Basket Case

Dear J-

Consider the dilemma of camera bags — if you want a camera on you, either get one that’s convenient (read that as small or built in to something you always have with you — phone, keys, wallet, hat) or you’ll need some way of carrying it hands-free.  The simplest solution is a pocketable camera, but the ones that fit well are generally compromised in some other way, so let’s say you get a neck strap, next.  I used to carry all my cameras on a neck strap, until I started to get extra lenses (and the lesson here is that either you have a zoom that does everything and is therefore compromised, or you have the wrong lens on your camera*) — where do you put the lenses?  I made do for years after that — large jacket pockets, satchels, begging theVet to carry extra-large purses — until finally I broke down and got a camera backpack.  Great way to carry things, especially with a waistbelt to shift the load from shoulders to hips; lousy way to work, though, until evolution blesses us with octopus arms and eyes on stalks — once it’s in the backpack, the backpack has to come off to get at it.

The flip side of the backpack is the shoulder bag; my dad has one and I suspect that it, along with the embroidered strap, was de rigeur for photographers who started in the 70s — you can work out of it, but it will give you pains by the end of the day, whether the standard mini-duffle or satchel/messenger style.  It is, however, my chosen way of working for now — remember to get one with a grip handle that you can use to lift the bag with the lid open and unfastened, or else you end up dumping all your cameras in front of Uncle Fred and looking like a donkey.

There are better ways of working and carrying cameras; I used to have an Army surplus jacket that had enormous pockets all over and that was just about perfect except that I looked impoverished whenever I went out in it, at least until the glass started coming out.  Vests and web gear, whether repurposed fishing, ALICE/MOLLE military surplus, or actual photographer fall into the same concern — it’s shallow, but you end up looking far more hardcore and ignorant all at once.  Hardcore for recognizing that it’s probably the most efficient way of hauling and using gear, ignorant for making your entire family embarrassed to be seen with you.  That said, I do have a MOLLE vest and belt hanging up in my closet waiting to be laden with pouches, and I need to be able to tote figgy around, what with her refusing stroller and backpack lately.

For those of you looking for concrete examples and brands, I own two brands and am contemplating welcoming a third into my life.  The first real photo bag I bought was a LowePro MiniTrekker; despite the Mini appellation, it swallows an enormous amount of stuff, it’s comfortable, and it hasn’t seen daylight in, hmm, 12 years or so?  It ends up being a question of access, and when my brother bought me a Domke F-2, I was all over it — and still use it to tote things around, as it’s rugged yet soft, but quickly grew to realize that it’s so big that you can load it down with enough equipment to give you a hernia (which didn’t, of course, stop me from getting two more Domkes — a F-804 I used for grad school (and which still has a beloved Olympus 35RC nestled deep within) and a F-1X, initially for the Kodak/Nikon boat anchor DCS 6×0 dSLRs, but lately retired because I keep forgetting to fasten the lid and dump equipment instead — that and the navy color attracts light-colored fur like nothing you’d believe.  If it wasn’t for the lack of (back/shoulder) comfort I’m pretty sure I’d still be working out of a Domke, but now I’m thinking web gear …

Mike

* This is one of what’s also known as Murphy’s Laws of Optics:

  1. If you have one (or a fixed) lens, it is the wrong lens.
  2. If you have multiple lenses, you have the wrong lens on.
  3. If you leave a lens at home, that’s the lens you needed. Corollary: if your bag only holds N lenses, the N+1th lens is the one you needed.
  4. You will not have time to switch to the right lens.
  5. The lens that does everything is always the wrong lens.
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3 Responses to “Basket Case”

  1. junior Says:

    I think beginning photography books should start with those five laws instead of the f/stop math. As Homer says, “it’s funny because it’s true.”

  2. dearJ Says:

    I managed to demonstrate all those laws yesterday, in fact, with the ridiculously huge 150mm lens + teleconverter on a body with the optional grip. It is a heroic-looking beast, but requires equally heroic arms to hold steady.

  3. Elevators (song) Says:

    passenger Elevator

    Basket Case | Dear J-

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