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Sisyphus and the Next Shiny Thing

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

David Hayden Photography

A story of disappointment and stuff!

Rupert was sitting in his mostly abandoned studio with his head down in despair. He had been doing his best to become a world class photographer. He had a fortune tied up in gear, a library full of books he had read. He had drive, passion, and did I mention a ton of gear and software.

He was ready to pack it in. Take a match to the studio, burn it all down and hide in the mountains away from his family so he wouldn’t have to admit his failure. Lydia, his devoted wife, could not have been more supportive of this dream, how could he tell her, nothing was working.

Rupert pondered, “Why, with all this investment, am I not the photographer I want to be?”

The next shiny thing, a.k.a Sisyphus

Rupert’s photography was actually pretty good, but his quest for the latest and greatest had become a burden. He could see himself on top of the hill only to roll back every time a new product or software entered his universe. How can this be?

The marketing experts and reviewers all proclaim better productivity, better gear equals better pictures, with A.I. the world will never know your work is sub-standard.

Sadly, it didn’t work for poor Rupert.

“Lydia sets him straight?”

Evening had fallen and Lydia had not seen Rupert in hours. She called out, but a response never came. Thinking Rupert probably couldn’t hear her out in his studio, she wandered into the converted garage where she found him putting his gear into a large box with “FREE” boldly printed on the side in permanent marker.

“What the Hell?”, she exclaimed. Rupert, startled by the intrusion meekly started, “I’ve been meaning to tell you . . .

“You STOP right there,” Lydia said. “I’m going to tell you something and you’re gonna listen.” Lydia was frustrated and tired of watching Rupert feel sorry for himself and continually trying to spend his way out of it.

“You have bought everything imaginable to try and improve your photography.”

“You have done everything imaginable EXCEPT practice. All your freaking toys and software can’t help you if you don’t put in the work. There are no shortcuts to continuous improvement. “

“So here is what you’re going to do . . . Let’s see . . . Grab that camera over there, and here is a prop, now shoot that prop, again and again and again, even if it takes 1000 shots, until you get a picture you are proud of.” “No gadgets, no fancy software, no AI assistance, just you and the camera.” “Only then after you’ve done that, do you even think about playing the ‘poor me’ card.”

“And if you do play the ‘poor me’ card, my response will be, DO IT Again!”

What Lydia knew that Rupert didn’t.

When people get of the mindset that the only thing between them and their dream is not having the next shiny thing, they are insecure. They don’t have enough confidence. They see the tool or software as a panacea for all their shortcomings. Stuff, does not overcome laziness or lack of practice.

Don’t get me wrong, you need the right tools. But the trap Rupert fell into, that we all occasionally fall into, is thinking some tool will free our creative spirit, it won’t.

In fact, too much stuff dampens our creativity because we start depending on the tool instead of ourselves. When we limit our tools, we invite our muse to reveal herself. Only then do we benefit from the next shiny thing.

I speak from experience.

I have a dozen or more cameras. Some are film, some are digital, some are props, some are workhorses. To go with the cameras, I have a wide range of lenses for various purposes. I used to lug a bunch of this crap around just in case I needed to be prepared for what life presented.

After years of backaches and sore shoulders it occurred to me, 99% of the time I use one body and two lenses. Having become quite adept with the limited gear has made me far more effective with the special purpose gear.

I always carry 2 cameras, a lightweight DSLR with a 17-70mm and a decades old Canon point and shoot. These are for capturing the serendipitous moments, the unplanned stuff. I only break out the good stuff when I have a specific project or an image in mind and a plan to capture it.

My life is simpler and my muse in not buried underneath a ton of gear. AND . . . my photography is better because of it.

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