Taking Big Bertha on photography trips can be daunting because not only do I have to worry about whether my camera bag will fit in an airplane’s overhead compartment, but once in the field, I have to carry her around attached to my camera and the tripod. The entire rig weighs between 15 and 17 pounds depending on what’s attached— a teleconverter and a speed light add to the weight. I can deadlift 40 pounds and I can do 20 dumbbell row reps with each arm using 25 pound dumbbells, but to me, carrying the rig, with the tripod legs deployed ready to set down and take a photograph, is what I consider heavy lifting. I’ve been doing this for the past year on almost every photography trip I’ve been on but it remains a huge challenge for me in the field and I often fall behind the group.
One of the problems I’ve faced is the extreme discomfort carrying this rig because my shoulder and collar bone are two of the very few bony prominences on my body. I struggle to balance the weight and have tried towels and other padding to alleviate some of the discomfort but couldn’t keep the padding positioned properly. After carrying the tripod on and off for a day, the area around my shoulder and collar bone is swollen and bruised with angry red welts. But, I may have finally solved the padding problem. I bought a shot gun recoil pad and substituted a dense foam kneeling pad for the padding that extends up over my shoulder. Now I can more comfortably rest the single tripod leg with the camera and lens balanced behind me. But I need to practice.
When I mentioned this to my long-time personal trainer, Noelle, she suggested a training session with my camera gear. What a great idea!
Thursday morning, I spent an hour with Noelle working on this. We train out of a small karate studio so when we use the mat, which takes up most of the area of the gym, we have to remove our shoes. This is not an ideal situation but I think walking shoeless actually helped me pay more attention to balance. Noelle reminded me to tighten my core while carrying the rig which is a huge help. She also noted that she could tell when I started to tire because I lifted my left shoulder with the tripod balanced on it. So, I have to remember to keep my shoulder down. She had me take several laps around the room and then she had me walk backwards, all with the rig on my shoulder. Then, she had me do walking lunges and stationary squats. Despite having the rig on my shoulder, Noelle didn’t let me get by with so-so lunges. I had to do proper lunges and proper squats. Then, we did it all again. In the end, my FitBit recorded that I walked slightly more than a mile with the rig. We’re going to do it again next week.
To take the shot, I had my Nikon Df perched on a stack of risers with a step on top and triggered the camera with a wireless remote in my right hand. I had prefocused on a spot and tried to trigger the camera as I passed the spot. My original plan was to get Noelle in the photo, too, but she was out of the frame whenever I triggered the remote. Having the mirror helped my posture but it is apparent in this shot, midway through a lunge, that I was tiring a bit because I seem to be listing to the right.