Monthly Archives: February 2017

The art of blind photography and finding your own style

original article on disabilityhorizons.com

Tammy has always had a passion for all things creative – writing, drawing, and taking photographs. But with a retinal disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), that causes vision loss over time, she never thought she would be able to make a career out of her hobbies.

I was born an artist, but was also fated to gradually lose my vision. As a little girl, I loved cameras and taking pictures. But my dream of being a serious fine art photographer, like Ansel Adams, appeared to be unreachable.

I could not read settings on a camera, or see in a darkroom, which was due to the night blindness that is associated with my Retinitis Pigmentosa. So I resigned myself to only ever taking family snapshots with disposable cameras.

As a child, even though I wore thick glasses, I still had enough vision to sketch pictures and write stories and poems. Although I was passionate about these, they were just hobbies. I chose social work as my formal career.

I earned two degrees and took numerous art and writing classes as electives. But photography was always, for me, like a high-hanging fruit that I was tempted by but could not reach. So I sat my photography dream aside and concentrated on the things I could do.

Being declared legally blind

In 2001 I was declared legally blind by my eye doctor. This meant I had to retire from my social work position. But it also enabled me to turn my hobbies into my career.

Technology made writing possible for me – huge fonts, large screens and the occasional screen reader were all I needed to express my creative nature with words, and that meant a great deal to me. I have been working as a professional freelance writer ever since. At that time I still drew as much as I could, too.

But by 2013 my vision had deteriorated to a point where I could no longer sketch portraits. Everything around me was very blurry. Details were no longer distinguishable. Even though I had to give sketching up, I discovered a new art form – finger painting – at the suggestion of a Facebook friend.

So I exchanged my Sharpie pen for my fingertips and acrylic paint. This opened a new world of artistic expression for me; I’d never been a painter, I had always been a sketcher. The realisation that I could still be an artist – just in a different way – was a very powerful, personal message that I needed.

I was an artist losing vision, but as long as I could find a way to keep practicing art, the vision loss did not seem to matter as much. The paintings mounted up, hundreds of them, because I didn’t know how long I could keep painting before I lost that ability too.

Pursuing my dream of photography

After I had a number of paintings that I was happy with, and after some were published in art journals or appeared in local art galleries, my thoughts turned to my old dream again – photography.

My Flowers

Black and white flowers by blind photographer  © Tammy Ruggles

I’d heard how easy it was to use a point-and-shoot digital camera. No darkroom, no settings to read, just aim and click, then view the photos on a computer screen. I had my doubts as to whether this would work, but the desire to make art with photography was stronger, so I purchased my first point-and-shoot digital camera.

I was very apprehensive at first, but I pushed myself to click the shutter for the first time. After getting the hang of my new camera, I transferred my first images to my 47-inch computer monitor.

From then on, fine art photography went from being a forgotten dream to a real life experience. Finally, I could make the kind of pictures I had always imagined. Even though my eyes see everything blurred, the images I capture with my camera appear bigger and clearer to me on the screen when I zoom in. And with the high contrast of black and white, I can see the pictures in a better way.

Working as a blind photographer   

With a camera in my hand, I am an artist. My low vision 20/400 eyes can’t see my subjects very well, but my camera can see perfectly. When I click away at the landscapes, flowers, farms, and rural scenery I grew up with in Kentucky, I know I can sift through the images on my big screen until I find the ones that I want to keep.

montain polaroid
Polaroid

Black and white landscape by blind photographer   © Tammy Ruggles

I realise this isn’t the ‘normal’ way to take photos; most photographers see beforehand what they want to shoot. But for me, the selection process afterwards is where the art of photography comes alive. I may take a hundred photos, and keep only a dozen, but I use my former art education and experience to choose the images that express my creative ideas best.

My visual impairment has helped define my style, whatever it may be. I was probably the last person to realise that a legally blind person could become a fine art photographer, but my visual impairment has also taught me that if you push yourself a little, good things can happen.

Mountain

Black and white hill by blind photographer  © Tammy Ruggles

My photos have been featured in literary journals, art magazines, and photography publications; and I hope that this shows how many possibilities exist if you give yourself a chance.

In my experience, a disability may alter a dream, but it doesn’t have to ruin it. It could also encourage the beginning of a new dream.

 

Wedding-Day

Wedding Day taken by blind photographer  © Tammy Ruggles

Tips for becoming a photographic artist yourself

I have been asked by people who are visually impaired about how they can become a photographer. I think it is a little different for everyone, but here are some things I can recommend for would-be photographers.

1. Browse cameras before you purchase. My first camera was rather heavy, and had a long lens that I did not need. I finally settled on a lightweight camera that is comfortable to use with one hand. I can’t see a preview screen, but some people can.

Try cameras out, and find one that fits your needs. I find a touch-screen a hindrance rather than a help, because I can’t see what to touch. I often accidentally touch places on the screen when I don’t mean to. A camera with a dedicated dial works for me. I can feel the notches when I turn the dial.

2. Get someone to help you learn the features of your camera, even if you do not use them. I simply leave mine on auto mode, but you may want to change modes to different settings.

3. Learn the basics of photography. Know what kind of pictures you want to take. Know what makes a proper picture in the eyes of most photographers and viewers, and then develop your own style.

4. Think about what you want to accomplish with your photography. Gallery shows or commercial photography? Studio work or product photography? Portraits, landscape or Still life?

5. Learn about what technology or gadgets are available to assist a visually impaired photographer. Besides the camera, is it a big monitor that will help you or something else? Is it photo editing software that can add contrast or saturation to your images? Will a big magnifier or CCTV help?

Talk with other visually impaired photographers to find out how they manage. But remember, no two photographers work the same way. Most of the time the process of finding out what works for you is one of trial- and-error. And remember in the end all the effort is well worth it.

By Tammy Ruggles  original article on disabilityhorizons.com

England T20 Blind World Cup 2017 Results

England Vision Impaired Cricket Squad

England T20 Blind World Cup 

31 Jan 2017 – England v Pakistan (England lose by 95 runs)
1 Feb 2017 – England v New Zealand (England win by eight wickets)
2 Feb 2017 – England v India (England lose by 10 wickets)
3 Feb 2017 – England v Sri Lanka (England lose by 103 runs)
4 Feb 2017 – England v South Africa (England win by 43 runs)
5 Feb 2017 – England v Bangladesh (England win by four wickets)
7 Feb 2017 – England v Nepal (England win by 90 runs)
8 Feb 2017 – England v Australia (England win by 58 runs)
9 Feb 2017 – England v West Indies (England win by six wicket)

World Cup knockout fixtures
11 Feb 2017 – semi-finals Pakistan v England (Pakistan won by 147 runs)
12 Feb 2017 – final Pakistan v India  India won by 9 wickets

You can read and watch videos on the ECB website, quick link here: http://bit.ly/2kPfdYd 

 

Ski For Light 2017

Ski for light 2017

One of our members, Janice,  flew out on Friday 3rd February, and the ski week finished on Sunday 13th February 2017.

If you are wanting to learn to Cross Country Ski and improve your technique, Janice recommends Ski For Light is the place to go.  We were at 7-8 thousand feet, so it does make you a bit breathless, so it is a help if you can arrive there with some fitness.  You are expected to ski every day while you are there, and the guides I have found to be  mostly excellent.

The social side of things is good too, with over 100 blind skiers, each with a guide, and a few sit skiers too.  Ski For Light is held at a different venue each year, and often returning to Colorado, so the terrain can be mixed. There is varied entertainment in the evenings, and one evening, it was dedicated to The Wild West, and as well as Square Dancing, there was a mechanical Bull, which many of us had a go on, and does take a lot of strength to hang on, and the cheers and jeers from the crowd, and the commentator is all part of the fun.

If you are interested in going for Ski for Light next year check out their website: http://www.sfl.org.  Ski for Light 2018 Date:  21 Jan to 28 Jan.

We will be skiing at Tahoe-Donner Cross Country ski area in Truckee, California, and staying at the Nugget Hotel Resort in Sparks, Nevada .

Good luck and break a leg to the large party of Metro cross country skiers going to Norway on the 26th March 2017 for 1 week, many of whom this is their first time and we look forward to receiving some feedback from them.

 

Big Life Fix – looking for more people who feel they could benefit from a tailor-made invention!

Big Life Fix

Studio Lambert, the BAFTA-winning TV production company behind Gogglebox, Doctor in the House and Big Life Fix. are looking for more people who feel they could benefit from a tailor-made invention!

We are currently producing the second series of the hit BBC Two show “Big Life Fix”, an exciting and innovative science series that sees a skilled team of scientists, engineers and designers create bespoke technology for individuals and groups to transform their lives for the better.

In the first series, our team came up with solutions for a range of issues affecting individuals and communities, including creating a device to counter the effects of Parkinson’s disease for a young graphic designer, building a bicycle for a boy born with no hands or feet, and connecting a remote village in Wales up to the internet.

We’re now planning a second series and looking for more people who feel they could benefit from a tailor-made invention. Perhaps it’s a daily task, a hobby or a lifelong dream that’s proving to be a challenge. Or maybe a disability that needs help managing, or a problem that you and your family, or even your whole community face.

We’d love to chat to anyone who would like to apply. If selected, our team will work with them to tackle their problem or challenge using ingenious design and technology.

We would love to explore the possibility of potentially being able to create an invention that would help people take part in sport in a better and more efficient way.

If anyone is interested in applying, they can call the casting team on 0203 040 6908 or email us at biglifefix@studiolambert.com.

All calls are treated in the strictest of confidence. Alternatively, a short contact form can be filled out here to express interest in the show: http://www.studiolambert.com/take-part-the-big-life-fix.html

BLF2 banner image

The Big Life Fix Casting Team

@biglifefix

www.studiolambert.com

 

Sadler’s Wells Theatre Upcoming Audio described Performances – First 7 May!

sadler wells theatre audio described performances

Compagnie du Hanneton / James Thierrée
Audio Described Performance

Sun 7 Mar
Step into the beautifully weird world of multi-talented performer and director James Thierrée, Audio Described by Roz Chalmers.
Find out more

Northern Ballet
Audio Described Performance
Sat 13 May

Northern Ballet returns with the sensational true story of the notorious lover Casanova, complete with pre show Movement Workshop and Touch Tour.
Find out more

Akram Khan Company
Audio Described Performance
Sat 3 Jun

In a much anticipated return, Akram Khan performs in his hugely popular tale of home and heritage including a unique opportunities to go on stage and explore the set as part of a post-show Touch Tour.
Find out more

Website:  www.sadlerswells.com