Your Most Important Piece of Equipment-You
Your camera, lenses, tripod, laptop, assistant, car? It is not really any of these things. I’m guessing that you would completely miss the number one thing.
As photographers we take a lot of risks climbing out on limbs, scurrying down a dear trail on the side of a cliff hundreds of feet above the river with all our equipment trying to get that shot of the waterfall no one else has and wandering into wild lands alone. By nature, taking care of ourselves is not always our first thought.
Most of us have at least learned the hard way to carry some water if we are in an area where there are not accessible streams of drinking water so the things I am talking about are a little more subtle, like, sleep, diet and ways to help reduce the stress of shooting weddings, starving artist syndrome, sitting around post processing and the like.
1.Let me start with sleep.
Last week I did a fantastic nature photography workshop that was combined with the business of photography workshop at the Cascade Center of Photography here in Bend, OR.
Bend has an abundance of great places to photograph; of course they are best at sunrise. Being up north in the summer means sunrise is at 5:22AM and since the places are still under snow in some areas and out a little ways, that was a 3:30AM wake up both days. Then we came back for classes and then some twilight shooting, which because dark does not come until 9:30PM, ended around 11PM then you go home, clear out your chip, browse some of what you did because you just can’t help it and back up at 3:30AM and so on.
At 50 yrs old, if that workshop had been one day longer I think I would have dropped. I am still, a few days later, feeling a little sluggish.
If you are going to be regularly trying to catch the sunrise. You need to leave the party early and get some sleep. There is a lot of brain activity in getting that perfect shot. Your brain needs sleep.
Diet is very important. Eat breakfast, and I mean breakfast, protein type stuff, not a bowl of Fruit Loops and a doughnut and call it good. Again, your brain works on protein. Carbs are great for a short burst, which is why I carry nut based granola bars in my camera bag in case I run out of blood sugar down the beaten path, but the long day is sustained with protein.
If you’re in post processing mode. Eat, I mean like real meals……surface, step away from the computer and eat some food more than breakfast. Buy real soup, like hearty beefy vegetable sirloin stuff you can heat up fast. FYI …Spagehtti O’s have no vegetables in them and beer has more food value than Top Ramen. If that’s too hard, keep a bowl of trail mix or something within reach. Refill it at breakfast.
You thought I wasn’t going to go there I bet? We get all the exercise we need out shooting right? Nope.
The modern day photographer, who is now also the developing lab, spends a small amount of time in the field, usually in chunks. Then it’s time to post process and we spend days, months even, holed up with our laptops sitting and staring at every pixel.
Make time to move around and see some daylight. Funny enough what does it for me is being involved in a couple of daily shoot websites. I have to go out or get up and shoot something every day. Or close to every day.
The other thing about long bouts of post processing without some form of exercise routine, is that you get out of shape without realizing it, then when you do go out in the field you are more likely to get injured.
Unlike what people who think you have the coolest job in the world think, there is a ton of stress in being a photographer. The day to day battle of money and the work of business verses art aside, shoot ONE wedding with unruly kids and a b*tch of a bride, or a full day out on an expensive and/or exhausting shoot where you got the best images of your life….to find your forgot to reformat and all your stuff is ……gone…somewhere else and you will understand the value of having some plan for regular stress reduction besides sleep and food.
Yoga, massage, meditation, private time with good book, date night with a spouse (we have half price sushi night here), a giant bathtub, and not so girly things like, going out with friends and shooting things (not talkin’ with a camera…also weapons make great props so there is double value in them.) fishing, poker night, a day off with your horse, car, motorcycle etc.
Have a regular mostly unbreakable schedule for that and your life will be better, much better.
I know you probably knew all these things but it’s good to have a reminder once in a while (especially about the sleep)!
Photo credits: Scott Prokop.