Outdoor photography is a great way to explore nature, stay active, relieve stress, and challenge yourself with a fun hobby all at once. Many people have a desire to take up photography as a hobby, and lots of the time a huge factor is this seemingly serene environment. While we definitely concur with this overall notion, accessing some of the best scenery often involves exhausting hikes, some agility to navigate difficult terrain, and decent muscular strength and endurance to keep up with the demands of the hobby.
One thing I personally overlooked was the impact an injury could have on my profession and hobby.Just last year I sustained a sprained ankle when I wasn’t paying attention just walking down the street. I slipped off a curb and rolled onto my ankle, which damaged some of the ligaments in the area. I wasn’t too concerned at first, as sprained ankles are pretty common and I figured I would just rest for a bit and be back on the trails in no time.
The pain and swelling was quite significant, but following a standard R.I.C.E. protocol helped a lot and I felt way better after just one week. But that’s when things got tricky. I tried to push myself a little too early in my recovery, and while I was able to get out and take some shots, a few setbacks has resulted in a nagging injury that really took away a lot of my photography ventures.
One big mistake that I made was not seeking professional help early enough. I tried to follow tips from the internet, and while they worked for the most part, every injury is unique, as well as the functional demands of those who sustain the injury. In my case, I figured since my ankle felt fine, that I would be ok for a day trip to take some pictures in the mountains. I’m really lucky I had a nice day and some other people on the trails, because half way in my ankle became sore, and it became painful fairly quickly after that. My the time I got back to my car, I could barely put any weight on it. Fortunately, it was my left ankle, so i could still drive home.
Anyway, this one little injury to my ankle has resulted in a year’s worth of frustrating setbacks, many of which could have been avoided. Therefore, I would like to pass along a few tips for minimizing your risk of injury when out int he wild, as well as how to address potential injuries so you can get back to snapping pictures as soon as possible.
If you have never really thought about injury prevention in the context of photography before, you’re definitely not alone. Photography isn’t usually considered a physically demanding activity, but as I mentioned earlier int his article, getting to and from some of the best scenery certainly requires a decent level of physical fitness. Here are some things you can do to minimize your risk of injury, as well as simply feel better when you’re traveling to your locations.
Muscle Endurance and Aerobic Fitness
Focusing on muscle endurance over strength is probably the best way to focus your efforts. There aren’t too many times when I’ve needed raw strength or power to get to a prime photography location, but long treks are certainly abundant, often times on uneven terrain. I wish I had focused more on my lower leg endurance. Simple things like calf raises can help strengthen the muscles around your knees and ankles as well as improve their endurance. Those muscles can help reinforce the joints and keep you walking for longer periods of time.
The first thought here is often to improve fitness so that you can actually get out on those long hikes to your destination. While this shouldn’t be discounted, the main reason I’m highlighting aerobic fitness is because many injuries occur when the individual is fatigued. You can lose concentration, and taking one wrong step can be all it takes to sustain an injury.
Proper Attire and Equipment
If you’re spending a day or more in the wilderness to take some photos, chances are you will have a bag packed with food, safety supplies, camera gear, and maybe some spare clothes or camping equipment. Be realistic with how much you can carry and for how long. You don’t want to skim on safety supplies, but if you are pushing the limits with how much you can carry, it’s probably safest to consider a shorter trip that will require less gear, or at least prioritizing the necessities rather than things that would just be nice to have.
In terms of attire, try not to wear anything too restricting. Forcing your body into limited ranges of motion can develop bad habits, and over time this can affect your overall body mechanics and posture.No one wants to be in pain while they are trying to enjoy their hobby.
For myself, bracing was a great method to help get me back out in the wild sooner rather than later. I personally use the ASO lace-up ankle brace, as it provides solid support, but also doesn’t feel too bulky. I can wear it under my hiking shoes without a problem, and I really feel that it adds some good support in case I roll my ankle again. That said, braces aren’t just limited to the ankles. You can get them for almost every joint in the body, and there are different variations depending on the nature of your injury or what you are trying to prevent. For example, one brace I was considering when trying to get back out on the trails was the A2-DX. This is the brace that Steph Curry wears and is really good for sports. It provides more support than the ASO brace I currently have, but it’s just a little more bulky and is more for activities that require lots of cutting and lateral movement, and photography isn’t really one of those activities. In any case, there’s lots out there for you to choose from, but my one firm suggestion would be to talk with your doctor or physiotherapist first about whether or not bracing could be worth your time, and if so, what method may be the most appropriate for your particular needs.
As long as you’re thinking about ways to minimize your risk of injury, or ways to heal an injury so you can get back to photography, then you’re already on the right track.Think a little outside the box. For example, what’s your posture like when you are editing your images on the computer? How long do you usually spend walking to your vantage points? Are you usually on uneven terrain? How much do you carry with you, and what sort of safety supplies do you bring? These are all questions that can really help you spend more time doing what you love, and less time healing a nagging injury!