"G.A.S" and the dangers of internet fora/ebay on one's sanity & financial well-being

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DanielStone

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Hey all,

I've decided to construct this short write-up to talk about "G.A.S". G.A.S. meaning that bloated, sickening feeling some(dare I say many?) internet forum readers get when they've acquired too much photographic gear. I'm writing this as a former addict/G.A.S. sufferer. I'm not writing this as a tell-you-what-to-do, as that's best done on a case-by-case basis(since we're all individuals!).

A small bit of background:
I am a nerd, a self-described camera nerd. I like gear. I like the technology and how it works. I am a product of the late 80's, and had two grandfathers who were in the engineering/construction trade. Therefore, many of my early childhood Christmas and birthday gifts from them were legos, tinker toys, Meccano sets, etc... I love building, designing, improving, updating things. "Stock" doesn't work for me most of the time, I believe in tailoring one's tools to their needs. Long story short, when I was introduced to photography, I instantly wanted to buy camera stuff. I started digital(small superzoom Kodak digicam purchased with money earned working a summer job during HS), but was gifted a Pentax K1000 and in my senior year of high school(2005-2006), I was introduced to medium format. HOG HEAVEN! Big, luscious 6x7 RB67 negatives/transparencies(these were what got me hooked!) that a friend(now RIP) introduced me too. Well, I had to have one. 18yrs old saw me starting a checking acct, putting my $2k of saved earnings from the prior year's summer working in a warehouse(under the table mind you!), and opening and eb** account. That right there(eb**) was the bees-knees to the photographic gear I so longed for(and THOUGHT I "needed" to succeed)!
Well 'this' led to 'that', which has repeated itself over so many times(I've never kept a tally of everything I've had in my hands, but it's been a lot)
Fast forward to today, 2014(wow, time flies)! A new year, and a cleaner sense of life, a vastly slimmed-down profile of gear to use in my closet, and a much cleaner vision of what to use, and when to use it.
Do I regret this decision to slim myself down equipment-wise? Yes, and no. I've realized that I had too much, and whilst standing amongst my things this past summer, I realized it was ALL TOO MUCH. Too much of this, too much of that. Time to downsize. I made up a list of everything I had used in the past month, and have pretty much sold the rest off. I decided I no longer wanted to be a "collector", but a user. I don't baby/coddle my equipment anymore. I don't give a hoot if a new scratch, bump or mark shows up on a piece of equipment. As long as it works as intended, and doesn't give me a hard time, I use it and don't really care about it's potential resale value.

I calculated(roughly) that if I had stuck with much of my 1st purchases(for each format), I'd have saved enough time(I value my time at $50/hr, not gloating, just stating a fact) to put $15,000 in the bank. Maybe more, but at least $15,000. This is just TIME(chasing the next "deal", yada yada yada), not counting lost value of resale price vs original purchase price on some items. To me, $15,000 is NOT something to sneeze at, nor take lightly.


As I write this, I think of all the things I could have done with the time wasted chasing "deals"(for intention to resell, or just for myself) instead of photographing or traveling. What a waste. As I'm visiting with family here in Australia the past month(with another 2.5 weeks to go), I've realized that experiences don't have a pricetag. TIME is something you cannot get back. Once it's gone, it's gone. I used to stay up late, scrounging through ebay, craigslist(all over the country, not just LA), etc. looking for the next deal, that elusive piece of gear that I needed to "have" in my arsenal. That piece of gear that'd make me a better photographer. I was dead wrong. What a waste of time.

I see a lot of people asking "what should I do?" here, and elsewhere. I don't comment on them for the most part now, primarily because only THEY(themselves) can answer that question as to what THEY need to do. We(as the outsiders) can only give facts, and share OUR experiences if we have ones to share.

This commercial(below) pretty much sums up the really screwed up life I see many young people living now. They live their lives looking at a screen, rather than engaging others and sharing experiences(or just living themselves). Is travel cheap? No, not really. But taking 1 trip a year(even for a long weekend) can solve a lot of issues, even if you don't take a single picture. Just get out, stop chasing gear, stop chasing those "magic bullets" that we HOPE will make us a better photographer. Use what we have available to us, and if we still cannot find ourselves able to cut it, and the only variable to reaching that pinnacle we want IS the equipment, THEN search for another tool to achieve that goal.

Sorry if this seems/ed like a rant or madman's oration, but I felt it needed to be written. Maybe only for myself; perhaps someone out there in internet-land will concur(not that I'm asking for felicitations or anything). But I do not wish for anyone to chase faeries solely for the sake of photographic satisfaction, or to appease that little voice in your head that sometimes states boldly: "You need more!". Today, my cameras are just that: tools to create with. Just like a painter's brushes, they each have different capabilities, and different ways of working, allowing for varied results at the end. I pick and choose based upon that end result desired. Be it a 5x7 sheet of film, or a cell phone in my pocket; different tools for different jobs.

Think before you act(or purchase). That's all I can recommend. Of course it's your wallet, your sanity, your household and your life. I just wish you the best in your endeavors.

All the best for 2014, get out there and photograph more! Check out the Classifieds sections, just don't live there. Gear is replaceable, lost time and experiences are not.

cheers,
Dan
 

trythis

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Cool, and thanks to you and other writings like yours I curbed my Gas attack before it started. I still look for great deals on gear in the physical world [and Apug clasifieds!] and find them occasionally. Finds are much more rewarding that way. Occasionally I find something amazing that requires another item to use it and try it out and there is eb** for that. I also find great deals and sell them to pay for film. I do enjoy trying out new (old) equipment to see if it informs my work, but that idea that equipment will make you a better photog is a false argument.

The "your camera doesnt matter" page for Ken Rockwell's site helped keep things in perspective as well.
 

Kc2edh

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That's not a madman's oration at all. I think we're in the same boat here. I graduated college in '07 and landed a full time teaching job right away, giving me a full-time salary as well. Of course, one thing led to another and I found myself chasing "magic bullets" on ebay all the time. Once or twice (maybe more) a month a package would be waiting for me when I come home, with what I was hoping would be "just what I've always wanted". After a year or two of this, I ended up with more photo and darkroom gear than I could ever need. I soon found that there were cameras I used all the time, and others that just took up space. I would buy one that was highly recommended, only to find it was a complete pain in the you-know-what and did not fit in with my photographic style at all.

My cameras aren't kept in a display case, and I don't wear cotton gloves when using them. In fact the majority of my photography happens while hiking, camping, canoeing, or other backcountry travel. I take best possible care of them, but still things get wet and dirty. What's the point in having nice things if they're just going to sit at home? Cameras are just tools. The end viewer of a photograph doesn't care what you used, as long as you can convey your artistic intentions. A great photograph can come from any camera, whether Rollei, Leica, Yashica, or Holga. I couldn't agree more with the advice to keep only what you use, and pass along the rest!

Although I do have to add, I'm very thankful to have stocked up on film. I started buying at a time when lots of pros were cleaning out their studios, and great Velvias, Provias, and Ektachromes (and bricks of B&W!) were available for a pittance. My freezer has enough to live off for years!
 

Steve Smith

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I have seventy two film cameras. This will be seventy three when my newly purchased Bronica S2 turns up!

Half of them are a collection I started about ten years ago and the other half are my father's collection which I inherited a few years ago.

I think I am as much a fan of vintage cameras as I am of photography.

In real life, I am an electrronics engineer but I am generally more impressed by a mechanical solution to something than an electronic/programming solution.

You only have to take apart a Compur shutter to see real ingenuity in design. Then add the fact that it was designed on a drawing board without the benefit of CAD and 3D modelling to trial things before commiting to tooling (which is expensive if you get it wrong) and you will realise what a great achievement these things are.


Steve.
 

Steve Smith

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whenever I start cruising KEH's website and building a new camera system,
I know it's time to go out and use the camera's I've already got

Hmmm. What an interesting idea!!


Steve.
 

jernejk

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You discovered the first noble truth of Buddhism. Life is stressful, and in big part the stress is the result of our own actions ;-)
 

momus

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Great post. I agree, it's more than the money, it's all the time ill spent that is lost forever. I finally got all the gear swapping out of my system by buying nearly everything in sight, reselling it, and keeping what worked. Nearly always the only people that make money on these transactions are ebay and paypal. Since I hate both companies, it was fun getting away from them. The gear swapping had it's positives. Now I know what all these lenses/cameras can do, so no need to buy them again. I still buy a little more than I need, but it's cheap stuff, a lot of which is in marginal condition and gets repaired by me. That's enjoyable, and if it doesn't go as planned I'm out $15. Not a tragedy. The internet addiction I find is much harder to break, as there are a multitude of things to be done w/ that besides buying and selling. Putting a time limit on your usage is about all you can do, save from just disconnecting the thing.

There's usually a translation issue w/ Buddhist tests. One other way to look at this is that life is inherently temporary and conditional, which irritates us, as we want permanency in an impermanent world. Fortunately, there is a way out of this situation. It's very instructive to see that getting what we desire never leads to any lasting happiness, it just sets up a feeling of vague dissatisfaction and a reflexive desire for something else as soon as we get what we want. The grass is always greener and all that.
 
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DanielStone

DanielStone

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You discovered the first noble truth of Buddhism. Life is stressful, and in big part the stress is the result of our own actions ;-)

Well I'm a Christian, but I believe I understand what you mean. I have decided to live my life as stress-free as possible(although there are times when I do get stressed beyond control, then I pray :smile:!)

PREPARATION is the key I've found. Having things laid out(not like clothes the night before, but say in planning a birthday party for someone, for instance)... Having a plan; at least a sketch, not a beautifully-drawn set of blueprints for life is key to being prepared. Not living a "predictable" lifestyle, but one that is easy to maintain, but still allows for uninhibited growth(while under maintenance to make sure it grows correctly).

Being 25yo, almost 26, I'm glad I've come to recognize this aspect of my life early on before more time, energy and money went to waste. Priorities have changed for me, and I now want to work, travel, visit friends and family more, rather than sitting on a computer(even reading APUG :laugh:), or even making pictures. Experiences we've had, and can recollect in our minds weigh nothing, equipment we schlep around weighs a lot in comparison. Same with life. Stress weighs us down, but good experiences, positive time with friends and family props us up, and lifts our spirits out of the muck. Almost transcendental(well, maybe that's a bit far :wink:!)

Thanks for letting me 'spill the beans' about my experience with this, but I don't wish others to go down this path that I've journeyed for 5+ years too long. I wish I had been to this point of mental clarity 4yrs ago. Alas, it must have been for a reason, and now I'm moving onto a new stepping stone in life.

Happy 2014 ya'll, thanks for letting me share my experience

-Dan
 

benjiboy

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At some point G.A.S. like any obsessive behaviour becomes mental illness, I'm not qualified to know at what point.
 
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DanielStone

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At some point G.A.S. like any obsessive behaviour becomes mental illness, I'm not qualified to know at what point.

I don't know if I could/would group myself into the category of "addict", but it became an addiction to buy. That's for sure. Maybe like some women and shoes :wink:(ducking head now :whistling:)

I bought stuff I *planned* on using, used all of it at least a few times, but much just sat around until I re-sold it.
 

darkosaric

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When I have GAS – I go and buy some B&W papers, or some film and chemistry. Only cameras that I am still buying are cheap flea market founds – I play a little and then sell on big auction site for 1€ start :smile:.
 

BrianShaw

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... but I don't wish others to go down this path that I've journeyed for 5+ years too long. I wish I had been to this point of mental clarity 4yrs ago. Alas, it must have been for a reason, and now I'm moving onto a new stepping stone in life. ...

Growing up is fun and exciting, eh? Congratulations. But have no regrets about your "past" life. Always remember how fun it was... even if you change your approach. But also remember that you are who you are, so be patient with yourself as you go through life's transitions. Not bragging... but I'm the man you say you wish you were. if I were to have one regret in life (which I don't, but if I did) it would be not having enough fun when I was 18 - 25. I was and still am a bit of a bore; all I cared about was school and work and fun came after that. I actually had plenty of fun but all of my friends always had a lot more fun than did I. I still have and use the first camera I own (in each format) and I have very few that are "collectable". I would be still driving the first car I owned (a real pice of sh!t that kept me turning wrenches and having grease perpetually under the fingernails) if it didn't die from old age. All of my buddies drove "cool" cars while mine just got me where I needed to go (most of the time). Oh, well, the motorcylcle was fun but I'm glad that phase is over. I must be part cat because I should have died a couple of time from that. Fortunately I am still on my first wife... which is a major compnent of happiness in my life. Enjoy your next 5 or 10 years in your new configuration and then try marriage and kids! Happy New Year Dan.
 

Vonder

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Unless one is pursuing science as a career, most lives are nonproductive as a whole. We waste more time doing non-essential things because we can; we choose to do them. Photography, collecting gear, web surfing, it all falls into the same category. It's always easier to do the easy thing. That's why they call it easy.

Nothing new here folks. It's just human existance.
 

snapguy

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Iowa, huh?

I am loathe to argue with someone from Ioway, a place which I have a long-standing attachment to, but science is the only discipline that is worthwhile? Look around you. Our science and stupidity are destroying our fragile planet. As the poet said, "man(kind) is the cancer of the planet." And a lot of man-kind-ofs with slide rulers got us here (with a lot of help from other folks).
But back to GAS. I have collected close to 100 cameras and lenses, mostly analog, but with a new year adawning I am beginning to use them.
I will be attempting to use 35mm film in cameras designed for 127. I have 4x5 and 2 1/4 x 3/14 cameras I am assembling from scratch and will try paper negatives in them when I get the FankeGraphics glued together.
Then there is glass negatives and Tintypes I want to try.
I purchased an ancient Kodak Rainbow #2 camera which has a cardboard frame and want to see what quality I can wring out of it.
My first camera, from before 1950, was a Brownie Reflex. I now have another copy and will see if I an get a photo half as good as the one I shot of a steam engine when I was 12.
If anyone thinks I could pass up a Yashicamat in very fine condition that boasts two German-made lenses is wacko. Especially at the tiny price I paid.
Shrinks will tell you that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome is "insanity." Engineers, bless 'em, say no, it is "testing."
 

Jim Jones

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Unless one is pursuing science as a career, most lives are nonproductive as a whole. . . .
??? Science is fascinating and sometimes productive. However, I live in farming country. People have to eat. Most of my neighbors are quite productive. Science can come later. I'm too dumb and too poor to be a farmer, but can afford an accumulation of cameras. It's rarely productive, but a lot more fun than the tedious long hours my neighbors need to feed us.
 

ntenny

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Unless one is pursuing science as a career, most lives are nonproductive as a whole.

In addition to what others have said, let me say with high confidence that many lives spent in scientific careers are "nonproductive" too! I've seen the academic publish-or-perish game at close range, and it results in a lot of people doing research because they need something to publish, not because a problem needs solving.

I don't mean to diss basic research, which is incredibly valuable and important as a whole, but the mechanisms for awarding grants, tenure, and professional prestige in academia can get almost totally decoupled from the realistic value of the research. When I was finishing my thesis and deciding not to apply to academic jobs, a fairly prominent mathematician told me that he thought the average readership of a published mathematical paper was slightly less than one, even if you included the referees.

Much depends on what you mean by "productive", of course. Whatever one does that draws a paycheck, it's "productive" in the sense that someone thinks it was worth paying for, right? And it puts food on your family, finances your camera addiction, and keeps a person from becoming an idle, destructive vacuum with nothing to do with their lives.

-NT
 

BrianShaw

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...
Much depends on what you mean by "productive", of course. Whatever one does that draws a paycheck, it's "productive" in the sense that someone thinks it was worth paying for, right? And it puts food on your family, finances your camera addiction, and keeps a person from becoming an idle, destructive vacuum with nothing to do with their lives.

... and much also depends on what is meant by "essential". In fact, it also depneds on what is meant by "easy".
 

ntenny

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This commercial(below) pretty much sums up the really screwed up life I see many young people living now. They live their lives looking at a screen, rather than engaging others and sharing experiences(or just living themselves). Is travel cheap? No, not really. But taking 1 trip a year(even for a long weekend) can solve a lot of issues, even if you don't take a single picture. Just get out, stop chasing gear, stop chasing those "magic bullets" that we HOPE will make us a better photographer. Use what we have available to us, and if we still cannot find ourselves able to cut it, and the only variable to reaching that pinnacle we want IS the equipment, THEN search for another tool to achieve that goal.

It's a good rant, but I'm of two minds about it. On the one hand, of *course* get out from in front of the screen and have a comprehensive life---I think that's (1) important, (2) not new, and (3) not particularly confined to the young. (People have squandered their lives sitting in front of televisions (televisia?) for as long as there have been televisions, and it seems to me that a life squandered on the internet is unambiguously a step forward from that. Anyone who disagrees cannot possibly have understood how mind-numbingly horrible the sitcoms of the 1970s were.)

But on the other hand...would it be safe to say we've all learned a bit from hanging around APUG? I certainly have---and some of it's led to GAS, for better or worse, but some of it has also led to "hey, I know how to make this photograph work!", to "I gotta get out and try that!", and to "Let's see what happens if I..."

I'm looking around the photos in my office, and of the ten that were actually my doing, six owe their existence to knowledge and/or GAS that came directly from APUG. This isn't true of everyone, but I think I do some of my best work while exploring tools; maybe thinking about the new toy gets my intellect out of the way and lets my right brain see the image without interference, or something like that, but whatever it is, it seems to work. So I'm not really inclined to write off GAS as intrinsically the enemy of productive photography.

Maybe photographers can be divided into "Miles" and "Coltrane" camps; one group tends to work narrow-and-deep, taking a specific set of tools and working them for everything they're worth, concentrating on well-defined ideas and meticulously matching the process to the idea, where the other group takes a sprawling, all-inclusive approach that embraces an enormous disorderly territory and spins off ideas in a vast carnival of productive chaos.

-NT
 
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DanielStone

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<snip>

This commercial(below) pretty much sums up the really screwed up life I see many young people living now. They live their lives looking at a screen, rather than engaging others and sharing experiences(or just living themselves). Is travel cheap? No, not really.

<snip>

cheers,
Dan


[video=youtube_share;TUGmcb3mhLM]http://youtu.be/TUGmcb3mhLM[/video]
 
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Maybe photographers can be divided into "Miles" and "Coltrane" camps; one group tends to work narrow-and-deep, taking a specific set of tools and working them for everything they're worth, concentrating on well-defined ideas and meticulously matching the process to the idea, where the other group takes a sprawling, all-inclusive approach that embraces an enormous disorderly territory and spins off ideas in a vast carnival of productive chaos.

-NT

But I don't know who's who. :smile:

s-a
 
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