Buy The Tickets.

In Freelance and Business, GEAR, Pep Talks, Travel by David136 Comments

A door in Jodhpur, photographed on my first trip to India. Images from that trip benefited me more than the best lens I could have bought or the newest camera, never mind the experience and life-long memories themselves.


I ran across a great article this morning on the Adventure Journal. Simply the premise was, “You don’t need all the latest gear. Oh, and by the way, the money you spent on that expensive piece of gear could have purchased a plane ticket.”

The article also quoted Let My People Surf by Patagonia founder Yves Chouinard, a book I finished recently: β€œDon’t spend money on gear. Spend it on plane tickets.”

Got me to thinking, especially on the heels of three podcasts interviews I did last week, all of them giving freedom to rant about gear-lust and our addiction to the toys. And that thinking led me to the B&H Photo site. I only visit on Saturdays now, because the ordering mechanism is closed for the Sabbath, giving my wallet a sabbatical as well. And then I went to Here’s my math. ( Update:Β  I used Canon in these example because, while I choose Nikon, I am still much more familiar with Canon’s line-up. Nikon has its equivalents.)

Scenario #1 I Need The Best Stuff Out There

Canon 1Ds Mk III – $6,995
EF 70-200/2.8L IS II – $2,449
EF 16-35/2.8L II – $1,699
EF 85/1.2L II – $2.079

Total – $13,222

Scenario #2 I’d Rather Have Money Left Over to Photograph the WORLD

Canon 5D Mk II – $2,499.95
EF 70-200/4.0L – $669.00
EF 17-40/4.oL – $839.00
EF 85/1.8 – $419.00

Total – $4,426

The Difference? $8,796

And then I went to and priced out a Round The World ticket. From San Francisco to Paris to Nairobi to Mumbai to Bangkok to Melbourne to Tokyo and back to San Francisco.

Total with Taxes – $5,823

Still Left Over – $2,973. Almost $3000. Handy for hostels, taxis, food.

And the kicker? In no time that gear will be obsolete. Your memories and the photographs taken on 4 continents will last as long as you do. Experiences never get stolen, or go obsolete. And if you got a Canon 7D and settled for non-L-series lenses, you’d have at least another couple thousand to spend on your adventure.

I’m on a tear lately about gear, and you pros out there aren’t exempt either. Spending money on new work and personal projects will generally benefit your bottom line much more significantly, without the depreciation on gear, than the latest lens will.

Forget the shiny stuff, it gets tarnished fast. Put your camera into the bag and book a flight instead. Go make memories and photographs. Live. Buy the tickets.

Yesterday I posted a quick giveaway for a very limited – there is only one – Artist’s Print of Twilight I, Tahoe. Leave a comment on this post and one randomly-chosen reader has it signed and shipped to them, anywhere in the world. Just a comment with your name and email addy so I can notify you if you win. That post is HERE.



  1. Just have to say I agree with comment number 43 by: Jim Bullard…He has described what I regard as my ideal kit, given my budget and circumstances. I believe that making photographs makes you a better photographer. Kit only expands the possibilities (and then sometimes only very marginally) or provided a greater level of ruggedness/reliability for someone whose work demands it. To quote a favourite photographer of mine “Gear is good, Vision is better”!

  2. Author

    Thanks Louise. Also, if I’d added a better SPAM filter, I wouldn’t have had to read your comment. Sheesh.

  3. Pingback: Go-To Guys

  4. Pingback: The New Camera for Street Photography : David Spratte

  5. Pingback: FotoWala | A Question of Originality | Sephi Bergerson Photography

  6. Pingback: Turn Around and Photograph What Is Around You | LomiMonk Photography

  7. Couldnt agree more. the experience is worth an awful lot, and even with the best gear in the world someone who cant compose a shot still cant compose a shot.

  8. This is the best advice ever !
    I always practiced this rule.
    I buy my cameras, lenses, bag, as a second hand and It’s just perfect for my needs.
    And then I prefer to pay extra sometimes for a taxi or an hotel with good location. Thank you for your blog

  9. Pingback: Which Camera? Does it really matter? | Jesse Estes Photography

  10. David. all i’ll make you do, is… if you are ever in the same country on my trip, you have to drop in and let me try out some of your filters =)

  11. This is it. It’s “IT”. You are right on.

    And I sense that there is a tendency to think you’re being absolute in your mention of purchasing a plane ticket with the left over money.

    I’m smart enough to read through the lines, however, and know that the “tickets” you speak of might actually look like a car packed with gear and kids and “Tokyo” might actually be a National Park just 200 miles away.

    The point is… GET OUT THERE. Go for a week, weekend, or just a day trip. But regardless of the destination… just make photos.

    Unless of course your hobby is collecting gear. Then by all means, save the photo making for the rest.

  12. The idea is dead on.

    The problem is: most people do not have that much money to spend anyway. They collect and buy stuff one by one-
    And those people who got this kind of money and do buy those gorgeous stuff often don’t have time to travel.

    I invested both a lot in gear and travel, and in the end I’m not sure which one paid off more for me. Abroad is not always better than at home, at all depends what you do from there.

  13. My usual kit consists of a Fujifilm S100fs hybrid/superzoom (covers 28 – 400mm range in 35mm terms), 2 spare batteries and 4 sd cards. Travel light; take more photographs and save your shoulders!
    Gear is good, vision is better butmaking images is fantastic!

  14. David; thanks for reminding us that having the experiences and making the memories are far more important than the equipment. At the end, you can’t take the equipment with you, but you will have lived.

  15. You have sold me… I was teaching a class in photography tonight to novice photographers and this was one thing I stressed. Don’t buy gear because it is better buy it only when it you need it.

    Now I need to run more classes so I can do that around the world trip.

  16. I recently put 10k down on my mortgage. It knocked 2.5 years off my re-payment schedule. It felt good but doubtful I’ll be going on a big trip this year and my gear is still old. πŸ™‚

  17. Oh, I SO agree with you! I’ve done this many many times! It’s only recently I have finally invested on a better camera. I’m on the scenario #2, though considering the camera I got I don’t have much money leftover for the trip I wanted to make. But I’m using the gear to make the money to leave again! :c) So many places are on my list to visit with a camera and a photographic eye! World, here I come!

  18. Great post! For me, the travel bug came before the photo bug… now that kind of feed off each other. Jodhpur is such an amazing place to have a camera.

  19. David,

    I often feel this way about buying plane tickets. 2 years ago I hought plane tickets to San Juan, PR over Christmas with no idea what to do when I was there. I only had images of images yet to be made in my mind! Then….I met a girl. I cancelled the trip and now that we are getting married I have a hard time just buying tickets. In this instance it is easier to buy a new lens through which to explore my local world. I know, I know. I need to try harder to plan trips with her…you keep up the good work for the rest of us out here in our cubicles!

  20. I’ve recently come full circle I think regarding hoarding gear. I have all the gear, including 3 D-SLRs and a few lenses I hardly use. But if I don’t use something in 6 months I get suspicious, and if I haven’t used something in a year… well, goodbye.

    I want to take just one bag abroad with me on my next trip – for clothes AND camera gear. So to achieve this I’ve sold one camera already and the other one will go soon. The money I make is going directly towards the price of a flight ticket. The flight? Back home for my Dad’s 60th birthday. He’s having a big Northern Soul party in his favourite club so there should be a lot of great memories to cherish for him and me. And the cameras? I’ll forget they ever existed in a day or two.

  21. Pingback: Spend Money on Tickets

  22. Pingback: Tom Dills Photography Blog » Blog Archive » Choices - Recent work, random musings and reflections.

  23. Ok, I have been mulling over this post. As someone “forced” to shoot with an iPhone due to financial hardship, I can relate to the “get out there” spirit.

    My mother taught me a valuable lesson about exploring the world with no cash.

    Here is the game she invented for my brother and me ( or us it “I” –never can keep that straight!):

    She would take us out in the old model station wagon. When we reached an intersection, she would ask us to choose her next driving direction—straight, right, or left. When we reached the next stop sign or red light the process would continue.

    From this I learned the joys of just getting out there, exploring the world open to all possibilities. This same spirit of adventure applied to photography keeps me happy even without all that shiny, new gear.

    Thanks for reminding me, David, what truly matters. Miss my mom.


  24. Author

    Joe and Matt. You’ve both hit the nail on the head. My example dealt with extremes. But imagine what the savings could do in all kinds of directions. You could afford to canoe the boundary waters for a month, or hike the West Coast Trail, or put the kids in the car and drive for a couple weeks. Or whatever your priorities are. Many of my readers are also travelers, so the comparison was relevant. But the larger point is priorities. The math makes it much easier to be objective.

  25. Of course, you do not have to take an epic trip around the world if your circumstances do not allow it. Just pile the kids in the car and hit the road, for a weekend, or a week or two. My guess is that there are lots of interesting and photo-worthy destinations close to home, where ever that may be.

    I remember a story a friend told me. He and his wife and kids took a big trip from Utah to Southern CA to do the Disneyland/Theme park thing. On the way home, on a whim, they stopped at a campground for the night. The kids spent the whole evening in a creek catching frogs. Guess what the kids favorite part of the whole vacation was? Yep, catching frogs.

    Sometimes its the simple things that are the most memorable.

  26. Wise words David. When asked by people about gear, I try to remember to ask them what they have already and why they want to upgrade. We talk about what they can and can’t do with their existing equipment. And just because you can’t do something, certainly doesn’t mean you can’t be creative and make great photography. But even knowing this, it is so easy to fall into the latest/greatest trap. I’m been wanting to upgrade from a 50D to a 5D II for a long time now.

    I’ll ditto what some others have said as well. A trip doesn’t need to be across the globe – most of us have plenty of good opportunities in our local regions. I, for example, live in Tacoma and have lived in Washington State for most my life. Yet, there are scores of places I haven’t photographed yet less than a day’s drive away in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. That several thousand $ in non-spending could fund plenty of day’s off from work to see and photography local wonders and sites that many travel from around to world to see here!

  27. Amen David! I will never forget Africa – it was life altering for me, as you already know.

    Esp. when you are blessed with generous friends who are willing to LEND you gear on your adventure πŸ™‚

    My goal is to get back to Africa and go to Italy within the next 10 months. It WILL happen!

    E πŸ™‚

  28. David,
    any chance you could share the link to the article you mentioned?Thx!

  29. Great post David, couldn’t agree with you more! Several years ago hubby and I quit our jobs, bought that round the world ticket and travelled for close to a year.

    It was back in the film days so you had to be more selective in taking pictures (as I lugged a bunch of film with me! oy). It wasn’t cheap but the memories were worth every glorious second. We seen so many things that most people can only dream of seeing.

    I am so thankful we did it then and not waited until retirement (as most people do). Since my cancer last year, I have arm lymphedema which makes it harder to travel. Do things now, don’t wait!

  30. Author

    Christopher – This made me smile. Thank you. Throw off the bow-lines, mate, life is short! πŸ™‚

  31. Oh David,

    you inspired me to quit my job (not a photographer) and become self-employed.

    I upgraded my photo gear a little (no L lenses) to be able to play around with what you write in your books.

    And now the round-the-world-trip. Can’t get this idea out of my head.

    Reading your stuff, is quite dangerous for the few security-attached remaining places left in me πŸ™‚

    Thanks for all the inspiration!

    About the eco-footprint: I would worry more about people commuting in indivual cars every working day in all the major cities of this planet than a couple of photographers taking a plane.

  32. This post made me think. My first reaction was: “But I don’t have time to go around the world!” I seem to always be running out of time and one of the reasons is that I work too hard. On the bright side, I will be made redundant in 4 weeks and will have a rather decent redundancy package. I am currently trying to make a shift in my career towards something a little less crazy but it is not that easy in the current economic climate. Job search is still ongoing…

    But let’s get to the point.

    The plan was to have only little (if any) time off between the old and the new job, and use a big chunk of the redundancy money to buy gear. I was starting to fuss because I still haven’t found a new job… TIME. I may end up having lots of it. I can actually afford it, at least for a little while. I should embrace it and go shooting WAY more than I do now. (while persevering with the job search, of course!) Stop fussing about how much money will be left for the shiny new gear. The camera I use is no good at high ISO (D200) but I can put up with this for a while. Especially that it is pretty much my only complain about it…

    No plane tickets for me this time around, but embracing all the shooting time I will likely get shortly. Can’t wait! πŸ˜‰

    Nice to see you already have plans to travel and teach “soon”! Thoughts and prayers towards your recovery.

  33. We bought the round the world ticket about 4 years ago. And I began my journey with a camera that fit in my pocket. My gear has slowlyyyyy been upgraded, but I’m still buying the tickets. Can’t imagine life without travel now…

  34. This is a GREAT post. Dig that you broke it all down – somehow seeing it listed like that hits home a bit harder.

    Your point, “And the kicker? In no time that gear will be obsolete.” Truism! Not difficult to learn or understand but very easy to forget.


  35. Deborah said it for me. I too am burdened by the early marriage keeping me trapped at home. But last year the reality of having a stay at home child for only four more years to influence hit me. Our travels are not that daring for most–Disney in Florida last year, but Glacier National Park in Montana upcoming in two weeks–but there time has come. We will do some sort of travel as a family for the time we have left together with the funds we have available. It may not be much, but it’s a start.

  36. When the kids are older I’ll certainly do more travelling… Planning a charity trip to Nepal this year…

  37. Yes! Even if I have to carry you around on my back πŸ™‚
    (You lost enough weight now, right…)

  38. I have not yet been outside of the United States, but now with everyone’s encouragement I’ll start making plans. Thank you!

  39. So, a lot has been said already, which is absolutely true (comment #4 – crazy cool! Good luck and may the breeze in favor for your trip!). Still consider that the most exiting experience might not be with your camera at all, but on your adventure out there somewhere.
    While I was working to push images from an alpine trip in the european alps into the Internet I came to the couple of hours, where no images could be taken at all, while crossing a >3000m pass. Shortly before finishing the descend I had to abseil with my girl-friends dog (approx. 27 kg of weight), because he was not able to get down due to ladders. That poor guy was scared, cold (shadow, late during the day) and my girl-friend close to a break down after about 8 hours of trekking. Setting-up the abseil route and helping both of them was very challenging. I guess that was my most exiting experience up to now. No time for photographs, just doing what needed to be done. The images are lively in my memories forever.
    Cheers audience and bring your adventures to life!

  40. Tami – absolutely don’t even need to approach David’s “Have Money Left Over…” range!

    I got laid off from my job last year and took my Nikon D5000, 35 1.8 and Tamron 18-270 (relatively cheap stuff) to Brazil and Cambodia. Did I get a zillion great photographs out of the deal? No way. Did I get several ones that I like a lot and a zillion ones that bring joy to my heart? (I went to both places to teach art to kids and do a little traveling.) Absolutely. My question is, would I have gotten more really good photographs if I’d had different gear? Honestly, I think so. I think a different longer lens (faster re aperture and focusing speed) would have been far less frustrating for photographing all of the amazing birds that came along our house on the Paraguay River in the Pantanal of Brazil. I am in the process of thinking, what else do I like to photograph that would require that new (very expensive) equipment. Also, is it the lens or the camera (would I do better with one with internal focusing)? Etc, etc. No rush judgments.

    What I’m saying is, go with what you have. You WILL get good results – if you follow David’s teaching, that is πŸ˜‰ – and then reevaluate for the next trip.

    We’ll be either returning to Cambodia or going to India next year. (Un)fortunately, I am re-employed. Now I can buy gear but can’t travel for very long! Trade-offs. (Darn US health care system!)

    Thanks as always David. Happy healing…. (Be sure to go to Banteay Srea at Angkor! And if you need a recommendation for an absolutely wonderful guest house in Seam Reap, look at Bloom Guest House.)

  41. David, your comment (# 46) is well said. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. There must be a balance. A famous photographer named Joe said words to the effect of travel is life’s grad school.

  42. A great article David, I couldn’t agree more. And Deborah Howard who posted above, if you read this by any chance – I love your story, it sounds like you are truly living your life – I am in awe!

  43. Thank you for keeping us on the track and reminding us that we should be painting instead of buying more brushes. Heal quickly!

  44. David – Next you’ll be telling us that how we see is more important than our photoshop skills… My wife is going to be so happy with all the $$$$ you are saving us she’s going to demand I read you blog every day! We are all thrilled you are feeling well enough to remind us it’s life that really matters.

  45. I gave up my the purchasing of my last planned lot of new gear to pay for brain surgery, consequently I lost some of my memories but am now able to fly again and make new ones and I have my old photographs with my “not top of the line gear” to help me try and remember some of the memories I have lost. This is a wonderful post. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  46. I am on the last night of a two week road trip. I started in New Orleans (where I live), traveled up to Chicago, then to Kansas City, then to Memphis. I also added in quite a few planned and spontaneous side trips such as Springfield to see the Lincoln Museum, Independence MO to check out a puppet museum, a Civil War Battlefield, and quite a few miles on historic Route 66 (including an original Route 66 diner and a kitschy little museum). I took tons of photographs on this trip and there are quite a few that I’ll be immodest enough to say that I am really proud of. My gear for this trip- My Pentax K-7, two Sandisk memory cards, a 50mm f1.4, a 24-300 Sigma (which stayed on my camera 85% of the time), my kit lens (which stayed in the glove compartment unless it was raining- it’s my only WR lens), and a lensbaby (mostly only utilized in the puppet museum and also for some creepy cemetery pictures). Total gear cost- around $2000. Not once did I feel like I needed gear that I didn’t have to get the shot that I envisioned and I was able to see (and photograph) the building where Winston Churchill gave his “Iron Curtain” speech, the balcony where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot, and the graves of two presidents. Now I’m already planning for my next trip- hopefully to Charleston and Savannah- but I’m not planning on any camera purchases in my near future. Great post, thank you!

  47. Thanks for this, David. It was just what I needed to read right now.

  48. This is especially true if you consider the true cost of ownership. (laptop. media cards. filters. casing. softwares. disk drives. tripod & flashes. and on and on and on.)
    There is also a substantial savings on back massage costs πŸ˜‰ by going with f4 kit. weight difference is huge.

  49. Here’s a thought: sell some of the expensive gear and use the money to buy a ticket to anywhere. The shots you get while there may very well end up paying for better gear to replace what you sold, or the memories and experiences will be worth more on their own.

    Whenever I feel short on cash I look around the house and think, “hmmmmm….”

  50. Looking forward to seeing those images David! As far as your teaching tours, that’s on my bucket list. Count me in when my kids are more independent (now 10 and 7)..

    And took your advice today while in Tahoe, didn’t want to carry several lenses around in my pack so I put on my old quantaray (yes I said quantaray!) 17-200mm on my 50D and guess what? I got some good images and didn’t constantly worry about where my gear was because it was all around my neck the whole time. Thanks for your posts.

  51. Well, again I love the things you say. Canon-Nikon, who gives a crap? Don’t show in the pictures. Get over it (I’m shooting with Olympus EPl1’s and a G-11). You’ll never see the difference in the quality of the photographs. You will, however, see the difference in the quality of the photographer.

  52. By the way,…I spent way too much money on gear (5d2, 2.8L lenses, sigma primes) and am now trying to travel on the cheap. I looked at the gear as a long term investment, and it holds it’s value way better than mountain bikes. So if I need money, I could sell a lens (and maybe buy a plane ticket πŸ˜‰ ). But I used image quality and versatility to rationalize my decision to purchase what is arguably the best. I looked at it like, if I am going to be spending time and money traveling, trying to make beautiful images, I might as well do it with the best stuff, right? And it can sometimes look better when you are trying to get photo work to have the best stuff.

    PS – the sigma primes are awesome…i like the feel of the images more than that from my 2.8L zooms. i could see myself going all primes someday. I have the 50 1.4 and 24 1.8 and the 30 1.4 for my crop sensor rebel t1i

    keep it comming Dave, we can never have enough thought provoking…

  53. Author

    Steve, that whole area in Quebec is gorgeous. You’ll have no trouble finding the beauty!

  54. it’s a great comparison. Rarely does one think about how the costs of gear adds up so quickly. Nor does the reality of how gear has nothing to do with vision come much into the mind either. great post and reminder.

  55. I’m going to Canada (from New Jersey)! I will be going to the Mont Sainte Anne ski area for a mountain bike race, and then driving around for a week or so…do you know of any areas that would be good to explore up that way?

  56. Hi David, great article. I was dreaming to have a new lens for my birthday, it was an excuse to buy it. At the end I did not get it, frankly I do not know why. I am planning now a trip to Tibet, I am leaving in China, so it is not too expensive.
    Sometimes I make my business trip a couple of days longer, I pay the hotel only and I can get some good pictures of those places.

  57. Don’t you just love it when you see little signs from the Universe that you are on the right track? I bought a Sydney-San Francisco ticket on the 18th of June, same date as this post. Read the post today only. (19th already here in AU). So well written as usual, David. Thank you for the words of wisdom.

  58. Your scenario 2 looks pretty similar to the basic kit I’ve been using for the past few years. It’s never let me down. I’ve never photographed something and thought later “if only I’d used a 1dsIII my picture would have been better”. Just last week a magazine ran a photo of mine on the cover that was shot on my old 20D. They didn’t care what camera was used.

    I think it was Katrin Eismann who recently said in a blog that any DSLR camera body of the past few years is of such high quality that there’s basically no need to upgrade until it stops working. That’s the kind of advice that a lot of people would do well to follow.

  59. I’m brazilian and I pay, at least, 2,5 x the price that you pay for gear. Nevertheless, I prefer to travel more times than to buy new stuff.

  60. Oh you are so right. I wanted to upgrade my camera but my husband and I decided on a trip to Italy this year and I can hardly wait to get over there and shoot, shoot, shoot with the gear I have.

  61. Absolutely right David. In that vein I am going to Japan and Hong Kong to meet up with friends and get a look at the cultures, and just to wander the streets. Can’t wait, although I am looking forward to seeing the latest and greatest in Akihabara.

  62. I was desperate to travel my whole life, but an early marriage (naivety!) 3 children and a husband who hated leaving his hometown kyboshed that until we were divorced 30 years later. The first thing I did after we separated was get my passport. I am now living in China and have travelled to a different country every year since my divorce. All of it has been in Asia, but this July I’m heading to Germany for 3 weeks.

    The words my daughters remember me saying most to them are “There’s a whole world out there, play in it”. They have all lived and worked overseas and travel regularly.

    My budget is pretty limited (Chinese universities do not pay huge amounts!) but I skip the expat bars and restaurants, eat in local restaurants and live very cheaply. No car.

    I love my 7D (have just taken the 40D in for a new shutter plate – they die after a LOT of use), but don’t have any L series lens – just the EFs and a couple of Tamrons.

    Without the top of the range gear, I still get published in the magazine I write travel articles for.

    Definitely spend the money on experience!! Not only does it teach you about yourself and the world, when you come back to your ‘normal’ life, you see that world with different eyes and fresh ways of envisioning what you can do in it.

  63. Author

    Eli – Exactly so. This post was really all about being clear about priorities. For some it will always be the gear, and if that floats their boat fine. But I’d rather be falling off walls beside you in Pisa. Or Kathmandu. Or, uh, _____________. See you in the fall, right? πŸ™‚

  64. I translate “spending on travel” into “spending on adventures”. Which can be without fuel. Which seems to be the issue to some. I guess gear doesn’t come without a footprint either, if that is supposed to be a better option. To these some.

  65. I agree 100% Travelling has been a major part of my life, I flew for the first time at 3 months young, and haven’t stopped. Gear is great but being there is priceless. I am planning a 2 month road trip acrost Canada and USA next year. BTW I don’t “need” any new gear there is nothing wrong with my equipment but I do have a “dream list” of new lenses. My prayers are with you as you recover. Aaron

  66. I agree with you, David. It would be very interesting to see you ellaborate on the subject in a blog post or three one day.

  67. Your can down those gear prices for those of us down under. For some reason everything is a hell of a lot more expensive per item down here. Which is all the more reason to find creative ways to use more of what you already have. πŸ™‚

  68. I have an equipment wish list that I will probably act on soon. A couple of ThinkTank bags and new tripod legs. My most recent purchase was a 7D a year ago in February to go with the 30D. I still have the 10D it was paired with. I’ve had my lenses, most of them anyway, since my film days. Beyond the cost of equipment, I concern myself more importantly with the weight. Having a back condition since my mid teens, I’ve kept the weight I carry down as much as possible. So a 300 f4 IS, although a stop slower than the 2.8, is much easier to carry, and I could go on and on when it comes to some of my lens and other equipment choices. If it about kills me to carry it, then I won’t go out and make photographs and the idea of that sucks. So compromises are made, and at the same time cost savings come with those choices. Not a clue on the refresh of tripod legs, but they have to shave a couple of pounds or more off the Manfrotto 3221 I have now. No planes tickets planned, but I’ve got some maps marked up and the goal is to execute on those.

  69. I’ve been saving for new gear for a long time now, but nothing has really come out that I desire. I would like to buy my first full frame camera, but I would also like to buy my first iPhone; I think I could create great images with both.

    Adventure doesn’t have to be a special photography workshop trip, it can be a cross country vacation like mine last year with the family or a vacation to Walt Disney World.

    Although it would be really tempting if a certain someone plans a workshop in Iceland. πŸ™‚

  70. But, but, but … new gear is all so shiny! πŸ™‚

    Seriously, your words ring so true. Here I have all this fancy glass and yet I have never been outside of North America. That 70-200 represents what, a couple of weeks wandering through Europe (airfare incl.) Do I really have my priorities straight?

    Two weeks ago I spent all day at our local civic day celebration (parade, baseball, etc) and shot the whole thing with my (second) “cheapest” lens. Was I happy with the results? Yes. Would I have been happier if I had lugged around the “pro” glass? Who knows? (And who really cares?)

    I think I have been “planning” for far too long; time to start executing!

  71. Putting away Amex . . . forgetting about upgrading to 70-200 IS . . . writing return trip to South Africa into 2012 calendar IN INK!

    thanks for the kick in the pants!

  72. Author

    Geir, I think that’s an important question. I tend to look at it pretty wholistically. No matter what we do our activities have an impact on the environment on which we depend. So minimizing that impact i think has to be the goal, not eliminating it (which would be good but is somewhat unrealistically utopian). Some things in my life are important enough to me that I’m willing to sacrifice in other areas. That meant going without a car for six years, for example. It means bringing a mug to the coffee shop. It means recycling fiendishly and purchasing accordingly. Even my truck, an 83 Land Rover Defender gets raised eyebrows, but I get over 300 miles on a $50 tank of diesel.

    I think living a life that is intentionally mindful of the environment, and being willing to – for example – purchase carbon offset points – is the best we can ask of ourselves. My desire to do no harm extends to the environment as much as I can extend it to do so.

    The final question too, is – is travel just an escape? Is the potential good of travel worth doing. Frankly I’m more concerned about the environmental and cultural impact of tourism on places once the tourists arrive there. I think we should advocate responsible travel and that’s a whole different thing.

  73. Awesome post David. Obviously this is not a new subject on your blog, but I love how you’ve broken it down into numbers. It really puts things into perspective. Sadly though (for me) my Nikon D5000 and two lenses cost $1,000 used, and I still don’t have any money left to travel anywhere. Still, making the best of what I got. Thanks again πŸ™‚

  74. I hear what you say, and I would buy an airplane ticket any time if it was up to me. But I have one question that I think is quite important for a conscienscious travel photographer and role model like you are: What about the necessity of travel in the climate urgent times we are living. Should we advocate travel as an escape in the way you/we do, or can you say something about balancing travel between need and necessity?

  75. If you went with the 7D you could get by with the 15-85mm EF-s lens in place of 17-40 F/4.0 and the 85mm F/1.8 (along with the 70-200mm) thereby saving both money and weight. That combo would give continuous coverage from 15 to 200mm. If you have a real hang up about having a faster prime go with the 50mm f/1.8 for about $120. Lastly, you could save even more by buying used or reconditioned gear. Frugal photographers have more fun.

  76. Author

    Andrew (Comment #4) You are my new hero and I’m happy to take whatever blame you decide to assign to me for this new adventure of yours. Sounds amazing.

  77. Author

    Tami – At this point I am scheduled to travel to Laos and Cambodia for one of my international teaching tours through Within The Frame Photographic Adventures. My ankles will be nowhere strong enough for me to carry heavy gear. I am planning to take one camera – my Fuji x100, which has a CMOS sensor and one 23mm lens. That’s it. I’ll bring a tripod too. Possibly a couple ND grad filters.

    Some of the my favourite images were shot with cropped sensors and less than pro-grade lenses.Nowadays I shoot all pro-grade gear because I take it on assignment for clients. But would I take a “lesser” camera and lenses. Absolutely. We’ll see what comes of the Laos trip and my x100, won’t we πŸ™‚

  78. Great post David. I think we get so easily wrapped in what is being fed through us, how great it is to have the greatest pieces of equipment. And than… it’s all we have. But no more funds do something amazing. I absolutely agree with you and truly think your words go way beyond us photographers- it’s about most of us, members of modern society. Thank you for sharing your great observations!

  79. Resetting the perspective…
    Hi David, great article – what’s in front of the camera is definitely a lot better than the gear in your hands and getting a chance to experience it firsthand. Thanks for the reset. All the best wishes and hope you are feeling better.


  80. Agreed! Something I frequently say is that you can’t have a real opinion on something unless you’ve tried it (within reason, of course). And a quote that has stuck with me since volunteering during the 1988 winter Olympics is “For those who have had the experience, no explanation is necessary. For those who have not, none is possible.”. I suppose I’m writing all that to emphasize the importance of getting out there.

  81. Great post…but wondering if you could follow it up…could you do a trip with a cropped sensor prosumer camera and non L lenses? What about kit lenses? Because your Scenario #2 wishlist is my top wish list. I have a 50D and long for a 5DmarkII. I would love to see what you can do with my ‘beginner’ equipment…I know you’d rock it, I think you should do it…

  82. couldn’t agree more. Whenever I travel for work I pack my d300s and tamron 28-75 and off I go. I am much less worried about the Tamron lens getting lifted than if I had a nikon 24-70 thrown in my briefcase. It has treated me well whether I am in Chennai India or Santiago Chile. How your recovery continues as a fast pace.

  83. This puts how to travel and photograph into perspective quite well. Makes one stop and think what they most want and then realize they can go for it.

  84. I came to the same conclusion earlier this year. I ended up buying the original 5D (used) and a few used L lenses instead of getting a 5D MkII and brand new glass. I probably ended up saving around $3k over buying new which is huge for me as photography is a hobby, not a job.

    I love my gear but if I had to sell it all and go back to using my Rebel XT, I’d still enjoy shooting as some of my favorite photographs came from my Rebel.

  85. Yeah, right. Burn all the kerosene you want, it grows in unlimited supply on trees after all. And while you’re at it, further the hothouse effect, might even help those kerosene trees to grow …
    What’s the difference between “I first have to get better gear to shoot those great photos.” and “I first have to get someplace far away and exotic to shoot those great photos.”?
    Remember ? If you can’t experience things within 100 km from home you won’t 10000 km away, either. That overseas flight won’t help you see.

  86. I whole heartidly agree with you statement on equipment. I have reasonable equipment but the photography will be a journey of lifelong learning.

  87. I have a plan for exactly that – in less than one year I will be debt free (except for my mortgage) and the money that was going towards my debt will be saved up for a plane ticket to Europe or maybe even Australia. I don’t know where, but somewhere! Well said, David!

  88. I have applied this rationale to many areas. Buy a new sofa? No thanks. I’ll keep my old one and go to Stockholm instead. Upgrade the computer I bought 2 years ago? Nah, Australia sounds better.

    As a single parent living on students loans (and then paying them back) and a single, low income, I was still able to take my son abroad 8 times before he was 18. And most of that time I was carrying an FE2 with 2 lenses, and a LOT of film.

    It’s all about perspective and priorities.

  89. Daivd – this is a wonderful perspective that is hard to find in our stuff-obsessed society. We asked the kids about a year or so ago, if they would rather have a new tv or go on a trip. They unanimously said “A trip! A tv is just stuff but a trip is an experience!”

  90. Thanks David, so true. I passed on a new camera and am leaving for Alaska next month on missions trip with my church. Can’t wait to see the profit from that trip!!!

  91. I love comment #4 by andrew. There is absolutely no reason why anyone can’t travel, even if they have a family to tow around. Sure, it requires much more planning and possibly not as foreign or long-term… but it *is* possible if it’s a priority and something you really want to do.

    My wife and I (and our three kids) have sacrificed to live in a small 2 bed house, drive a crappy car (old VW golf with three carseats in the back)… but we still regularly hop on a plane and go wherever our cheap tickets can take us. Our priority is spending any extra money on going places, seeing the world, meeting new cultures and people, and exposing ourselves and our kids to whatever we can.

    We live a “rich” live, even though most of our local friends have much bigger houses, nicer cars, all the latest gadgets, etc. Whenever we do a backyard bbq (in our tiny yard), all of them tell us they wish they could travel like us.

    It’s a choice they make.

    David is correct in this post. Start planning! Start saving! Memories last forever (unless you go nuts/senile) and the fancy gear you’re thinking about purchasing will only last until it’s stolen/broken/next year.

    To quote another famous person, “JUST DO IT!”


  92. By the way I love that image! I will have to make it my screen saver. Spent time in India for college studies and that experience wasa life changer. Experiencing cultures vastly different than my own was more of a game changer than any gear purchase. It made me look at myself, the U.S., and life in general in new ways, shaping the “why’s” of my photography. Nobody these days is pining to shoot with the camera Walker Evans used ( ok only for the novelty factor). For me it is more important to GO PHOTOWALKING!

  93. So the new blog subtitle should be:
    Gear is good. Being there is better. πŸ™‚

  94. I agree with what you say about the gear. However, for those of us who live in Oregon, we never “need” to buy a plane ticket. Many of us who are close to 80 find that we don’t still have the energy for travel that we once did. But that in no way slows down our photographing.

  95. Hmmmm, a way to tame my lens lust by feeding my wanderlust… Have to ponder and do the math…thanks for this post.

  96. What a fantastic idea! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and getting my wheels turning in my head. What amazing memories there are out there to be had!

  97. So true. I think we all like the idea of new gear rather than take our current favorite and try to make pictures. I think I see a road trip in the near future.

  98. Check! My husband and I caught the travel bug many moons ago, and we have “given up” a few things to be gypsies. But oh things we have gained!

  99. Thanks David. When I was younger (than my current 42) I though I’d do that kind of stuff when I was older and had the money. Now I wish I had done it when I was younger before the family (that I love!) came along and I started having heart issues. My mistake not to do it when younger – heck, it’s only money.

    I still hope to do your $10K plan (camera/travel) above in 10 years when the kids are old enough to take care of themselves for a month or two. And, I’ll buy health/air evac insurance! Be well…

  100. Couldn’t agree more! I big chunk of our family budget goes to travel. My kids have been on planes more than all their classmates combned. Sometimes they complain about not having the best phone or ipod like their friends, but the memories of all the trips wont get lost, stolen or go obsolete…

  101. Hmmm..that round the world ticket sure sounds tempting! What the f-stop?! Maybe I willgo even cheaper and do the tour only with my i-phone. Don’t tell Chase!

  102. Hear, hear. I like the way you’ve broken down the costs associated with either gear, or experience.

    At my high school commencement (more years ago than I’d care to admit), a dynamic teacher we had jumped up onto a desk on stage. He jumped off the desk, yelling “EXPERIENCE!!!” When we had calmed down, he continued on to say, “You’ll likely never forget what just happened, because you experienced it. So, as you go through life, experience all that you are able.”

    He was right. I never forgot it, even thirty-mfff-blurf years later.

    Fine post, David

  103. I LOVE your insight!
    I’ll admit I do lust for better gear… but hey my {scoffed at by many} 40D makes some pretty incredible images… And I’m too broke anyway. Sad to say, I don’t own any L glass. Though I can definitely see a difference in a super fast lens….I’m OK.
    Keep up the writing through recovery David!
    You ROCK!

  104. I like it, David, the only thing that’s missing from that equation is opportunity cost, for those that work and support a family a trip around the world would not be the best on an airplane, too many extra costs involved. here’s another model that i’m working on right now….

    used sailboat approx 25k, keep all my photo gear, rent my house and live off the rental income, then wife, and kids and I can go on an adventure and not have to worry too much about $ while going around the world.. albeit a bit slower traveling, but we get some more stops out of the deal!

    by the the way… you are partially to blame for this adventure.


  105. I see your gear fantasy has returned to canon. I thought you’d gone over to nikon. As my gear fantasy will have to remain so, I was just curious. (i shoot every day with a 40d and it is just fine….doesn’t stop me from dreaming though)I am glad to hear you are making a good recovery from what sounded to be the most horrific accident! I do follow your blog and ebook with interest.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.