Gear Acquisition Syndrome, or GAS, is a non-seasonal disease that affects hobbyists. The symptoms are more pronounced in the male species although not rare in females especially if they are of the geeky kind. The disease is very contagious, affecting the lives of new comers to the hobby and becoming chronic over time. It is characterized by very strong fanboyism, deadly obsession for gear quality, loss of money and severe degradation of real output.
I still have some symptoms of the disease but I am coping quite well. Before my obsession in photography, I almost completely surrendered my self to guitar playing. There was a time when I became so engrossed in computer upgrades. In all cases, I have managed to heal myself naturally from the disease because I found a very potent cure:
Allow me to tell you about how I managed to cope with this disease in my other hobbies. I remember myself practicing the guitar six hours a day and actively playing in a band. We played originals and even started making an album. When I changed jobs that required me to travel a lot I had to quit the band. I had no more time to play the guitar but my gear doubled! How did I stop buying guitar equipment? By finding inspiration. Bryan May of Queen played only ONE homemade guitar for 30 years! He plays way way better than I do and has managed to produce several albums with a guitar that was made of household stuff. So I stopped my obsession on guitar gear.
Computers. This was even worse. I got so hooked on computers ever since I got my hands on an old 286 machine in high school. I learned several programming languages and even created my own virus from scratch while teaching my self how to code in assembler. I taught my self how to run Linux and was tinkering with the kernel during my first two hours of playing with this new (1997) operating system. Then came the addiction. I was totally obsessed with building new computers all the time. The upgrades never stopped. I bought and sold laptops every year. I thought it would never stop until I found inspiration in the creators of UNIX. My laptop is a gazillion times faster and better than a PDP-8 but I have not managed to produce anything closer to even a simple operating system. That was an eye opener for me.
Now let’s talk about photography. I had several P&S cameras before I even started getting serious with this hobby. My first digital was an Olympus 1.3Mp. It got replaced by a Fuji then a Canon then a Kodak then back to Canon. I was just taking snapshots. Then I got my first DSLR from Thailand which was a Nikon D60 which got upgraded to a Canon 40D then a got a backup Sony A700 and replaced the 40D with a Nikon D700 and the Sony with a Pentax K5. Seriously, THAT is so much gear whoring. I had real intentions on why I made those purchases. After the Sony A700 I realized that I had to simplify. The D700 can share the old lenses from my old Nikon film cameras but it sucked in landscape photography so I got a K5. Yeah, right. I knew it had to stop.
Where did I find the inspiration? From the old greats. There’s Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson, to name a few. They had crappy cameras and yet …. If you want modern photographers, go to 1x.com and you’ll be shocked at how bad your photos are. I have contacts in Flickr that have lesser cameras yet their photos look absolutely fantastic. Truly, it is not the camera.
I’m not saying stop buying new gear. What I’m saying is that make sure that you have maximized your equipment before thinking of getting a new one. Only you can make that decision but you have to be really serious about getting better. I hate my D700 for landscape so instead of letting it gather dust, I looked for situations in which I can make good use of it. Portraiture is an example, although certainly it’s not my favorite type of photography. Forcing myself into doing something I am not familiar with takes the boredom away while at the same time making full use of the errant purchase.
Go find your own inspiration. Just a tip: you probably won’t find it in “photography” forums.