblad 500 c/m and listening to the clunk of the mirror return, and feeling the sure mechanisms of the focus and aperture rings reminds me of the joy I took when I was a kid discovering the tactillity of this craft.
#5. The Moleskine Notebook. My shelf is lined with them, full of thoughts and checklists and little pieces of paper I tucked away in the back pocket. They have travelled the world with me.
#6. Blundstone Boots. They don’t come better than this. Ever. After going around the world in them for a few years they feel like slippers. Manly, rugged, slippers.
#7. Shooting at dawn or dusk. Just being awake at this hour seems to have a calming effect, and for me the paint seems to stir easier when things are calm. Also? The light ain’t bad.
#8. My Saddleback Leather satchel (they call it a briefcase). I don’t travel internationally with this, it’s just too heavy, but for domestic travel and every-day use for tossing in the laptop or Hassleblad, this bag is amazing. And as they say in the ads, your kids will fight over it when you’re dead. It doesn’t come cheap, but this’ll outlast a hundred others and gets better looking with every rainstorm and accidental scar. Absolutely perfect.
#9. The Leatherman multi-tool. The original and still awesome.
#10. Arbeg Uigeadall Single Malt Scotch Whisky. If you like single malts from Islay, this one is hard to beat. Amazing.
#11. Michael Kennsa’s Hokkaido series. All his work is stunning, elegant, but his Hokkaido series in particular captivates me.
#12. Being there. We talk and talk about all the places we could shoot, but being there – in mind and body – is a gift. Want to be there this year but don’t want to plan it all yourself? Want to come with me? There are spots left on Lumen Dei Tibet (July) and Lumen Dei Kashmir/Ladakh (September) and I’d love to travel with you.
#13. Gitzo Ocean Traveler Tripod. It’s a particular person who will buy one of these. They aren’t cheap. But they’re amazing. Like all the Gitzo Traveler series, they’re light, strong, and beautifully made. Add stainless steel and sealed mechanisms and a ball head you can field strip and you’ve got a really sexy thing. Price aside, this is the perfect travel tripod.
#14. Waking up in a luxury tent camp as the sun rises into a solar eclipse over Mt. Kenya with the Serengeti between you. Unbelievable. One of the most beautiful moments of my life. The best moments are unrepeatable. I did my first African safari this year; it won’t be my last. A perfect way to spend 10 days
#15. My 13″ MacBook Pro. The perfect travel machine for me.
#16. Icebreaker merino wool socks and underwear. I swear I’ll never travel with another pair of underwear and socks if they aren’t Icebreaker. Amazing. They keep you warm when it’s cool, cool when it’s warm, and they’re comfortable and durable.
#17. The Nifty Fifty. Canon’s EF 50/1.8 lens is cheap, made of plastic, and has nothing whatsoever to recommend it other than that it’s just that – cheap, made of plastic, and for the money delivers great images with a fast aperture and a short mininum focus distance.
#18. The ScotteVest Travel Vest, in black please. I don’t travel without it. Love it. It’s warm, so forget wearing it all day in Delhi this July, but I still travel to and from locations with it. Even in Senegal where it hit 40 degrees C during the day, I’d wear it in the cooler mornings. Functional, comfortable, and far less geek factor than a classic photography vest ever had. And pockets? Only the Gitzo Fleece can compete.
#19. Photographing what you love without regard for what anyone else thinks. Sure, it’s nice to hear people rave about your images, but at the end of the day the only thing that really matter is that you love them and loved making them. Being a so-called amateur has this strongly in its favour. Don’t ever forget why you do this.
#20. This one’s yours. Comments are open. What would make it onto your list of Perfect things?