EDC camera? Take it with you everywhere you go, every single day or just for when you feel like shooting?
In the depths of the web in recent years, the term ‘EDC’ has triggered schemata and imagery of emergency mini lock knives, bracelets made of parachutist ‘survival’ cord and bottle openers that can smash car windows and cut their way through seatbelts in an accident. If I may be so bold as to steer the connotations away from that kind of ‘Everyday Carry’ and direct the term towards more photographic pursuits, I should like to pose this simple question:
Should you carry your camera with you, ready to shoot, everywhere you go OR is a camera something that you should only take with you specifically when you want to shoot it, when you feel that it is a good time to do so?
Although I always had a certain kind of jealousy towards the people who had the self-discipline to force themselves into the burden of never leaving home without their camera, I must confess to never being quite bothered by it enough to actually change my ways.
Towards the end of last year, I resolved to do something about this, purely as an experiment. I forced myself to never leave my abode without my camera. At the time, it happened to be a Leica M2 but it doesn’t really matter which camera it is, the best one is the one you have with you right? I had to adjust to checking the camera was on my mental checklist upon walking out the door…keys? Check… Phone? Check…Old film camera with a roll of 400 film in it ready to go? Check!
In the case of an old manual camera with no meter and manual focus lenses, this meant that just taking the thing with me was only the start. I also had to get into the habit of having the lens pre-set to a manual zone focus length that I had memorized off by heart and quickly adjust the exposure every time I changed my environment for any period of time.
When I jumped into the car on a bright Bangkok day, I had to have the right exposure set and rely on film’s great exposure latitude to make up for any errors that I might have made. When I went into a building such as a mall with indoor lighting, I would twiddle the dials here and there one more time, safe in the knowledge that if anything happened in front of me unexpectedly, I would be ready to catch it on film forever. It was a faff, but I got used to it quite quickly.
The payoff that I was looking for was catching more shots, more often and getting more photographic bang for my buck from the great equipment that I already owned. It’s good to have a nice working condition camera that you love, but one that already has a few scratches here and there to relieve you of the worry of having to be too precious with the bloody thing, more tool than jewel.
I must admit, although it sometimes seemed like a huge pain in the ass, and although I often got some quizzical looks and random questions from people as to why I had a camera in my hand ready to go like a journalist even when sitting down for my lunch, it did yield some great moments on film. Gone were those ‘If I had my camera with me, that might be a good shot’ kind of moments and I was also surprised just how often those moments happened…almost daily in fact.
I learned that there is definitely some potential to forward one’s photography by being ‘that guy’ who carries a fully loaded and pre-set up camera with you everywhere you go. The shot here of a random old London bus driving along a Bangkok back street was grabbed by myself from the back seat of a Motorbike going the other way and I only got to record this image by having the right camera set up correctly in my hand ready to go as soon as I saw it drive towards me. I love the bizarre and eclectic feel of the image and would never ordinarily have got it any other way. It’s not as though you see that in the Big Mango every day.
The lady pulling the funny face looking out of the bus window at the world was a strange moment. I had seen her and didn’t fancy my chances of getting the shot in time before she moved but the camera was right there on my front passenger seat, I was sat at the traffic lights on red. As it transpired, I even managed to get my driver’s side window down, mentally double check everything about the exposure setting and look I wanted from the shot and still capture her just as she was in the moment(completely oblivious to me sitting so close up to her in an adjacent vehicle). Time froze just enough for me in a way that is so rare when doing candid public photography of others.
I think I am going to try and continue this practice for the rest of the year.
So, are you an EDC kind of photographer or is lugging your rig everywhere 24/7 just too much of a pain for you to deal with? And also I suppose, are you fine with that?