Ingenuity, Photography and illness.


I’ve been kindly asked to write a blog post on how I manage to access Dartmoor, as a disabled person.
I am a wheelchair user, but things are complicated a bit by the fact I can’t sit up for more than an hour a day or travel very much…with these factors in mind, ingenuity has to play a big role !
I’m lucky to live in a Devon market town that is literally half a mile from Dartmoor.
So there are many places to discover close by, about a five mile radius of where I live.
After I fell ill in 2013, and was signed off sick long term, I was determined to continue the photography that had been my career, but as so often in life there had to be some big changes. These were of course mainly viewing the moor from a car, and using much smaller equipment, light SlR or compact camera and small tripod. My illness effects my cognitive ability too so things have to be easy to use. Luckily we live in an age where everything is more accessible, and easy to use including photographic equipment.

Its worth mentioning I can’t travel very far because of my health, Plymouth’s only 16 miles from my home and I haven’t travelled there for three years now. So my travel radius is about five to ten miles from my home. However there are some great places to go nearby.
I’ve also hit upon the idea of laying in the back of the wheelchair van I have access to, it has sliding doors and I can experience the view and sounds, without expending energy. There’s a photo of my set up In this blog, you can see my camera on the tripod.
Using close cropping and a zoom lens I hope I can still convey the spirit of the moor.
Lanes and roads feature in my photos much more now, they are a popular subject
matter and something I overlooked when I could walk a mile or two In the past.
I have started labelling my photos on Twitter and Facebook, with a disabled symbol for access. ♿️
Even though I can’t walk on the moor, just being out and seeing it from a car or laying down in the wheelchair van does me so much good. I love hearing the natural sounds, a stream, birdsong, the sound of livestock.

Some people have reacted with sadness when they see my laying down in the back of a car posts, what they don’t realise is that most of my life is spent indoors, laying down.

Just being out of the house is nice, even if I do have to view the world from a wheelchair or lying down…or even sometimes…lying back in a wheelchair ;).
I do believe when life is difficult you have to look and see what you can do, even if it is limited. Difficult as it is, it’s still precious, and so is the natural world I photograph.
(All the pictures attached are taken by the roadside or from the wheelchair van.)

Thanks for reading.


10 thoughts on “Ingenuity, Photography and illness.

  1. I didn’t know your health situation had got so bad , I’m sorry to read this.
    I’ve been following you for a few years and remember seeing you with your stall at Tavistock Panier market ( though I was feeling uncharacteristically shy that day so didn’t introduce myself )
    I’m so glad that you have found a way to still do the things you love; the things that make you YOU . You are such a talented photographer , I love your work and now I know how much extra effort you’re putting into each shot , I love and respect it even more !
    Lisa xx

  2. This is a truly moving blog Rachel. You know I’m a massive fan of your work and love to share your images to my Visit Dartmoor page so that others can enjoy them as well. I find your courage and determination inspiring, and your passion for this amazingly stunning place always shines through. I love that the moor, with its sights and sounds can bring you joy, I think this is true for many people, especially when life becomes hugely challenging. Keep doing what you’re doing, it gives so many people so much pleasure to see your work!

  3. Your photos always cheer and inspire me, and now they put my comparatively minor health issues into sharp focus. Keep up the good work and look after yourself x

  4. I never cease to be impressed by how much you achieve despite the daily challenges you face. Such profound adaptations needed so you can continue to do what you need to do to practice your art. Your photos have shown me how close the wildness is to the roads, from where you’ve told us you take your photos now. And the idea of putting a disabled access symbol on your posts is a really good one. I’m very thankful I came across your work as it’s given me so much pleasure over the last couple of years or so. x

  5. Hi rachel I have just discovered your blog and find you truly inspirational. I was diagnosed with MS 2 years ago and my biggest fear is I won’t be able to access my beloved Dartmoor as my health deteriorates over time. So thank you for your words and your photos I hope your health allows you to continue for many years to come. All the best, Emma Cunnington

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