Your Most Important Piece of Equipment Is Your Brain

Back when I used to golf, my friends and I were constantly in search of the next “perfect” club to add to our bags. Brands changed. New putters and drivers appeared. And with each change, there was fresh hope that — somehow, someway — this latest upgrade would make all the difference.

At some point during this golfing arms race, I stumbled upon a wonderful little exercise that went further in aiding my game than my new set of TaylorMade clubs.

The Five-Club Exercise

The exercise was to remove all but five clubs from your bag. This was a big step down from the maximum allowable 13 that my friends and I always seemed to end up with. We had a club for everything, and it seemed that sometimes we spent more time worrying about which club to choose than how to play the shot. I mean, you paid for all those clubs, so you might as well use them, right?

The purpose of the five-club exercise was to force you to think in a new way — to use what you had available to play the round. Focus on the shot, rather than the equipment.

I think you can see where I’m heading. There’s an exercise — and a lesson — here for photographers as well.

Take a look in your bag. Now take a look in your closet. And your desk. How many lenses and do-dads do you have lying around?

Chances are, over the years you’ve accumulated a multitude of lenses and gadgets that have their niche, and that is precisely why you purchased them. Sure, you have a 24-70mm, but you also have a 50mm because you just love that razor-thin depth of field. Although, come to think of it, you really only break that 50mm out of the bag for special occasions. And perhaps this is the case for a lot of your other equipment, too.

Less Is More

So here’s your exercise:

Spend a day or two with a bag that has been pared down to a few essentials. Choose only two lenses (or even just one). Force yourself to use this spartan kit and see what you can come up with. Sure, there will be times when you wish you’d brought the 70-200 versus the 16-35 — but you didn’t. So now you can spend a little less time choosing and a little more time engaging the most important tool in your bag, your brain.

Find a way to make the shot. Get creative. Push yourself out of your comfort zone.

If you ever find yourself in a creative rut, this is a great way to get out of it. Not only that, but with a lighter bag, your back will thank you as well.

6 Responses to “Your Most Important Piece of Equipment Is Your Brain”

  1. "Thinking helps!" one of the CDs of Ogilvy recently said during his speech. Thanks for this comment. Your blog is really excellent!

  2. As a student, sometimes I'm glad I only have a 50mm lens. Sure, I lust for the full range of equipment, but sometimes I'm glad just to have the 50. It forces me to move around to get the shot. (it also gives me an excuse of when I don't)

  3. I'm doing a photo walk over the weekend, and have decided to one-lens it. Interested to see what I end up with.

  4. Sometimes, just leave all the equipment at home, especially if you are not on assignement, and just bring your brain.
    If you learn how to let it go, to accept the fact that you cannot freeze every second of your life in a picture, you will probably gain a great deal of serenity, an ingredient missing from many people's recipe.
    Let's leave the camera home and let's learn how to look, observe and see things.

  5. ... hopefully you did not buy it on credit and if, who guaranties the loan?

  6. I certainly practice this. I tend to carry 3 or 4 lenses, but invariably leave the 17-35mm glued to the camera for 98 percent of the time. The zoom is a fairly recent change to the various 24mm lenses that did similar service for 20 years pre digital. Getting to know how to use one focal length well is excellent discipline and a good start to a personal approach to subjects that means you have an easier time anticipating where you need to be for the shot. There's always a place for other focal lengths, but swapping lenses is never a substitute for getting closer.

    And I'd agree with Daniel; just putting the camera down and observing the dynamics of the world around you is the best education of all.

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