Less is more

April 9, 2010

A long, long time ago I was a gear fiend. I had to have all the toys and they had to be dragged around with me on every assignment. A backpack the size of a refrigerator stuffed with lenses, filters, tripods and gadgets that would never see the light of day…. All just in case.

The older I get, the lighter I travel. The older I get, the less stuff I need in my life. My wife and I even disposed of our dining table and chairs in favor of simple floor cushions. No clothes drier, no air-conditioner, no TV. This approach applies to my professional life, be it an assignment 10 minutes walk from the Reuters office in Sydney or a several week-long assignment in Afghanistan. Now I’m more likely to shoot with prime lenses, not use flash (I never really got the hang of speed lights anyway) and not take any fancy add-ons. If it doesn’t fit in two or three small pouches on my belt, chances are it gets left behind. My check-in bag is rarely full. Media scrums at news conferences are less painful. In and out of taxis/elevators/armored trucks is easier. Running with your kit is faster. Working becomes simpler and I really don’t miss all those bits and pieces that no longer weigh me down.

That means there is less to break, less to clean, less to remember, less back strain and less of a struggle through airports. Oh, and to keep your boss happy, less expense.

Nowadays my-
- iPod is a Nano.
- Sleeping bag is not much larger than a can of beans.
- Towel weighs less than 30 grams (one ounce).
- Laptop is a nine inch netbook.
- Knife fits in the palm of my hand.
- LED head torch is attached with a single strand of thin cord.

Gear

If there’s an exception to be made, this is probably it. My ride the other day through northern Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Rhino

13 comments

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Hello Tim,

Thank you for your post, it was very interesting. Could you describe a little bit more about your gear. Did you bring just one camera and one lens? I love the “Power of Less”.

Thanks,
Frederic

Posted by FredericSune | Report as abusive

That’s an iPod shuffle, not a Nano

Posted by adampasick76 | Report as abusive

Nice post Tim. I love melbourne and think if I had to live elsewhere it would be Perth. I have heard similar comments by people that have visited melbourne as well. Its a great place to live but not such a great place to backpack.

Job Finder

Posted by jackychain | Report as abusive

Tell me: following your logic, you don’t wear underwear then? – Wait, don’t tell me.
Just kidding – love your post and your “less is more” attitude.
Lucas
http://www.pictobank.com

Posted by Photoluc | Report as abusive

Frederic,

Thanks for your comment. I have three cameras with me in Afghanistan. A MkIV, 5DMkII and a spare MkII body, all Canon. My two main lenses are an f2/135mm and f1.4/24mm. I have an f2.8/16-35mm also.

Adam,

You’re probably right about the iPod. You can tell I am no longer a gear fiend……

Cheers,

Tim

Posted by Timshoots | Report as abusive

Apparently, the Rhino doesn’t come standard with an aperture for welcoming civilians to hand flowers to the driver and passengers. Or maybe it’s just so small, we can’t see it.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive

Thanks for this post it is a bit of much needed inspiration to a younger photographer that thinks he needs every bell, whistle, and doodad that the photography equipment companies throw at him.

Posted by kthacker | Report as abusive

Hi

I love this story, it reminds me of why I am cutting down on things.

And on my journey to make my expenses for gear and owning less therefor using less I created a blog. The name tells the whole story. http://www.minimalphotographer.com

Enjoy :)

Posted by BenniF | Report as abusive

its actually a beauty..these tiny gadgets are!!

Posted by iknow_ampretty | Report as abusive

3x bodies and 3x lens? would love to know to know your idea of traveling ‘loaded’ would be. good info Tim.

Posted by jasontanner | Report as abusive

Well, it is not much to take on such a long assignment.

I used to take at least that, plus strobes, extra lenses and other lighting on just a 2 week underwater expedition, and that was just for fun!

You have isnpired me to clean out my spare room!

Posted by divergirl | Report as abusive

Mahalo for sharing your insight into a simpler lifestyle and ability to be a professional photographer with a little more than just the basics. If that became the way of the world, wouldn’t it be a more beautiful place to take pictures?

Posted by Knottpotter | Report as abusive

Share very nice blog us life talk

Posted by xlsm11 | Report as abusive