Wednesday, March 20th was the first official day of spring this year. Here in the Los Angeles area, it was not a particularly memorable day. I wasn’t motivated to go out and shoot, and the weather was unusually cold for LA. But it was not too cold to start thinking about Spring cleaning. Once in awhile I undertake to “clean out the closet” and rid myself of any gear I haven’t used in over a year to make space for gear that better reflects today’s needs.
The one thing that I never seem to be able to easily let go of are my old camera bags. And I have a lot of them. When you shoot as wide a variety of subjects as I do, every project seems to require a different set of transport protections. With the addition of video to my workflow, items like a Zoom recorder and other sound equipment fit very conveniently into one of my old camera bags. Portable LED lighting fits with some compromises into others. Extra hard disk drives, portable RAID arrays, the myriad collection of power and data cables, Firewire or USB hubs, they all need their own organization and method of transport. Once again proving wise my decision to hang onto these old DSLR sized bags, as I seem to continually use them for one purpose or another.
But then there are the bags that never seem to get pulled anymore. Some of these have sentimental attachments, like my small Domke that is always at my side though its capacity is quite limited. Others are constructed of heavy materials intended for advance FedEx shipment directly to a job site, so are rarely used. Others are just plain too old, or too worn out to serve much of a purpose anymore. These I should have shed years ago, but remain in my studio taking up space just because one day I may find a new use for them. Old bags never die, they just come back to life in a new way.
Most working professionals have such a collection stashed away in a back closet if they are being honest with you. It sort of comes with the territory. Camera gear is too fragile and too expensive to risk damage in transport. When we arrive at a job destination, we are being paid to do a job, not determine where to purchase a replacement body for one damaged in transport. If you have been shooting pictures in any capacity the past few years, it is likely that you also have your own “bag world” growing in a closet or garage. This too is normal, we buy new things that don’t fit right in the old bags we already own, so we buy a new one and toss the old one into storage for a future day.
But then there is the other side, the Dark Demon called Obsession. That line gets crossed when it costs you more to store your old bags than it would to just go out and buy a new one when you need it. In my friend David Alan Harvey’s case, camera bag obsession knows no bounds. Nor does David’s sense of humor. It costs a small fortune for storage space in New York City where David lives. So while you contemplate your own needs and potential recycle uses for your old bags, here is a fun short film made for the 2010 National Geographic Magazine Photographic Seminar by another old friend Ira Block. David was off for a major shoot in Rio, and had trouble locating his “perfect bag.”