Sunday, May 30, 2021

Little or large

Over the years I have accumulated a lot of camera gear. It's a problem I enjoy having, and one that I know I share with many other photographers. There is even a mildly derogatory term for it "G.A.S." or Gear Acquisition Syndrome.

Go large

With all this gear, there are two ways I can go about taking photographs. The first is to simply put all the pieces of gear that I might want to use into a bag and go shoot. It's the way I worked for many years and it's a way that was OK – up to a point. That point being photographic "creativity".
Out for a drive

Largely unnoticed, my acquisition of gear was not accompanied by a commensurate increase in creativity. In fact, the very presence of all that gear led to an over-emphasis on the technical aspects of photography – I was spending my mental resources thinking about focal lengths, formats, settings and composition. It didn't allow my mind space to switch into the intuitive place where creativity happens.

Flying high

If this was the fault of having too much gear, then the simple solution might be to get rid of some. But it isn't as simple as that. My abundance of gear was symptomatic of something else; a belief that, somehow, each piece of gear would help make me a better photographer. It hadn't and it wouldn't. That's not to say that getting rid of it would make me a better photographer either; it's just not about the gear. Which leads me to the second way of shooting:
Riverside Market

Go little

In this second way of shooting, I limit myself to one camera and one lens and leave home with just those (and, maybe, a tripod). I still have all my gear, but I start with a simple question; "what do I feel like shooting with today?" The question goes to the heart of creativity; 'feelings' - I want the gear I take to align with what I am feeling.
Coffee break

Am I feeling in a 2 1/4" film-camera mood, or a digital with a macro lens mood? Perhaps it feels more like a fisheye day or, if not that bold, at least a wide-angle day. Maybe, nature is calling and I need to take the telephoto or the infrared. What I want is the gear that suits the mood I am in. If the gear aligns with my feelings it will help spark creativity.
Head in the clouds

By limiting my choice of gear, I am immediately limiting what subjects I shoot and how I shoot them. Automatically, whole categories of photographs can be ignored and I can hone in on those that suit my mindset and my gear. It brings the mind's eye into more of a laser-like focus, looking for that 'thing' or that 'idea' that will be recognised as soon as it is seen.

Of course, this approach is no guarantee of creativity, but it does set the conditions and mindset in which creativity can arise. It primes the pump, as it were. I have been taking this second way of shooting more seriously (though not exclusively) these last few years. It works, and, importantly, it still leaves room for my G.A.S. inclinations.
A 'selfie'
Go little or go large; that is the question.

(All the pictures in this article were taken with the gear du jour - a Fujifilm X-E3 and a cheap, Chinese, 10mm fisheye lens. Yes, even the motorcycle; I had fun.)