My blog

Photography with a disability

Those of you who have been following my posts will have noticed I have mentioned having an accident in my past. The details of what happened are not really relevant but the result was I suffered a broken hip joint. This happened just over four years ago and has caused much disruption and discomfort ever since, including over a year in total away from work.
“life changing injury” is a term often used these days and though by no means was my issue anything like as bad as some to me it has indeed been life changing. I tend to think now in terms of pre and post accident. The broken joint was plated and has now fully healed but I also suffered significant nerve damage to my lower back that has caused much pain and misery ever since.
This post is not a request for sympathy, what happened happened and now I have to work with the circumstances I have while always trying to move onwards and forwards with my life.
The reason for this post is I wanted to talk about what changes I have made so that I can continue to enjoy my hobby and work with my medical problems and not let them beat me, and hopefully offer some help and inspiration to anyone reading this who may be facing a similar battle.
The fight will often be on two fronts, physical and psychological. The psychological is usually the hardest fight and depending on the individual can be consuming if not approached with care. By its very nature, pain and discomfort is debilitating and if what you do causes the discomfort it is so easy to take the easy option and simply quit. But “giving in” should never be an option, you wanted to achieve something before so why should you stop? There will of course be good and bad days, days when it all goes well or goes horribly wrong. The trick is to hold onto the long term goal and not be swayed by incidents along the way. It has taken quite a while to put this post together, I want it to be engaging and I hope helpful to anyone reading it and that takes time. In the course of writing I have had a bit of a lift in my circumstances regarding my rehabilitation. Every few years I have been having steroid infusions to help control the nerve damage and the latest was a few days ago. Since then I am noticing an improvement in the mobility of my foot. It is hard to express how amazing this is for me, for over two years it has stubbornly refused to start working properly but now I can move it and with just a hint of strength. This takes us straight to the comment I made earlier about physical AND psychological, the physical movement and the first signs of strength are hopefully signs of better days to come and the psychological effect of this is massive. I am forever in debt to the wonderful and dedicated people in the medical world who have worked hard to help me in my recovery, without them I would be going literally nowhere but at last the future looks just that little bit better.
So what about the changes I made? The first and most obvious was I could no longer carry a heavy gear bag. It is an unfortunate fact that pro lenses and full frame camera bodies are heavy and carrying a heavy bag was not optional especially during recovery. I will always have to take extra care lifting and carrying so an alternative was needed. First up I purged what I was using and removed anything I didn’t really need. Just a thought, when did you last weigh your bag with all your kit in? Try it, the result might frighten you! Good start but still heavy! Next up I had a look for a wheeled trolly to put the bag on. Pulling is much easier than carrying BUT beware of an awkward body twist when pulling it! The whole point is not to damage the back! I was surprised to find that there was no shortage of cheap and lightweight baggage trolleys about (I got mine off Amazon) that my large bag would fit on with ease. For all those of you that venture into the wilds and away from concrete I appreciate this won’t be of any help but in my case I was able to get round RIAT at Fairford much better. The easiest option for holding the bag on the trolly is bungee cord with hooks. Very cheap and easy to get. I modified my trolly by putting a plate on it with my name and mobile number on it, so when I check it in at a property store I know its mine. Next up is a walking stick, if you have never used one I can honestly say they are a Godsend and an utter pain in equal measure! With one leg not working properly walking without one is a fast track to A&E but they are a menace when you want to sit down! The silly thing was I couldn’t manage without mine and I needed a monopod as well for my big lens. The good news Is a decent monopod doubles up very nicely as a walking stick! Sorted! You will also find that holding a monopod is far more ergonomic than any walking stick plus when you sit down you can collapse it so it’s not in the way. The next thing is the actual equipment I use. I will never give up on my full frame body or lenses but having seen a Canon M50 at the photography show a few years ago I decided to buy one. These little cameras are a staggeringly good bit of kit! I am totally in awe of the results from mine and it is very often my go to kit. I have an EF adaptor for mine as well as two Canon M fit lenses so it works with all my glass. For flying displays I generally use my DSLR but for photography on the ground the M50 rarely disappoints and has the added advantage of being very light. The body, two lenses, spare cards and batteries will easily fit into a small shoulder bag that is easily managed. The M50 also delivers exceptional video as well. Last on my list but in no order of importance is a back support. I’ve had mine for a while now and have used it many times with great success, pointing a big lens skywards for a whole day is a great way to end up with backache and it is so easily avoided.
I am obviously hoping my recovery will continue and set backs will be minimal but a return to how I was pre accident is very unlikely given the nature of the injury and my age. It is unlikely I will go back to how I used to work either as the changes I have had to make have made my life easier. There were dark times when I wondered if I would ever be able to get out and do photography as I had before but thankfully with a bit of careful forethought I am still able to and for that I am forever grateful.
I hope this rather long post has been of interest and where possible help to the reader, and if you made it this far then thank you for taking the time to read it all. During my recovery I have been supported in many ways by friends, family and the medical team at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Thank you all so very much. As always I welcome your comments and thoughts especially if you are able to relate to what I have said. A final thought, If you are struggling with the psychological side of recovery ALWAYS remember that it is good to talk and it is OK not to be OK. Seek help.

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