Fairly or unfairly, I am generally considered a gear head. I do have lots of photo gear. There’s no denying that fact. Some of it I purchased just for review on Photofocus. Some of it was given to me in an attempt to sway me. Some of it was purchased for resale later. Some of it was purchased just to write a book. Some of it was purchased for one or two specific projects (before I found out about Borrowlenses.com).
In any event, my studio is full of stuff. Lots of stuff. So much stuff that I sometimes discover cameras and lenses I didn’t even know I still have!
Even after numerous attempts to “organize” my equipment room and even though we built a second storage room – expanding the studio by about 200 square feet, I still can’t find anything in my own studio. This combined with the fact that I am tripping over my own gear would be reason enough to sell off some gear.
I am also winding down my wildlife photography. I will be making one or two big trips a year from now on – if that. It is just too hard on my old bones to make these big trips and I’ve accomplished pretty much everything I want to in that genre. My interests are changing and I find myself photographing cars just about every day of the week now. I can rent big glass when I need it and save room in my storage vault. So that’s also reason enough to dump gear.
But here is an even better reason…
I just don’t need hardly any of it to make great pictures. In fact, after careful consideration, long talks with some of my colleagues, and lots of research, I think that some of my gear actually gets in the way of making great pictures.
Lately, as in the last year, I’ve been experimenting with the idea that I can take less gear on most shoots. The results have been stunning. I believe that I have not only NOT been hurt by bringing less gear, I believe I have better pictures. It really hit home during my Alaska eagle trip. I took about half the gear I usually would have on such a trip and got amazing results.
Now I’m not just talking about fewer items in my bag. I am talking about bringing the “lesser” cameras and lenses on some jobs as well.
For instance, I have five Nikon D3s bodies. This week, I left them at home and covered the Barrett-Jackson auction with the Nikon D7000. It’s smaller, lighter, easier to use, easier to carry, less obtrusive and very capable. Instead of my complete collection of Nikon glass which includes every Nikkor prime lens and most of the high end zooms, I brought three lenses. The Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S, the Nikon 60mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Micro, and the Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8G ED AF DX Fisheye.
(I also had the Leica M9 with 28mm and 90mm lenses but these were on board for testing and review – not for the actual job I was hired to do.)
So instead of my heavy pack with five or six lenses and two or three of the big bodies, I carried one camera around my neck with a lens on and two lenses in my pocket. It was absolutely freeing. I didn’t struggle with or worry about gear. I concentrated on seeing. The pictures look fantastic and I don’t think I missed a thing because I didn’t have all my “pro” gear with me.
The concept of less is more is not one that most people would associate with me. I am after all, a rather bombastic personality. I like to do things big. But there are different ways to accomplish that last goal. I am convinced that I need about 10% (or less) of the stuff lying around in my studio. Moreover, I am convinced that to some degree, all this STUFF gets in the way of my vision as a photographer.
So I am going to do something radical. I am going to sell most of it and whittle down my gear to what I consider to be bare bones. Now I already realize I’ll be ridiculed for this because my “bare bones” will still be an impressive list. But that’s not the point. The point is that even in my advanced age – perhaps even because of it – I am still able to learn and grow and take on new attitudes.
I plan to limit myself to one or two DSLR bodies total. I plan to limit myself to one point and shoot. I plan to limit myself to a couple of M9 rangefinder bodies with two or three lenses. I’ll keep one or two of my favorite camera bags. Throw in one big studio softbox with hot light, stand and reflectors, a flash, a polarizer and ND filter for each lens, some minor accessories and I’m good.
This v. my current total of more than 15 cameras, 50 lenses and God knows how many bags and other doodads.
Even before I compiled the VISION Ebook I released recently, I’ve been wondering if I couldn’t make do with less gear. I believe the answer is yes. I’m about to find out.
The notion that people like Cartier-Bresson made some of the most famous pictures of all time with one camera and one lens intrigues me. I’ve been told I have it “easy” because I have lots of gear. Maybe that’s true. I find no reason to think that easy is bad. But I think that I will still have it easy – if not easier – by having less gear.
I realize this post will ruffle some feathers. I realize it won’t help me get gear companies to sponsor me. I am okay with that – heck – what else is new?
UPDATE: Of course I should have prepared myself for the 100s of emails that filled my inbox within 10 minutes of posting this – sorry I won’t be “donating” or giving away any of this gear. I’ll be selling it. But I do have a great contest going on if you are looking for something for free.