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A friend once told me it is wiser to invest in experiences than in obtaining more possessions. Experiences last a lifetime after all. Not to mention there are few items that actually last that long, as it is not in the interest of the companies that produce them. The sad truth is that in today’s consumer society the more you own, the more it actually owns you… Enter minimalism.

No, I’m not saying to go live in a monastery. All I’m saying is to spend your money on experiences or items that really add value to your life. As another good friend once said: there is nothing wrong with being frugal. In fact, there are a lot of reasons to consume less, because you:

  • have more money to spend on experiences or items that really add value;
  • make less of an environmental impact;
  • have more freedom (both financially, mentally and time-wise);
  • get lots of other perks like saving loads of time when moving, plus your house is easier to clean.

Minimal living and photography

The philosophy of minimal living applies to photography as well. Both in terms of taking actual photographs, being in the field, and the gear we buy. Photography is a huge market. We live in an age that photographers themselves are actually a bigger market then stock photography. Hence, you can easily be overwhelmed and tempted with what’s on offer. So when you start building your camera equipment choose wisely. It is generally best to invest in objectives then in camera bodies. And when you do buy glass, buy the best you can afford, because it will keep its value. I am still using a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM for example which I bought in the analog era and that still works perfectly. The same general principles apply to buy photography accessories. Do I use this frequently or not? Unfortunately, I have a wide range of stuff that can only be used in specific conditions, like underwater and studio photography. But still: evaluate what you own and sell the stuff you don’t use.

Another way of thinking about minimal living and photography is by looking at the weight. The more (and heavier) stuff you have to carry on your back, the less fun it is. AKA: the lighter you travel, the more time and energy you have to enjoy the experience. Ultralight traveling is very inspirational in that regard and you can take away useful lessons from that philosophy. So be selective when packing your backpack before going out into the field. I might eventually switch to a mirrorless camera, but because I shoot wildlife (often fast-moving) this technology is not for me yet. I increasingly do leave my battery grips and tripod at home though. My next trip to Ethiopia should see me packing a minimum amount of clothes as well. Maybe even only two pairs of quick-drying, odor-free wool boxers… 🙂

The same principles can be applied to your travel pace: better to see one place really well than five places, not at all. You really get to learn a place instead of buzzing around, and you usually end up with a better portfolio because of it.

Further reading

Check out the following great blogs:

  • Alastair Humphreys, adventurer and godfather of microadventures, writes passionately about how to find more time to enjoy the outdoors;
  • Mr. Money Mustache writes humorously about how to save money so you can pursue your own goals.

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