Gear Acquisition Syndrome, aka G.A.S. Description: A condition whereby the sufferer is filled with an overwhelming urge to compulsively purchase equipment. G.A.S. frequently afflicts photographers and guitarists. G.A.S. sufferers experience an all-consuming frenzy to own more and more expensive equipment. Treatment: G.A.S. is particulary hard to treat. It requires early detection for treatment to be effective, for once the equipment has been bought the only recourse may be filing bankruptcy. Known Treatment Methods: Upon detection, freeze credit card in a block of ice. Follow with a good knock on the head, preferably administered by someone with no affection for said gear.
For a long time I took pride in being a photographer with minimal gear. My first camera was my father’s Nikon FM, which seemed ancient compared to my fellow Photography Club members whose cameras could autofocus. And auto film-rewind without a motor-drive.
Then I went digital with a compact Canon Powershot, and it wasn’t until 2008 that I finally got a DSLR, the entry-level Nikon D60.
Sure, there were many times when I wished I had a fancier, more ‘pro’ camera, but I learnt to make do with what I had. I took some awesome (at least it seemed to me at the time) photographs in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales with the PowerShot. I travelled halfway across China last year with only my D60 and a 50mm prime lens.
And for a long time, I was content. I don’t need expensive gear to make good photographs, I told myself. I’d nod along whilst reading blog posts by photographers like Chase Jarvis, David duChemin, Zack Arias, et al about doing more with less gear. Yup, that’s me, I’d say to myself. I’m not one of those gear-heads.
When I first started learning about SLR photography back in my high school days, there wasn’t a lot of how-to information available. My Dad taught me the basics of camera operation, aperture, shutter speed, depth of field etc, but wasn’t able to teach me the ‘advanced stuff’. Meanwhile, my school’s Photography Club didn’t offer much coaching either. We had a working darkroom but no one knew how to use the equipment. It was *so* sad. *sniff*
So I was very excited when creativeLIVE came on the scene last year. If you’re not familiar with creativeLIVE, it’s an online training company where workshops on various visual arts (but predominantly photography) are streamed live for free over the Internet. That’s right- free. They do charge a fee if you want a video download, but I think it’s reasonably priced.
As I learn best through visual instruction, I’ve learnt a lot through watching these workshops, which have also introduced me to some excellent photographers I hadn’t previously heard of. One of them is Zack Arias, who has become quite well-known for his ‘One Light’ philosophy to lighting.
Zack conducted a very comprehensive studio lighting workshop on creativeLIVE last year, and he’s teaching a professional photography workshop this weekend (see video above).
I only managed to watch about half of the first day’s broadcase due to the timezone differences, but even then I was blown away (again) by his depth of knowledge and his willingness to share that knowledge freely.
Highlights that stood out for me:
Zack’s explanation of using geometric elements in composition. I’ve never yet had anyone explain composition theory so succinctly. Zack distilled a really complicated topic into simple nuggets like “..and this a triangle here, and if you put a circle there, and draw some lines here…”, and while he was speaking light bulbs were going off in my head. Awesome stuff.
Once again, Zack’s pragmatic approach to equipment choice. And hearing Zack reinforce the reality that you don’t need the best gear available to take great pictures made me re-think my impeding purchase of an expensive Carl Zeiss lens. I really want it, but I’ll probably go for a cheaper Nikkor instead, and save myself a lot of money. I should probably buy Zack a beer.
Realising that I had no clue whatsoever about how focal lengths affect depth of field. Oops. Guess my knowledge of the basics isn’t as good as I thought it was. But hey — you learn something new every day.
So I wonder what I’ll learn from the rest of the workshop. If today was anything to go by, I’m guessing it’ll be a lot.