Tagged: lumbar fusion

Things Have to Change


140920-072217_SkyGiuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa said in The Leopard,  “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.”  The problem is knowing what, how, and when to change things.

The geese in the above picture know that they have to keep changing the leader in order to preserve the stamina of the entire flock.

People have polluted the atmosphere with carbon by wastefully burning carbon-based fuels.  Even those who accepted climate change didn’t worry about a few degrees increase in temperature; but they didn’t realize that major shifts in extreme weather patterns comes along with small increases in the global average temperature.  It may already be too late to keep things as they are, even if we change now.  We should have changed much earlier to keep the weather patterns of old.

Many cultures and governments are currently learning that they have to change to keep things the way they were.  We have collectively moved toward global commerce and now some wonder if that was the right way to go.  Is it too late to make the changes necessary to preserve the cultures of old?

If I want to keep things photographically as they are, I will have to make some changes.  If I hope to keep walking and carrying a camera I have to make changes.  I have been assuming that the pain in my knees was due to arthritis, but I just learned that I have no sign of arthritis in my knees according to recent x-rays that I had.  It is my back that is pinching the nerves to my legs and creating my balance problems and pain in the knees.  Hopefully I won’t have to have more surgery.  I had one lumbar fusion in 2010 because of this problem.

Aging Photographer Issues … Back & Knees

Four years ago I was starting to have a lot of trouble walking and was using a cane or walking stick, but after a few rounds of physical therapy I recovered enough to stop using then.  Unfortunately, it didn’t last long.  I started having even more major problems walking until I couldn’t walk, even with the aid of a cane for more than a very short distance.  That episode ended after I had lumbar fusion surgery two years ago.  Fortunately the surgery was quite successful and I now walk pretty well as long as I don’t stand or walk too long.  I still have stenosis and other problems at other locations in my back, so I still use a cane or walking stick now and then, especially if I know I will be going far or out for a longer time.

Many older people with arthritis or other back problems walk with the aid of a cane or walking stick, but for photographers this is a problem.  If you are holding a cane in one hand, that only leaves you one hand to hold a camera.  The picture above shows how I deal with this problem.  I have attached a nylon cord to my walking sticks and canes as shown above.  I put the loop around my wrist and tighten it so that I can let go of the cane without it falling to the ground while I then use the hand to steady my camera.  I carry my cameras on straps either around my neck or across my body while walking and using the cane or walking stick, but I need two hands to adjust and hold the camera steady while taking pictures.

The knob on the top of my walking stick screws off so that I can use it as a monopod when necessary with my smaller camera.  Getting smaller cameras is also something that older photographers find advantageous.  With my back I find that using a lighter camera enables me to walk further and photograph more.  I have a Pentax K-5 which along with a long zoom lens at times has been too much for me to carry.  To lighten my load, I bought a Fujifilm X100.  With its’ fixed effective 35 mm lens it is light but still has excellent image quality and fits nicely on a monopod, but I rarely need to do that.  I’ll probably have more to say about other suitable cameras in a later article.

I first got interested in using a smaller high quality camera from an article “On the Trail With the Leica M9” in a web article on Luminous Landscape.  Please click on it and read it.  It is an excellent example of what can be achieved.  My main problem is that I can’t afford a Leica M9 camera so I substituted the X100 for it.  I also went for a less expensive combined walking stick – monopod.  For my uses they work just fine.  In addition, as the article explains, I only use a camera bag to transport my cameras and lenses and I put extra batteries, cards, and lenses, if necessary, in a jacket or vest pocket

For those who don’t wish to go light with their equipment as I have done, they might want to try using a jogging stroller to carry their gear.  Don’t laugh, read this article.  Buying one second-hand would give you a very sturdy way to quickly move your gear down the walk.  It would be similar to a walker with wheels but capable of carrying more at a faster pace.  If you use a wheelchair, you can mount your camera on the chair.  One such device for doing this is shown here.

The Aging Photographer

Some of us can remember when these cabooses were on the rails being pulled by a coal powered steam locomotive.  I can remember stories about my grandfather who, by the time I could remember him, was a retired conductor and had spent his entire working life on the rails in WV.  Now they seem to be converting the old cabooses into museums and parking them off to the side of the main tracks.  The one above is in Old Bowie.

Unfortunately, many older people feel like they have also been parked on the sidelines, and they have to make a few changes as a result of it.  Before I mention some necessary changes, I’ll go over some of the problems that I have seen or experienced due to the problems of aging.

Our eyes change and some need to get cataract surgery.  We end up with either bifocals or eyes that can’t see well in the distance or eyes that can’t see well up close.  Either way, that means that it is difficult to see the control settings of the camera at the same time that we are trying to focus and compose the subject.  This is a minor but irritating problem that slows us down, but fortunately, artificial lenses enable us to see better as long as we learn to compensate for the far-near issue.

A far more difficult problem is arthritis.  It can make it hard for us to get around when it attacks our knees, hips, or back … and sometimes we have to use a cane or walking stick.  Have you tried walking with a cane and them using two hands to hold and adjust your DSLR without dropping the cane?  Also keep in mind that photography is a mobile hobby or profession.  You have to go to where the subject is located if you wish to photograph it.  And if you are into street photography or the photographing of any moving subject you have to be fast.  Another issue is the effect of a heavy camera bag that causes you to lean to one side.  If you have arthritis of the back you need to keep straight and keep the load balanced and minimized.  Many of us may end up with lumbar fusions, and/or artificial hips and knees, but they enable up to keep doing what we love.

Another problem with arthritis is when it hits the hands … usually it’s the thumb joints that go first.  This makes it hard to hold heavy objects between the thumbs and fingers.

By now you should be getting the idea; getting older creates different problems.  If we wish to pursue a hobby of photography, what can we do?  Well, from my experiences, I decided to make several changes in my equipment.  The most important change that I found that I needed to make was to reduce the weight of my camera gear since I was having trouble holding it as well as carrying it.  I sold my heavy DSLR and all of its heavy lenses.  I replaced them with a micro 4/3 system consisting of the Olympus E-PL2 along with three prime lenses, the Panasonic 14 and 20mm and the Olympus 17mm lenses, and two zoom lenses, the 14 – 42mm and the 14 – 150mm Olympus lenses.  I also kept my older E-P1 camera so that I have redundancy in cameras, lenses, batteries, and chargers while traveling.  This new system gives me a wealth of choices in lenses and allows me to go out with a very good, very low-weight, very small camera.  I never go somewhere with all the above since I select a camera and a lens or two depending upon where and what I will be shooting.  I can just put a camera in a jacket pocket or take a small bag.  And when/if this system becomes too much I can always get a good point & shoot camera.  Since we all age, I think that many of you will be making similar changes.

I’ll be saying more about how I carry my latest camera, the type of bags I use, etc. in a later article but for now I would like to end with some comments about using a cane or walking stick while carrying a camera.  Fortunately I’m no longer using a cane or walking stick but I had to use one off and on for several years, and may have to use one later as my arthritis increases, but I found a way to resolve any problems with using it and a camera.  I got a cane with a wrist strap.  I then replaced the original wrist strap with a longer piece of nylon parachute cord and attached it to my wrist so that the cane wouldn’t fall to the ground when using the camera.  You can see a picture of it in an earlier article called Gear Preferences (click here).

As we age we have increased problems with mobility and that has a major impact on the types of photography that we can do, I’ll try and make that a subject for another article.  In the meanwhile, age wisely.

OK after Lumbar Fusion

It’s a little over two weeks now since I had my surgery to fuse the L2 – L3 vertebrae.  I have been up and about enough to know that the surgery was successful in that I had the surgery soon enough to prevent long-term damage to my nerves.  I no longer have pain in my right leg nor do my legs get weak due to pinched nerves while walking.

I am out and about walking each day (that it isn’t raining) and trying to lengthen the walks each day.  I wear a back brace and use my cane due to unrelated balance issues, and walk slowly, but I get there.  My goal is to walk 3 miles each day by late Dec.  The doctor also said that I can start driving now for short distances … but riding in a car is the most painful thing I do because of the jolts, bumps, changes in acceleration,  direction, etc.   I have a long way to go towards recovery but hope that the lower back pain is gone by late Dec.  I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Today, we watched our friends go through the Panama Canal, traveling with Overseas Adventure Travel on the small ship Discovery.  We were able to watch them on web cams at the Miraflores locks.   While I wasn’t able to join them, I could still watch them while I enjoyed my Thanksgiving dinner.  The following is a picture I captured from the web cam while they were in the lock as the water was lowered.

My Next Adventure …. Lumbar Fusion

Some of you have noted that I haven’t been traveling as much, nor have I been adding many new pictures to my blog in the last few years.  There is a reason for that, but first take a look at the following picture.  I took this in my back yard a few days ago.  It was early and I noticed that the sun was back-lighting the fog in my neighbor’s yard behind our house.  This is the scene while looking out of my yard and down his driveway.  This is probably the last picture I will take for a few months.

Now, back to my next adventure and one of the primary reasons for fewer trips and pictures.  Some of you probably noticed that my recent pictures taken in October in West Virginia were mostly from the road or only a short walk away from it.  For some 20 to 30 years I have had problems with my back and it has now gotten serious enough that I need to have a lumbar fusion.  One of my disks has been collapsed and I have had bone-on-bone contact between two vertebrae.  This along with arthritis has created a situation where pressure is being applied to the nerves to my legs.  As a result of that, my legs get quite weak, along with significant pain, and I can’t walk far or stand very long; thus, I haven’t been traveling or taking many pictures.

I will be having two vertebra fused along with the addition of two rods and four screws in my back.  My surgery is scheduled for 9 Nov and will be over shortly; but, unfortunately, the recovery period is rather long.  I will be restricted to no lifting, twisting, or bending for around 12 weeks, with total healing taking up to a year.  As a result, I have no future trips scheduled but hope to get back to taking pictures soon and returning to international traveling by next fall.

I haven’t decided yet about additional writing in my blog.  It will depend on how I feel, how bored I get this winter, and what opportunities I see for future articles.  Please check back … we all might be surprised.