Traveling Light

One of the items that I have been playing catch-up with lately has been to listen to the collection of LensWork podcasts by Brooks Jensen. I have been subscribed to these podcasts since about mid 2005 and realized that I had over a year’s worth of them waiting for me on my ipod (I can happily say that there is now under a years worth yet to listen to—just under).

What I appreciate about Brooks and his podcasts is that they cover various topics, all related to photography and the creative process, that gets my mind thinking about things. One of my goals over this holiday break is to get completely caught up with listening to these. (Expect a flurry of postings based on these historical podcasts in the next few weeks…).

Today I listened to Six Hundred Pounds of Equipment, from January 16th, 2006 (told you, just under a year…). Brooks talks about a book he was reading by photographer Margaret Bourke-White titled Shooting the Russian War. The point Brooks makes is with regards to how much gear we take with us (or for Margaret it was supplies for doing prints in her hotel bathroom).

I think this is a topic that every photographer today can relate to. Back in late May this year, I was planning a 3 week trip to Italy. The purpose of the trip was for my wife and I to finally take out belated honey. But come on, it’s was Italy...I wasn’t going to leave my camera behind! Granted, I did consciously trim it down…after all, this was a honeymoon trip, not a photography trip. With some additional photography spending, I was able to take only one camera, two lenses, and a portable storage tank. It all fit in a nice small satchel bag (the LowePro SlingShot 200) and weighted in at about 7 pounds (See photo, only think missing is camera and lens used to take the picture).

But oh, the agony that I went through in the week before we departed. Should I take this, or that… In the end I left my good glass at home and at the end of the trip I had taken only 1500 photos over 3.5 weeks—the total number of images is much smaller since I relied heavily on bracketing to keep the Missus happy that I wasn’t slowing us down too much. However, as I have been slowly working through the post processing on these images, there were many instances when I wish I would have taken a different selection of equipment. Nothing makes up for good glass…except maybe a happy Missus.

This also reminds me of trips that my fellow photographer Bob Glass has taken. I picked his brain on his long term travel experiences. The smallest load of gear he has taken on trips seems to be about 45 pounds. But then he had the luxury of staying anchored in one area and wasn’t “backpacking through Europe” on his trips.

This all leads me to consider: does more equipment make for better photographic results? Or does having less gear force us to work within our constraints and result in better (or at least significantly different) results?

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