I was recently asked by one of my “Twitter Mates,” if I would write a little something on what it is like to be a wheelchair photographer. I of course am very happy to oblige. I want to talk a little bit about the equipment that I have and why I chose it.
I own a Nikon D50 digital SLR, and two lenses. One lens is the standard 28-80mm lens for close range shooting, like headshots, or focusing on a specific object. The other lens is a 55-200mm VR. VR stands for vibration reduction and vibration reduction is a disabled person’s friend! I don’t have cerebral palsy but I do have many of the same characteristics such as spasticity in the muscles that can cause a little bit of a tremor. I really didn’t realize how much I did it until I started taking pictures. Holding a steady shooting position can be a challenge for any photographer sometimes and the VR feature helps reduce movement. It also helps the lens shoot sharper pictures under lower light.
Optical zoom is also a friend to the wheelchair photographer. So many places are inaccessible and the longer the zoom the more places that can be accessed. Optical zoom is more important than a digital zoom. Digital zoom crops your image in camera and then enlarges it, resulting in huge loss of information. An optical zoom moves your lens closer to the subject leaving all the information in tact and then cropping can be done later using a photo editor. Remember, with an image you can go from big to small but going from small to large pulls the image apart and degrades it, so you want to keep as much information in tact as possible; especially if you are printing. Even though printers typically print at 5mps choosing a camera with more will give you larger pictures; this allows you to take pictures at a greater distance and allows you to crop the out the information you don’t want to produce the image you want without degrading it.
There are many challenges to photography, from trying to hold two buttons down with double jointed fingers to focusing the camera on a tripod. I can only offer my own experience and ideas. As disabled people we find creative ways to find accessibility in a inaccessible world and photography is no different. I hope my experience and my challenges will encourage you to get out there and be creative!