Category Archives: Technology

Photography Gear to Help you Follow Your Passion

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This photo is part of the 100 Snapshots Challenge. It was taken in Chicago with my point and shoot camera.

I have always been a creative person. This creativity first manifested itself through writing. It was the easiest, most accessible way for me to express myself. As I got older, I fell in love with photography. My friends would constantly groan and make fun of me because I had to take photos of everything. When I participated in the “100 snapshots challenge” on Live Journal, my photographs began taking a more artistic turn; I discovered that there was more than one way in which I could express myself artistically.

For years I shot my photos with a small “point and shoot” digital camera. It was easy to carry around and I was able to take pretty decent photos with it. However, I found myself wanting to have more control over my images and wanting to try techniques that a point and shoot just couldn’t accomplish. When my husband bought me a Canon Rebel XSi for Christmas in 2009 I was off and running.

From the start, photography presented far more physical challenges than writing. Obviously I can’t get to some of the places that other photographers might, which is frustrating, but I have found ways around a few of the challenges that photography presents.

My biggest problem, besides the accessibility of some locations, is keeping the camera steady so I can get a nice, sharp image. Single Lens Reflex cameras, like my Canon, are much heavier than point and shoots, mostly because of the lenses. This means you need two hands to take a photo, which is pretty difficult to do if you use crutches or a walker to hold yourself up. Canon has lenses that come with an image stabilizer option, which is awesome and does help, but the feature makes them more expensive. Plus it is primarily for smaller movements, as opposed to the kind of camera shake I was experiencing.

To solve this problem, my husband came through once again, and bought me a tri-pod. I use the Vista Attaras FZ10. This tri-pod is stable enough for me to lean on if needed, which is quite important for me. Another feature I like is that it can be adjusted to almost any angle and height, making it easy to get steady shots whether I am standing, using my chair or want to get closer to the ground. An additional perk is the carrying bag that can be worn across the body or on the back of the wheelchair with very little assistance needed.

The last thing that has been essential to my success as a photographer is my Lowepro Backpack. I bought for my trip to Colorado. It holds my camera, all my lenses, as well as my laptop and anything else I might need or want while taking pictures on the go. I use this backpack whenever I might need to change a lens, even in my own backyard. It keeps all my accessories safe and at hand.

Colorado Moutain Landscape
This photo was taken with my Canon SLR camera on my trip to Colorado.

Photography is a great way to express your creativity and share your experiences with the world. Whether you choose a point and shoot or a SLR, I encourage you to give it a try. If you don’t know where to start, try the 100 Snapshots Challenge. The page has not be updated in ages but the list is still there and it is a great way to get those creative juices flowing.

A Great Piece of Technology

My husband’s grandmother hates technology. She complains all the time, “They got all these fancy gadgets and half the time they don’t work!” She will bemoan, complaining about her cell phone battery because it has only lasted her about ten years. (Which, if you asked anyone else, is quite a long time for one battery to last.) While I do agree that technology can be a pain, and that it is changing the very fabric of our society in some not so great ways, I am glad to be able to take advantage of the technology available today. I can only imagine how difficult my life would have been without power wheelchairs, speech to text software and laptops. In fact, I am a bit disappointed that the technology available today was not available when I was in college. The tablet I am typing on now would have been a life saver.

I bought my tablet just before I started my new job. I had been considering buying one for quite some time, but I was having a hard time justifying the purchase; after all, they are expensive and I already have a laptop and a smart phone. However, my laptop is heavy and the battery doesn’t last more than a few hours before needing to be plugged in again, which makes it less convenient for using outside of the house. I can’t even try to imagine typing for long periods on my smart phone. I finally took the plunge when my friend sent me a link to Groupon for an Asus tablet with keyboard dock for just under $300.

The tablet had everything I needed except for Microsoft Office, but it did have a word processing program as well as a spreadsheet program. So far, my tablet has been a life saver. Especially on Tuesdays when, because of transportation, I am at work six hours before my shift starts.

Thanks to my tablet, I am able to spend that time working on my writing and blog posts, checking email, relaxing on the internet, playing a game or reading a book without lugging around multiple devices or worrying about finding a place to plug in. It has also been helpful at work since I am able to record meetings while taking minutes, so I don’t miss anything important.

I use the detachable keyboard for most of my word processing, but I find the ‘swipe text’ feature really helpful when not using the keyboard; it makes typing on a touchscreen so much easier. Other great accessibility features would be the touch and hold delay for those of us with fine motor issues, optional enlarged text, easy zoom in and out, text to speech for those of us with difficulty speaking and TalkBack for those of us who are visually impaired.

I have to admit, I don’t always love technology, especially when it doesn’t work the way it should. But I will not deny that these tablets, and their smartphone cousins, have been a great help for me and many people I know with disabilities.

Amputee Vs. Individual with Amputation

I thoroughly enjoy meeting and talking with other amputees. There is an instant camaraderie among individuals who have experienced and are living with limb loss. It is a reality that one can truly relate to only if it has been experienced first hand.

It is difficult to explain how miserable an ill fitting socket can feel and how it can negatively impact an entire day. There is something comforting in knowing that I don’t have to explain these issues to another amputee. It is something which we all understand. Phantom pains, liner woes, socket adjustments and emotions are all common topics among amputees.

I have a theory. I have concluded that there is a difference between the “amputee” and the “individual with an amputation.” I often interchange these terms, but I believe that they have two separate connotations. The same holds true for all disabilities.  An individual can be “disabled” or they can have a “disability.”  Some probably think it is a matter of semantics, but for me they hold very different meanings.

The “amputee” is somebody who identifies him or herself through the limb loss. The amputation or their “status” as amputee is the sole source of conversation. It has become the individual’s defining feature. In a sense, the individual has been lost, or at least masked, by the loss.

I think that most individuals who have experienced limb loss go through the “amputee” phase. After all, the loss of a body part is traumatic, regardless of the circumstances. Speaking from experience, I know emotional struggles and the ensuing identity crisis make it difficult, if not impossible, to see beyond the loss.

Eventually, I evolved from being an “amputee” into the “individual with an amputation.” I cannot deny that I have an amputation. It is physically obvious. The changes affected by my amputation have been global, not just physical. I am MORE than my limb loss.

I am a mommy. I am a wife. I am a friend. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am an intelligent woman with a lot of opinions (too many if you ask my husband). I am a cancer survivor. I am also living a full life after an amputation. All of these roles contribute to who I am.

In retrospect, I probably would have benefited from a support group in the early stages of my adjustment. I tried a few, but was disappointed in the groups that I attended because there was no emphasis on moving beyond the loss. Perhaps had I sought and found an appropriate group for me, my recovery would have been easier.

Thankfully, the internet has helped to bridge the support gap, allowing individuals with disabilities to communicate and connect with each other. Support groups are becoming virtual meeting places, a change which I find to be wonderful. It is empowering to know that one only needs to log onto their computer to find support, answers or friendship.

I love the virtual freedom that my Kindle Fire affords me. I can log onto the internet from any hotspot, and instantly be connected with friends and family. If I have a question, or need to vent, I don’t need to sit quietly by myself and stew. I just need to log onto my Kindle and I can connect with my peers.

I also appreciate the fact that my Kindle Fire is light-weight, eliminating the need to carry heavy and cumbersome books when I’m traveling. Anytime I can lighten the load I appreciate it! If you don’t have one yet, I highly recommend giving the Fire a chance.  It is a great way vehicle to help you connect with others with disabilities, allows you to share experiences and you can even play Angry Birds!

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