Monday, February 12, 2007

Adaptive Studio Photography Insight

(by Chris Voelker, Northridge, CA)

[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]

Hi Loren,

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,
Christopher Voelker

Wheelchair Camera Mount

(By Ralph Raymond, Melbourne Beach, FL)

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

My Adaptive Camera Equipment

(By Loren Worthington, Phoenix Arizona)
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
Its the last item that really can make photography frustrating. A 1/2 second delay when shooting landscapes is irrelevant. But add any people, dogs or kids, and a great photo becomes a chance thing.

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.