Photography with a Visual Impairment
Natalie has worked in the disability rights field for the last 20 years. However, in her free time she enjoys reading, travel, baking, creative writing and photography. She also has nystagmus which means she is partially sighted and finds it harder to focus on things. Today Natalie is talking to us all about her love for photography.
I’m crouched low, grass tickling my knees. My camera is heavy around my neck in the August heat. I hold myself still, listening. There it is, that ticker-tick of the cricket, loud and close by. I aim my camera in the direction of its chirrup and take a few shots. Sitting back up straight I look at the screen and zoom in on the pictures I took. There! I see it; a blurred blob that’s just slightly darker than the blades of grass around it. Now kneeling, I try to find that darker patch amongst the long grass, through the camera’s view finder. There I’ve found it. I focus and snap away moving slightly to different angles; surely one of them won’t have the cricket obscured by the tangle of grass blades?
That was mid-August 2017. I’d never managed to capture a cricket with my camera before. But this one was so close to the path, so loud and clear I was able to use my hearing, guesswork and my wonderful digital SLR camera to find it and take a photograph of it. I used the image as day 13 of my challenge to take a photograph every day for a year. I completed the challenge last month. If you’d told me in 1988 or 1998, or even 2008 for that matter, that I’d be using a fancy camera to complete a challenge like that, I would not have believed you.
I grew up telling myself that photography wasn’t for me. Staring down a view finder with nystagmus is a challenge as my eyes dance about. The biggest challenge for me though, was the concept of “focus;” I don’t have a lens in my eye, which means my eyes don’t focus. The world is like an impressionist painting for me, lots of colour but not so much detail. Once digital cameras with auto focus came along, focussing wasn’t an issue, but I still resisted. Nothing to do with my eye sight this time, it was my lack of patience and a stubborn belief I’d be “no good at it.” It was when my husband gave me his old point and shoot camera and encouraged me to join a photography club at work, that was when my bad attitude changed. We were all learning together in the photography club, it didn’t matter if we were “good” or not, it was about creating something that was personal to us.
I haven’t looked back. My photographs might not always be the sharpest out there and I might miss half a dozen exciting things to snap but those few things I do capture represent what I saw, what I found interesting. I often capture things in my photographs I didn’t know were there. The bee on a flower, and once even a bright blue butterfly on some clover. Such serendipity is incredibly special for me. As is being able to zoom in on my subjects on the computer at home when I “develop” my photos. The gold stitching around a blackbird’s eye is something I have only been able to see through my photography along with the furry bodies of butterflies, the hairs on a caterpillar and of course the cricket’s fiddling legs.
I wanted to write this blog to encourage anyone who has thought “I can’t do that” and more importantly “I won’t be any good at that” to take the plunge and give whatever it is a go. I’m still learning every day about photography, but I am so glad it’s part of my life.
What are you resisting? Where’s your next challenge coming from?