I’m Pete Carr. I'm a photographer and this isn't a photography newsletter. This is a form of "Rubber Duck Debugging". Writing helps me process thoughts and work through problems. So I write to my computer about issues relating to mental health and being autistic. I then share it with you fine folk. There's nice photos too. 🖖
This week's photos are from a recent trip along the south coast of the UK looking out over the English Channel. Of course we swam in this. #ShotOniPhone
The problem is always choice
Was I happier with less camera gear? I'm not sure. I always aspired to get more expensive, faster, better cameras. The ones I had were great but I knew there was better. I've now got some of the best there is. Am I happier now?
I wrote a whole post for this weeks newsletter but I couldn't figure out if it worked or not because my brain is unable to make decisions right now. I should be going to Reclaim Pride today but I can't decide;
if I should
what to wear
If it's too warm where do I put my coat if I take a small light bag?
what camera/s to take
what bag to take
where best to park
Whether to use a flash and get close because it's probably safe but I don't want to cause anyone anxiety
What style of photography to do
Whether I'll come away happy or not
Which of these were the trigger? What got the ball rolling in my decision paralysis? I think the camera started it. But why?
Back in the mid 2010s I carried a small bag and one simple camera. I travelled all around Europe with that setup. It was seemingly perfect. Small, light, fast, able to handle architecture, portraits and street photography. I even photographed gigs with it. That camera was a Fuji X100S. I loved it.
After a few years of constant use I noticed some issues. The batteries were the worst. I carried maybe 5-8 of them. They were small enough to do so but just awful performance wise. The autofocus was ok but not great. The depth of field was ok but not great. As I got used to the camera things went from great to good. I was hitting the wall of what I could do with the camera. I needed room to grow.
In looking to upgrade there was only one real option. The Leica Q... at 3 times the price of the X100S. There was a new X100T coming but months away and I wanted a new camera for our New York trip. I wanted a faster, better depth of field, better low light, wider lens camera for NYC and the Leica Q was perfect. It's been my daily camera since I bought it 5 years ago. I don't currently feel a need to upgrade it. Partly because it would cost £4,000 to do so.
The Leica Q was/is incredible. It set me on a path to buy another Leica. The M240. Why? The Q range is fixed lens like the Fuji X100 and the M range allows you to change the lens like a DSLR. Why not use a DSLR? I have them for work. The Leica M is about half the size and weight of a DSLR. Great for a daily wandering camera. Only downside, in a way, is it's all manual. No autofocus. But everyone says once you get used to it you are the fastest autofocus system around. Your muscle memory is super fast.
I've had the Leica M240 for 4 years and I'm not sure I have ever got used to it. That's ok. It's not for everyone. Manual focusing is hard. You have to be mentally ok with missing one photo knowing you may get a different one. Working an event like Pride with a flash in one hand and trying to focus the camera is stupidly tough. I could just use my mirrorless Nikon instead.
But the photos I get from it are often quite nice and it saves on carrying a bulky boring DSLR or mirrorless camera. I like good design and Leica cameras are beautiful. Minimalist too. Tools though. Just tools to create with. Would anyone notice the difference between a Nikon Z6 50mm photo and a Leica M240 50mm? Possibly not. Sometimes you do need to feel good about the tools you use to be creative.
Why not the Leica Q as it was the upgrade to the X100 I enjoyed so much? The lens is wide. It's 28mm like an iPhone's 1x lens. You have to get real close. That is how I worked the past couple of Pride events. Flash in one hand. Leica Q and Leica M240 slung over my shoulders. One wide lens and one close up lens almost impossible to focus with. But I'm using the best gear though! Minimalist.
Which brings me to today. I have some fantastic gear to work with but I'm broken by decision.
Take the Q only? Can't get close due to social distancing
Take the M only? I feel like a failure after using it
Take the Nikon? Big, boring but versatile. Twice the weight and size of the Leica. If I take it I feel like I failed at using the Leica and it was a waste of money
Buy an X100Whatever. One simple 35mm lens that's wide enough for events and close enough for portraits? Makes me feel like I wasted money on the Leica again and I'm a failure again. Plus the depth of field isn't as nice.
Ok fine! Get a 35mm lens for the Leica? Already got one. I just suck at using that camera in comparison to others. I know, comparisons are bad.
Mope? On it!
Wait. Hassleblad? Big beefy film camera I fail to use well and costs money in film? Sure I'll take that as I'm made of money.
Mope more? Ok.
Was I really happier back when all I had was one camera and a dream of more expensive ones? I can't go back. I tried. I sold most of my expensive Nikon gear and went all in on Fuji for a while but the draw of full frame cameras itched under my skin every day till I switched back. So I can't go back. I can't go forward.
I'm Amsterdam 2019 I tried to use only the Leica M to burn through my issues. I failed. During lockdown it's been my every day camera because I can't get close to anything. Happy now? Not really. I still don't feel happy like I did with the X100. Am I totally broken? Was ignorance bliss? Maybe.
This isn't a discussion on cameras. I don't want tips on Leicas. I imagine this could happen with anything. This is... anxiety? Depression creeping in caused by indecision? Is this all autism?
What part of autism could be causing this? What should I be aware of to prevent this in the future? Choice? A simple problem of choice? Maybe. I haven't even got to bags yet. I have 6 to chose from. 6! Ok 2 are for work and I try to not use them outside of that. Back when it was just the X100 that's all it was. I had one bag and one camera. No decisions to make. That was happiness. So I should sell my gear and downsize? I don't think that's possible. There are no real cheaper models to go to. Sorry, getting distracted by gear again. Back off ADHD! This is an autistic issue... isn't it?
I think this is autism. I think this is the wood for the tree / tree for the forest issue I've had many times. Too many options results in over thinking which causes anxiety. I get stressed and I can't make a decision which can lead to overload and possible shutdown. I am very glad that I only ever get sausage and chips at a chip shop. 200+ options? No thanks.
I don't feel I'm getting any better with this issue. I'm sure that's depression talking. It's 24 hours later and I'm only noticing the signs now. I walked right into this problem and got tangled up. I should have seen it coming. Decisions are dangerous for me. I need absolute clarity before making one. This weekend has had too many to process and it broke me. I couldn't chose what clothes to wear or bag to take. I couldn't decide if the newsletter I previously wrote was actually any good because my brain was incapable of making decisions. I'm left alone in a forest without a compass constantly changing my mind about which way to go. No camera of course because I couldn't work out which to bring to this forest.
What's the way out? Avoid forests? Have a compass / clarity of thought and direction? Remove decisions? Remove doubt? Upgrade my camera? This wouldn't be an issue if I had a better camera right? The one. The one is out there for me and then I'll be happy. Sell all my gear and just be a writer? But which writing app is best?
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Emma Mitchell 💙 on Twitter: "If you wake & feel very low, here’s a step-by-step to help,based on scientifically-proven ways to alleviate anxiety & lift mood. Important:if you’re on meds & have missed a dose, sort that first. If you’re frightened by your thoughts, emergency numbers are the last step below..." / Twitter
“Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous.” Christopher Pike, Captain USS Discovery.
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I'm streaming photography in various forms on Twitch.tv/petecarr. Stream schedule is Tues/Wed/Fri at 7:30PM GMT and Monday at 2PM GMT. Photography focused but accessible. Friday is a look at art events I've photographed. You can also ask me about autism and there's cat cam too.