A reader asked, in an e-mail, how I carry my stuff when I go out for a "photo-walk." I thought a response would be fun. Here goes:
Packing to go out and work for a client and packing to go for a self-directed walk, for my own amusement are two completely different things. For the client-centric work I want to have everything I could possibly need to to a job well. Even for a simple event job; like a reception in the lobby bar of the Four Seasons Hotel I would pack a camera bag. It would be a larger Domke bag and it would contain the primary camera, a back-up camera for just in case, a wide angle to short telephoto zoom lens, a long zoom, a secondary wide-to-not-so-wide zoom as a redundant, failsafe back-up lens, two identical flashes. One flash to use and one to allay fears of failure. Twice the number of memory cards I should need. And, finally, gobs of charged batteries for the cameras and the flashes.
Most of the gear, except the shooting camera, one lens and one flash, would spend the event sitting in the bag, on a chair someplace where I could both keep an eye on it and also access it in the event that I needed to change out any piece of gear at the first sign of failure.
I use a standard neck strap on the cameras and carry a single camera over my left shoulder when I'm not actively using it. When I am engaged with the camera I use the strap as a neck strap with the weight of the rig spread across the back of my neck. In the past I might have used two cameras with a wide prime lens on one and an 85mm lens on the other but now it no longer makes much sense. The zooms are quicker, and for social photography the quality of the zooms is far beyond that required by the job.
Conversely, when I go out just for myself, I routinely ditch most of the gear. I select one camera and one lens and put one extra camera battery in my left pocket. The camera has a conventional shoulder or neck strap. I wear the strap over my left shoulder while I'm walking and not shooting. I leave everything I don't need at home or in my car. I almost never walk with a phone, extra lenses, camera bags, water bottles, juice boxes, fanny packs, backpacks or anything that adds weight or makes me question my initial choice of gear. If I've chosen incorrectly then there is always tomorrow.
The exception to this are days when rain is strongly forecasted. Then I bring a bag just big enough to encase the camera and lens. But not always. Sometimes I just toss a small, plastic bag in my back pocket. If it rains hard I can put the camera in lens in the bag and wait for the storm to pass.
I have some personal prejudices about gear and how to carry it. For example, I find the single point connected straps, meant be worn over one shoulder and across one's torso, such as "Black Rapids" to be offensive and unsightly. Anything worn diagonally across one's chest just sends signal flares up all over the place that scream: PHOTO NERD. Wearing a strap that way means you don't care about how your shirt looks scrunched up underneath and you don't care about suspending an expensive camera upside down with only one, single anchor point. Anything that can screw into the bottom plate of your camera is equally capable of becoming unscrewed and subjecting your gear to the vicious action of gravity. As I've heard so often... If you accidentally bought one perhaps you can still return it.
Wear your unused camera over one shoulder, with a standard camera strap anchored at two points (as designed and engineered by the camera maker!). When using your camera just wrap the strap loosely around your right wrist and hold the camera in your right hand. When you actually take photographs bring your left hand into play and use it to stabilize everything. The camera and portage accessories should be discreet, not banners or loud visual manifestos of your intention to "hunt down" unsuspecting photo opportunities with no regard to your personal aesthetic or appearance. You should be part of the flow in the street and not a visual roadblock for those around you.
By the same token, unless I knew I would spend the entire day absolutely alone and away from civilization I would never wear a white, Tilley branded hat. They are as bad a cliché as a photo vest with lots of pockets and at least as anti-fashionable. I'm sure a small number of you will write in and take me to task for caring about "how things look" and will tell me they don't care at all how they appear in public. You can believe that with every fiber of your being but to me that's just like saying, "I don't bathe. And I fart at will in crowded spaces." I think we all have an ethical obligation not to make the world uglier if we can do something to help. To "not care about anybody else's comfort" borders on sociopathy.
Someone asked about water bottles. "Yes" on a remote trail walk but "no" on an urban walk. There's always a shop or store or bodega that can furnish you with water at a low cost, or no cost. Why drag around another couple pounds of stuff? Hydrate before you leave home or your car. Things like Camelbacks, etc. are for trail hiking in national parks, not for a jaunt through a friendly urban area.
I've experimented with wrist straps and like the concept but for my lifestyle the need to pull out a wallet and pay for coffee or...water....means that the wrist strap is an encumbrance while a shoulder or neck strap allows you to "park" the camera while you do other things which are important in the moment. Also, should you need to use a restroom (WC, toilet, etc) you can park your camera over your shoulder on a strap, but would have to put a wrist-strapped camera down on some surface. Often the available surfaces in public facilities are questionable. Wouldn't it be better to have the camera suspended from your shoulder?
I'm sure everyone will have a different take but these are my basics. I don't look at an adventure in downtown as a "once in a lifetime" experience and will have no regrets if I don't have all the focal lengths from 8mm to 800mm available to me just in case. Make a walk a repeatable habit and you can hone in better on favorite focal lengths and cameras. You don't have to handle everything in one go.
And, for me, a large part of walking around is just looking, without a camera in my face, at stuff that educates me about culture but may not be particularly photo-worthy. If my intention is tightly bound to always being photographing I miss out on the "just looking" part. And I miss stuff. If we try too hard we fail. If we try just enough we take the stress out of the project and allow for more chance. And that's good stuff.
Intelligentsia in the afternoon.
Camping out at the city council building is coming to an end...
Pop up make-up showcase comes to downtown.
Jo's has re-opened. A good, secondary source of coffee and
free ice water. In a cup. With a straw.
mirrored ball in a shop window on Second Street.