I think every photographer goes through phases with gear. We spend hours surfing the internet looking for something new, something different, something that will satisfy this never ending craving to play around with new techniques, styles, etc. It's what we do really, play that is.
I'm at a point with photography, where I flat out hate gear. Don't get me wrong, I love cameras. I'm just at a point where I hate thinking about them. I hate worrying about how to shoot something and I want to just shoot. I shot a lot of film in 2014 for this reason.
I traveled with 35mm film cameras for almost 6 months hoping to disconnect with the digital world a little bit, and spend more time focusing on what was in front of me. I think it was the best exercise photographically I've done yet, and I'd highly recommend others to try it out. Commit to film for an extended period of time and see what happens. It will change the way you shoot I think. But something about the restrictions of film really bothered me. How hard it was to shoot in low light. How I really had to watch what I was photographing, because I could run out of pictures!
So I've got digital cameras again, and I've swung back to the world of pixels. But then today, I finally sat down with some of my old medium format images from my Mamiya 7 rangefinder camera, and I started rethinking. I had originally put the camera up for sale, thinking I was just going to go digital and stay there. But man. Just look at these. There is something in them that digital just cannot match:
There is something in the tonality that just steals my breath. That and the extra lens compression afforded by a larger format. And now, they have me thinking...what if I took this camera to Kyrgyzstan this year???
I was in a hostel last year in Bishkek, when a friend of mine who I met there (also a photographer) handed me his Nikon D4 to play with. After shooting my manual film cameras for so long, I actually did a double take when I looked at the back of the camera. What was all this for??? As I sat there stunned, just looking for the on switch, I realized something very profound: Less gear=more for me. Less gear means less for me to think about, which means more time spent paying attention to the world around me.
Sometimes, I think it's more about knowing your limitations than actually having them. Having to work within them makes you more creative. And that is a plus of shooting old film cameras I think. It's just shutter speed, aperture, light, and what ever you can put in front of the camera.
So now I'm torn. I hate having gear to think about, and I'm struggling. Having to decided between cameras is a blessing and a curse. I'll probably bring both with me.(As a side note, I'm not criticizing people who shoot fancy cameras. In the case of my friend, he shoots time lapses for the Discovery Channel, so he needs what those cameras offer. In the long run, I suppose it's whatever helps you get the image your after)