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Conquering Fears Through Photography

Posted Jun 03 2013 12:58am
English: A photo of a Voigtlander Vito II came...

Well, it’s two weeks short of a year since I last posted new photos to the Wheelchair Kamikaze photo gallery. A long time between photo posts, so long, in fact, that relatively new readers might not even be aware of the specifics behind the WK photo gallery. For those who don’t know the photo gallery “back story”, here's a quick summation. Back in my healthy days I was an avid amateur photographer, always snapping away with a variety of cameras. When I got sick my right side quickly weakened, making shooting photographs (along with a whole bunch of other things) increasingly difficult. I tried to keep at it, but within a few years, much to my great frustration, I was forced to set my cameras aside as shooting with them simply became too difficult, and quite frankly I didn’t have the stomach to come up with workarounds.

Several years passed with my never touching a camera, though I missed photography intensely, until my creeping paralysis crept to the point that my mobility needs required the assistance of a mechanical monster, my wheelchair. Once the beast became part of the family, my wife started bugging me to figure out a way to attach a camera to the thing, so that I could use my good hand to make photographs using a wheelchair mounted camera. Being an obstinate putz I steadfastly resisted her suggestions, although she did manage to wheedle out of me some ideas of how I might go about setting up such a rig. My wife's Christmas present to me that year was, as you might’ve guessed, all the components needed to make a wheelchair mounted camera a reality: a new digital camera with a flip out viewing screen and a little tripod with flexible legs that I could wrap securely around the arm of the wheelchair (to see the setup, click here . Though the gear has changed in the intervening years, the basic setup remains the same.)

Soon enough I was back in business, zooming around the city (mostly Central Park), a half paralyzed shutterbug on wheels. The resulting photos turned out surprisingly well, and in addition to shooting stills I also made some videos. Thus, the Wheelchair Kamikaze blog was born, more a place to showcase my photos and videos than the repository of written rants and raves that it has evolved into over the years.

So, why haven’t I posted any new photos in almost a year? The short answer is that I haven’t been doing much in the photographic department these last 12 months. The longer answer is that I haven't been doing much in the photographic department these last 12 months because my disease has continued to progress (as progressive diseases are wont to do), and my “good” left side is no longer so terrific, forcing me to question whether I could still manage certain activities that I had previously taken for granted.

For the first eight or so years after my diagnosis, my left side really wasn’t effected by the disease all that much, but the last year and a half or so have seen it noticeably and increasingly diminished. As it is with all of the insults dished out by the disease, the physical impacts of these new challenges have been accompanied by psychological hurdles as well. If I’m honest with myself the truth is that I haven’t shot any photos, or even processed a bunch that I shot last summer, because I was afraid to find out that I could no longer do so. Manipulating the wheelchair mounted camera takes a good bit of fiddling with dials and buttons and such, and processing photos through Photoshop, even for the minimal amount of image enhancements that I usually do, requires a fair amount of precise mouse work. Rather than try and fail, and then have to deal with the wreckage of that unpleasant new reality, I semi-consciously decided to not try at all, and thus avoid the situation altogether. In short, fear of failure took the wind out of my photographic sails, compounding the physical limitations imposed by the disease with some of my own making.

Lately, though, I’ve been feeling that old familiar yen, at least in part spurred on by the nicer weather as winter turned to spring. I’ve also grown more resigned to the fact that my left side is getting increasingly wonky, and sick of capitulating to the fear that I might no longer be able to do something (photography) that is so tied into my sense of self. The disease is crippling enough, and I resolved that I wouldn’t allow my fears to cripple me further. So, I grudgingly opened up Photoshop and started working on some of the photos that had been occupying my hard drive untouched for the last year or so.

Lo and behold, I found that I can still put Photoshop through its paces, certainly not as quickly and efficiently as before, and only for a couple of hours at a time before my hand becomes unresponsive enough to start freaking me out, but, dammit, once I shook the rust off the results weren’t all that bad. Spurred on by this minor triumph, I bit the bullet and took the camera on a couple of sojourns to Central Park, where I discovered that I can still manage the required twisting and pushing of camera and lens controls. Not for the unlimited hours upon hours as I had in the past, but I was able to shoot almost nonstop for about two hours, long enough to make it a very pleasant and productive afternoon. Sure, my arm and hand felt made of flimsy rubber bands on the way home, but the victorious feeling I felt more than made up for the increased danger I was to pedestrians, since my ability to manipulate the wheelchair joystick was noticeably diminished. I managed to make it home without taking out anybody’s shins or kneecaps, and not only had I been able to take some pretty good photos, but I’d stood up to a big fear and kicked it in the nuts.

So, I now know that I can still shoot photos and run them through Photoshop, at least for today and tomorrow, and for fuck knows how much longer. I’ll just have to take it as it comes. I’ve got some “outside the box” treatment options yet to try, some of which I’ve already written about on this blog. Given the state of the world, with lunatics shooting up parades, movie theaters, and grammar schools, with weather patterns seemingly more severe and deadly by the week, and with a geopolitical landscape that appears increasingly on the brink of widespread violent chaos, it could be that MS is the least of my worries. As somebody much wiser than I once said, “life is uncertain, eat dessert first.”

With that, I present to you my latest batch of photos, long overdue. About half were taken recently, but all have been processed within the last month or so. Most were taken with my wheelchair mounted camera, but a few were shot with an iPhone with a close-up lens attached, including the photos of the dragonfly and the ant in the flower. Though it’s a little tricky, I can handle the iPhone camera with my one clumsy hand, and I’m always surprised at the capabilities of that little device.

I’d welcome all feedback on the photos, positive and negative. Which ones do you like, and which ones suck? Please don’t hold back because of my “conquering fear” thing. Negative feedback is just as helpful as positive, maybe more so. Your honesty will be much appreciated…

Click on the thumbnail image for a larger version.

 photo Asian-musician-color-final.jpg  photo Mickey-Ds.jpg  photo garbage-Lady-3.jpg  photo Squirrel.jpg
 photo violin-1.jpg  photo umbrella-man.jpg  photo dragonfly-2.jpg  photo wistful-liberty-BW.jpg
 photo Egret-large-BW-final-1.jpg  photo hat-lady.jpg  photo better-looking.jpg  photo Tough-Bird.jpg
 photo Rose-macro-2.jpg  photo posters-HDR-copy.jpg  photo trumpet.jpg  photo white-and-pink.jpg
 photo linc-cent-dark-comp_HDR.jpg  photo Marilyn.jpg  photo but-first.jpg  photo text-guy.jpg
 photo ant-and-flower.jpg  photo dangling-copy.jpg  photo another-dandy.jpg  photo yellow-flower.jpg

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