Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Dispite my few entries, I continue to seek out and develop improved ways to take photos with my Nikon SLR. One slick off-the-shelf product I have begun to use is the Novaflex Universal Mono-Pod. It is designed for able-bodied photographers to use as a chest pod to support larger lenses or video cameras, but it works well as a knee pod when sitting. Its my new “quad-pod.”
Aside from the pod giving me a stable platform to shoot from, it greatly improves the balance of the camera. I can easily hold the camera with one hand and balance myself with the other. I even feel comfortable holding my Nikon D80 and a 70-200mm f2.8 lens (combined weight nearly 5 pounds) with one hand. Without the pod, the telephoto lens is nearly impossible to balance. With lighter lenses, the pod allows me to raise and lower the camera and still take photos at odd angles.
The pod has a really good rubber boot at the bottom which offers good friction and keeps the pod in place when you begin to lean into a shot. It also allows me to move the center of gravity forward which means the lens will fall back into me if something goes wrong. I like that I can easily lower the boot between my knees and set the camera in my lap for transporting and adjusting my camera settings.
The German-made pod is very well designed and constructed. I originally bought a $40 similar product from Hong Kong. It might work with a lighter point and click camera, but the weight of a D-SLR and lens caused the camera mount to bend and come apart. B&H lists the pod for US $160.00. I got lucky and found a used one on e-bay for $120.
B&H Website Listing for the Novoflex Pod
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Conceptus Remote Switches makes the best available mouth-triggered shutter controls for cameras. They make them primarily for parachutists, however I used one on my Olympus E-330 last year. Conceptus just announced that they now offer both the Bite and Tongue switches directly compatible with the higher end Canon EOS “D” series of cameras.
If anyone with a finger disability is looking to get into photography or improve their current techniques, I'd encourage you to bite into one of their triggers, and look at the D series from Canon because it's compatible.
If you take a look at my Olympus entry, you'll see how messy it gets when things aren't compatible. Now days I'm a Nikon shooter, so I'm holding out that Dick, who lives up the street from me will go Nikon next.
Here's the catch. You don't get too far into photography before you figure out how valuable a tool it is to be able to press the shutter button 1/2 way and focus the lens. Holding it allows you to maintain the focal depth and recenter the shot before you fully compress and snap the shot. This switch wont do this. Keep in mind, the target market a a guy free falling with a camera mounted to his helmet.
So not only do I need a Nikon model, I need Concepts to see all of us who dont have a right finger as a potential new market and design a dual channel model. I've got the design(s), I'm just waiting for my phone to ring.
The switches sell for less than $100 on many parachuting web sites. If you cant find one drop me a note.
Canon Compatible Models:
EOS 1D, 5D, 10D, 20D, 30D, 60D,
1D Mark II, D2000, 1V, 1VHS, EOS 3
Sunday, June 24, 2007
It never fails. I get my camera around my neck and start looking like I know what I'm doing and something falls to the ground. Could be the lens cap, or the spare battery or whatever, but now I need to set the camera down so I can lean over and pick the bugger up. Its a pain and odds are it found its way into some crack or crevice, or rolled under some bush, making the pickup even more fun.
By chance I found a great tool for picking up all sorts of stuff. Its called the Telestik. Its got a very sticky surface on one telescopic tenicle, and a magnet/hook on the other. The thing works pretty slick. My first recovery was a battery that fell and then bounced down an incline. I had it back in no time.
For $30 its a good thing to keep in the camera bag, or maybe on the chair for daily use. Warning: 4 year old boys love this gadget so either hide it or get two.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
My new Nikon D-80 is good stuff, and have found ways to take some decent photos. Let me quickly add that while I think the D80 is a better camera, any model Olympus with the live LCD is perhaps a better camera for wheelchair users. The ability to place the camera high or low (down and dirty even) and take photos removes the ever so standard perspective one can produce from a wheelchair. If I ever get to go on safari, I'm buying another Oly with a 12mm-24mm lens for wide-angle 'perspective' shots.
Nikon sells a 18mm to 200mm lens that has all but eliminated the need for a 2nd lens to lug around. Thats a huge benefit for us rolling shutterbugs. In six months I've never once removed the lens! Its compact so I downsized my camera bag and has VR (vibration reduction) which is makes my so-so ability to hold a camera steady look so very good. At appx $900, its very pricey, but even this penny-pincher can see the value.
Reluctantly, I'm using the Nikon wired remote-control in my mouth to activate the shutter with my tongue. Its way too big and I feel very uncomfortable using it, but it works better than anything out there. I bought 2 after-market models with the idea of modifying them but the electronics arent too reliable. The actual nikon switch is much more responsive, but of late even it is not firing reliably. Perhaps its not saliva-proof.
The best part of my new setup is that I can compress the shutter 1/2 way and focus the shot, or move the focus point like those normal people do. Even better, you can hold down the button and fire off 3-shot bursts each second. Its looks pathetic but the results are damn nice.
Let me finish this by saying that if there is a clever engineer on this rock who wants to partner up and develop a slick shutter control (mechanical, electronic or somehing in between)I'll finance the endeavor. I'm sick of choking whilst I wait for the perfect shot.
See Jim Watters' remote review of Nikon remote for many D-series cameras.
Monday, February 12, 2007
[Editor's Note: I wrote Chris and asked if he'd contribute an essay on his equipment. Turns out he doesn't have much adaptive equipment, but for anyone interested in photography, Chris is one of the best. Read New Mobility, 09/2006 Voelker: Image Maker]
Being a photographer in LA & being disabled is a challenge, but there are some great rewards I must admit. Being able to convey your perspective visually and to break barriers is indeed quite cool. I don’t use any adaptive equipment except for a Gowland studio stand that is on wheels. I’m not sure if Peter Gowland is still in business, but he is a real cool guy. He is in Santa Monica Ca and you see his studio stands around used and they really take a beating. I have had mine for 18-years.
I use Canon EOS 1 DS & DS Mk2 along with Hasselblad 500 CM & ELX which are pretty easy to operate on a studio stand. I hand hold the Canons which has a vertical shutter release that makes tripping the shutter a breeze. I wish I had more info, but I have been making pics for 20+ years and my disability never becomes an issue. If I can help in other ways let me know as I would be glad to contribute to your endeavor. I wish someone like you was around when I started.
Peace To you,
I looked all over the internet for any information about photography equipment for a person in a wheelchair. Much to my dismay, and surprise, there was next to nothing about which kinds of cameras a C6 quadriplegic could use.
There were so many things to consider..Digital Point and Shoot or SLR? How to hold the camera without hands that work? How to push the shutter button without fingers that work? I was really dissapointed at the lack of available information, so I went to a camera shop in Tampa to see what I could find out.
The first obstacle was getting past my inability to hold the camera. A company named Manfrotto makes a great product called the "Variable Friction Arm." This arm is a sectional, articulating monopod that will attach to any tube from .5" to 2.1" inches in diameter. The monopod gets clamped to the wheelchair and the camera is screwed into the bracket, hands free and very secure.
With the problem of physically holding the camera now solved I had to decide which camera to buy, and how to operate it. I knew it had to be a digital camera, but didn't know which camera would be the easiest to operate. Canon's EOS Digital Rebel is a full function 6.2 MP that can be operated via a wired or wireless remote for the shutter functions. I have enough hand/arm mobility to turn the zoom ring and by holding the wired remote in my teeth I take the picture.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
I'm a photography enthusiast at best. That means I don't know near enough about photography but I tend to spend all my disposable money on anything to do with photography.
I'm also a C-5/6 quad. That means I use a wheelchair all day long and it means my fingers don't work too good. Not much about photography is designed with paralysis in mind so just getting the camera to point at what you see and to click the shutter can be a major ordeal.
My first camera was a 3 year old Olympus C-550. I bought it because the LCD swiveled. This allowed me to hold the camera on my lap and still see what the camera was pointing at. It also comes with wireless I/R remote control (infra-red). By placing in my mouth, I bounced the signal into the I/R port, and I was in business. The 5-meg camera takes great photos and is perfect for learning. While the I/R shutter control sorta works, its by no means ideal.
I soon began shopping for a D-SLR camera. In May 2006, Olympus introduced the E-330. The 8-meg camera was the first SLR to have a live LCD and even better, it pivots which allows me a little more creativity in selecting perspective. I spent many hours on-line and I still can find no perfect way to control the shutter of a camera given my abilities. Like most anything a quad accomplishes, I just bought the camera and figured I'd find a way.
Within a week I had two products attached to the camera and they were a great improvement. Skydivers take photos using a mouth control. The best one is made by Conceptus in Arizona. The tongue switch is universal and can adapt to many cameras. This is really a great product.
Unfortunately, the E-330 doesn't have a port for a wired remote and so I found a chap in th UK who makes a clever I/R adapter (gentLed) and things looked promising. Before shipping the compact I/R converter, he modified it with a 2.5mm plug that connected to the tongue switch. She works good. I can hold the eye piece to my eye and click of photo after photo.
There is a few downsides to this set up;
- The wiring is fragile and requires attention to assure everything is just right
- It requires care when stowing
- It sure doesn't look too pretty
- The adaptation doesn't allow you to utilize the features you have available by pushing the shutter button half-way down for focusing.
- There is still an appx. 1/2 second lag between the time you hit the switch and the shutter closing
I have been googling for 9 months and am yet to find a better solution for my E-330. Its a great camera for wheelchair use because you can use the LCD real time and this means you really can get some non-typical wheelchair perspective. If I could devise a way to get real-time shutter response, this would be a perfect camera. If anyone out there has enough finger-control to use the actual shutter button, I'd recommend the E-330. Add the 50-200mm lens and its really fun.