An embarrassment of riches.
Since the birth of the Intern, my partner and I have lacked the drive to make our annual pilgrimage to Italy by car. We flew last year for the first time in 5 five years and, having been denied my bootfull of cameras, I packed my digital rig and a compatible film body. I found that with great flexibility comes great perfectionism. Aside from over shooting and staring at the back of the camera, I made time to play with the images on my laptop, which feels like photography, but just consumed time in a target rich environment. I didn’t want to do that again, and decided one camera, and film only.
I was all set to sack off the heavy bag and start mooching through Europe with my Leica & my 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1. Then I got some really nice scans back from the lab, from the Hasselbad. Maybe two cameras, and some extra lenses.
Now that it was going to be a two camera trip I decided to use my roller case plus a shoulder bag, one for travel, one for use when I got there. The roller is great for travel but, because of its rigid nature, it’s no smaller if it’s half-full. Once I’d put the Leica, Blad, some light meters, and quite a bit of film in there I still had enough room for my Canon F1.
So, having quickly failed the one camera & one lens part of my plan, I also failed to ditch the heavy bag. Once we were there, and the intern and I were playing in the pool I realised I needed a waterproof camera. Kicking myself for leaving a perfectly serviceable and under-used GoPro in a box in Worcester. I started to keenly observe camera shop windows.
I found a disposable in a camera store in Perugia, an Agfa Photo Le Box Ocean. Boasting a fixed focus lens, a single shutter speed and a fixed aperture it relies entirely upon the flexibility of the Agfa 400 inside.
So I’m up to four cameras, but still all analog.
No digital camera means no laptop to fiddle, no over shooting, plus awesome looking analog photos. The downsides include not knowing if you nailed it, and the cerebral restriction that perturbs wasting film. It’s also a fallacy, as I had a digital camera with me the whole time.
Two years ago, at some cost, and pending the arrival of the Intern, I got myself a Google Pixel because it had the finest camera in the android ecosystem. The camera is good, it shoots raw, and it has loads of post-processing software. I’ve produced some really nice pictures over the last few years, and captured parts of the intern’s internship I would have missed otherwise.
It was nice to have the flexibility and the immediacy of the digital, particularly when it came to shooting the Intern and grabbing general pictures. On a couple of occasions I doubled up shooting once on the Leica and once on the phone.
We’ll call it camera number five.
I shot some still-life with the Hasselblad, and had vague plans for some portraits which I didn’t pursue with much gusto, then took it to Perugia for a mooch around. It’s light for a medium format SLR, and fairly compact until you add in some extra lenses and a metered prism. In the heat of the Italian summer and working from a shoulder bag with a narrow strap it quickly became heavy and cumbersome.
When the time came to abscond to Rome I left it in Umbria. Where I bought another camera, which we can call number six.
The roll in the waterproof lasted a few swims, the Blad got through a few rolls, and the F1 didn’t fire a shot. The Leica was the go-to camera, for the trip, I grabbed it first when I was playing with the intern, heading into town, and when men arrived to drill surprise boreholes under the parking area. It then made the journey to Rome and shot some more.
Sometimes packing for every eventuality feels like the right thing to do. Perhaps it’s as a result of my varied commercial work that I feel the need to take a full bag everywhere I go. Whatever the reason, I need to stop. Making peace with missed opportunities is something that I have struggled with but the finest photos I didn’t take were either due to my slowness or a lack of confidence, and not to the wrong gear.
The annual jaunt to Italy in past years has been a chance to push my photography further, to develop skills and techniques with equipment and to drive some sort of enquiry forward. I invariably return with a disaffected attitude towards the bulk of the work I create there, only to embrace the pictures themselves later. This year I focused upon experiences, and again am only so enamoured with the work I produced. We’ll see whether I like the photos more in few months.