If you’ve read through the “About” section of my website, then you already know how photography came to be a part of my life. How it developed from a form of art therapy into a passion, and now, a profession.
But what I don’t often share with people is how incredibly difficult it was for me to learn how to use a camera and the challenges that working in this medium still present.
By sharing this story, I hope to offer an insight as to what it’s like for me to try and learn new skills (or in some cases, re-learn old skills) after suffering my traumatic brain injury (TBI). But more importantly, I want other survivors to know that it’s possible.
It won’t be easy, there will be setbacks and you may come to the tough realization that you simply can’t learn (or re-learn) certain things (I know I did). And while it’s incredibly hard to accept, it’s this acceptance that is critical to moving forward and rebuilding your life after brain injury.
When I picked up my first camera, a Nikon 1 V1, and lifted it to my eye, everything appeared black. Confused, I lowered the camera, cradling it in my hands, staring at it. Then I turned it over in my hands, looking at it from different angles, analyzing it. Again, I lifted the camera to my eye and again, everything was black.
I knew there was something I was supposed to do. Something that would bring the camera to life. Something that would allow me to see through the viewfinder and take my first photo. I could feel it, but I couldn’t access it.
I almost threw the camera to the ground, but I caught myself. Instead dropping it to the couch before berating myself for my inability to do something as simple as use a camera. At first, I was mean, then I was vicious. Unleashing a tirade on myself before crumpling to the floor and retreating into the dark recesses of my mind.
The next time I picked up the camera, I read the note that I had left attached to it, Step 1: turn the camera “ON” with the steps how to do so. I followed the steps as written, but when I looked through the viewfinder, everything was black, again. I couldn’t figure it out. I turned the camera around in my hands, turned it on and off over and over again, each time looking through the viewfinder and seeing nothing but black. But why? Again, I held the camera in my hands, staring at it. Knowing there was something I was supposed to do, but I couldn’t access what that ‘something’ was.
That’s where step two came in: remove the lens cap and put it in my left pocket.
It was maddening. But if I’m being honest, this type of situation presents itself all too often in my post-TBI life. Sometimes I would hear my phone ring and I would reach to pick it up, knowing what it was, knowing that there was another person on the other end of it who wanted to talk to me, but I simply couldn’t remember how to answer the phone. So I would sit there, staring at it, lost as to what to do. I’ve experienced the same thing with unlocking doors, turning a car engine off, and many, many other things.
The solution to this problem, it turns out, was a simple one – a check list.
And so, after spending hours watching, pausing and re-watching a YouTube tutorial on my new N1V1, I now had a check list that allowed me to operate the camera in AUTO mode.
- Turn the camera “on.” (The one button in on the left side, on the top, at the front).
- Remove the lens cap and put it in your left pocket.
- The list goes on…
I now have a series of checklists that assist me in my photography:
- Before you leave *packing list and where the gear is located
- How to use your camera *included is a trouble shooting checklist
- After you return home *how to clean and organize my gear and where I store it
- Uploading your images *step-by-step guide for organizing and uploading images in Photo Mechanic and Lightroom
- Editing your images *reminders about each panel (this is finally starting to stick!)
- Organizing your images in Lightroom *selecting my top picks, using the stars and creating collections
- Saving your images *where to save different copies to ensure I have backups
- Adding your images to your website *this is still a work in progress as I’m still in the beginning stages of learning WordPress
You’ll notice that I use you or your in the names of these lists. This is intentional. The wording softens the difficult reality of having to use these lists. It’s a small way to help myself face these challenges with kindness.
Creating these lists has been a process of trial and error and I’ve made many mistakes along the way. Mistakes that have resulted in lost gear (thankfully nothing expensive!), the deletion of some beautiful images (with no backups) and erasing a hard drive and all its data, just to name a few.
What I’ve realized is that mistakes are going to happen whether you have a healthy brain or a neurologically challenged brain. It’s part of life – it’s how we learn. I no longer beat myself up when I make a mistake. Instead, I pause, take a deep breath and remind myself that I am learning. I AM LEARNING!!!!
Learning something new isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
Thank you for allowing me to share with you the world as I see it!