If you are like me then there are some products in your inventory that you buy once and use almost forever. You use and abuse light stands right up until the moment they succumb to metal fatigue and collapse in final exhaustion. Who goes out impulse shopping for sandbags? And background stands? I'm still working on the set I bought nearly 30 years ago. Yeah, they're a little bent but they still work.
I keep some stuff around forever, like Super Clamps and "A" clamps, and the arm that holds up my collapsible reflectors, and my twelve year old Canon ink jet printer. All the stuff that just works and does basically the same job it's always done just seems to stick around and keep helping me make new photographs.
I looked at my set today in Johnson City and started tallying the ages of the gear I was using. With the exception of my D810 and the 24-120mm f4 I had on the front of the camera everything else was at least five years old. The panels and flags and scrims? Closer to ten years old. The light stands? It's not polite to ask when stuff gets that old....
But here's the thing that I've been thinking about lately. Since I have to spend so much money to get a state-of-the-art camera body every year to eighteen months I tend to baby the best stuff I have for nearly all of its time with me. Let me explain: I buy a Nikon D810 because I research it and convince myself that it's a spectacular performer. But after dropping $3200 on the body I think to myself that I should "save it" for the big, paying jobs. Wouldn't I feel depressed if I took it out to a birthday party or out shooting on a personal "art" project and broke it? Then I wouldn't have the use of this "necessary" tool when the next big job comes around. I leave it in the cabinet until a job that's big enough to justify the risk that something might happen to it comes along. Then I baby it in transit. It rides in a nice rolling case. It's carefully placed on a tripod and when I've finished using it for the day it's right back into the case.
At times I am so fearful that I'll lose the opportunity to use the "ultimate" camera that I substitute other cameras for my own work even though I know the images could potentially be better with the more expensive camera.
A case in point; I got the first D610 camera as a back up to the D810. But I started subbing the D610 for 70-80% of the stuff I shoot to "preserve" the life of the D810 for the day when the big job rolls around. Then I bought a second D610 to back up the first one. When I head out for a walk it's almost always a D610 that tags along. When I head out in the rain...D610. Just about any time except when shooting for big money it's the D610. And that makes me think that I'm wasting a depreciating resource. What is my strategy? To baby this camera until it's superseded by the next "ultimate" camera, all the while settling for less than the best performance?
I pulled the D810 out today for a walk around the lake. I decided to think of it as a carton of milk (admittedly, expensive milk) with an expiration date. My new goal is to use the camera for every conceivable situation until I've used it up. A commensurate goal is to end up "needing" to buy the next camera because I've worn this one down to a nubbin. You know, parts held on with gaff tape, scuffs, brassing (if there is any brass under there) and general wear and tear. I want to squeeze all the potential out of this camera with every shot I make.
So, you think I'm a bit off and you are more logical? How's your best camera doing? Is it your "go to" machine? You don't think twice about taking it everywhere? Hmm. Maybe you're better adjusted than I am. But the first step is awareness...
Resolved. No more conservation of camera resources. I want to use them up. I want to feel like I squeezed all the best frames out of the D810 before I give it up for the next generation.