I’ve been thinking a lot about my cameras lately, and about all the gear that I travel with. I’ve always been a light packer, and to some extent my style of photography was borne out of a kind of laziness or lack of interest in carrying around a lot of unnecessary crap. With less gear, I was always able to walk around longer, travel further afield, and tire less quickly.
On assignments, I always try to pack the exact minimum required to get the job done well, but in the end, I always default to carrying around way more than I need. Just in case. If I think I’ll just use my 35mm lens, I’ll pack the 50mm and the 90mm as well. If I think I’ll use all natural light, I’ll pack a speedlight and a remote trigger. You just never know. And I’ve always been of the mind that a little inconvenience for me is better than a lot of inconvenience for the client, if I don’t deliver on the goods.
When I’m traveling for myself, I always try to get back to the minimalist mindset I started out with. I try to limit the cameras I travel with, and use these kind of self-imposed limitations as a way to push myself creatively. On a recent trip to the mountains in northern Vietnam, I brought along nothing but my Rolleiflex and a light meter. A few months back, I traveled the length of the Red River–from the China border to the Gulf of Tonkin–with just my 5D and 35mm lens. And this morning, I unpacked my brand-spanking-new Fuji X-Pro1, which I hope to make my default digital travel camera, both on and off assignment.
But the camera that has long remained one of my favorite pieces of equipment, for it’s size and sleekness and overall versatility among most other things, is the Lomo LC-A. No bells or whistles, no funky gel filters, no confusing menus, no special features. Just an all-black casing with a 32mm/2.8 lens and a pretty spot-on exposure meter. Point and shoot. Maybe remember to focus. Or just keep it at infinity. It practically fits in your pocket. It’s easy to load. It’s unobtrusive. And it’s got character for days.
I took a trip to Thailand a few months back to continue with some personal work, and brought along nothing but my LC-A and a Ricoh 35mm film camera. And a bunch of film. I packed one shoulder bag and set off for the week to the northern parts of the country, near Chiang Khan and Nong Khai. All of these images are from that trip, with a few from Bangkok thrown in as well. A few may have been taken with the Ricoh, but the title sounded so much better the way it is, instead of “Why I Love my Lomo LC-A and Maybe My Ricoh 35mm Too”.
Both cameras are great tools, and I can’t recommend them enough. They’re both point and shoots, and they’re both fantastic for what they do and what they don’t do. They allow you to focus on the scenes in front of you without worrying about your equipment or settings. They allow you to get in close without being noticed. They take simple, quick pictures. They allow you to blend in. And these days, where everyone has a camera and everything is being photographed all of the time, sometimes disappearing a little bit into the background, blending in and observing and being able to make smart calculated decisions about your frames without your subjects noticing and getting shy or nervous, well, sometimes that’s all you need to consider something a success.