I recently received a letter from seventh floor rehab at Saskatoon City Hospital giving me the opportunity to participate in a research study to see which needs are being met and which are not being met for post acute care spinal cord injury patients in Saskatchewan. I have scheduled the interview for this coming week, far sooner than I expected it to occur. Included with the letter was a short survey that could be filled out instead of or in addition to the longer interview. I was intrigued by the questions contained within that survey and it certainly made me additionally curious about the interview next week.
One of the types of questions on the survey was regarding how you, the person with a spinal cord injury, feel about your ability to accomplish tasks or reach goals if you put your mind and energy to it. I have heard from more than a few photographers, artists and writers that believe a philosophy of "hurry up and fail" is better. Most definitely there are things that are worth striving for regardless of the difficulty or time would take to accomplish the goal, but I tend to agree with them in most situations. Be it a book that has not captivated me within the first few chapters, a TV show that cannot keep me interested or continually disappoints with total lack of believability, or a skill that would take four times as long to develop and provide minimal benefit on a day-to-day basis, there is value in knowing when it is time to quit. Being able to do things for yourself is great but if you are more efficient at doing one thing and can outsource the other why not focus your skills where you are most effective? This is where I felt that in a number of places the survey I filled out really limited the ability to elaborate the reasoning for choosing the answer I chose on a question by question basis. I am very hopeful that the interview will allow me an opportunity to dig deeper and give them specific answers as opposed circling a number from 1 to 5.
Whenever I am working on our bank records and budget, watching "Smarter Every Day" on YouTube or anything else with a subjective nature I am reminded of the fact that, though I really enjoy photography and am enjoying more forms of art all the time, I still have inside me a person who appreciates structure, symmetry and order. Anybody who knows me knows how little I typically care for spontaneity.
This past week, while editing photos from a family session last Saturday, and today while shooting flora at the same location as those family photos, I really began to notice something developing in me. That thing is symmetry. I have read and heard from numerous professional photographers that it will take time for you to develop a style. It will be there, but until you shoot enough and find your groove you may not realize for a significant period of time that you have style. Looking at those photos last week, paying attention to how I framed photos today and thinking back about so many of my still life photos, I can see symmetry. I am not and should not be surprised by this. Symmetry, order, structure and sharpness are what I seek.
So, to answer the survey's question regarding being able to do anything I put my mind to, the answer I had to put was "not confident at all". The key word being "anything". Had they chosen "most things" I would've answered differently. Perhaps I could hire enough manpower to haul my butt down to the shoreline of the river for that perfect scenery photo, or maybe to haul me off the side of a mountain or even just up a ladder for that perfect perspective that I want when making someone's portrait. But that would not seem to be the most effective use of my resources. It is a weakness. Deal with it. To pursue that type of photography, even though there are times when I do it just for the fun of it and it can be really rewarding, would be an endeavor full of frustration and failure for all the wrong reasons. A little bit of failure so that you can learn from your mistakes is a good thing. Frustration because of a physical limitation that simply cannot be overcome in any reasonable way, if at all, is not worth fighting against. Realizing that sooner than later is far better than swimming upstream and never getting anywhere.
As much as many of the limitations that I am keenly aware of on a day-to-day basis affect me, I also know that very often there are very reasonable alternatives or workarounds to overcome or avoid situations that magnify the limitations. That was one of the questions on the survey, "how confident are you that you would be able to find a solution to a problem if one arose?" In this situation I most definitely had to circle number 4 out of 5. I cannot say that I can always find a solution but most of the time I am able to.
One of my weaknesses with using a heavier camera and professional lenses is simply the weight. Because I need to support the camera with my left hand under the lens and my right hand on top of the shutter button I am not always able to provide proper support to achieve the steadiest shots and often certain angles down or up are simply not possible for me without risking dropping the camera. Thanks to some experimentation on my part and a lesson from my number one inspiration, Joe McNally, I have found the grip that works far better for me than the grip I was using years ago. This includes a portion of Joe's method of tucking the camera into your shoulder, the breathing techniques my dad taught me for target shooting or gopher hunting and making a triangle out of my left forearm, left upper arm and the camera supported on my left hand and against my cheek, with my elbow resting on my rib cage for steadiness.
I have embedded the video of the lesson from Joe and if you use a DSLR please watch even just 30 seconds starting at the 6 minute mark. Please, please, do not use the overhand grip on your lens. Do you know how badly I would like to be able to provide two hands of support on my camera? Please, do not disable yourself. :-)
So, with weaknesses in mind, and my style clearly aiming for order, symmetry and absolute sharpness, I have found myself insistent upon using off-camera lighting. In dimly lit situations where full lighting control is necessary I know that no matter how poor my grip may be, how tired or weak I may feel that day, or any other compromising factors, I know that the flash duration of 1/4000 of a second or faster, no matter how long the shutter speed or how shaky I am, will ensure no motion blur in the lit portion of my photograph.
Finding solutions. Overcoming weaknesses. Maximizing efficiencies.