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Rucksack, Schmucksack... A continuation of Isolation Ruminations...

As ever, customary cautions apply...

  • Parental Advisory: contains bad words

  • Trigger-Warning: contains facts

  • Safe-Space Guidance: contains opinions with which you may disagree

  • Allergy Advice: contains ideas you may consider nuts

  • Political Correctness Detection: contains innuendo you may find offensive

Word up, fellow humans (and others).

I’m back.

From outer space…

Dare I say: you’ve got that look upon your face?

But enough singalong pop frivolity already… Solemn business awaits.

So buckle-up, boys and girls (and others); I spy a bunch of blatherings ahoy.

And don’t you just adore that universal collective noun that the Yanks have so generously gifted us? Bunch. 'Bunch of bananas’ or ‘bunch of flowers' was the stilted best we could accomplish before they came along and indecorously subverted our language, allowing us to carouse in the delights of: 'bunch of fish', ‘bunch of buses’ and ‘bunch of words’. Need to express extremity or make ‘bunch’ superlative? Simply add a qualifying prefix and make it ‘a whole bunch’. That’s a whole bunch of bunches right there.

But I digress.

Day 42, or thereabouts… Seriously? Geez. And as I contemplated the cheery anguish, the comical horror and the hysterical paranoia of our mutually-endured, ongoing splendid isolation over my daily bottle of scotch at breakfast today, a truly grave thought occurred to me that diminished all others. And, whether you like it or not, I decided I would share it with you here and now.

But, before I do - and while I think of it - the reviews for my previous shitpostings are in, and I can transcribe a few of the incandescent testimonials for you now…

Hugh Jardon writes: ‘Committing myself to Benjamin’s recent blog was tantamount to standing under a waterfall of sick for twenty minutes.’

Betty Swollocks exclaims: ‘I can’t get the wasted time back so send me some money, boomer.’

Wilma Finger-Do says: ‘In future I shall be recommending Benjamin’s courses, photography and writing to everyone I hate.’

Yes, my virtual friends (well, I don't have any real ones)… Scorching in on the heels of the calamitous dumpster-fire of popularity that was my preceding invective - pored over, derided and dismissed as it was by approximately several people - I propose another ‘Benjamin Proposes’.

So, those masochists amongst you back for more, indulge me again as I offer an inundation of unadulterated obfuscation. Step into my caustic tapestry of fantasy, travesty and blasphemy; celebrate my audacity, abnormality, and farcicality; and maybe even delight in the sagacity of my perspicacity. Plus, in a related personal-counselling capacity (I posit you would do well to consider these words of wisdom that I wish I’d heeded myself many years ago): sentimentality, spirituality and a sociopathic personality frequently coexist domestically and will inexorably result in emotional incapacity.

That last sentence doesn’t actually have any bearing on the rest of the paragraph that it epilogues (can ‘epilogue’ really be a verb as well as a noun?) or indeed the rest of the blog, it’s primarily there as elegiac gratuity but, simultaneously, happens to be some free romantic relationship advice that you may find comes in handy someday… Because, as Nietzsche infamously but entirely accurately declared: ‘…it’s better to have loved and lost than to live with the psycho for the rest of your life…’. *

But I digress.

Because, my legion stealthy stalkers, barefaced trolls and splendidly-isolated Coronal contemporaries, it’s time for yet another tirade of trash. More unsolicited, immaterial and biblically-proportioned impertinent shitposting about not much in particular, other than a momentary, superfluous irrelevancy which either directly affects me, vexes me or tickles me, a thing in which none of you, under normal circumstances and in your right mind (and in these trying times, I assume that many of you are not…) should have even the remotest whiff of interest. But circumstances are pretty frikkin far from normal, are they not? And in the insane clown world within which we now find ourselves imprisoned, where the documentation of random thought and the incontinent dissemination of the tedium of quotidian existence pass for art, entertainment and education, I thought, well, why not tell you what I think about bags. Seems legit, all things considered, right?

So, perfunctory preamble paraded for your perusal, riddle me this, my Coronal chums… (and now we’re back to the point): what on earth would one do in the event of a zombie-apocalypse without one’s trusty canvas shoulder bag, in which to secure one’s paraphernalia for daily survival? Look at this, if any more proof were needed to corroborate my claim…

Sexy bag-man. Sexy bag, man! See what I did there?

So there you go; you don’t have to take it from me, take it from big Willy Smith and his sartorial guide to catastrophe-endurance. If it’s good enough for him, right?!

Newsflash: As we speak, four petrifying new Horsemen of the Apocalypse are galloping remorselessly to town astride their mighty stallions of annihilation. Societal collapse, moral breakdown, governmental failure and financial implosion are all simultaneously looming on the horizon of humanity’s collective lost hopes. Shadowy, pestilential ruin is poised to overwhelm us from all quarters and a zombie-apocalyptic wasteland indeed imminently anticipates what remains of civilisation, so let’s get our damn priorities straight, shall we? Because, amidst all the disorder, disintegration and disaster, I really do have to think about replacing my old bag… Carry-On film, ooerrr innuendo intended… Yes. Frayed straps, busted zippers, torn flaps, all conspire to purge me of sanctuary of mind when I strike forth into the unknown zone with my precious gear anxiously inserted (I’ve done it again, haven’t I? Ooerrr...). Titter.

So, gather on the dockside of my imagination to welcome back the ship of casual home shopping, dear readers. Cheer our triumphantly returning hypothetical sloop of mercantile enquiry as it glides resplendently into dock following an incomprehensibly complicated expedition into the humungous dominion of dot com commerce. For I have wrestled with the foreign legion of proffered options in the verminous, pirate-infested waters of the photo-accessory trade. And, make no mistake, once you have opened that rusty receptacle of slithering maggots, the emergent crazy cosmos of confusion will baffle you senseless with its vastness; jam-packed as it is with the fakery of charlatans, bristling with the booby-traps of dimension-deception and universal insufficiency, and shamelessly celebrating that most vile of commercial notions, premeditated obsolescence. Basically, the same as almost all virtual shopping experiences we know and love today... So many questionable possibilities in the digital dominion of distant commitments, so much hopeless junk, so many dishonest distractions, so easy to screw it all up and not fully figure the financial folly of your fanciful frippery until your appointed day of deliverance.




Yes. A truly mind-boggling dominion of bagginess lies in wait for the unsuspecting bag-hunter; a world replete, in pretty equal measure, with cheap, worthless tat and extortionate, designer-labelled arrogance. So, join me as we thrust the cerebral shovel of our tiny minds into this immense dung-heap of a commercial conundrum.

But Benjamin, this gratuitous and unsolicited motion blunders irreverently into the still-throbbing exit-wound of your preceding onslaught of impertinent verbal garbage; a contagion of calamitous claptrap that has barely had sufficient time to be banished from our battered brains into the trashcan of elapsed irrelevancy. We are still bent, buckled and bedraggled from the anxieties you triggered and the stresses on our sanity you commanded so recently. Why should we entertain any further squalid cerebral frivolity from you, you sad and lonely wordy weirdo? I hear you ask.

Well, gracious readers, allow me to explain.

For years I have been abusing workshop participants and college course attendees alike. Just ask anyone who’s been on anything hosted by me. How many times have I said: ‘don’t be a schmuck, chuck the ruck’ to my captive participants? More than they care to remember, I shouldn’t wonder.

Rucksack schmucksack indeed. Finally, the fulfilling finale, the titular intention, no less! Geez. Even by my paltry standards, it’s about time… Make something complex and comedic of something simple, and make something simple and comedic of something complex. That’s my inner polemic contrarian for you. But first, as is my wont, this particular titular vernacular has a customary disclaimer… I’m not saying to be permanently rid of your faithful ruckie if, for example, you’re a vlogger with frankly ridiculous quantities of essential gear giving your bag the internal density of a collapsed star, or if you’re heading off to work for a client who has specific expectations that are, as yet, still largely unknown to you. There are times when you need lots of stuff… all your stuff, even. There are indeed times when the truth is: it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. And, of course, I appreciate some of you are mighty mountain men and women who have to take food and camping provisions with you on your excursions into the outback, so a backpack makes complete sense then. Hmmm. Outback backpack. Nice.

But I digress.

Because I’m not here to paddle in those puddles of personal proclivity or to ponder those peripheral picture possibilities. I’m here to tell you that if you’re already invested into an existing system - DSLR for example - and, under the self-delusional pretext of weight-saving, you convince yourself you need to spend thousands on a mirrorless system with its associated vast network of accessories and lenses, then the solution to your pre-existing, profligate GAS condition is not yet more profligate GAS. You’ll just end up with a marginally lighter but equally inaccessible schmucksack of clutter lashed to your back. And, even after committing the aforementioned thousands to the new gear, you’ll be finishing up with no more than a few percentage points of improvements in IQ, if any, depending on how you switch. Of course, I accept that if you are several generations behind on the upgrade path then things may make more sense in this regard. And, if you can honestly cope with any more of my blatherings, I wrote about that whole thing here: The Never-Ending Upgrade Path.

No. What you actually need, almost always, is a smaller, easier-to-access bag with fewer frikkin possessions in it. And that is my point here; my stated resolve is to rid you of the right-royal ruck of ructions in your ruckie. I know it's part of the uniform without which you may feel exposed, vulnerable or inadequate. But do yourself a favour and spend a few quid on a shoulder bag. Head out locally with just a travel tripod, one camera body and a single lens for a month and that’s it. Devote some time to developing your single-lens reflexes (I just made that up, right here, on the spot, this very moment). You will be euphoric at the liberation offered by restriction (that sounds a trifle, you know, erotic-asphyxiation... which is a thing, so I’m told…).

But I digress.

Back to the point. Freedom awaits when you do this. A shoulder bag gives you instantaneous around-the-torso swivel for immediate and frontal accessory-access (ooerrr…). Geez. Any excuse. I’m so juvenile… But hear me out, no more innuendo (probably…). You never have to put a shoulder bag down. It means no faffing with it laid out open and vulnerable on wet sand or mud. It means easy, prompt protection when the rains come and easy, prompt retrieval when they clear. It means bare-minimum contents eliminating endless field-of-view switching options that mess up your workflow. You will simply have to make something of the circumstances with the few pieces of gear you brought with you. Because you have no choice, you’ll have no choice. And this will focus your purpose and refine the anatomy of your photography. He said, rather pompously…

But it’s true.

NB: all the seaside images in this blog were shot with the same lens carried in the same shoulder bag on a walk to the same place on the same day.

But Benjamin, you noble and discerning producer of diverse and thoroughly conceived photographic excellence yet simultaneously diabolical travesty of monstrous partiality and fanaticism, what about all the ops that will be missed by the missing gear? I hear you plead.

Well, here’s my final piece of advice. Where are you going today? To the seaside? To the woods? To the town? They all demand one type of lens 99% of the time, right? Wide-angle for the coast, 70-200 (or similar) for the woods and, what? 100 mm (or thereabouts) for the town? I don’t actually know as it’s not where I go for my snaps, but that sounds about right, right? So pack the one that suits the location. And, regardless of the destination, I would always slip in a nifty fifty as well. It weighs about as much as a box of matches and slots, virtually unnoticed, into a corner of the bag or even a coat pocket. It’s not just super-light, it's super sharp, super versatile and super-fast. It takes the only two filters I ever deploy, a 10-stop and a polariser. I use threaded filters which does away with the need for multiply-complicated attachment systems; and I only ever pack them for the fifty-mill and the 70-200. But yes, missed ops you say? Well… Remember… Missed ops are everywhere in every moment of every day; as soon as you commit to one shot, you are missing another, regardless of the gear you pack. So be resolute, pragmatic and stoical in your approach. If you have brought your 70-200 plus the nifty fifty and you are desperate for more FOV, stitch a few nifty-fifty shots together.

Here’s one from a reccy I made to the Slap Vera (uh-oh...) waterfall in Slovenia last year, when I only had my old bag (uh-oh…) and my 50mm with me:

21-shot stitch-up of Slap Vera using 50 mm

So, be rid of your schmucksack today. The switch will cost you 45 quid. Not a system-swapping four and a half grand. And thank me later for saving you so much time and money because, my Coronal chums, make no mistake, I’ll be back.

Like a terminator in a blockbuster.

Or a puke in a lift.

Depending on your point of view.

* He may not have used those precise words.

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