PHLEARN MagazineThe Stuff of Simplicity

The Stuff of Simplicity

We photographers love to whine about storage. Take camera bags for example – none of us has ever found the perfect bag. If you think you have, wait six months and think again.

We can never have too much storage can we? Stuff seems to multiply to fill available space.

Let’s be honest, we love our gear, and the perceived ‘need’ to cover the bases fires up our GAS (gear acquisition syndrome). This leads to taking ever larger, crammed-full gear bags with us on our jobs and travels – because we can.

Wherever we store our stuff, whether it’s a bag or cupboard, loft or shipping container, it eventually becomes difficult to find things quickly – if at all. We begin to associate pain with our storage place, which the hedonist within is keen to avoid. But it doesn’t go away.

In fact, we just buy more stuff. It becomes easier to pile things up than clear things out. Inevitably, we lose sight of the few things of significant value, as they become buried under an avalanche of trivial clutter.

Until one day, something falls on your head. A clear sign from above that something is amiss.

For me, that day was yesterday. A day when lightning of this sort struck twice. First I opened an overhead cupboard and a lens crashed to the ground. It is now an ex lens – it is no more. My cat, who just happened to be close by, took fright and shot up a ladder into our roof loft, where my brave wife was looking for something.

We left him up there to calm down. Five hours later my wife suggested I go look for him.

Thankfully, my search was not in vain. Dormant in a small anonymous box, beneath larger boxes filled with really useless stuff – like old thermals and a 10,000-piece jigsaw – was a lovely little ca….mera. My old Olympus Trip no less. A rough diamond, showing its years, but with plenty of life left. I couldn’t wait to have some fun. Happy days.

But what about your cat, you ask?

Putting the camera to one side for a minute I went down to the kitchen, then returned to the bottom of the loft ladder and clinked a spoon against a China plate. Tada! – instant cat. Blissfully unaware of our concerns about his wellbeing and totally focused on eating. Oh, to be a cat.

So, what do we take from this?

Well, how about making some time to reflect on gear acquisition, letting go of stuff, keeping it simple, and how we can find ‘value’ in a place that we have begun to avoid.

Let’s create an opportunity today – or very soon – to remind ourselves how liberating and rewarding it can be to keep it simple.

Pop a lens on a camera body – don’t think too hard about the combination – put it in a lightweight bag and go for an adventure. Let’s see familiar and new places with wonder.

You can take really essential stuff like water, a spare battery or two, a spare memory card, and a lens cloth. But that’s it.

Wherever you venture today, and whatever gear you take with you, allow yourself a little time to step back and drink in the scene. Enjoy being uncluttered and in the moment. Hidden gems are waiting to be found. Be playful, have fun.

And, when you get home refreshed and content, treat yourself to a clear out!


Derek Snee

Derek Snee is an impassioned street, people and architecture photographer. He lives in England’s northernmost county of Northumberland with his wife and a rather large Bermudian cat. Derek loves travel, coffee, and helping others to improve their photography and Lightroom skills. Two years ago he found the answer to a puzzling question on PHLEARN’s YouTube channel and is still PHLEARNing lots today.

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