Discontinued cameras. My nemesis.


Sadly, the camera in this photograph just got discontinued. 
for most brands that might mean a drop in price. 
It's a Leica so it will first become scarce and then ramp up in price.
Sad...I wanted to buy a second one brand new. They're mostly gone.

News flash! I have always been a very anxious person. I think it's mostly hereditary but one never really knows. Sometimes my anxiety is almost completely under control for years at a time. Once in a while it surfaces at inconvenient times. One source of psychological discomfort is when "performance anxiety" bubbles up and interferes with my enjoyment of swim practice. This happens more than I'd like. If I swim in a very competitive lane my dysfunctional psychology places a great emphasis on the "vital importance" of maintaining a fast pace throughout. Of keeping up.  Put me at the head of a fast lane, having to keep track of intervals and setting the pace, and I can feel the ramp up of my anxiety symptoms almost instantly. My breathing gets more difficult, my heart races, my muscles get really tense, etc. It's the classic "fight or flight" response to self-imposed stress. And it's been this way, on and off, for as long as I can remember. It's an incredibly tiring way to swim...

The funny thing is that at swim practice no one is keeping score, no one is shaming slower swimmers, no one expects you to be at the top of your game every time you get in the water. But my brain isn't buying the safe space concept.

I talked to a psychiatrist about it at one point. He asked which workouts or types of competition were most stressful for me. For day-to-day stuff I could readily identify our typical Saturday workouts. Today, for instance, I was in the pool surrounded by an Olympian and four or five NCAA All Americans (in adjacent lanes, not mine). My lane was filled with younger swimmers who crave tough workouts. My goal at 66 is to get into the lane on time, keep up with the pace set by the lane leader, and try not to get lapped on longer distance repeats. I've always been a much better sprinter than a distance swimmer....  But the reality is that there would have been no judgement if I'd just parked myself in a less competitive lane. And enjoyed the workout a little more.

If we talk about maximum swim anxiety it would have to be in competitions when swimming on a relay and swimming the butterfly leg. I hate the idea of ever letting my teammates down.  Sometimes all of this seems insane to me. Why, at 66 years of age should I be comparing my performance in the water with people half my age and at least half a foot taller (larger wingspan is a great advantage...)? But, as Churchill is always quoted as having said, "Never Give Up."

My friendly (also a swimmer) psychiatrist suggested that I try, just as an experiment, taking a small dose of an anti-anxiety medication before the next really emotionally stressful workout; just to see the effect. OMG. I've rarely been more relaxed or faster in the water. But the idea of gulping down class five narcotics, which are highly, highly addictive, is so counterproductive to the idea of the healthy lifestyle that swimming symbolizes for me. It's not a solution. Not mine at any rate...

I found a video on a YouTube swim channel (Effortless Swimming) that basically answers my quest. The basic premise of the video is: You want to go faster, further, etc. without exhausting yourself? Then...don't try so hard. The video advised relaxing and enjoying the swims more. Forgetting about pace clocks for a while and any whiff of competition and just re-learn (or, for me, learn) how to relax and have more fun with the exercise. 

Today I slipped down into a slower lane for the last half of the practice, a territory which was less challenging in terms of performance. I opted to go third in the line up. I let the two people in front of me set the pace. Instead of focusing on times or speed I focused on just relaxing and not trying so hard. The result was a bit revelatory. I was nearly as fast but with much less physical effort. Controlling the emotion of the swim seems more important than even fine-tuning technique. And at the end of workout I left the pool with so much more energy than usual.

And then it dawned on me that the same mindset that I have brought to the pool spills over into my photography. I've been working as a corporate/commercial photographer for nearly 40 years straight and I can't remember a job I didn't worry about the night before. Methodical double-checking of lists. Planning out alternate routes to the shoot. Waking up in the way too early morning, before my alarm clock went off to make sure (again) I'd packed what I needed. Etc. And it seems that the stress of work never dissipates until the files have been uploaded and archive, the bill sent, etc. I probably doubled my perceived work load over my career just by dealing with the additional effects of stress. And for no good reason. 

One of my friends asked me a few weeks ago if I still got stressed or nervous before jobs. I answered honestly, "yes. not as much as before. but yes." He asked, rhetorically, "even after having done thousands and thousands of headshots? You must be able to do them in your sleep!" 

I stopped and thought about it for a second but I had to admit that even when anticipating an in-studio headshot, with lights I've used a thousand times before, I still get nervous on the day of the shoot. And unlike most of my photographer friends I find it uncomfortable to stop by somewhere for a beer on the way home from a shoot. I'm not happy or de-stressed until I see the images on the monitor and watch them being uploaded onto cloud storage and a hard drive. 

It seems logical to take the swim advice (don't try so hard) and see if I can overlay that onto my photography. It would certainly make life more comfortable. And the odd thing is that the underlying need to perform isn't about anything existential. I could screw up every business engagement from now until I drop dead and not worry about a fee or lost income. It's more about never wanting to screw up. Never wanted to do less than I think I am capable of. It's a tragic flaw. But I'm working on that....

Following along with the theme of aberrant psychology I have to bring up how distressing it is to me when my favorite cameras get discontinued. It's not very logical. But the discontinuation of the Leica CL is a case in point. I bought one a year ago. I've been using it more and more as I've become more comfortable with the operation and I also have a good idea of just what to expect from the camera when I shoot with it. It has a flaw or two. It could be a couple millimeters taller so my pinky fits better on the right hand side. Leica could have spec'd a beefier battery for the camera so it would work longer on a charge. But for the most part it's a great, small, agile camera that's capable of helping to make really nice images. 

I had the thought a few weeks ago that I might pick up a second body just for one of those times when I decide to travel somewhere with the expectation of taking street photographs; some place like Istanbul. I'd have two matched bodies so if one had issues I could seamlessly switch. But I waited too long. By the time I got serious about the second CL purchase Leica announced the camera's retirement and within days the prices shot up and then the cameras became as scarce baby formula. 

And in light of my recent interests in motivation and brain science and self-induced stress I think I've discovered that my need to have multiple copies of specific cameras is a direct result of the same anxiety I talked about before. While I know that in real life cameras and lenses don't make a big difference and, for the most part, are easily interchangeable, I am superstitious and irrational enough so that when I get a really great image from a camera I then allow myself to believe that the camera is "special" or "has a certain look that no other camera can really reproduce" and I feel like I want to assure that I'll always have continued access to that camera in order to perform at the top of my game. It's a totally irrational way of looking at cameras.... 

Of course the logic of hindsight should reveal to me that there have been many cameras in the past that I elevated to that special status only to later realize that progress moves onward and the cameras I thought were "the magic bullet" had been superseded by improved cameras and weren't nearly as irreplaceable as I'd painted them to be. While I do think the "feel" of a camera is important it's certainly not everything and even some of the most annoying cameras I've used have, in shining moments, returned great shots. 

I'm not going to chase over-priced used Leica CLs. I'm going to heed the advice I got about swimming and not try so hard to mythologize my tools to the point of becoming obsessed with guaranteeing endless access to them. And maybe, if I still find a desire to own a second copy I'll work on my other shortcoming; impatience, and try to wait a few years until they come flooding into the used market at much lower prices. My logical lobe tells me right now that something else will come along to take the CL's place before that happens. And I should listen to that logical side every once in a while. It might make my photography life more pleasant. Same with swimming. 

After reading this all over a few times I have to say that I sound a bit OCD (obsessive compulsive) in addition to my obvious anxiety. When I look back objectively I have to admit that choosing a challenging, unstructured, and ever changing profession such as freelance photography has to be one of the worst choices one could possible make if reducing overall stress in day to day life is a goal. I like to think I chose it because I was attracted to the constant challenge of the craft as a business. I sure got what I was looking for. 

current favorite "work" camera. The Panasonic S5. works well. no drama. good files. dirt cheap. 

To sum up I had come to believe that so much business success has to do with just endlessly producing and trying really hard never to mess up. But maybe the secret to real happiness is to stop worrying about the final outcome and learn how to not try too hard; especially when it's totally unnecessary. 

Stepping outside my comfort zone to write this. Don't be too harsh.