I spent this past Friday through Sunday at a photography conference plus a day to get there and yesterday to get home. The Out of Chicago conference is a wonderful opportunity to learn about photographic techniques and practice them. The latter, perhaps, is what sets this conference apart. Not only do you have the opportunity to learn more about photography-related things in which you're interested, but you also can choose to go out shooting - "photowalks" - with instructors, presenters and other folks who know the city. And this year go out I did! The walks I wanted to go on were, unfortunately, scheduled one after the other. So on Saturday I went on four presenter-led walks from 9:45 AM until 9:30 PM with breaks for lunch and dinner! I logged a lot of miles for sure and that on a day after an all day workshop (well, 8 am to 3 pm) on Friday that included about four hours out in the streets. To top it off, the AirBnB apartment I rented was a little over a half mile from the conference location!
An experience like this - not unlike when you travel and go sightseeing - makes it abundantly clear that you should carry only what you need, what you know you will use. I am so guilty of the JIC Syndrome, that is taking lenses and accessories "just in case." I carry a long reach lens, and, of course, a couple 'fast' primes (single focal length lenses capable of a very wide open aperture - e.g., f/1.8 or f/1.4 - where you then use a fast shutter speed), and maybe a medium telephoto so I'm ready for anything. Then, after walking around with my Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the 12-40mm, f/2.8 for the duration of the trip, I very often find that I hadn't changed lenses once! So because of my fear of not having the "right" lens with me or not having at least a small tripod-like stand, and a small flash, I end up carry a larger than necessary bag with way more in it than I really need.
My experience this past weekend in Chicago was not much different. The trip did give me an opportunity to test out my new Vanquest SKITCH-12 bag as my primary bag along with my much smaller Lowepro Streamline 250 bag. Loaded, the SKITCH-12 was in its 'medium' configuration, but I found that even after I took out things I knew I didn't need on daily outings I couldn't put it completely in the smaller, 'short' configuration. For my workshop day, I knew I wanted my my E-M1 and 12-40m with me because it has features I figured I wanted use that the Panasonic GM-5 does not. But I also wanted the option to put it away and use the GM-5, so it along with the 25mm, f/1.4 and Panasonic 35-100mm, f/4-5.6 lenses stayed in the bag. Then, for the three daytime photowalks I went with the same thinking. By dinner, I was exhausted. Not from carrying the bag, as it really wasn't excessively heavy, but rather from the miles of walking! However, my own observation of how I was using my gear did help me decide to take only the small Streamline 250 out for the evening walk with Frederick Van Johnson. I mounted the 25mm lens on the GM-5 and packed the Olympus 45mm. Wow, what a difference!
I did pretty much the same for Sunday, the last day of the conference. Unlike Saturday, on Sunday I was signed up for no photowalks, only session presentations so I didn't really need any equipment but I did want a camera with me. It was ironic, therefore, that I went to a presentation by Rob Knight on Sunday afternoon entitled "Traveling Light with Rob Knight." Rob does destination workshops and they involve travel. His message hit home with me: don't take things "just in case!" Get smaller gear if you can for what you like to shoot. Figure out what equipment to take based on your history of shooting and what you're expecting to shoot.
As Rob pointed out, if you use a cataloging program such as Adobe Lightroom and have several years worth of images, sort your images by lens type and focal length to determine at what focal length you shoot most of the time. Though I had already implemented many of his suggestions, there are still things I need to do. For example, I don't bring a computer. I also use smaller and lighter micro4/3 cameras and lenses. However, it's in the "just in case" category where I fail. Plus, I often bring other things such as small stands/tripods that I never use. So I have taken up the Rob Knight Challenge to further lighten my load by being more honest with myself about what I need to have with me. I plan to determine at which focal length I tend to shoot most often and take lenses based on that criteria instead of "just in case." I intend to purge my bag of those things I always take but don't use. This is going to be difficult but the satisfaction I felt on Sunday by having parred back significantly from what I carried on Friday and Saturday will, hopefully, be my motivator!
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