If photography were difficult in the true sense – that the creation of a simple photograph would entail as much time and effort as the production of a good watercolor or etching – there would be a vast improvement in total output. The sheer ease with which we can produce a superficial image often leads to creative disaster. –Ansel Adams

It is not surprising in this day and age so many flock to places that have been glorified by various media sources. These places are known for being wild, historic, cultural, adventurous, sparsely populated, over populated, or simply have a great view of a wonderful landscape. Ease of travel has certainly opened up the World to us. It is not uncommon for many to travel thousands of miles each year to experience these unique areas. I have yet to be convinced this is a good thing when it comes to creativity, art, or personal expression. And as Ansel puts it, often leads to creative disaster. I have experienced this first hand, and seem to be constantly reminding myself, just because I can make a photograph does not mean that I should.

When it comes to travel photography I participate in the same manner I participate in wildlife photography, opportunistically. That is to say, if i am present and the opportunity presents itself I am more than happy to enjoy the moment and celebrate with a possible photograph. I do not actively seek the travel methodology or mindset. To venture to far off lands is exciting without question. For most these are short lived trips, possible done a few times in a lifetime. Total time spent learning about, understanding, and allowing a place to impact ones well being is short. Many times very short. I would much rather know a place well, very well. There is a connection that takes place between us and our surroundings. This connection requires at minimum, time and requires much more than opportunistic visits. Days, weeks, months, or possibly calling it home is when opportunity becomes reality allowing for personal connection. Photographs, to be of significance must live in this personal connection space.

I always find it somewhat odd to the point of narcissistic when I read articles, posts, or notifications, about the great “photography” trip that a person has planned. Highlighted with the locations, possibly an itinerary, planned sights, objects, or places that are on the “hit list” or in hopes of experiencing. A very social way of sharing ones daily life. Not inherently bad, just somewhat boisterous. What seems to accompany these planned ventures many times is the ubiquitous “gear list”. Photo gear listed like a grocery list of must haves, want to have, and can haves. Cameras, lenses, memory cards, memory card readers, tripods, filters, extra batteries, bags, more bags, cables, cleaning supplies, weather gear, and on and on and on…

I honestly do not understand the sharing of possible gear that one wishes to take on a trip. It is always a large number of items that they must somehow, through shear will power whittle down to a manageable amount to travel with. And ultimately will always end up wanting (think they need) a piece of gear they did not bring. If I wanted to make a trip as impersonal or as un-photographically successful as possible this seems to be what my approach would be. Yet many find this a necessary step in what they insist is a photographic travel plan.

We each have our own way of doing things without doubt. What works for one person may not come close to working for the next. But when we challenge our creative endeavors with unnecessary distraction this seems to be moving in the wrong direction regardless of how one approaches any adventure. It leaves me to wonder if the purpose of these gear conundrums is truly for the sake of photography or an attempt to place importance on things other than photography. Namely, motivations.

I would categories such examples of these gear conundrums as a simpletons approach. Not only to creativity, but life in general. Shallow observations of self satisfaction with little or no regard to personal significance, essence of spirit, or compassionate understanding, that should be foremost in meaningful work. Then again, it is always possible meaningful work is not the intent. Many simply want to get the most bang for their buck. There is nothing wrong with that approach. Unless photography is the bang you are looking for. Then the dilemma of the gear grocery list seems to be much more of a distraction than helpful approach.

Many approach photography as a gear first activity, hobby, even profession. For them it is about the right gear, the needed gear, the variety of gear, even the newest gear. Consumerism exists in every nook and cranny of society today. Even with the temptations all around we still have a choice in what we deem important when it comes to our creative work.

My hope is for photography to completely separated from gear. As other forms of creative art are separate from tools used in their creation. One does not wonder what brushed Michelangelo used when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or what chisel he used when sculpting Pietà. Why then do many feel the need to make clear the equipment they use when creating a photograph. My only thought would be, they have little intent on creating any photographs. They simply want to take lots of pictures, or use cool tools.

The world of full of pictures. To the point of extreme excess. These are for the most part personal memories of places experienced. A fine thing to have. Memories are important. They help to shape, mold, and form our thoughts, emotions, even our personalities. You may feel the need for many more pictures in your life. A sort of verification of a life experienced. But are the pictures the verification? Or, are they simply tokens that are used as a reminder of life experiences? Will you enjoy them for what they are or for the gear you used when creating them? One things seems apparent. Photographs are important, gear is not.

“Never forget that all the great photographs in history were made with more primitive camera equipment than you currently own.” – Brooks Jensen

Kansas Flint Hills

Late Wiinters View | ©Brad Mangas

 

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