Getting G.A.S. and Gear Change

Since my son turned one I honestly have not picked up my camera as much as I should have been to keep up with my photography learning. Many things have seemed to get in the way but during this time I began to notice that I’ve started falling into the G.A.S. trap that many photographers happen to do.

What is G.A.S?

Well besides being something eating beans may give you, in photography circles it is known as “Gear Acquisition Syndrome”. It can be triggered by many things but usually comes from seeing other photographer’s work and knowing they use “better” or “more expensive” gear than you and it triggers the urge to go out and get the same gear thinking that it will improve your photography. Or for some it’s the feeling that they can’t do something with out some piece of “better” gear than they currently have. There are other definitions of G.A.S. and if you think you will never fall into the trap think again. Most all photographers fall into it, I know I did! I suggest reading the article on Olivier Duong’s Blog for how he describes G.A.S. and how he overcame it.

I think my only saving grace is that I have not spent as much on gear as others I know or read about in various forums and blogs. Most everything I have coveted for photography was still listed in one of the many wish lists I created out on various photography shopping sites.

Wish lists like what I have listed here (and these are just from Amazon!):

Photo – Gear 31 items
Photo – Books/Software 57 items
Photo – F/4+ Lenses 3 items
Photo – FF Camera 9 items
Photo – Film 6 items
Photo – Fujifilm Gear 15 items
Photo – L Primes 7 items
Photo – Non L Lenses 6 items
Photo – Tamron Lenses 3 items
Photo – Sigma Lenses 7 items
Photo – Studio Gear 28 items
Photo – TS Lenses 4 Items

That is A LOT of gear! If I were to buy all that at once I’d need a medium-sized loan…. also my wife would kill me!

One night after listening to an old interview with Zack Arias it hit me that I’ve been sitting around and learning by only reading and watching everyone else do photography while at the same time I was feeding my GAS by convincing myself that I need X gear to be as good as others I was admiring. It became time that I really focus on what I need versus what I want to have and get over this gear want.

First thing I did was rid my online accounts of all photo gear and only kept one for photo books I can use for learning and inspiration.

Next was making the decision to focus my photography on finishing my NYIP School work, doing personal photo projects, shooting events and get working on head shots/portraits part-time. Keeping what this in mind I looked at the gear I had as well as the reality of being a new father where camera gear is often not the only thing I’m carrying day-to-day and came to the decision that it is time to change my set up and shed things and switch to Fuji system from Canon.

You maybe thinking though, “Jason, why get new gear? Why not use what you have now? Are you not just feeding your GAS but spending more money?”

There are a few answers but I want to focus on the two main reasons for me.

First is that I got tired of carrying a big DSLR around to family and non-family events. While my 60D is not the largest camera in the world it’s still weighs a lot when you start carrying it all day everyday. Also I am currently recovering from back surgery #3 and have another baby coming in the month that rhymes with soon this year. I wanted to move to something smaller that gave me the same or better image quality and allowed me to carry it around without needing a large camera bag.

Second was the cost of good fast lenses. For what you spend on one of Canon’s L Glass lenses I can get several amazing lenses from Fuji for my shooting style without loss of quality. Bonus is as a parent this means more money for the kiddo’s college fund and family savings which makes my wife happy.

About a month ago I traded in my Canon gear and now have in my kit the following Fuji gear:

  • X100T for day-to-day shooting and personal projects
  • X-T1 body with 10-24mm, 35mm, 56mm, and 50-140mm lenses for everything the X100T doesn’t cover.

Since then I’ve been working with my Fuji kit and I am very happy with this change. The X100T has gotten back out to shoot more because it’s easy to grab it and go on a daily basis. When I need something more I grab the XT-1 and lenses and even that is a lot lighter that my Canon kit was. So my back is thanking me as well. This in turn has refocused me to work on my NYIP schoolwork and get going on finishing it.

Additionally my G.A.S. is pretty much gone now and I feel motivated to get better at shooting with what I have. Of course I still get excited at some nice pieces of gear here and there but I no longer feel like I will need it now to be a better photographer. I know I can now wait and max out the capabilities of my current gear before moving up to the next level instead rushing to it and waiting money and getting frustrated.

It honestly has been a great feeling to be motivated again to shoot, work on projects and get back into completing my NYIP Course.

Thanks for reading.


Extra Items to Keep in Your Camera Bag

Besides your camera, lenses, flashes, lens cloths, and batteries there are other items you should keep on hand and carry with you in your camera bag.

Theses extra items can come in handy when out and about. Some of these items can make the difference between a good shot and a great shot. Other items can make you a hero to the Bride and Bride’s Mother at weddings. There are other reasons to carry some or all of these items when out shooting but I will leave the reasons why up to you.

First to keep the following items all together and prevent them from going all over your bag making them hard to get you will want to get some carry cases like this one at Amazon by Eagle Creek.

Jeweler’s Screwdrivers in different sizes – Great for making sure small screws are tight as well using their smaller size to open small covers that fingers can’t get to.

Hex and Allen Keys – Your light stands and other gear sometimes uses hex bolts or bolts that require an Allen key. Even if you check your gear ahead of time once you get to a location you may need to tighten things back up.

Leatherman Multi-purpose tool – Very useful for various reasons.

Cell Phone charger – Self Explanatory

Small Flashlight – Besides using it for light painting a small flashlight comes in useful when you need to find something in your bag when dark faster.

Pen and Sharpie – Marking Items/Filling out forms such as a model release

Nail Clippers – Break a nail when trying to open a difficult latch?

Travel sewing Kit – Add in buttons, safety pins, bobby/hair pins and you can make a Bride or Bridesmaid day. Makes you look prepared for anything and score bonus points with clients.

Ear Plugs – Especially useful for wedding receptions when the DJ cranks up the volume.

Headache Tablets – Tylenol/Ibuprofen in individual packets. Shooting can be stressful and it’s good to have on hand for you or others. The reason for having them in individual packets is they are sealed and less suspicious compared to pulling out an unsealed bottle.

Band-aids – things happen having a few in case you cut yourself it’s better to have these than bleed over your equipment.

Gaffer Tape – Fix or tie together items quickly. Use it to hold color gels on your flash. Won’t leave residue on gear either.

Garbage Bags – Easy Cover for you Camera bag in the rain. Some rain covers don’t cover your bag fully and these can help. Also they make good improvised rain ponchos.

Zipper Bags (Gallon Size) – Great for keeping smaller items dry and if needed can be used as impromptu weather housing for your camera.

Spray Bottle – Great for faking rain drops on flowers or to get a controlled shiny look on models.

Thanks for reading


There is no Magic Lens…

There was a question posted on the Digital Photography School Forums Recently from a person that travels and was a bit was concerned about justifying spending $1000+US for gear. The person was trying to justify the cost to themselves in thinking better gear equals gettng the best pictures the person could on their trip.

Here is the person’s question (paraphrased):

I have a Nikon 5100, 50mm 1.8 (which I love), and the two kit lenses 18-55 and 55-200.The 50 is so much sharper than the kits. I have a Manfrotto 190X tripod. 

After spending the last hour using the search function here, I came up with the following
– Use the kit lens at f8 and a good tripod.
The kit lens gives me quite good images on the tripod, but not near the quality of the 50.
– 28-300mm
– 28mm 1.8
– an UW – Nikkor 10 -24 is 800$, Tokina 11-16 is 700$

I’m having trouble justifying a +1000$ lens for a hobbyist.

What lenses should I take. Should I purchase another lens to get a better image or having the 5100, is it not worth it?

Forum member Jason Gendreau had some great advice as a response that I wanted to share with everyone.

There is no magic lens / camera for anything. For every subject there is an infinite number of perspectives. 

Long, medium, short focal lengths, low light, black and white, F/2, 2.8, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, Flash, natural light… I took a 2 hour trip up to “tops” (a mountain look out in Cebu Philippines, about 20 square meters and a nice view of the city) and that’s the equipment I used. I shot flowers, insects, environmental portrait with off camera flash, sweeping city vistas, a sunset, lovebirds, tourists, a chair, a radio tower, textured wall, architecture, patterns, a cup, a plant… When the sun went down I shot the city against a night sky. That’s the image I planned to get when i got there. Had I only taken the lens I needed to get the shot, I’d have missed out on 99% of the images I DIDN’T plan on getting while I was waiting for the light to be right for the one I did. I DID use every piece of equipment I had. No matter what you bring, you’ll find a way to use it to produce a unique image.

The quickest way to stifle your creativity and produce boring photos is to take one “do it all” kind of lens. Do it all, do nothing well. If your lens doesn’t do anything well, you’ll rarely get unique images

Notice I haven’t actually “named” any equipment that I used. Thats because equipment is largely incidental. I saw a subject i wanted to shoot and chose from what I had the best way I thought to shoot it. Had i not had that piece of equipment, I’d have chose a different way to shoot it. If I had no macro capability, I’d not have looked for macro shots, Had I no off camera flash, I’d have used on camera, or simply flash be damned. If I “had” to have flash and didn’t have it, I’d have used technique instead, Expose one frame for the person and another for the background and worked it out in post. Don’t forget post as a powerful way to AUGMENT your equipment ( not replace it ) Cameras have a crappy dynamic range. Knowing how to layer in post to increase dynamic range is ESSENTIAL skills. If you don’t know how, drop everything and learn it. You’ll be glad you did.

I will say this one more thing about equipment simply because you’re looking at perhaps buying some…

A great lens only does ONE thing well. If it does lots, it does nothing well. Look at your 55-200 for example. It has a fantastic focal range… but that’s it. its slow, not very sharp, the contrast is simply “ok”… even the build quality is nothing special. There is absolutely NOTHING this lens will give you that another lens couldn’t do better.

The 18-55 is the same.

Your 50mm 1.8 isn’t as versatile as the other 2 lenses in the least. You might think that because the lens isn’t as versatile, then its not worth taking on a trip. You’d be wrong. the lens might not be versatile, but it does one thing VERY WELL. Portraits. Its sharp, it has great bokeh, its good in dim light. All things the other two suck at. When you shoot a portrait with this lens, it will be a GOOD photo. (limited by your own skill of course) You could use either of the other lenses at 50mm and neither would take as nice a photo as the 50mm 1.8 because those lenses are medeocre. They exist only because newbies don’t understand lenses. Its easier (and more profitable) to just sell them a “one size fits all” lens and send them on their way.

I said all that to say this… When you go out to buy a lens, buy the lens that does the ONE THING best. Next time you buy another lens, buy another one that does ONE THING the best again. (probably one thing different than the last time ;D )

Eventually your going to have a selection of lenses that do awesome things. Then you can choose which lens you want to use for different kinds of images.

This is what I recommend for you on a trip like the one your planning…

Portrait lens. (it would be nice to have a high quality portrait zoom for controlling backgrounds, but they are expensive. The prime you have is good for portraits, but not “environmental portraits”. You’d need 3 prime lenses to cover environmental portraits well, or a high quality zoom… either way, not possible for this trip without spending lots of cash.) I recommend sticking with the prime for regular portraits, and the 18 -55 and 55-22 for environmental portraits. They wont look special, but you’ll have something anyway.

One ultra wide zoom. You mentioned the 10-24mm nikkor. Its a specialty lens for landscapes and very wide vistas. Its an EXCELLENT choice for landscapes and vistas. It does those extremely well. I don’t have one, but I’d imagine using it effectively will take some time and practice because its not a particularly good lens for anything else. You have to know what it does well, and only use it for that. Its part of knowing your gear, and its limitations. I think that this lens is the real reason the Canon to Nikon adapters actually exist lol, many professional Canon landscape photographers use this lens.

Macro… of some kind. I use extension tubes for my macro shots. Extension tubes are a much cheaper and much more versatile for close up and macro photography vs buying a dedicated macro lens. They work by allowing you to focus your lens much closer than normal. Any of your lenses can use the extension tubes, so they essentially make all your lenses macro lenses. Which is great when your on a budget and traveling. They have no optics, so they do not affect your image quality in any way. They will cause lens flaws to become more apparent though. Soft lenses will be even less sharp because your magnifying the problem. Your 50mm lens would make an awesome macro lens with extension tubes, though I’d not recommend the other two except in a pinch.

A GOOD LIGHT tripod. Absolutely essential for low light and landscapes. Ultra wide images are “typically” taken low to the ground to maximize the look of depth. Unless you want your knees to be perpetually dirty, get a tripod that sits very low. Lower than 12 inches.
A flash is always good to have, but not always so important while traveling.

If you were to buy the 10-24mm nikkor and a set of extension tubes, I would say you’d be pretty much set for equipment capable of producing magazine quality images. Not that I think you will, but what I mean is that you’d only be limited by your own ability.

You could use the 50mm for great portraits, the 10-24 for stunning landscapes and vistas and the 50mm with extension tubes for macro and close up shots. Anything else could be done with the 18-200mm lenses. they might be nothing special, but they do fill the gaps.

Also make sure you have a spare battery (or three) that way you can swap out a full batt and charge the other. I recently went on a trip to Romania for a month and had 4 full batteries when i arrived. I forgot my charger. I was able to shoot for 2 weeks before I had to hunt down a local photographer willing to fill them for me. he filled them, and I was set till I got home. I dont think you need 4 batts, but at LEAST one spare is essential. If you have to not buy the 10-24 or extension tubes in order to buy a spare… get the spare. Its that important.

Another important thing is the ability to dump your cards. Don’t say that your going to bring a dozen 8 gig cards and just fill them up because you will fill them all in 3 days and either have to start deleting or buy more. A laptop with a large capacity external drive is the way to go. or at the very least the external drive and card reader or camera cable. then you can borrow a computer at some point to clear the cards. Protect the external drive with your life.
I hope this huge post was worth your time to read, and good luck on your trip! It sounds like it’ll be a blast.

 As you can see this is sound advice for anyone going on a vacation or holiday. Additionally it is also a great list of first lens types to buy as you learn photography. I say this second part because as you learn you need to try different types of photography. Don’t just stick to one type!

In a future week I will post a list of lens to complement this advise that a beginner can afford with out breaking the bank.

Thanks for Reading

New lenses!

My order came in!

Got a great deal on trading in my 15-85mm EF-S lens (after getting my 17-55mm 2.8 EF-S I never used it anymore…) I used the money to get two new lenses, a speedlight, and focusing screen.

So now outside of having a macro lens I have a nice well rounded collection to work with for taking most shots for school.