My satchel, my iPod, and me on the boat to San Frutuosso, Italy. This is the least amount of gear I have ever shot with. Photo Credit to my friend Stuart Sipahigil. I know, I look very zen. In reality I think I was calculating the hours until lunch.
As an artist I’m scared of repeating myself. I don’t want to become the Thomas Kincaid of photography, so confined by my market or a known style that I simply plateau. Sure, you can make a good living giving people what they want, but I can’t imagine it feeding your soul and in the long-term that’s death for an artist. So I keep trying new things, and as this journey is pushing me deeper and deeper in love with the photograph it is also pushing me away from the gear-headedness that once weighed me down.
On Thursday we’re releasing the first in the new The Print & The Process series. VENICE, A Monograph is the first work I’ve created with an intentionally limited bag of gear. And by limited I mean mostly one body and one lens. Most days I threw one camera and two lenses into my satchel and grabbed my Gitzo tripod and a couple filters and that was it. Some days it was only my 5D and a 50mm prime.
Anyone who’s shot with me knows that’s practically a miracle. I usually shoot with 2 bodies and 5 lenses, a tripod, and a Think Tank belt & holster rig that looks like I’m part of a SWAT team. I don’t travel light. But an interesting thing happened when I pared it down a little. I got more creative. We always talk about “thinking outside the box” as the best way to be creative, but in important ways, thinking inside the box is even more liberating. Constraints free us. So for everyone thinking you can’t create great images until you have __________, it just ain’t so. Start with what you have and embrace the constraints of having less. I’ll go you one better. Have lots of gear? Put it away, simplify, don’t listen to the fear that tell you if you don’t have every piece of gear with you you’ll miss the shot. Too much gear and too many options can paralyze, not liberate.
Having less also made me slow down. Having two bodies and two lenses lets you work faster – an advantage sometimes but creating work quickly isn’t synonymous with creating good work. Slowing down forced me to be more considerate of each frame. I think the longer I do this the more I internalize the fact that there’s no race to get the most amount of photographs into my collection. When I do assignment work I will carry as much gear as I need to, but doing my own work I am going to begin trimming down. Slow down, folks, it’s not a race. Most of us don’t need more images. We need better images, more unique images, truer images.
In The Bag
I brought too much stuff with me on this trip, but walking around I was leaner than I have ever been, especially in Venice. If you looked at the EXIF on my images (and it’s all there in the book) you’d see a couple images shot with a 16-35/2.8, and a couple with my Zeiss 50/1.4, but the rest were shot on my 5D MkII and my 24-70/2.8L. One lens. One camera. And like I said before, a few filters and a light tripod.
One of the surprises was how much I like shooting out of a satchel. Before I left for Italy I tried to get ahold of a Think Tank Retrospective 30 but couldn’t, so I grabbed a Domke satchel and loved shooting out of it. So simple. And it forces you to go lighter. Now that I’m home I’ve got the Think Tank satchel that I wanted in the first place. If you’re looking for a great satchel bag that’s got a little more thought put into it than the simple Domke, the Think Tank has it. The Domke is fine, even good, but the Retrospective is fantastic. More information on the Think Tank Retrospective 30 can be found HERE. I like the large one because it allows me to toss in a sweater and a piece of fruit or something and still be easy to work out of. Small bags are harder to work out of.