How do you know when you overdid it?

When you wake up in the morning and feeling that your hand is numb. When you put your back pack on and cannot rise the right arm because of the pain in the right shoulder. When your right elbow aches as you are trying to stretch your arm after a street photography outing. When your hand starts trembling without any reason and you nearly drop your camera (or a cup of tea, or a saucepan with boiling soup)…

Apparently, all my complaints are just wear and tear photographer injuries. Tendinitus, sore elbow and wrists, shoulder and neck pain, as well as back injuries, are common photographer occupational hazards.

I’ve been in pain for weeks now. I think my hand and wrist started aching after retouching the recent series of my Urban Portraits Dumfries project.

I take a lot of wide angle shots on the loading bays and fire escapes, as well as in back streets and alleys. Unfortunately, there is a lot of bird poo and feathers, cigarette butts, chewing gum, unsightly urban detritus and other junk on the pavement.

Unlike my unretouched documentary shots, I want to give my portrait work more attention so I end up spending hours at my desk in post-processing and cleaning images up for aesthetic reasons. Retouching urban gunk involves hundreds of mouse and pen clicks per image and causes my carpal-tunnel type symptoms putting pressure on the median nerve.

John calls it “suffering for beauty” and it comes hand in hand with my choice of urban portrait locations.

Fair enough!

Before and after example of retouching urban detritus from wide angle urban portraits
Before and after example of retouching urban detritus from wide angle urban portraits
Closeup of urban portrait retouching - before and after. Retouching urban gunk causes photographer injuries
Closeup of urban portrait retouching – before and after

Simultaneously, as I mourned the death of my trusty lightweight 5D, I tried to take my 12-year old 1DS Mk2 camera out on personal photo walks around Dumfries and Glasgow instead, carrying it in my hand for many hours.

This huge full-frame camera is still capable of producing great photos, especially in forgiving good light. I absolutely love the colours and auto-focus of the ancient beast but it weighs a TON! Its vertical grip button no longer functions and my elbow goes up in the “chicken wing” position for portrait shots. And my wrist and arm are in agony afterwards.

We hope that what I’ve being experiencing is not a systemic injury and all I need is to give my body some rest and give up bad habits and “suffering for beauty” for a while. I had numbness in my hand and spontaneous wrist twists before and all symptoms cleared when I eased out on Photoshop and carrying a heavy camera.

So I have decided to take it easy this month. Instead, I am planning to do the recommended exercises and rest more, and to dictate and publish a few blog posts – after all, there are thousands of edited but unblogged images wasted in my archive.

I also feel blogging more will enhance my stylistic awareness and opens another door for my creativity as a photographer.

Just trying to stay positive…

Similar Posts