OT: Life is all about making choices.

Les Miserable. Zach Theatre.

It seems fashionable these days for bloggers to share their weaknesses, addictions, foibles and idiosyncrasies. I think I'm generally transparent enough for most of my readers to discern that I'm indecisive; long term, and too decisive; short term, when it comes to buying cameras and lenses. What seems like a brilliant strategy in the moment seems like a blunder when I look at the long game. I think you can also tell that I can ignore logic, in the service of immediate gratification, better than most. Otherwise I'd still be shooting with the two Canon 5Dmk2 cameras I bought nearly ten years ago, along with the selection of lenses which, in hindsight, I did not appreciate enough. Those cameras would have  served me just as well as the never ending conveyor belt of new camera models and brands I've dallied with over the years.

Maybe worse than others I subconsciously believe
that I'm not an adequate photographer or creative person and it's my ongoing and fervent hope that in buying camera after camera I'll find the magic camera model that creates great work in spite of my lack of talent or tenacity. If finding the right camera  promises to be the secret to success the next glitch in the logic becomes, "How will I know that this camera is the one?" What about the next one?

I recently bought, and started to use, two Nikon D800 series cameras. I had previously owned a D810 and, par for the course, sold it to invest in yet another exploration in search of magic camera models. Selling the D810 was a dunderheaded move as the D810 was, and is, a great picture maker. And a decent video tool. The image quality out of the D800s is as good, to my eye, but in tossing away the newer camera I also tossed away good video capability and a more mature and elegantly handling camera body. 

So, what do I attribute this self-destructive and financially costly behavior to? Hmmmm. I've been afflicted by anxiety for decades. The decline of the commercial photography marketplace in 2008-2009, and beyond, had a disastrous effect on my emotional well being. I started having panic attacks which were truly debilitating and caused me to question everything. It also made (and continues to make) some of my camera purchasing more erratic that it should be. 

Looking over the last ten years I've spent an inordinate amount of time doing what I consider to be "non-photographic" busy work. I spent a fair amount of time researching, writing, photographing and producing five books about photography for Amherst Media. I finished a 465 page novel. By which I mean I wrote a 465 page fiction book, not that I read one.... (I do read at least one novel a week and have for decades....)

I worked hard to maintain the status quo in my business because of my almost compulsive desire to put my kid through a great college education and to have him emerge from the experience with no debt. All of this busy work helped (at least partially) to keep the anxiety at bay. I acquired the skills (through $$$ therapy) to talk myself out of trembly, paralyzing panic attacks and learned better ways to deal with the pervasive current of anxiety that most of us afflicted with the disorder have come to accept as routine. Even the blog is a tool for distracting me from anxiety and giving me the illusion of some control over my life and my trajectory. 

So here I am on Monday morning. I've just gotten off the phone discussing the tax consequences of something in my father's accounts with a wealth management advisor. I've made an appointment for a phone conference with my father's CPA. I've made adjustments to some accounts to preserve principle in my father's investments without absolutely killing growth (I hope). And I have to say that ensuring someone else's financial health and wellbeing is an added level of anxiety shoveled on top of the garden variety. Maybe that's why the thought of buying a used Nikon D3X popped into my mind this morning and presented itself to me as a rational thing to consider. I guess this particular blog is an admission that I buy (and consider buying) gear for all the wrong reasons --- no matter how convincingly I can spin my rationales. 

The bane of having too many choices is being able to make too many choices. I know the itch for this ancient camera is really just another look under another rock in vain search for talent, acceptance, photographic competence and more. I'm thinking this is a dangerous business to be in and maybe it's time to consider a business that doesn't require (emotionally) the constant upgrade mentality. Does anybody know of one? 

At least everything I look at these days (cameras and lenses) is used, with used gear holding more interest for me than new. Perhaps I'm looking back at cameras that were proven by "better"  users and convincing myself that the older generation of gear is really Excaliber.  Who knows?

Heading in the house to toss my credit cards in the blender. But certain the banks will only send me more...


  1. Don't be so hard on yourself.

    I think it is in the DNA of many of us to want the new and the shiny. The reasons for doing so are complex. It is easy to focus on the cost of changing gear a lot, but even then, if we really add it all up, the cost of changing cameras is not "that" much - it is not "buy a home" or "putting your kid through college" sizes of cash. Even if you had kept your Canons and not been a serial gear changer, your checking account would not be that much bigger. Not life-changingly bigger.

    So what about the notion of buying gear as a symptom of anxiety? Maybe. But even then, there are more damaging outcomes - your anxiety didn't manifest as a desire to buy a Porsche and hang out with a young sweet Bulgarian after a green card.. Which happens, by the way, more than you may realise..

    I get anxiety too. It manifests itself as inaction, paralysis. A deep-seated laziness comes over me. I know that it is really fear.

    Taking pictures helps. So that leads me to ponder on what is the right gear to settle on that creates a sense of "enough". There is probably a camera system out there that you can settle on; something that simply takes away the desire to keep looking and changing.

    I do not do video, so for me the camera that has cured my G.A.S is the Fuji X-T2 system. It is truly a digital Nikon FE/FM. I do not need any more.

    I think a rational analysis of your video and stills needs, should allow a simple truth to emerge about which system suits you best. You maybe got close with Sony A7 but I could understand if they did not inspire - I find them somehow inert, lacking in something. I lost my creative mojo shooting Sony. Fuji brought it back.

    I think you seem to be a Nikon guy. Perhaps you can settle there and stop looking around.

    One last thing - travel. You are fit and well. Go on a trip. Maybe to Europe. Take pictures for the hell of it. You would enjoy new things to shoot - you must have shot every corner of Austin a thousand times.

    May you find some peace.


  2. Kirk, I have been reading your blog off and on for several years. I understand that photography is a precarious business to be in. From what I have read you seem to be remarkably successful at it, with quite a number of clients appreciative of your photography, videography and lighting skills. I suppose that a measure of self-doubt comes with the territory! I have noticed your wandering from system to system of course, each time speaking up eloquently for the virtues of the latest acquisition. I guess they all do have virtues and what you're pursuing is that one that makes all the difference. But really it is your hard-won skills that make the difference - that is what comes across to me out of all of this.

    You are a very thoughtful writer and I enjoy coming back to VSL now and again to catch up. From what I can see, you are managing to fulfill most of your wish list. By the way, your portraits are great!

  3. I think this was a courageous and honest blog entry to write. While I could never do it on the scale you have, I've traded cameras a few too many times seeking to scratch some psychological itch, no doubt. I think many folks have "self medicated" in this manner if they're honest about it.

    Recognizing it, they always say, is the first step to correcting it.

    I will end with saying that from where I sit you appear to have an amazing amount of talent, intelligence, energy, attention to detail and a great familial support system.

    Having said all that and before you get the big head, remember, I don't have any idea what the hell I'm talking about. 8-)


  4. Partake of the wisdom of Monty Python and "always look at the bright side of life." Had you not acquired and shed these different camera systems, perhaps this blog would have been a thinner, paler thing, and I would not have learned as much from you.

    I see your look back to older gear as perhaps a sign of acceptance, that there is no magic, no silver bullet, no special sauce, except that which resides in your own reservoir of things learned and remembered and applied. You're at the point where you can say to yourself, "rein it in, cowboy!" and look to the practical.

    If not, well, it's still fun to follow along with you.

  5. ", , ,I subconsciously believe that I'm not an adequate photographer or creative person. . ."

    Well, the evidence certainly belies that, but I know exactly how you feel. My own lack of confidence in the adequacy of my work (and myself) made me a very poor salesman for my business and cost me very much money that I could otherwise have made.

  6. Kirk, this is an amazingly frank, confessional posting, admitting weakness and lowering the armored facade that we all adapt in dealing with the world. Kudos to you for having the courage to publicly admit your self doubts. Fact is, many of us seek consolation and validation in our possessions. My own photographic history involved not being able to afford the best gear, at a time when I thought it was all that was holding me back from my best work. The old Whole Earth Catalog slogan "access to tools," suggested that we can do anything, if only we have the tools to do it. Now that I can afford just about anything, and I've cycled through a succession of systems and ultimate lenses, I hope I've come to the conclusion that what I have is good enough to realize whatever photographic accomplishment is within my ability. Thanks for sharing your journey, and realize that many of us are on the same path.

  7. Be thankful you have a wandering eye only for cameras and lenses, not women!

    Because the consequences of that affliction could be much, much worse and far more costly, too!

  8. Hah, I was going to say the same thing as JG except substitute sports cars for women!

    You obviously enjoy trying out new (to you) magic boxes, so I say what's the harm?

  9. Kirk lovely article as usual.At this stage I just want to issue a warning if you are seriously considering a D3X be very careful.This is a door you should think very hard about opening.This particular camera with its full pro build high res images and Nikon colour science at its best is very very very addictive.If you thought the D700 was a keeper well lets just say you have been warned.

  10. I sense a bit of sarcasm in your post. Sorry if I'm mistaken.

  11. A very honest post, Kirk, almost painfully so. However it's your honesty that keeps us coming back for more, unlike some blogs which are little more than glorified cogs in a brand's marketing machine. As others have said, there are worse and more destructive vices. At the moment I'm doing a toy camera project using a Holga and a Diana in my small town in the UK. I thought I might run out of ideas after the first few weeks, especially with the limitation of a single shutter speed and aperture but in fact I've found it totally liberating, sheer joy and I'm finding more and more pictures. We are having a glorious summer here for a change, but I'm starting to look forward to the winter and the chance to get into the darkroom and print some of these really interesting looking negatives. It is also feeding back into my commercial practice in all sorts of ways too.
    All the best to you, Kirk.

  12. Hi Kirk, I almost never respond, although I read all your posts. Bravo for telling us your truth. Confession is good for the soul.

    I could write a book (if I wasn’t lazy) about all my inner struggles... the sleepless nights. Mostly I trust I God,s love, or at least try.

    God bless u Kirk

  13. This is a great and valuable post. Thank you for the candor.

  14. Gunnlaugur GudmundssonAugust 7, 2018 at 2:50 PM

    It's called hope. I was once broke and stuck and I bought a lens I couldn´t afford or need, just to keep the flow open, i.e. to keep my anxiety at bay, to introduce hope into my life.

    That´s vitally important. Movement. Flow.

    You have it backwards, long-term you are soild and decisive, short-term you are indecisive, or in a more positive light (and just as true) flexible!

    Overall, you are a honest and nice human being, aware of the fragility of being human. Thank you!


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