Gear Acquisition Syndrome: Olympus Air A01 

Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) is a very real threat to one’s sanity, as it can rob you of focus on photography while appearing (at least to oneself) to do the opposite: the time one spends focussing on more or better photographic apparatuses is time not spent on improving one’s photographic technique through practical application. 

For the past few years I have indulged in more GAS and subsequent research than I care to admit – to be honest, it’s one of my escape mechanisms when I don’t want to get sucked into the whirlpool of over-thinking a problem (it’s an out of the frying pan into the fire type of result!).

A couple of months ago I found myself clicking Buy it Now on a used Olympus Air lens-style camera eBay, downloaded the app that you need to use with it, and waited excitedly for it to arrive. When it did, I leaped through a couple more technological hoops to get it to work, and spent a very brief time that night shooting with it, then repacked it and put it on the shelf with some other unloved gear, similarly acquired. 

Why didn’t I persevere? Because in the intervening years since I briefly had a Sony lens-style camera (the 1″ sensor type), I had forgotten that I didn’t enjoy the experience of a user, despite liking the end result. It also turns out that I really like having an electronic viewfinder and a conventional camera body to hold. Fortunately, I sold it quickly and for what I paid for it, so there was nothing lost by the purchase, and the buyer had a different plan for it as a drone camera.

This photo is the only one I took that I kept from that experiment – naturally, it was taken using the in-camera grainy monochrome mode I’ve always loved in Olympus cameras.


My Kinda Carry: how I made a dual-camera sling 

When a friend asked me to shoot her wedding, which was held a few months ago, I agreed to be second shooter, as I am not a professional and don’t have the experience or skills required to get the shots that people usually expect. This worked out well, as it left me to shoot documentary-style most of the day, which is what I do best. 

In the time leading up to the wedding, which was actually delayed for eighteen months after the bride was involved in a very serious collision with a truck, I had a lot of time to think about (obsess over) all the details I needed to make sure I had right. Aside from working my way through a passing parade of cameras and lenses to get a kit I was confident with, I spent time working out how to comfortably carry two cameras.

One idea that really caught my eye was the Holdfast Gear Money Maker  which is a beautiful bit of kit, but given I had no plans to keep two cameras around after the job, and certainly couldn’t justify the expense, I set out to make my own version. 

For a while I had been using a silk necktie as a camera sling, worn cross-body style, and loved how light and comfortable it felt, so I applied the same principle to making a double sling. I ordered a couple of swivel clips, slide buckles and jeans buttons online for a few dollar, and found ties in complementary colours in a thrift shop – this all cost around ten dollars. 

To make one, you will need: 

  • 2 neckties, approximately the same width and length – you could go all-out and get two the same! 
  • 2 swivel clips, 2.5cm wide (something like these), or a tripod quick release clip if you prefer to use them
  • 2 slide buckles, 3-4cm wide (like these)
  • 1 2-piece jeans button (like these)
  • Safety pins 

Here are the steps to put it all together:

  1. You want the two ties to join and make a figure 8.
  2. Start by putting a tie over each shoulder, with the wide end sitting at the top of your chest and the narrow end hanging down your back. They’re slippery, so it helps to pin them in place to your clothing.
  3. Grab the narrow end of one tie and bring it up under the opposite arm to the wide end of the other tie. Slip on a swivel clip (or tripod quick release clip if preferred) and let that drop down. Now take a slide buckle and thread the narrow end through it, then take the wide end of the tie and thread it through in the opposite direction to, and over the top of, the narrow end. Use a safety pin to pin the tie to stop the buckle working loose when there’s weight hanging on the swivel clip. (You can stitch this if you prefer a neater finish, once you have positioned the sling to your liking, but using a safety pin keeps it adjustable.)
  4. Repeat the previous step on the other side. 
  5. Remove the pins holding the ties at your shoulders if you haven’t already. 
  6. The last part is to determine the best intersect point at the centre back. To work this out, attach the clips to a camera lug at either side, and move about as you would when shooting. Use a sturdy safety pin to get the right position – for me, this was higher up my back between my shoulder blades. 
  7. When you have found the “sweet spot”, place the jeans button halves on the front and back sides of that point, so that the spike will pierce through both ties and join the smaller metal half. This is not easily removed, so make sure to get this step right! Hammer the two pieces together. I used a jeans button because I wanted a strong pivot point, but you may find an alternative works for you. 
  8. Try on and admire your new bit of kit. The weight of the cameras keeps it in place once you’re shooting, and if you don’t stitch the shoulder join, you can adjust the straps to the desired length. 

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: front view; shoulder buckle detail; swivel clip detail; back view; button detail back side; button detail front side. 

For everyday carry with one camera, I have a variety of thrifted ties, that I swap the buckle and clip on, to suit my outfits – it’s comfy and gets lots of compliments! It also helps protect my camera when stored in my bag.

A Dawning Realisations: use what you have

Well, it’s a no-brainer, surely? And yet, one that has been eluding me in my Gear Acquisition Syndrome-induced blindness. Ever since a friend asked if I would take photos at her wedding, I have been on a journey to improve my gear to a level that might not make a pro (one of whom will also be shooting that event) look at me with scorn. So, I have been trying lots of different tools – from various camera models, formats, and lenses – and feeling like I’m spinning my wheels trying to get somewhere that I possibly need not go, especially  considering she didn’t ask me to!

I suddenly realized something quite important today, while out shooting with one prime lens: my partner has only one camera with a fixed lens and only one angle of view – an iPhone; as much as I look at it with scorn, he makes some really interesting photos with it, and I often make remarks along the lines of damn your iPhone! with bad grace and a pout. My realisation was that he has been forced, by using the tool he has, to make the most of it by harnessing its limitations to his advantage, often getting a perspective I wish I had thought of capturing.

Another realisation came only a day after the first one: if I found myself without an internet connection, I would spend more time actually practising my art, instead of reading camera reviews and comparisons to all hours. 

I’m not going to make any new year’s resolutions based on either realisation, but maybe I’ll be a bit more proactive in my practice going forward.

Panasonic Lumix DMC GX7 with 14-140mm II lens and in-camera dynamic monochrome filter, edited in Snapseed app. 

Hey, Santa Baby! What I wanted for Christmas 

Well folks, I hope Santa thought you’d been nice this year. I like to sort out my own gift from so-called Santa, and this year that was a new secondhand lens: a Panasonic 14-140 (28-280 ff equivalent) superzoom for my GX7. I gave it a whirl at Christmas lunch, knowing it’s a compromise lens, but despite it not being very fast, I’m not feeling too compromised in reasonably good light with unmoving subjects, like this Christmas table decoration. As expected, it was more of a compromise with moving people, especially during a flurry of gift unwrapping, but I’m hoping it will be my go-to general lens when light isn’t a problem. 

Bottle, Cicadas, Lake: getting something right 

As a passionate amateur photographer, I spend a lot of time reading and thinking about photography, and less time doing it. After a few years with the micro four thirds system, I have tried a number of cameras from Olympus and Panasonic, and am still trying to get the right kit together. I have a couple of nice prime lenses now – all second hand, as my cameras also are – but I still slosh about in my practise like an unconfident landlubber in a dinghy. 

Yesterday I put my 20mm pancake lens on to take photos at a social event at dusk – wide aperture for low-light capability, small lens for discretion, and an effective focal length near to ‘normal’; I thought it would go well, but I forgot that I am not comfortable being that close to the action in a social setting. Consequently, I got no photos of said action, and went home feeling sad about my own shortcomings.

At least I got a couple of photos of non-human subjects, which is much more my style anyway.

Olympus Pen E-PL5 with Panasonic 20mm f1.7 lens. Straight out of camera.

Bells Beach, Victoria: perfect on a public holiday 

It’s been over a year since I posted a series of black and white photos taken at Bells Beach on the Surf Coast, and today I got to go there again. Last time I took the Olympus OMD EM5, during our brief flirtation, and shot using the grainy black and white filter; today I took the Fujifilm X30 compact and shot using the black and white (red) filter. 

There’s such a lot to see there, between the surfers and the non-surfers.