Friday, October 17, 2014

My Hierarchy of Gear Obsessions

As photographers, we're all (to varying degrees) obsessed or obsessive about gear. Whether those obsessions revolve around cameras, lenses, lighting or other stuff, our gear obsessiveness often dominates our thoughts when thinking about photography, especially in terms of how we might improve our personal photography or venture into new shooting genres. That's not to say we're all gear-heads but, as photographers, there's a little of bit of gear-head in all of us.

When I had my studio, which I had for about three years, my gear obsessions were different than they are today or they were prior to having a studio.  My studio was about 2,500 square feet, most of it comprised of a big warehouse-like space with high ceilings. There was also a small office and an equally small reception area at the front entrance. The studio also had a large, metal, roll-up, garage-style door which opened to the main part of the studio.

Inside the studio, in addition to a few standing sets I built, I constructed a small dressing room and a mezzanine over it with stairs leading up to it. The mezzanine was about 15' x 15' and was my no-walls bedroom. (I constructed a guard-rail around it since I'm rather clumsy, especially when I first roll out of bed.)

Why a bedroom? Well, because I lived in my studio for about two or more years of my time having one. There was no kitchen but I had a fridge, a microwave oven, a hot plate, and a barbeque grill.  I either ate out, ate take-out, or cooked something in the micro, on the a hot-plate, or on the grill. (Which I'd wheel out the garage door, smoke and all.) My studio's good-size bathroom had a shower. The mezzanine I built extended over the bathroom as well as the dressing room. I decided to live in my studio because A) I was there most of the time anyway, B) Why pay two rents? C) It was fun!

Getting back to the subject of this post...

When I had my studio my gear obsessions were different than they are today. The hierarchy of my gear obsessions are easily illustrated by the graph on the right. As you can see, my #1 gear obsession (when I had my studio) was grip, whether that grip consisted of stands, arms, booms, and an assortment of clamps and other things designed to set lights, reflectors, scrims, and flags. I also had apple boxes, sand bags, and a bunch of expendables.

After grip came lighting: Monoblocs a.k.a. studio strobes, for the most part but also continuous lighting instruments since I was also shooting video in the studio. Plus, a wide assortment of modifiers, reflectors, scrims, and flags. I also had a decent amount of electrical gear: break-out boxes, stingers (extension cords), and a Variac, (To control AC which I usually used to either slow down the blades of a fan or to dim some of my continuous lighting gear.)As you can see by my hierarchy graph, I wasn't too concerned with lenses and cameras. At the time, I already had what I felt I needed to get the job(s) done.  "Other Stuff," by the way, refers to things like props, wardrobe, and set pieces

When I gave up my studio -- that's a whole other story; why I gave it up that is -- I sold off a lot of my gear, especially grip and lighting, albeit mostly the continuous lighting. Without a studio, I really didn't need much of that stuff.  And without a studio, my hierarchy of gear obsessions began to change as depicted by the graph on the left.

To this day, my gear obsessions are about the same although the portions of it that reflect lighting, grip, and other stuff are are even less important to me. (These days, my lighting obsessions are mostly focused on speedlites and other small lighting instruments.)

In other words, my current gear obsessions revolve mostly around glass and cameras with glass being significantly more important to me than camera bodies.  Why glass? Because, to get back to my opening paragraph where I talked about improving our personal photography or venturing into new shooting genres, glass is generally more important to those two hopes and desires than camera bodies are, even if it often seems that photographers are more obsessed with all the new camera bodies the big manufacturers regularly announce and release.

The pretty girl at the top in the behind-the-scenes image is Jana. I snapped it on a very simple set I put together in my former studio with a seamless, a few set pieces I had laying around, and a smoke machine. Here's one of the resulting images from the set.

1 comment:

Jay said...

I am soo happy that I never really had this problem! I'm not a gear-head. That doesn't mean I don't wish and want for more/better gear, I can never afford to get it. Now when I say can't afford, I always find something better to do with the money. With having five kids 18-5 in age, something is always coming up.

I've learned to use what I have and get good. I did splurge the last two years and got a 7D, then 6D and hated each one. Back to my 40d/1d3 for me. Sometimes I wish I were a gear-head, but when I look at the people that go to my workshops; 20k in gear and can't properly expose a photo, I'm happy with what I have.