Welcome to my new column, Photographer’s Lifestyle. It’s a column about you — the landscape, nature and wildlife photographer. If you’re anything like me — over 40, a parent of young children or teenagers and crazy about photography — then hopefully you’ll glean something from this column each issue. Moving forward, I’ll discuss issues, ideas and ways to enjoy your hobby in a very challenging world of work, responsibilities and health. I’ll cover such things as diet, supplements, injury prevention, mental attitudes and preparing for outdoor photo shoots.
Let me start by stating emphatically that I am not a doctor nor do I have any medical training whatsoever. What I do have is a body that aches and doesn’t co-operate as much as it used to, along with the insatiable desire to hit the trails and photograph the natural world. What’s one to do when your body decides it doesn’t want to walk that extra mile, or pick up that gear that’s beginning to feel heavier than it used to? So in this first column I’d like to address the question of the aging body vs. the mind that still thinks you’re 20. Your mind is incredibly powerful and basically controls body function in every way. The problem, therefore, is not your mind, unless you’re forgetting to bring your gear when you go shooting, but that’s another problem altogether. The problem is with the body itself. So how do we get our bodies to listen and perform better so that we can continue to enjoy our hobby of taking pictures? Let’s begin with our legs and knees, as these are the instruments that will carry us there.
According to the Arthritis Society (www.arthritis.ca) 4.5 million, or one in six Canadians, 15 years of age or older have reported they suffer from arthritis. Recently I’ve been experiencing pain in my knees. They’ve been making all kinds of fun sounds as I climb stairs or kneel down to pick up anything. On a recent visit to my doctor, which I would advise everyone to do if experiencing anything out of the ordinary, he diagnosed me with osteoarthritis in my knees. Basically with this type of arthritis the cartilage in the knees slowly wears away. This can be the result of aging or from a knee injury, and can afflict anyone at any age. This is the most common type of joint arthritis, the other being rheumatoid arthritis. A little bit of research and a visit to your doctor will help you better understand the differences between these two and how to deal with either condition.
The way I discovered I was having serious knee problems was a bit frightening. I was out with a friend of mine hiking a trail and taking photos a couple of autumns ago. I found two beautiful leaves in full colour just sitting on a log off to the side of the trail. I got down on my knees and set up my gear for the shot to incorporate the leaves and log, as well as the trail disappearing in the distance. The whole set up and shot took about 10 minutes (I’m very picky and only shoot when the moment is right.). With the shot in the bag, I went to stand up and my knees said, “NO WAY!” They locked up tight and down I went. My friend had no idea what was happening or what to do to help me, and neither did I. I lay there on the trail for about 30 minutes slowly working my knees back and forth until I could at least get to my feet with my friend’s help. Another 15 or so minutes and my knees were working well enough again to pack up our gear and head back. Over the next 25 minute hike out of the trail my knees returned to near normal by the time we got back to our vehicles. It was a very scary situation, and I was thankful to have someone there with me.
I had no intention of giving up my hobby, so the only other option was to try to correct the problem. With a bit of advice from a physiotherapist, here’s what I’m doing to help with my situation. First, I began taking an over-the-counter supplement called glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. Essentially this provides joint pain relief associated with osteoarthritis. Does it cure it? No. It merely allows me to function normally and with minimal to no pain, but the condition still exists. This is step one of my two-step solution. The second is to exercise my knees and legs in order to strengthen the muscles to help take pressure and wear off my knee joints. These exercises can stave off the progression of deterioration of the cartilage in the knee joint and can be performed either at the gym or in the privacy of your own home. The better muscle tone you have in your legs and around your knees, the less stress you’re placing on your knee joints, and that’s a good thing. I’ve supplied a quick exercise routine in the accompanying sidebar for reference (previous page). This exercise routine works for me, but may not be right for you. Before attempting this routine or taking any supplements suggested please check with your physician and/or physiotherapist.
As I write this, autumn is coming to a close and winter will soon bear down on us in a traditional Canadian manner. I plan on being able to hike in the deep snow with my snowshoes and camera gear in tow to capture some great winter shots.
If you’re experiencing knee pain like I was, check with your health-care practitioner and try these suggestions to see if they work for you.
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate — for joint pain relief associated with osteoarthritis.
1 Calf and hamstring stretches
While seated stretch out one leg and bend the other so that your foot is resting toward the inside of your other thigh. Reach out in front of you as far as you can comfortably and stretch your hamstrings. If you can grab your toes, gently pull your foot back toward you, thereby stretching your calf muscles too. Switch legs and repeat. This exercise is designed to warm your legs up to avoid injury during the exercises.
2 Half squats
Begin by standing straight. Bend at the knees until you’re half way between standing and in a seated position, with your arms straight out for balance. Then return to the standing position. Try doing 2 sets of 10 repetitions. You may have to build up to this.
*Alternate exercise: Using the back of a chair with your arms stretched out, try the half squats as described above using the chair to steady yourself.
**Before attempting these exercises it’s important to consult your physician.
To read more of Roy Ramsay’s columns and other great how-to articles please pick up the Winter 2015 issue of OPC today, or subscribe!