Recovering from a lack of focus

Piece by piece, I began to sell and/or give away my camera equipment.  My Canon 30D and all the lenses that I had acquired over the years, I found myself letting go of.  I had even acquired multiple compact point-and-shoot cameras over the years that I sold or gave away. It felt so freeing.

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How I ended up selling all my camera gear

I have to admit, there’s a level of irony involved with my story.

Photography (and what I learned as a result) led me into nature, but nature (and my time spent outdoors) took me on a different path.

That path led me to selling off all my camera gear.

Intrigued?  Here’s my story:

I never really found interest in photography until a family road trip out to western Canada.  At the time, I didn’t have a camera but my sister had this pretty nifty waterproof camera so I made the most of it during that trip.  Learned an appreciation for the beauty of the mountains thanks to the above friendly chipmunk.

My sister's Minolta Vectis GX-4. My sister’s Minolta Vectis GX-4.

The photos I took captivated an audience back home and eventually led me to purchasing my first digital camera.  This eventually led me to what I refer to as the camera rat race.  As I’d discuss with friends the latest of camera equipment, I’d keep purchasing new camera gear (lenses, camera bodies, tripods, etc.) with the thinking that it would help me capture better photographs.  They did, but the money that I probably invested into camera gear brought me nowhere closer to a satisfactory result, and I was lugging around way too much gear.  My backpack was too heavy for me.  I was unhappy and tired.

Options and More Options:

Hiking mountains with so much camera gear really began to provide perspective. Do I want to enjoy the mountains?  Or was I just there to take a photograph to share with people?  The camera would weigh down my neck and back and my backpack containing all my lenses and the tripod would bear down on my shoulders.

Eventually, as I was travelling from place to place that everyone was essentially taking the same photograph (and posting it on Instagram), I found myself reflecting upon what I really wanted out of photography.  Was it recognition?  Was it to share with others what I had the good fortune to see?  Maybe a bit of both?  Did I even care?

Not only was it the weight that mattered but as a result of all the options I had to work with to capture a photograph — all that gear I carried around — I discovered I lost my freedom and creativity.  I essentially was a slave to my camera and its family of gear and I needed to shed all of it.

So I began to pick up sketching again.  I wasn’t any good but it didn’t matter to me — I felt like I was actually focusing on art again — something that was really unique coming from the coordination of my eyes, mind, heart, and hands.

The Cameraletting:

Piece by piece, I began to sell and/or give away my camera equipment.  My Canon 30D and all the lenses that I had acquired over the years, I found myself letting go of.  I had even acquired multiple compact point-and-shoot cameras over the years that I sold or gave away. It felt so freeing.

With some of the money that I earned back from the sale of all that gear — I picked up two cameras (Fuji X100 and Fuji X-Pro1 with a 18-55mm) — focusing on a balance between quality and weight (at the time).  That’s it (Okay fine, I picked up a GoPro since then too).

No extra zoom lenses. No additional camera bodies. No more extra gear.

Life with less:

My choice to limit and establish a constraint for myself has led to a greater satisfaction and appreciation for living in the present moment, rather than thinking about a cool photograph I will be able to share.

I don’t debate with myself anymore about whether I should use one lens or another — I will simply make do with what I have.  With the Fuji X100, there is no zoom to even think about.

I take fewer but better photographs.

I stop thinking about the next great camera that I’ll acquire. No more money getting sucked into the abyss by photography gear.

The most brilliant thing about this is that, I no longer have to worry about my back and the crazy gear that I have to lug around.  I was no longer tired from lugging around such heavy gear.  I worried less about gear being stolen or damaged.

More importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to reacquaint myself with a form of art that I hadn’t explored since I was young. For me, the fact that I can express myself with just a pen(or some pencil crayons) and piece of paperin order to describe what I saw is precisely what I may have been striving towards.

A watercolour ink sketch in the Grand Tetons from Inspiration Point A watercolour ink sketch in the Grand Tetons from Inspiration Point

Learning to Camp: Part 1

Camping was never something I yearned to do nor — but it is necessary to get outdoors.

So camping is a necessary evil?  Yes and no.

If you’re accustomed to the day-to-day luxuries like running water and electricity, then like myself — you’ll start off finding it quite the struggle.

I have a confession.

Camping was never something I yearned to do nor — but it is necessary to get outdoors.

So camping is a necessary evil?  Yes and no.

If you’re accustomed to the day-to-day luxuries like running water and electricity, then like myself — you’ll start off finding it quite the struggle.

Fear of mosquitoes and other flying insects doesn’t help either.

So what to do?

It’s easy to say, okay fine — only do day hikes and I will simply rent a room or cottage somewhere.

One of my early attempts at camping with an inexpensive Coleman's 6-person tent. One of my early attempts at camping with an inexpensive Coleman’s 6-person tent.

However if you want to go somewhere more remote, you can’t rely on that solution.  So it’s time to push beyond the threshold of your comfort zone:

Start somewhere easy.

1.  Borrow a tent or rent one for a weekend and set it up in your backyard or a friend’s backyard.  Get acquainted with how to set it up.  Sleep in it overnight and get accustomed to how it feels.

2.  Practice, and then move to a more remote location like a local provincial or state park with facilities (i.e. showers, flush toilets, etc.)

3.  Repeat steps 1 or 2 until you feel you are ready — but be prepared for discomfort.

If you can, find a friend or someone who is willing to join you.

What if … you don’t have a tent or access to one?  Local communities, provincial or state parks often run programs to help people learn how to camp.  For those in my home province, Ontario Parks offers their Learn to Camp Overnight Experience

They even have a graduates program for those who have more experience and want more.

I think this will suffice for those who find the thought of camping quite a challenge to overcome — but it is possible and I believe anyone can do it.  Stay tuned for part 2 of Learning to Camp!

Any thoughts or challenges of your own?  I’d love to hear about it.