Gear: A Blessing and a Curse

2015-04-04_0001.jpg 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:

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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.2015-04-04_0009(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)


A year in Asia: Packing list and details

People have been asking which countries I'm going to and what I'm packing, so I thought I would put a post together. I originally wasn't planning to have a plan, but applying for a visa for China has forced my hand. It's still pretty loose though. Bear with me, it gets fuzzy between #5 and #6:

  1. India
  2. Sri Lanka or SE Asia somewhere (maybe Bangladesh)
  3. Mongolia
  4. China
  5. Thailand and more SE Asia
  6. Get to Tahiti on a boat somehow (Maybe through NZ or Australia)

I really don't have a lot of plans past #5, but what is on the list will probably take me through next fall. I've been in contact with two organizations in India that I'm going to get to work with while there. I've also been reading up on the Sikh religion recently, and I'm planning to do a personal project in the Punjab region on Sikhism in India. I've got some other personal projects that I'm still fleshing out in the other countries I want to travel to, but I'll share those when I'm getting closer to doing them.

If your curious about the gear I'm taking for this year long adventure, check out this post from my Nepal trip. Camera gear is the same minus the Sekonic light meter, and I decided to throw in my iPhone with an Optix underwater housing for a little extra fun. Clothing is as follows:

3 Icebreaker T-shirts 2 Icebreaker long sleeves (one heavy weight, one lightweight) 4 pairs of quick dry underwear 4 pairs of Icebreaker socks 1 North Face goretex rain jacket 1 Columbia zip up for warmth 1 pair Levi 501s 1 pair Kuhl zip off trekking pants

I'm packing much less in the way of clothes for this trip (relative to Nepal). I've not put any hard miles on the Icebreaker gear yet, but it shows promise for going long periods of time without washing. It's made from Merino wool, which doesn't hold odor, so I'm told. Fortunately, you all won't have to smell it when I find the limit on how long it can go! I'm planning to be in mostly warm climates so I won't need a lot of bulky cold gear. Just need enough for Mongolia and western China, and what I have has been reasonably adequate for the current weather here in the midwest. So I think I'll be ok. And all of my clothing can be layered.

My bag is lighter for this trip. It's killing me that I won't have access to my tripod and my set of ND filters. I do plan to do some landscape work on this trip, but it won't be my usual stuff unfortunately. I just can't justify the weight or bulk. Or rather, I just don't want it. I want to travel light. In the event that I do make it to New Zealand and have a desire for a tripod, I can always source one. Otherwise, to be honest, the lowlight performance of cameras these days is so good, that even at ISO 1600, I can still get a very useable shot.

Hopefully this is helpful!