Each time I travel I get the same questions about my gear. Here are the answers. But I should warn you, this post quickly turned into a bit of a rant.
What Camera do you use? Right now it’s Fuji mirror-less for the most part. And a couple zoom lenses from 16mm to 90mm. Sometimes longer. But it could as easily be Sony or my old Nikons. Yes, I love my Fuji gear, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. I used to look like a much cooler photographer, but I make better photographs now because I can walk longer and farther and my gear gets in the way less. Find the camera that works for you, then use it.
What Camera Bag do you use? I travel with my gear in a Think Tank Airport Essentials bag. It’s a great airplane bag. When I get where I’m going I pull two bodies and two lenses and put them in one of two lightweight satchels I own. One is simple leather, floppy and boring, with no bells or whistles. The other is canvas and has a couple pockets, and is made by Filson. Neither are camera bags. There’s no padding or dividers. I throw a sweater or rain jacket in, put in one camera, a couple spare batteries, and a memory card wallet, and walk out the door with the other camera slung around me. All the clever camera bags and pockets and stuff just get in the way. What more do we need than a camera, or two, and a lens or two?
What Camera Straps do you use? All my cameras have UpStrap-Pro bandoliers. They’re nylon slings that I wear crosswise and they sit just higher than my hand rests when I’m walking. You could probably make these with a quick trip to REI or MEC or some other hiking or climbing store but UpStrap-Pro.com has them for $20 or something. I’ve tried a lot of fancy clever straps and none of them work for me like a simple bandolier. And I’ll put the $50 I save toward something that really makes a difference to my photography, like printing my work.
Anything Else? Other than a cool scarf? No. Listen, when we first get into photography – I remember these days well, and I’ve bought more gear than many of you combined – we want to buy every little gadget. We’re under the mistaken impression that any of them really matter. Sure, some do. Most don’t. You know the kind of photography you do, and you’ll know you really need Thing X when you can’t do your work without it, or Thing Y no longer does it for you. The more gimmicks I tried – the fancy camera bags, the $100 straps, the more I felt like a photographer was meant to feel, and the more those damn things just got in my way or encouraged me to carry more crap than I needed and that too got in my way. You know what’ll really make you feel like a photographer? Making better photographs. If you’re already sold on that you can skip to the last paragraph.
I have a feeling that much of the crap sold to photographers doesn’t serve our photography so much as it serves our ego. Not that you need it, but this is my permission to not look like a pro photographer. You don’t need the biggest best glass, unless you really, really need it. I harp on the Canon 85/1.2L a lot, and I’m going to do it again. It’s ludicrously expensive. It’s heavy. It’s very slow. Most people don’t need one, and most people will make better photographs without one. But it looks cool. You will look awesome carrying it. I know I did. But I make better photographs with something lighter and faster. You probably don’t need 4 lenses. or the Pro-sized body and grip. Or the really cool-looking camera bag with 20 pockets and a hidden darkroom. Or whatever else is about to hit the market that screams “photographer!”
Most of us would make better images if we stopped worrying so much about our own image. If you want to impress us, show us your photographs, not your list of L lenses or your weird leather hipster camera straps. And we’d make better photographs if we spent more time pouring over the work of past masters, or painters, or other visual artists, and actually learning our craft, than pouring over the latest catalogue from StuffMart.
The most valuable things you can bring to your photography can never, ever, be bought at the camera store: curiosity, patience, the willingness to put in the time, to fail, to see light and lines and anticipate moments. The ability to tell a story, express an emotion, or tell the hard truth. We’ll make better photographs when we concentrate on that and worry less about the other stuff.
I knew this would turn all ranty and stuff. My comments apply, I think, across genres of photography, but are made specifically in consideration of my travel and street photography contexts. Clearly if you are making wildlife or landscape or wedding photographs, your needs will be different. The point, however, remains.
Share this Post, Share the Love.