To carry or not to carry?

Advance warning: I’m going to butcher Hamlet here, or as close as I can to it. Modern English isn’t really suited to the meter, nor is technical photographic jargon. I’ve done my best.

MT: To carry, or not to carry – that is the question:
Whether ’tis more sensible to pack your camera
At only when the time and mood suits

Or to always be loaded for bear
And in preparation, bag the shot. To hear the shutter
The flow of pixels, the fizzing chemistry of halide

Whatever your medium. Tis a satisfaction
Confirmed by the rush of hits. To travel unburdened
With no magic box: ay, light of shoulder you be,

For who knows what frames yet unseen may lie ahead
The imagined torture of being able to see but
Unable to capture gives the photographer pause.

There’s the problem with going without.
For who would bear the unfortunate light,
The tripods and accessories, the TSA-man’s probe

The aching shoulders, the impatient spouse,
The ‘NO FOTO!’ shouted, and the frustration of
Lugging the gear without it seeing use,

When he might delude himself into making do
With just an iPhone? Whom but the most hardcore
Would insist on two bodies and four lenses?

But that dread of missing the shot,
The heavenly light, which transforms the
Mundane into the magical, frustrates the hell,

And makes us bring the f1.4s, and a flash
Just in case, rather than wing it and go blind.
Thus the anxious photocondriac in us all

At the least burdens pockets, usually bags,
Empties our purses upgrading, enforces visiting
Of the chiro and desire for just one more stop.

With this, I break down and hit order
Hoping this is The One. To the ‘Bay the others go.
O Hyperion, give me contrast but hold the range
My sensor is now but one-inch.

In all seriousness, this is a dilemma I think most semi-serious photographers face on a regular basis: if you’re not going on a dedicated photography outing, do you pack a camera? And if so, which one? It isn’t such a straightforward problem: the tradeoff is a three-way battle between image quality, portability and flexibility/ versatility. As is the usual case with these things, pick any two – the final one can’t be had without a lot of money. The inconvenience – and back pain – of carrying more gear has to be offset by a higher chance of payoff in terms of shot satisfaction.

The good news is that this barrier keeps coming down; the top end compacts have similar technical photo quality to DSLRs of not that long ago (though their compromise is in the optics and depth of field control), so the penalty for carrying isn’t as high as it used to be. Unfortunately, working against this is us: we’ve now become accustomed to a much higher baseline. I used to be happy with smaller files, but I admit now that I see everything as ultimately having commercial potential, I do have a preference for more resolution. (You won’t have to push me very hard to extract a confession that I’ve become accustomed to the D800E’s files.) Even more of a problem is psychology: if you’re a really serious photographer, then there is no such thing as a non-photo outing. There is always a photographic opportunity somewhere; I’m sure I’m not the only one with the anxiety of infinite composition.

In order not to suffer from some sort of minor nervous breakdown, I need to have a capture device with me all the time; I’m sure it’s pathological. (Again, I hope I’m not the only one, but there can’t be that many of us.) The trouble is, when you throw the commercial angle and high requirements for image quality into the mix, one finds himself packing a Hasselblad, two lenses, film, and a spare compact all just in case you happen to see something on your trip to the grocery store, which is one you’ve made hundreds of times before, and photographed everything that can possibly be photographed between your home and the store in every kind of light.

I don’t want to do this, I just have to. Not carrying really isn’t an option for me, not just because it makes me deeply unhappy. In all seriousness, I feel immensely frustrated when I see a frame and don’t have the means to capture it properly – I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me as the the photographic observation process is pretty much subconscious and not something I can turn off. Moreover, in the past, some of my most satisfying images have been from times when photography wasn’t the priority of the day – I therefore need to fill my pockets with something. An iPhone still isn’t sufficiently versatile to do what I need it to – it isn’t the angle of view or sensor so much as the near-total inability to control it in anything other than the most basic way. If the spotmeter had a greater possible range of exposure latitude and narrower angle, that would be a start; even better if you could decouple it from the focusing point. Somehow, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

At the same time, I really don’t want to be a pack mule; a messed up neck and back aren’t fun (or conducive to photography). The obvious compromise is to pick a compact and work around the limitations, though I often find myself frustrated when the situation starts to exceed the camera’s capabilities. I suppose I might as well make the most of it – after all, the best camera is the one you have with you, right? What the compromise of ‘best’ in this case might be is something that will vary from individual to individual, determined by their personal threshold for masochism and backache – or perhaps their spouse’s patience. (You’re not going to carry a view camera if you’ve got thirty seconds before being dragged on.) This threshold has been a continually moving bar for me; I’ll buy a new compact every six months or so out of frustration, then land up kicking my stupidity. Perhaps this process needs more objectivity…or my expectations need a recalibration. Still, having something is infinitely preferable to having nothing. MT


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  1. I find I am often asking myself “To Carry or not to Carry” and in most cases I end up carrying too much. These days whether it’s for a dedicated photography trip or just running around the city I keep my Olympus EP-3 w/ the VF-3 and 3 lenses with me (Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8, Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f1.8, and the Rokinon 7.5mm f3.5 Fisheye). With these three primes I find that I am able to do what I need in most cases, of course there is no chance for any telephoto in this kit but being in the busy city I am almost always in clear view of my subject.

    I think the problem with most of us camera gear heads is that we choose to create for ourselves so many possible scenarios where we ‘might’ need our gear that we overpack. Slowly however I find that we stop to think before packing and eventually end up with a very minimalistic setup for our needs for the day.

    Your really hit the nail on the head for me in this post as I almost always still overpack.


    • I believe you’ve hit the nail on the head with the latter: we create scenarios for ourselves. However, I also believe that to some extent you have to be able to visualize – or at least be aware of – the possible opportunities in order for you to take advantage of them…

  2. Valiant attempt at the verses 🙂
    I’ve found I have (usually) the knack of avoiding dilemmas such as these. When I was younger my trusty SLR came out at any opportunity but then I got my first, small digital camera – of which I now have five, I think. Sometimes I look at the quality of photos from someone such as yourself, shot with upmarket kit, with envy. And then I consider the cost and the (in)convenience of carrying all that kit around and I reason: I could afford it, I could take all that and my main tripod out with me but how often would I do it? And I’m not that good; I just don’t have the creative eye. So I always have my mobile phone, often my trusty Nikon compact and sometimes my Sony bridge camera and snap what I like, when I can.
    Meanwhile, I can always enjoy seeing the work of more serious and gifted photographers.

    • It’s not the camera that makes the composition, it’s the photographer. Well-designed, quality gear certainly makes the process more enjoyable, but it’s not necessary. I make the same compositions with my iPhone or my Hasselblad and everything in between…

  3. Interesting point, I am studying fine art at the moment and use photography as one of my main mediums.
    I usually have allot of things I carry around with me, but I always have my smart phone at hand which has a decent camera on it.
    It means I can photograph on the go all the time, however quality sometimes lacks, but it means I can do basic editing on the train to university without having to have my camera/laptop with me. Keeps things fun and interesting. But it means you can always come back to some shots with you’re equipment at a later time. Always have some kind of camera as it really does suck too miss a shot.

  4. aahh, the dilemma of every photographer 😛
    congratulations on being fp-ed….yes only a true photographer will find a frame at the most unthinkable place…am sure you would have captured some amazing shots…good luck for more!!

  5. Very unique and impressive post. Love the poem and subsequent discussion.

  6. Haha, this is wonderful! You have perfectly captured my daily plight as a photographer! “Do I need to pack my camera? Well, I’m just going to the store…but I’d hate to miss a shot…better bring my DSLR and two lenses!” haha… As you said, it’s so hard to shut off the tendency to constantly be searching for photographic opportunities.

  7. normapadro says:

    I don’t always carry equipment with me, but I make sure that I have at least one camera if I’m in the mood to take photographs. I don’t let the feeling of having to have one with me all the time. I photograph for the fun of it so that I can publish it in my books later on. I have a lot of fun with photography. I think if I was forced to do it then I wouldn’t enjoy it so much.

  8. I loved the poem and although I’m not a professional photog (yet…) I feel the same way when I go out without my gear. When it comes to other cameras compared to my DSLR, I feel Sinead O’Conner’s song “Nothing compares to you” says it all.

  9. Reblogged this on cwfact and commented:
    Good Post!

  10. Carry a camera! Have a small one with you always, and take the big one when you seriously expect good photos to come your way. I have, at this moment next to my laptop Canon 350D, 400D and a Powershot Sx 210 iS just laying and waiting for my commands… (But no, I also forget most of the time and have to take the picture with my Samsung Galaxy S3…)

  11. Oh. If I had packed my ‘real’ camera the other day instead just having my phone, I could have gotten a flock (full, freakin’ flock!) of PELICANS. I live in Nevada. We are talking about pelicans in Nevada!?! Gaaaaaaaaaaaaa. If only I had packed that day.

    • Lesson learned 🙂 Don’t you need water for pelicans, though? Thought that was in rather short supply in Nevada…

      • Exactly. There are a couple of water spots — we call them lakes but I’m sure most other people would disagree. Opportunity missed. The pelicans migrate through here to a weird spot in the desert (I have no idea why).

  12. I adore this.

    I consider myself an amateur photographer at best, but I do still almost feel guilty for not keeping more than my iPhone with me at all times. At one time I had my Holga in my purse at all times, since it’s such a light (plastic), no-battery, takes a beating camera, but there’s no settings or control at all. I even have more control with an iPhone than a Holga. Then there’s my Rolleiflex, and my Rebel K-2, and the Rebel XTi that I could probably use upgrading to another…I desperately need to buy a better camera bag that I can use as an everything bag or settle for the iPhone. It’s certainly a dilemma. Great job on this post, you described it beautifully, even with the Hamlet meter.

  13. This is all too true. I think the best camera for me is the one I am currently using! Have an awesome day of taking digital art1

  14. Who would these cameras bear?
    To grunt and sweat under a weary dSLR
    when he himself might his quietus make with a bare iPhone?
    Thus G.A.S. does make pixel-peepers of us all.
    and thus the native hue of resolution
    is sicklied o’r with the pale cast of Photoshop.
    And thus decisive moments of great pith and moment,
    with this regard
    their opportunities are turned awry
    and lose the name of “click”.

  15. Great post, Ming!

    So many truths I see in the mirror. My wife will find this funny too.

    We just got back from a long weekend in Cebu. I simply HAD to take a (APCS-C) 8-16, 18-135WR, 50/1.4, 50-135/2.8 and 55-300. All except the 50-135 used very well. Surprising as when with our little children, the 50-135 is perhaps used the most. I also took a Metz 58 and a tripod that were never taken out of their cases!

    M wife’s RX100 did excellent service too. Including at the Pentax factory where we were kindly shown around (of course no production floor shots… just outside and the conference room). Pentax Ricoh were very gracious hosts.

    • That’s a lot of gear for just a long weekend…

      • Whether a short or long trip, if it somewhere scenic I’ll pretty much fill my Think Tank Urban Disguise 60.

        While I could, and sometimes do, get away with the 18-135 (day at the beach, amusement park, zoo etc), the others serve their purpose. The 8-16 is great for the interesting hotels we like to stay at (this time acaba in Cebu… great little place), the 50/1.4 is my go to for food in dim restaurants, the 50-135/2.8 is for my children or tripod shots of my wife and I, and the 55-300 is for wildlife, passing boats etc. They do usually all get used a fair amount.

        I did leave a few other APS-C lenses and all my medium format gear at home though! 😉

        • I tried that once – filling the UD60 – and it was too heavy to lift…

          • When I say “pretty much fill” I mean some thing in each divider. I don’t brim it. Heavy enough as it is!

          • Charlie Z says:

            Aye, the UD60 is the answer. You’ll own all the cameras, it’s having which one.

            With all the modern gear, I always have the small & strangely satisfying and capable IIIf with me.

  16. Hi Ming,
    You’re article is very timely! Pro photographers David Hobby (of Strobist) and Zack Arias are currently praising the X100s for some of the very reasons you talked about above. As far as I know, they are fairly well respected (as you are) for speaking their mind in terms of what they like and what they don’t like (and why).
    They’ve got me seriously thinking about downsizing from a D700 to something like an x100s. A good majority of the time, I’m between 24mm and 35mm in any case. I think it makes sense that sticking to a Focal Length will really, really force you to compose more carefully.
    I hope that if you have a spare moment you get a chance to compare the Coolpix A to the Ricoh GR and the x100s. Love to hear what you think about Fuji’s latest. Time to save the back and have fun with photography again!

    • I requested one for review, but so far nada. Based on the few brief times I’ve played with it – seems a lot faster than the original X100, but not quite as fast as the X20 – probably because there’s more glass to move around. Can’t say as far as image quality goes, but one hopes it doesn’t make the same stupid auto-ISO choices as the X20 in bright light.

  17. If your not a Pro (and I’m not), you get over lugging your D800E with Sigma 35/1,4 Art around on personal sojourn’s pretty quickly. Still, I won’t, and fortunately, don’t have to, sacrifice the complete satisfaction I get from such a heavy cumbersome rig…that’s why I never leave home without my RX1.

  18. Very entertaining to read. Thanks for the article.
    It was especially ‘poetic’ that this was read today. My EDC (Every Day Carry) camera is a Leica M3 with a 50mm Planar. However today is different. Maybe it is because I finished a crap load of work yesterday and I needed a break. Maybe it is because there was something about the weather. I don’t really understand the ‘why’ yet… For some strange awkard reason, today I felt the need to carry my 4×5 wooden field camera with me. So I commuted to work today with the 4×5. I’ll likely take a few polaroids after work today.
    Who know’s what I might carry tomomorrow – proballly the M3 again.

  19. MT, you should do a Jay Maisel workshop (I did in 2008). The man is in his 80ties and *always* carries a camera. And not some light compact one. It will be a top of the line Nikon D4 currently I’m sure. And a tele zoom. He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t spend time thinking what to use.

  20. Jock Elliott says:


    Between your and AJ, what fun! You have a former english major giggling with appreciation.

    Given the propensity “to carry,” would this be an appropriate greeting between two photographers who are packing: “Are you glad to see me, or is that a telephoto in your pocket?”

  21. “Alas, poor Canikon! I knew them, Horatio; cameras not at their best, but of most excellent bragging rights; I hath borne them on my back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination they are! My gorge rises at it.”

  22. Hello Ming,
    You want to decouple spotmeter from focusing point with your Iphone?
    Maybe you should take a closer look at the app *Camera+* which makes this possible.
    I use it on my 4S and my opinion is that the separation of the exposure from focusing point works pretty fine with this app.
    My guess is there are plenty of other apps that enable this function likewise but I have no experience with any other photo app than this.
    Best regards

  23. Camera+ app decouples focus from meter no?

  24. Well, this is a dilemma imposed by youth and some sociological generation stuff. At sixty and having been in photography for 30+ years, I’m grateful for either being wiser or just tired of the race to make a mark. I no longer think about photography on my trips to the pet store (a sigh of relief.)

  25. Subroto Mukerji says:

    Brilliant, Ming !! And so true 🙂

  26. I almost always carry a camera, even just going to the store or to work, because I never know what I might see that I want to take a picture of. Often nothing is worth documenting, but sometimes the unexpected unfolds. I once came across a near-street-fight and shot several interesting photos of two guys in Boston shoving each other around on the sidewalk. If I had left my Leica M7 at home, I never would have got these. Fortunately, the confrontation didn’t progress to violent battery, and I didn’t need to hand photos over to police or jump in and try to separate the combatants. These days I usually have either my M9P or my Nikon D800E, both typically with 28mm lenses mounted.

    • You may want to take a look at the A and GR…save your back and not sacrifice too much in the way of IQ.

    • Tom Liles says:

      Sorry to just barge in here, Steven, but I was interested [read: I thought “wow guy takes D800E even just going to the store!?”] so took a look at your link and your photos. Really really good [to my eyes, anyway].

      I do quite a bit of Japanese-English translation at work, so it was neat to see your Japanese titles [under “previous works,” etc]. “Friends” is a hard one to nail—there’s three [standard] words, as you probably know, for it. “仲間” (nakama) is a good choice. Always partial to “友人” (“yuujin”) myself 🙂

      [I don’t know if those characters will display correctly, or not. If not, que sera!]

  27. Fuji X100s is looking like a real option. The D800e is just to heavy to throw into the bag on a quick business trip, yet it still seems to find its way in there.

  28. stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

    To carry or not to carry, this is A Query!
    By the way, nowdays when everybody carries pictureabled phone the question shouldn`t arise. Still, isn`t it strange that only a box looking like a camera makes you think about picture seeking and taking, while a handy doesn`t, until not having a camera on you, it`s presence reminds you that you could take a pict. Of course this doesn`t apply to teenagers, they`re born with handies and for them it`s a chat box and camera in one . Old mechanical cameras had three powerful reminders: TIME/SHUTTER, APERTURE and DISTANCE, spelling it`s a picture taking device.

  29. Kristian Wannebo says:

    There was once a rock song, Roll over Beethoven…
    I don’t think Shakespeare will turn in his grave, I rather imagine him smiling and nodding to himself, doing the heavenly equivalent of googling for your photos and saving a copy of your verse and showing it to S:t Peter – I will certainly save it!

    “Three way battle..”, yes, even an amateur can get affected! And there is no solution – or doesn’t seem to be one…
    At the moment I am considering adding a Panasonic TZ25/ZS15 to my carry-always Fuji XF1 – my jacket has two breast pockets, even though I am frustrated by the lack of a viewer, especially in back light. And I will have to get more pants with side pockets…
    But sometimes I miss a sharp prime or macro, so a Nex or M4/3 plus…

    I remember my mother grumbling – with a smile – when my father and I brought our cameras (Superikonta III, Tessar 2.8/75) on our walk in the forest, especially in the winter.

  30. Fred Saunders says:

    Oh God, I could carry a point & shoot and count myself a King of infinite composition, were it not for the fact I have bad vision…

    The dilemma is acute for me, as I always pack at the last minute before I go anywhere. Late last year I went on a round the world trip and took ALL my gear as I couldn’t decide what to leave out at 5 minutes to midnight – 4 cameras (2 digital and 2 film), 11 lenses, plus a tripod, film, filters, cards etc etc. Which didn’t leave much room in my suitcase for clothes….

    Thanks for the article – I will remember your verse next time I pack!

  31. great topic Ming. Personally I think choose the professional/semi professional tool of choice (across DSLR or mirrorless or MF) and take along anything from a x100s or smaller. Spend time with your one and only DSLR, mirrorless or MF when it suits and have the pocket rocket handy otherwise.

    Though my OMD’s size does pretty much cover both camps and have ICL system. Obviously not in the pocket though 🙂

    • Coolpix A and Canon 520HS (don’t ask, long story) riding in a coat pocket – along with my entire Nikon system for a pro job…

  32. John Brady says:

    Ming, if you are looking for a bit more control over your iPhone camera, check out Camera Awesome. It lets you set focus and exposure separately using two fingers.

  33. The once was a time when I would not pick up a camera unless someone was paying me. Then I began to feel some loss, much like you describe. So I would find reasons to always have a camera with me. Of course I did not always pull a camera out of a bag, or off my shoulder, but it was there. Much like musicians, or any artist, we need to practice, and we need to do things just to remind us of why we do this for a living.

  34. Tom Liles says:

    the fizzing chemistry of halide
    O Hyperion, give me contrast but hold the range
    My sensor is now but one-inch.


    P/S I look forward to the day when we can just couple a recording device to our eyes and have it as seen, FOV, dynamic range, color, the lot…and have done with it. Maybe blinking to engage the shutter… Bit too Steve Austin?

    • Actually you could follow the example in D.G. Compton’s The Unsleeping Eye and simply have a camera instead of one eye. That might be a little extreme but you would always be carrying.

      • Tom Liles says:

        Wow! 🙂
        That’s amazing Paul—I’ll google The Unsleeping Eye without further ado [not about nothing!]
        I wonder how they linked the camera to the visual cortex?..
        [or even got it to talk to the brain!]

        Anyway, I suppose it’s about recording media and format. We know Fujifilm is hard; what would be the human brain’s RAW format be like? 🙂

      • Tom Liles says:

        Got it now Paul. A work of SF, not reality… Sorry, I’d taken it to be something researchers might be trying (considering what they get up to re: hearing, lost limbs, etc) and the fact that I’ve been meaning to read The Silicon Eye by George Gilder, a non-fiction account, my brain was stuck on the literal track.

        But, yeah, as mentioned it was a recording media I’m after really [in this hypothetical that I’m after it at all!]. It’s not the scene as seen through a camera lens; I want to get it as seen through my eyes, as they are… Panoramic but narrow at the same time; massive dynamic range [or, a seemingly dynamic dynamic range, i.e., it seems to change from detail to detail, scene to scene]; and the x-factor: all the perceptual and psychological baggage I bring to the image. If I could just record that! My eyes are the ultimate. Any camera is striving to reproduce what I’ve already got in my eyes [and brain]. So why not work the other way? Instead of attaching lenses to a sensor, attach a sensor to my eyes! Or, at best, decode what my brain is synthesizing/getting. Anyway, I find the frustration — and joy — of photos is trying to reproduce what I already see. I don’t think I’ve done it even once yet…

        Bring on the future!

        • Actually my godson is working on a project here in Melbourne called the Bionic Eye, which is actually aiming at replacing eyes and restoring eyesight. Might discuss the photographic element when we next have lunch. What are you going to load the images onto. You might need a card slot in the skull. Actually you may need to shoot tethered.

      • Given how long it took to clear security just now at Heathrow, I can only imagine what kind of difficulties this will cause…

    • Google Glass has your name on it.

      • Tom Liles says:

        If only! Just imagine the field day I’d have with all those Google dollars 🙂

        • What google dollars?

          • Tom Liles says:

            Ooh, I don’t know, maybe a slice of that 264 Bn market cap. Those dollars 🙂

            Were they still insisting on your input to the photo editor being gratis, Ming? Not really on.

            • You should know by now nobody pays the little guy unless they’re an overt brand evangelist; the rest of us just get exploited in the pointless hope that someday we might be able to make it work…

              • Tom Liles says:

                ‘Twas ever thus, eh.

                You’re a winner though Ming. And I don’t mean that in terms purely economic [as we’re trained to judge everything in the modern World]. With a choice of doing nothing or doing something; doing something is the morally valuable choice. I’d always go with doing something. Even if, at worst, there’s no pay or kudos or whatever; but as long as I’m interested or believe in it. Do it. I’m sure you’re the same, Ming [it’s demonstrably the case]. And this is why you’re a winner. Look around you here, all of us are here because you did something with no hope of pay or recompense. It’s genuine. We all live in the real World and money is very necessary; but I’d hate to lose my soul, for lack of a better word, to bland boring corporatism and pretending everything can be calculated and a dollar value attached—and pretending that that is somehow hotsh-t [forgive my language]. I know you know this feeling Ming, having worked pretty high up in corporate. It’s funny I get on this roll, because all I could think about this morning on my bus ride to the station was a documentary about Enron I’d seen years ago. Just popped into my head, out of the blue. In it, I remember some magazine cover, Newsweek or Time or something, with a picture of Ken Lay and the other wombat with the words “Enron: smartest guys in the room” plastered over them. The picture was shot with a wide angle up close, it had that field curvature thing going on [I understand now] and the self-assured, preening look in their eyes was, is, insufferable to me. These are little men, insignificant men; what have they ever done save sell snake oil and play three card monte with the accounts? Could Ken Lay explain what makes water boil? Could he even fix a tap? When was the last time he struck up a genuine conversation with a person on the street? Could he paint a picture or talk about a few lines of Joyce? Men like him are just useless [not by nature, I’d like to hope]. They add nothing, take away nothing—just gaping mediocrities, black holes of character, devoid of any sort of human force whatsoever. Whereas people like you Ming, the doers, hammer out bona-fide achievements, big and small, that actually mean something [good or bad] to actual people and are positive [positive in the sense of creation: there was nothing, then there was something]. It may never work for you financially; but that’s not the sole reason why you started [we hope]. You’re right not to be a brand evangelist and not to plaster wall to wall ads on here. It’s how we know you’re a man of substance and importance. Most of all, you’re right to just continue on doing and doing and doing. What else is there?

                [It’s nice not to be exploited along the way though]



                • Economic reality: I can’t keep doing and doing if I’m not making a living out of it. Which brings us back to the site, I suppose: it will continue so long as I can do other things that support it. But it’s quite possible that won’t be forever, because as much value as there is in creation, you still have to start at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and work your way up from there. Without some feeling of security, the creative drive evaporates, simply because you’re devoting a lot of brain power to other things.

                  • Tom Liles says:

                    Interesting stuff Ming…

                    Before another word is said: yet another thank you and round of applause for your thoughts, your pictures and this site. But most of all the pictures. I’m sure I speak for us all when I say that we really do appreciate what you do, and we really do appreciate it may have to end someday. Certainly hope not. Fingers are well and truly crossed!

                    I dunno, maybe it’s the Irish ancestry at work, but I feel like I want to disagree. Not so sure about the premise of hierarchy there. As a point of fact, cavemen painted on the walls, etc. So the various motivations [layers in the pyramid] must at least be a function of time [era], i.e., applicable in modern times only? If so, OK 🙂 And it seems Maslow himself was well prepared to admit feeling more than one motivation at one time [with the caveat that one drive must be ultimately dominant. I think I’m being faithful to his idea there]. His critics outright dispute any sense of “hierarchy” at all. I suppose I’d do the easy thing and side with them. Ever hear the Picasso line about take away my brush and I’ll draw, take away my pencil and I’ll scratch, bind my hands and I’ll spit…. I’ve never felt like that and never will, but I can certainly understand that some do. As cliche as it is, there really are starving artists. You’re too good a man to do that to your wife and loved ones I think, Ming, but these people certainly exist. I think your compulsion to always carry is something like that line of Picasso’s Ming. Do you think you could ever just stop taking photos? Not a break, just plain stop, never make another frame again? I can’t see it. Take away my D600 and I’ll use the OMD, take away the OMD and I’ll use the A, take away the A and I’ll use my iPhone… Or take away my D800E for watch work and I’ll do it with an M9, etc 🙂 You might call it obsessive compulsive behavior; I think it’s much more charitable, and probably closer to the truth, to say it’s just what you were built to do Ming [I don’t want to limit that just deterministic biological causes, either]. Of course we don’t always get to do what we were built to. Myself, for example, I’m quite sure I was put on this earth to watch football and drink beer.

                    Anyway, all this said—you’re right, economic reality is a reality [cue George Clinton’s chorus]. It swings in heavy and true like wrecking ball. Most of us crumble before it.

                    Hopefully it will be like Star Trek for the kids—no more money and people do stuff for the betterment of everyone.
                    [Crikey, I’m really weird today. No more. Cheers Ming, cheers all.]

                    • Actually, I could stop. I’ve actually thought about it many times – both as an intellectual exercise, and with some seriousness on more than one occasion. And because of the nature of my personality, cold turkey would really be the only way I could go: either I shoot, or I don’t.

                    • I have that same personality trait: my compulsions (good and bad) can only be halted by going cold turkey.

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      Mmm. (inspects Todd and Ming’s faces Larry David style…) :/

                      There’s thinking about it, and there’s actually never taking another frame again for as long you live. I don’t doubt you have the willpower Ming [and Todd!]. And the immediate anxiety to capture might fade after a while… But I couldn’t see you being very happy and am quite quite sure your creative drive would just find another outlet.
                      I’m not mad keen on studying up on photographers and learning their life history and getting into that “follower” mindset; but I do enjoy listening to the words of HCB [because he doesn’t really talk about photos so much as life]. In one of the few docs he crops up in [on You Tube] — The Impassioned Eye [what a seriously bad title] — he casually answers the question of does he regret putting down the camera with a “no” and “I don’t think about it, I see frames, but I don’t really think about it…” [I’m paraphrasing.] On one level, I completely get this. Yet, the fact he says he sees frames betrays a lot; even letting that go as an off the cuff remark, it’s highly conspicuous that he’s surrounded with his sketches and his paper and pencils. Photography was never anything other than instant sketches to HCB; so he was able to “quit” photos because he just continued, or returned to, other ways to make his sketches.

                      I doubt you can go cold turkey on the creative drive, indefinitely. Though it might be very healthy to do so from time to brief time. To sleep perchance to dream, 🙂

                      But, I say: To carry

                      => … The game’s afoot:
                      Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
                      Cry ‘God for Nikon, Wide Angle, and Saint GRge!’

                    • I’m starting to think that one might need complete breaks from time to time to rejuvenate that drive…perhaps because it’s increasingly feeling like it’s time for me to have one soon.

                    • Hey, if I can quit smoking, I can quit photography!

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      Aha! An ex-smoker. I’m very proud of myself as I quit last May, Todd. I was a HEAVY smoker, like 40-a-day heavy, and for a good long chunk of my adult life, too [this is what my first stint in Japanese advertising did to me]… But I just woke up one morning and that was it, I didn’t smoke anymore.

                      Don’t know about you but I miss it and don’t miss it….

                      I think, I hope, I’m over the nicotine addiction; I feel like I don’t miss that at all, now [this wasn’t true for at least two months after going cold turkey]. I definitely don’t miss living my day as though it were a countdown between cigarettes—when the whole day centered around how long was a reasonable duration until I could go for the next one. And the stress of waiting for that time to roll around. Literally all I thought about most waking hours. It was awful when you’re at like t-minus one minute and some so-and-so rolls up on you with a job or meeting or some other thing that will torpedo the cigarette and the time limit. Like bursting for the toilet, holding it holding it holding it, just keep holding it, hold it and get to the toilet, then getting to the toilet, nearly mission accomplished, the floodgates are ready to smash open, and the toilet disappears in front of your eyes. Don’t miss this at all!
                      I do miss the cool aspect of it, I still think it looks very cool [though it doesn’t smell very cool, now]. But mostly I miss the ritual; I can see why so many religious rites involve smoke or straight up up smoking. I don’t know how trustworthy I am to say, but I honestly think the whole reason I smoked was just for the blowing of a blue plume of smoke from my mouth. When I boil it down, I’m sure this was all that really mattered to me.
                      All this said, the same ritual is quite absurd when you’re suddenly looking upon it from the outside! They still have “smoking corners” in Japan; you’ll be in a public space and off to the side over there, there’s these mammals gathered together, standing amongst waist height steel posts, tugging away on rolled paper and squinting as the stinging fumes gets in their eyes on the inhale. If you wanted a shot of nicotine, there are so many much better, more efficient ways to do it. But that’s the way we do it. It’d snooker a Martian, no doubt.

                      Mmm. Giving up photos though? OK. And do you think this propensity to make wouldn’t just spill over into something else? I’ll take a bit of convincing that anyone could go cold turkey on the creative drive, indefinitely.

                      ANYWAY! forget all that Todd. Guess what — and perhaps you’re listening too Ming — it’s payday here tomorrow… I’ve payed all my bills, my wife’s bills, my kids bills, you name it, and managed to hang on to my saved pennies from this [and last] month, I’m home and dry, so on my way back from work this evening, I dropped by the used camera store, asked them to break out the cheapest used D7000 they have, the same one I’ve been in to see bi-weekly for this whole calendar month, and said to the store clerk:

                      I’ll take it


                    • Enjoy! Still a great camera. Pair it with a nice pancake and have something interesting and relatively compact to shoot 🙂

                    • And the more you cut down, the more of your life is spent counting down till the next one, right? I understand completely!

                      Enjoy the new camera, Tom. One of my best friends (a working pro) has had a D7000 since it came out, and it’s one of his favourite things ever 🙂

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      Thanks fellas. I’m a very happy camper! What a beauty the D7000 is. And what a step up from the D60! Blimey 🙂
                      Pouring with rain in Tokyo last night, so I couldn’t get a decent photo stroll in [I was tenderly cradling the new precious under my jacket like a newborn!]. We were talking about countdowns to the next fag; I’m counting down to my lunchtime today!

                      Mmm. But all these controls! They’re lovely, actually 🙂
                      There’s lots to be said for analog controls — I own an Epson R-D1s and a DMC-L1 so I’m well up on aperture rings and shutter dials and exp. comp dials, etc. — but don’t you think these modern DSLR bodies, I’ll say especially Nikon because that’s all I know, have a very good modern take: “press-hold and spin,” most anything is possible with the twin command dials and fn buttons [love the couple ones out front, that’s new for me!]… if I can just get my finger muscle memory to lock in the ISO button location, I’ll be able to change everything I want without even taking my eye away from the finder. Which is like a cinema screen compared to the D60!

                      Happy days 🙂

  35. Awesome article and poem Ming! I carry the RX100 with me everywhere in a pelican 1010 water-resistant case. Although the Ricoh GR/ Nikon Coolpix A are causing severe G.A.S. .

    Best Wishes – Eric

    • Hold off until I test the GR…

      • I wonder if the A will end up being rather short-lived, or at least a one-off. I love it, but the readers (and writer) of this site must represent about 75% of the market for a 28mm-only premium compact!

        • I’m wondering the same thing. And if the GR trounces it, then Nikon may not bother trying again – which would be a shame. As a first try, they did remarkably well.

          • Indeed. I really want to give them my hard-earned as a reward for making something so idiosyncratic (relatively speaking)! Still, I’m going to wait and see (1) how the GR turns out, and (2) whether DPReview got a crappy A or you got a superlative one; I don’t normally put much stock in 100% magnification pictures of test charts, but there did seem to be rather obvious edge issues there…

            • Agreed. I’m inclined towards the former, as usually you don’t get one spectacularly good one and majority rubbish; it’s the other way around.

  36. nice take on the bard.

    I’ve achieved kung-fu panda level inner peace, ever since i got my mobile phone with a decent enough (8mp, 28mm-e f/2.4) backscratcher.

  37. The best poetry often stems from inner torment of the human soul..but I think you must be the first to articulate this photographer’s typical dilemma so beautifully.. 🙂

    I think its also good news for this blog’s continuance (if the financial part works out) as it would seem with your subconscious increasingly hard-wired towards ‘seeing the shot’, can’t picture you doing this or holding up a camera every once in a while back in a corporate boardroom! 🙂

    • Actually, I landed up rewriting this twice at odd hours of the morning due to jetlag. I’m not sure it reads well or follows the original meter, but hey, I tried 🙂

  38. Loved this!! It is sooooo very true!! It is indeed true – the best camera is the one in hand….thanks!!

  39. So true. Easy call to make when you’re traveling somewhere exotic or unusual – hardest to integrate into your regular routine of life. I second the rationale of, besides the iPhone, keeping a compact on you and working out your photographic muscles…though no doubt the frustration will still be felt.

  40. jlmphotography says:

    Every outing has photographic potential. Even when the spouse and I are just tooling around looking for antiques at yard and garage sales my cameras are with me. That would be my Fuji x-e1 with the 18-55 and the 35 f1.4.
    If the trip is further away from home my Thinktank is also taken with my D800, D700 and the Nikon trinity. Plus tripod, filters etc.
    Even when I’m off anywhere as mundane as my office, my x-e1 is with me at all times

    Great read on this one Ming! Loved it!

  41. Pentax-Ricoh has responded with the GR. I know you own the Coolpix A and that little word called “decisions” just got tougher. Lol, in the end you can’t go wrong with either.


  1. Thinkresults says:

    […] you fellow camera gearheads, this was inspired by Ming Thein’s blog post on spending so much time in selecting a camera (or insert your own tool of choice in whatever field […]

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