Jeremiah Rogers

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The benefits of Small Bags and Prime Lenses

I’m in Cape Girardeau, Missouri visiting my dad and my stepfamily. Today’s the first day that I’ve woken up in a town other than San Francisco.

Those final few days in San Francisco were a frantic rush of selling, cleaning and goodbyes. It was painful, especially at the very end when I had to leave perfectly good things on the street or in the trash. In the end I just own a backpack and two boxes of clothes that I sent home to my mom.

Everything I own:

Flying with the constraint of a single 26 liter backpack is liberating. I make it through airport security faster than most people, feel comfortable carrying my 11-inch laptop in one hand or pinning it under my shoulder as I move to the gate, and have a selection of comfortable wool shirts and underwear that don’t stink after a full day of wearing them on a plane. The constraint of fitting everything into a pack that I can carry anywhere drove me to find gear that fills many roles and that I’m immensely satisfied with 1.

I’m also applying constraints to my photography. In the past I used a Canon EOS 6D and four lenses. The 6D is a powerful tool and I began to refer to it as “the whale eye” because it’s lenses were big and could take passable pictures in the dark. Having a powerful camera and options for lenses let my photography wander in all directions. I took portraits, landscapes, and pictures of the stars.

For travel I replaced the Canon 6D with a Fuji X-Pro1 and now I’m considering limiting even further to a Fuji X100S. The X100s has just one lens, fixed at a 35mm equivalent focal length.

The constraint of working with such a simple tool makes me open up the kinds of photographs I try to take. Instead of wandering taking pictures of whatever looks good I have to focus and find the situations I want to photograph. The best thing to photograph with such a simple setup is people, and during my last few days in San Francisco I began to feel bold, excited, and willing to just openly ask people if I could take their picture. At the bottom are a few of the best shots that I got of my friends.

Over the next year as I travel I want to catalogue shots into themes. I think pairs of people is a good theme to keep digging into. My other ideas are to contrast clean and dirty, together and alone, and organized and chaotic situations.

On my flight to St. Louis I sat next to an art teacher who encourages of the use of constraints to drive creativity. The constraint of using photographic formulas, just one lens, and the limits of a small camera will encourage my photography to grow to fill its constraints instead of wandering aimlessly.

  1. The packing list is coming soon, I promise. [return]