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Picture This: The Burden of Excess Gear

Acquiring more camera equipment doesn’t lead to better photography. Or does it?

By Earl Nottingham

I was in denial, thinking that it was no big deal and, more importantly, that no one would notice. Trying to contain it became futile, and its presence became increasingly noticeable to my colleagues, friends and family. Only after some soul-searching did it become evident that it was time to clear the air and admit to myself that I had ... GAS!

Gear Acquisition Syndrome (commonly known as GAS) is a term used to describe a photographer’s urge to acquire and accumulate lots of camera gear — typically more than is needed or could ever realistically be used. Typical early signs preceding a major episode of GAS include the amassing of photographic equipment catalogs and magazines with highlighted and dog-eared pages, creating online “wish lists” and making frequent visits to local camera shops under the pretense of “just looking.” 

Typically, inexpensive purchases such as filters, cables or other small accessories are the gateway to a more advanced occurrence of GAS. A bloated sense of equipment inadequacy fuels the rationalization that the newest camera, lens, tripod or any other number of accessories is what is truly needed to get the perfect photograph.

Left unchecked, GAS can permeate a home or office, lingering in cabinets and dusty closets bulging with gear that may never see the light of day but resides there nonetheless — just in case.

Sadly, my own home is ripe with the presence of GAS (as my wife constantly reminds me), evidenced by a 40-year accumulation of gear and gadgets biding their time in mountains of  boxes, bins and bags that migrate throughout the house like shifting desert dunes.

gear

Thankfully, there is a cure for GAS. By gradually releasing, one step at a time, the notion that more gear equals better photography, the photographer can gradually “relearn” that, instead of carrying a ton of gear,  a simple camera setup such as one body and one or two lenses may be all that is needed to best record the scene and tell the story at hand.

All too often, the excess gear we drag around actually hampers our decisions in choosing the best tool for that particular photo. As a result, a moment of spontaneity or good light is lost.

As a beginning step to dissipate GAS, try shooting with only one fixed prime lens such as a 28mm or the venerable 50mm (or the equivalent focal lengths on a zoom lens). It is a good way to rediscover the simplicity and effectiveness of a minimalist camera package.

You may even find it liberating to concentrate on the story and composition unfolding before the lens and not the nuts and bolts of the shooting process. Harken back to the beautiful and iconic images created by the simple cameras of yesteryear that consisted of only a black box and one simple built-in lens.

Recognizing the symptoms and admitting that you have GAS are the first steps in a lifelong journey of gradually weaning yourself from the burden of excess gear. During that journey, you may find that you are trying to rid yourself of the excess baggage. If you do, please let me know. I’m always looking for some new stuff.

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For more on TP&W magazine photography, go to our Photography page

 

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