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on simplicity and essentials

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by flipmack, Mar 21, 2015.

  1. flipmack

    flipmack Mu-43 Veteran

    252
    Mar 23, 2012
    irvine, CA
    So there are similar threads to this, but I didn't want to have to post the same thing to several threads, so i thought I'd just start a new discussion.

    A few weeks ago, it dawned on me that I seriously had TOO MUCH GEAR that I don't use. As great as it would be to have a telephoto, standard zoom, and UWA lens, the occasions for using them are infrequent. I also had two different kits - a Sony NEX mirrorless kit and a standard Olympus 4/3 SLR kit.

    So, I got rid of my NEX kit and replaced it with an OMD EM5 and a Sigma 19/2.8 ART. My goal is to use this as my primary kit and keep a macro lens in my bag for those frequent occasions when I need to get close. Luckily, everything I typically use all fits in my Crumpler 3MDH bag!

    WP_20150320_19_38_41_Pro.

    WP_20150320_19_35_02_Pro.

    This is what's in my bag:
    • OMD EM5 with Sigma 19/2.8 ART
    • ZD 35/3.5 macro with el cheapo eBay adapter
    • Trek-Tech T-Pod tripod (star magmount is attached to OMD)
    • small clip-on flash for OMD
    • four spare batteries
    • ND filter with cap (for 35/3.5 macro)
    • lenspen and cleaning cloth
    • camera strap and fingercuff (using Optech quick disconnects)
    I think what I keep in my bag is my "essential" kit. It's simple and can cover most of what I'd like to take pictures of - again, this is *my* kit for *my* interests. I probably don't need the flash, but it goes with the kit and takes very little room. The tripod gets used way more frequently than what most would expect.

    When I had a NEX kit, I had the 16-50 powerzoom lens, Sigma 30/2.8, Rokinon 8/2.8 FE, and legacy Pentax SMC 55/2.0. With four lenses, I never had the right lens mounted and by the time I got the lens I wanted, the moment had passed. The same issue occurred with my full-sized SLR kit - it's to the point that when I do use my E-3, I don't bring any other lenses other than what's attached.

    I had considered selling my Olympus E-3, 14-54, and 40-150, however, the value of 4/3 kit has dropped significantly, so there's no sense in getting rid of it. Also, there's value in keeping an all-weather kit, so the E-3 and 14-54 still have that role to play.

    Anyway, just thought I'd share. I'd like to see if I can keep myself disciplined to only use what's in this bag for the rest of the year.
     
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  2. GFFPhoto

    GFFPhoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2013
    I'm a huge fan of simplicity. Here is a list of my most used photographic equipment over the last 3 months, from most used to least used: 1) iPhone; 2) GX1 + P14mm (occasionally the P20, it's my carry almost everywhere kit); 3) GX7 and a bag of lenses (only when I'm going out to shoot). Lately I look at my shooting style and think a Ricoh GR or GM5 would suit me best of all.
     
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  3. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Over-simplifying doesn't always work; like in the old saying: 'When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.'
     
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  4. MAubrey

    MAubrey Photographer

    Jul 9, 2012
    Bellingham, WA
    Mike Aubrey
    I have a lot of gear. And I do use it all. But I make a point to never have more than one or two lenses with me when I go out. I've also learned the lesson of too much with me while out the hard way.
     
  5. GFFPhoto

    GFFPhoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2013
    I always admired the old guys like Bresson and Klein... 1 camera, 1 lens, great photos. sadly... 2 out of 3 is all I can manage.
     
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  6. flipmack

    flipmack Mu-43 Veteran

    252
    Mar 23, 2012
    irvine, CA
    Several years ago, I took my entire SLR kit and tripod on a business trip to Quebec City. Six lenses, a flash, two bodies, a freaking heavy tripod. I used one body and one lens and the tripod. That was it.

    Never again.
     
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  7. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Everything to them was a nail. ;)

    Seriously though, one can't always quote one or two old time photographers and use their modus operandi as the benchmark for some sort of perfection. They had their reasons for using what they did, but there are thousands of great photographers that did it and do it differently. That said Bresson, for example, did use more than one lens when on assignment for Magnum, he only used one lens for his own work.

    When I made the hammer quote, it was to make the analogy that if you only use one focal length lens, you'll only ever see the world from that perspective (or angle of view). Rather than freeing yourself, you may actually shackle yourself to a very limited visual perspective on the world.

    After spending a weekend shooting film with a 1957 Kodak Retina and a 1974 Olympus Trip 35, would I want to restrict myself to just one focal length? No way. That exercise already had me incredibly frustrated because all that I could do was record things from exactly the same perspective, even though scenes cried out for something different. Fortunately I also had my E-M1 and lenses with me. :)

    Mind you, I often only go out with one lens, the 14-35mm f2. ;)
     
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  8. GFFPhoto

    GFFPhoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2013
    Interesting perspective. On the other hand, there are art forms like flamenco guitar or the blues where finding freedom within rigid constraints is part of what makes those disciplines so compelling. There is a long history and tradition, even in modern photography, of using only one focal length, getting to know that focal length well, and being able to pre-visualize that focal length. That approach resonates with me. I have taken long trips with just a small camera and a 35mm lens, and found it immensely satisfying.... even liberating. Shooting with a fixed focal length feels more interactive in some way since I often have to move around the environment to get the shot I want. I think thats one of the reasons I really enjoyed shooting travel with just a 35mm lens. There was less of a feeling of seeing my travels through a viewfinder. Now, with an iPhone which I often use as sort of a photographic sketch pad, I find myself gravitating toward even wider focal lengths when I shoot with my m4/3 gear. I kind of think I should get the PL15 or a Ricoh GR and really explore that focal length.

    But different approaches work for different people. I remember you saying you have a history shooting sports for a newspaper. Coming from that perspective I can understand why you would feel that a zoom lens might insure you "get the shot"... which was what you HAD to do if you were shooting for print the next morning. And I'm not familiar with the 14-35, is that a 4/3 lens?
     
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  9. flipmack

    flipmack Mu-43 Veteran

    252
    Mar 23, 2012
    irvine, CA
    I agree. I think completely understanding the constraint of a single focal length would be liberating and would be a tremendous learning experience for me. I think the biggest question I'd have for myself would be, is a single focal length a shackle or a crutch? Will I use it as a means to see the world or use it as an excuse for lackluster pictures? Again, this is the challenge I'm posing to myself. Well technically, I'll have two lenses in the bag - the other being the ZD 35/3.5 macro.
     
  10. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I've known quite a few guitarists and, surprisingly, they usually own more than one guitar. Apparently each guitar provides a different feel, sound and experience, such that they couldn't really live with just the one. They own both acoustic as well as electric guitars, so that they can vary their music depending on mood or situation; that's what they say.

    As a news and sports photographer, you pretty much had to use a set of zoom lenses as you often didn't have the luxury of moving about or positioning your subject in the way that you wanted (and the 90-250mm f2.8 gave me a major advantage on the sports field over fixed focal length lenses). But now my photography (for my blog) is of a completely different nature, and extremely varied at that, yet I still can't see a reason for a fixed focal length, let alone just one, lens. In fact, I don't think I'd be able to continue the blog using just one, fixed focal length, lens as all the enjoyment would be drained out of the exercise. My photography for the blog (and the lenses I use) reflects the wide variety of subject matter that I write about.

    And yes, the 14-35mm f2 is a 4/3 lens, as are my 7-14mm f4, 35-100mm f2 and 90-250mm f2.8.
     
  11. GFFPhoto

    GFFPhoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2013
    I never needed an excuse for lackluster pictures :p. But honestly, I think that if you take good photos with a zoom, you will take good photos with a fixed focal length. Maybe even better once you really learn that field of view. Everyone has their favorite focal lengths, but the gear doesn't make the photos, the photographer does. Either way, It looks like you are going to find out! Good luck!
     
  12. GFFPhoto

    GFFPhoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2013
    The metaphor of flamenco guitar or the blues refers to the rigid constraints in art form itself, not constraints in the gear you use to create it, although there is also the tradition of bluesmen (or any type of working guitarist) having a "main" guitar which they use for the bulk of their work. Think Stevie Ray Vaughn and the "SRV" strat, Jimmy Page and his Les Paul, or B.B. King and Lucille (or a string of Lucilles where he replaces the old one with an identical guitar after the previous one is worn out, lost or stolen)
     
  13. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I did understand the metaphor, but I don't think it really applies in the sense of equipment used. For example, my 14-35mm lens is the lens that I use the most to experience and record the world as I see it. But it's just a tool, it means nothing if I can't actually use it to it's maximum capability. It many ways, the zoom forces me to work harder, because I have so much choice in recording the final image. I have to think about what I'm doing.

    If I were using a fixed focal length lens, I'm constrained and locked into a pre-set angle of view, so I don't even have to think about the potential alternatives and how they could influence the outcome, for better or worse. It's kind of like having a car with only one forward gear; your driving is controlled by just the accelerator and brake, so you can't use the car's capability to its fullest.
     
  14. dornblaser

    dornblaser Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 13, 2012
    Chicago-area
    David Dornblaser
    OzRay:

    Do you own any primes; and, if so, do you use them? I am not trying to start anything, just curious.

    - David
     
  15. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Actually yes, but they are all manual focus ones and I used to have a bunch of Voigtlander, Minolta and Leica M mount lenses which I sold. I also used to own the 4/3 8mm fisheye and 50mm macro. The current fixed focus lens that I've used the most is the Nikon 300mm f4 and another than I've been using a bit more lately is an Olympus 80mm macro lens.

    You need to remember, I started photography when there were no zoom lenses of any note. I cut my teeth on primes lenses on large format, medium format and SLR. I only got into zoom lenses when I went digital. I took to zoom lenses like a duck to water and part of the reason was the exceptionally good zooms that Olympus brought out. When I had the M mount lenses, I really tried to enjoy them and took them with me on many trips, but I became less and less satisfied using them. When the E-M1 came out, they became redundant. I could never go back to prime lenses in the everyday range.
     
  16. GFFPhoto

    GFFPhoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2013
    I feel like we are talking at cross purposes. You are talking a lot about your gear, and your options, and what your gear can or cannot do. I'm talking about making images. I feel that stripping away what isn't essential means you focus on composition and light. For better or worse. Unlike sports journalism, there isn't one shot that I might miss if I don't have ultimate flexibility. There are infinite shots. Having a fixed focal length isn't limiting to me. In fact once I get a real feel for it, its liberating. I start to see the shots I can take, not the ones I can't. I start to see how the different compositional elements fit together in a perspective I'm familiar with. In a sense, I'm not trying to make the shot, I'm taking whats already there. There is no judgement either way. My brother loves his zooms and takes some great shots with them. I like simplicity and a lightweight kit. Even the modern photographers whose work I admire seem to be the ones who shoot mainly one focal length.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2015
  17. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    We're talking about the same thing. I never raise the camera to my eye unless I can visualise what I want to record beforehand. I see something in a scene that captures my eye and then I consider it more closely to see what makes it interesting, and then I look at its surrounds to see what is necessary to support the image and what detracts from the image and how best to make the image stand out. Then I consider the lens that is needed to record what I see in my mind's eye and, with a zoom lens, I have a number of lenses available to complement what I see as the final image.

    There have been times when I've needed my 35-100mm lens, as the 14-35mm simply didn't fulfil what I needed, but it hasn't been with me and I've foregone the shot. The same when I've been shooting birds, one lens just doesn't cut it. Whether you use zoom lenses or multiple prime lenses, doesn't really matter, I think having the option does matter. I'm not trying to discourage anyone from taking the single lens path, but I don't believe that it reflects some form of photographic purity or the like, if that's what I'm reading.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2015
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  18. GFFPhoto

    GFFPhoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2013
    Well, I'm not trying to imply that a single lens is a "better" or "higher" path, I'm just saying what I like and why I like it. I'll still keep my O45 and S60 for portraits, and my long zooms for the rare occasions I shoot distant stuff, but last year, the P20 was my most used lens by quite a bit. This year... who knows. P15?
     
  19. Rasmus

    Rasmus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    660
    Nov 16, 2013
    Stockholm, Sweden.
    Also, some of the old masters that just used one prime traveled extensively to places where things were expected to happen. They got unique pictures because they took pictures of unique events. It also sometimes got them killed. Go to Ukraine, Mali or maybe Iraq with a camera and a prime and you might come back with very interesting pictures. Or maybe you'll come back in a coffin.
     
  20. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    I've usually mainly stuck to two lenses, but I'm going to try and go even lighter with just the O25mm most of the time, although my other two (17mm 2.8 and 9mm BCL) are so light it seems silly not to bring them. It's the lens switching that I don't like. But I'm excited to go the nifty fifty route for awhile and see where that brings me.