Friday, April 4, 2014

The physical pains associated with photography

This post is obviously directed to professional photographers, that depending on their scope of work, may carry a LOT of gear.  Some assignments have us walk all day long, carrying a surprisingly huge amount of loads, have us crouch down, and take awkward positions, etc...  After time, this will induce strain, and even pain, no matter how young, or good a shape you think you're in.

For example, if you are covering a golf tournament.  You will be walking no less than 10-12km a day, for 4 days straight, bearing loads upwards of 40lbs, sometimes running with all the equipment, crouching down, kneeling, and hastily jumping back up on your feet, to grab that next shot.  If you're editing on site, you're adding the weight of a laptop, charger, mouse/mousepad, ethernet cables, packsack, etc.... (it all adds up).

Same goes for events such Auto racing, music festivals, and several other mandates that demand a wide variety of equipment, commuting long distances, and rapid submitting of images, thus having you rush to and from the press quarters on a frequent basis.

The most common pains are associated with shoulders, neck, back & elbows. 

Here are a few tips that will help you stay in good form, reduce the risk of injury, and keep you doing what you enjoy doing the most, photography.

1. Exercise on a regular basis 
Don't take physical activity lightly.  Staying in shape will help prevent discomfort and injury. Consult a professional to see what program may suit you best, and start being more active... Today!

2. Take the time to stretch 
Before each day of a demanding mandate, take 5-10mins to stretch.  It will make the utmost of differences in your day, and how you're going to feel the day after.  Here's a guide to 10 basic STRETCHES

3. Use a harness to help distribute to weight
Distributing the weight to larger core muscles, is the key.  By using a harness, the weight is spread across your entire back, lats, and traps.  Try to prevent using a belt-type system, as most are floppy & cumbersome when you walk briskly or run, and all the weight is directed to your lower back.

Packsacks can be great, but the downside is that you don't have your gear as readily available to you. (quick-access).

Both NEWSWEAR & THINKTANK make a variety of options that will help you carry loads of gear, and on the same token, keep them away from the elements.  Note to Nature Photogs, some models have loud velcro enclosures, others have remedied the situation with a secondary flap.
4. Use a a hand strap to ease the grip
This may seem awkward, but easing the grip releases strain on your hand, forearm and elbow, and greatly reduces the risks of epicondylitis (tennis elbow).  

Most major brands will have a hand grip unit available for your camera body.  Personally, I use the Canon E1.  You'll be surprised and how effective they are.  Once you try them, you'll never go without one.

5. Make use of any transport means made available by the event organizers
If the event organizers have shuttle buses, golf carts available for media members, don't be shy to make use of them.  Most often you'll save time, and precious energy.  At the end of the day, you'll be glad you did!

6.  Wear the most comfortable shoes you can find
When it comes to footwear, don't cheap out!  There's nothing worst than being in the middle of the day, and having sore feet, with another 5-6 hours, and several Km's to go before days end.  Investing in comfortable shoes, and even gel insoles, isn't something you'll ever regret.

7. Take the time to rest, sit down, and relax in between mandates
You shouldn't be expected to run like crazy for 12-hour days, non-stop.  Take the time to sit and relax (in worst cases, while editing), enjoy a meal, drink plenty of fluids.

8. A warm/hot bath
After a demanding days work, taking a warm/hot bath will not only help you relax, but will also help ease the ache in your muscles while reducing muscle tension.