A recent YouTube video by Eric Kim drew my attention in the concept it was proposing. Essentially in a conversation with Bellamy Hunt (Japan Camera Hunter) introduced the concept of Camera Gear Zen. I decided this concept demanded a bit more consideration.
Bellamy defines this as being at peace with your equipment, in other words, knowing your gear well enough to get it out of your way. Leica has long promoted its camera's as "getting out of the way of photography", emphasizing the viewfinder that rangefinders offer in that they allow the shooter to view beyond the frame. So you feel less as if you are looking through a lens and more focused on the scene in front of you.
The idea here is simply about putting photography ahead of the gear. We can all appreciate that however the question become how can we achieve it? If you pick up any camera and shoot a thousand images through it, you will stop thinking of the camera as you begin to operate it by instinct. But should you run out and pick up a random camera and start shooting?
I don't think this is the most productive way of going about it. I believe you should begin with a gear strategy, keeping it as minimalist as possible, and then stick with the gear for three or four months, take an objective look at your images and adjust. By 'adjust' I mean change gear, alter your style or just make a list of your weaker points and work on it.
I am a gear fanatic, and have far too many cameras. I keep wanting to take them all with me when I travel and always take too much. I like digital, 35mm film and 120mm film. I play with 4x5 as well. I have, however worked on gear zen by reducing my use to one camera and a lens or two for a few months. I typically pick the lens first and the camera follows.
I naturally love the 35mm focal length. I believe it gives the PERFECT balance between detail and environment. I can still shoot great portraits and can take a step back and shoot an environmental shot as well. They are cheap and easy to find lenses.
So my recipe for gear zen...pick a lens & camera set up and stick to it. Only use that setup until you know what the frame will include without looking through the camera. Keep using it until the camera mechanics becomes second nature. Keep using it until you are completely comfortable and are advancing your photography instead of learning new gear.
Now here is the controversial comment...then pick another lens or camera and start all over again. Unless your ambition is to be a professional photographer, expanding your familiarity of photography is a great deal of fun. Why not expand to the next focal length or the other camera? Variety is the spice of life and this is one area I can practice it without getting into too much trouble!
Patrick...confirmed film & digital photography addict.