One lens or two?

I'm busy writing some chapters for the eBook I'm working on about Street Photography, and I've been diverted to reading on today about David Alan Harvey. I've loved his photographs for some time now, and he's a very simple shooter, only taking with him a Leica, 28mm and 35mm lenses.

I've been busy writing about how I prefer prime lenses and that I prefer to go out with only one or two lenses with me. Often it's only the one lens I use. In the case of India and Nepal last year, the entire collection of images I made were shot with my Contax 645 and an 80mm lens. I didn't need anything else.

I'm a big subscriber to keeping things simple and cutting down on the amount of gear I travel with. It can be back breaking bringing too much kit with you, but it can also inflict a sense of creative constipation because you also have too many choices at hand. You think that bringing all the lenses you can think of will mean you're going to be prepared for just about any photo situation, but the truth is more often the case that we just confuse ourselves with what to use and when.

It takes time to master lenses, but that's not really the issue at hand. It's more about immediacy. If you have one lens on your camera at all times, you learn to work within the confines of that. I prefer primes because they make me roam a location and work the scene more. I also prefer primes because I don't have to think about different focal lengths. I make do with what I have. I also prefer one lens because there is no delay in choosing another one. I also start to 'see' every potential encounter in the focal length of the lens I have on me.

Using one lens makes it easier for me to 'visualise' and be proactive, rather than reactive. And it also means I'm much more free to move around.