The New/Old Camera Bag (Columbo on the down low)

Peter Falk as Detective Columbo

Peter Falk as Detective Columbo

So I really don’t understand this mentality that some photographers have; where they are a photographer but they don’t want anyone to know they are a photographer. They want to appear (for lack of a better word) a dip shit carrying a $3500 camera in and old tattered bag. I’m not holding any punches on this one guys… “You have got to be the most confused people on the planet,” not to mention down right stupid. Example; I spend thousands of dollars on gear, camera bodies, lenses, tripods and the like, but I have to stuff it all in an old bag and go incognito as to not let anyone know I’m a photographer. Even worse yet, I’m going spend even more money on a “designer” retro style bag to seal the deal that I am a 100% moron. I was talking to a (dare I say) photographer friend and he had his Canon stuffed in this old tattered olive drab sack. “Say Chieftain” what’s up with old camera bag? He proceeds to tell me that he doesn’t want people to think he is an “all out photographer.” He says that people get nervous that you are going to take their photo and in other situations such as public places a security guard may leave you alone thinking you’re just another tourist. And still he goes on and tells me more… for street photography it works great because “you’re playing it down” and not so obvious. Obvious about what? In case you didn’t know a camera really doesn’t capture a person’s soul; or does it?

Ok so now that I am done smashing my head into the wall. What went wrong? I ask the world, what went wrong? What other hobby, sport or business is there out in this wide open world that makes a person do this? Let’s see… hummm… thinking… Oh I know, a terrorist with a pressure cooker full of TNT and nails, he kind of hides what it is he is doing. Then there is the doctor that performs abortions, everybody knows he’s a doctor but not everybody knows what he does. …thinking… OH yeah a serial killer he kind of skates around on the “down low.” I think you see what I mean here and you can see how idiotic this whole thing is. Now we have a whole genre of photographers wandering around looking and acting like Columbo but not nearly as smart as Peter Falk’s well played character. I have always professed to be a “real person.” I don’t have too much to hide at all. I’ll be the first to admit that in the earlier part of my life I had a huge lack of confidence and always felt it was holding me back. I hated public speaking, being in front of crowds and most of all dealing with strangers, especially face to face. However I always knew I had this problem and I also knew many other people suffer from this so called lack of confidence issue and with this said, I also know not everybody can be happy go lucky clicking their heels and bee bopping down the yellow brick road. There was no “one thing” that I can put my finger on that helped me through that portal to the other side, to that other dimension where I no longer have a problem with talking to strangers or addressing a group and speaking in public. Most of the time I feel better knowing that they are just people, I’m not going to say they are normal people, after all what is normal? But they are people. So as a photographer I feel being open about what I’m doing is ok. I don’t want to “keep it on the down low,” I just want to interact with people in a proper, mannerly fashion.

So let’s get back to “Columbo on the down low” and his horrible affliction. I’m not letting this one go. I want to break it down a little bit.

  • I always liked photography but was frustrated with film.
  • Digital came along and I really start loving photography.
  • I go through the days of happy go lucky shooting with a point & shoot.
  • I move to a DSLR and I feel that I have invested enough money I need to get serious about this hobby and learn the proper way to shoot.
  • I then learn that shooting isn’t the final picture (pardon the pun) so I learn how to edit in the universe called Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom.
  • I know I’m not the best photographer in the world but I have hopes, dreams and goals for my photography.
  • I purchase more gear but stay within my budget and make realistic purchases.
  • I pursue higher learning through paid education.
  • And now I want to be a moron and buy an overpriced new camera bag that looks like an old camera bag and put a $3500 camera body with a $1600 lens in this new/old bag and make people think I am not a photographer.

I think not… not for me. I like my Lowepro bags and pouches. Correction; I love my Lowepro bags and pouches, they keep all my gear safe from my rough & tumble ways. And “yes” I don’t care one way or the other if you think I’m a photographer or not. Most of all I don’t want to come across as “guy with a camera” lord know there are enough of that genre on Craigslist. “Guy with a camera” to me is creepy.

I will agree there are right & wrong times to take photos. I guess the proper word would be etiquette. Kind of like the right & wrong times to use a mobile phone.

But I don’t see the correlation of spending $100+ on a new/old tattered camera bag and the bag telling you when to take or not to take a photo. All photographers have taken a photo at the most inappropriate time, but hopefully you learned your mistake from all the dirty looks shot back at you that you did something wrong. And most importantly it comes down to common sense, which like etiquette is tossed out the back window of most people’s lives.

See it gets even funnier than spending money on an old/new bag. It seem most of the photographers that fall victim to this “I’m on the down low” affliction also suffer from a disorder where they feel as if they are “so prolific” and advanced from the rest of the photographic populous, they have evolved to a level that you & I could never conceive. So the reason you don’t have a new/old camera bag is because you are beneath them as a photographer and you could never reach the hipster level they’re on. Yes some artists are eccentric and some artist have clout in their industry and they can pull of the “being different and running to the beat of their own drum,” but Columbo on the down low is just plain ole weird. Not eccentric just weird. If you’re Marc Hauser and you want to wear bib overalls to an executive photo shoot that’s ok. If you’re a Sigma Pro like Lindsay Adler or Nikon ambassadors like McNally & Maunter, people hang on your every word and watch what you do. Although we are not all as high caliber as the aforementioned photographers we need not take some psychotic detour that is (again for lack of a better word) down right stupid.

Me alongside the Capitol building in Washington, DC 2012

Me alongside the Capitol building in Washington, DC 2012

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