Handicapped Wildlife Photographer Needs Your Help

My journey to Jordan Lake in 2010 didn’t happen in a usual way - you know, with fishing gear ready or picnic lunch packed or hiking boots laced around willing feet. My path started in 2007 with a very serious vehicle accident that destroyed my 3/4 ton pickup truck, ended most of my veterinary career and left me handicapped. For 3 years all the wonderful health care people - doctors, nurses, therapists - worked to restore my life. They put together muscles and tendons, repaired knee and shoulder. Yet, I could not get my left arm to cooperate in my attempts to use it and it would not stop hurting. It was bewildering and so not right in so many ways that my upper left arm would not tolerate a sleeve - even in winter - because the pressure on the damaged nerves became a sharp unending pain. The doctors and therapists tried different approaches to control the pain but nerve damage is often unyielding to systemic pain therapy. We found that the use of local anesthetics applied to my upper left arm worked the best, for a few hours each day.

I wanted to just quit trying, whether it was cooking a meal or holding a book or getting dressed or facing another day without working with horses. After all, what use was my life since I could no longer practice veterinary medicine as a full-time passion. My patients, horses in particular, were almost literally now beyond my reach. The constant pain in my upper left arm and the spasms that occurred at random meant I could not help the horses. How was I to be useful again? 

 A very wise therapist knew what I needed to help me cope with the chronic pain in my arm. He asked if I had ever done any photography. I said yes, but it had been decades ago. He asked did I have a camera. Yes, I had a simple point-and-shoot. He pointed me out the door, told me to go home, pick up the camera, use my arm, find the world outside of the doors of doctors and clinics. I went. 

A lot of tears later and yes, railing at the world over the pain, I began to find I could focus through the camera, onto the birds, and away from my hurts. The Jordan Lake Neighborhood was an unending source of distraction and fascination. Cautiously I began to share some of my photos with family and friends. There was delight in the sharing; I could bring smiles and sometimes peace to those who wandered through my photos. I began to explore other cameras and lens. More birds, landscapes, butterflies came within my capture. 

Through the years, as I have aged and the cameras and their lenses have gotten more complex and heavier, I have come to another decision point. The weight of the cameras, exacerbated by my 74 years of age, are causing more spams and pain and are now taking the joy of the photography away. Even though I still want to spend full mornings at the lake, I more and more find I have to take myself and my crabby left arm home after an hour or two. After talking with experts - both my doctors and other wildlife photographers - they felt I needed lighter equipment. I agreed. But, the expense is more than my limited fixed income can handle. The new much, much lighter Canon professional camera and lens would cost $10,028. 

Would you consider helping to fund this equipment and allowing me to find comfort for my arm and to continue to record the birds of Jordan Lake and sharing the life of the lake with you?

If you could help me gather the peace at the lake in photos and natural minute videos so that I can share the birds and neighborhood scenes with all of you, my heart would be very grateful. I want to continue to share the very best of the birds that I can. The new equipment will allow my journey to continue with each of you beside me.

I want to pass along the generosity that all of you are sharing with me. As soon as I get my new Canon photography equipment I am going to be giving away my old equipment. I want to give my Canon 1Dx pro camera and matching lenses to someone who is strong enough, bold enough and with a passion to go to their next step in photography but, who hasn’t been able to buy better equipment. So if you, or someone you know, would like to take that next step and would like to be considered for my old equipment, please let me know by sending an email with a brief statement as to why you want to be considered for my old equipment. I can think of no greater joy than to pass along kindness from one person to the next to the next.

peace and grace
Doc Ellen

Donations (127)

See top
  • Anonymous
    • $1,000 
    • 1 yr
  • susan hall
    • $25 
    • 1 yr
  • Monica A. Quercia
    • $25 
    • 1 yr
  • Patricia Blanton
    • $44 
    • 1 yr
  • Anonymous
    • $25 
    • 1 yr
See all


Ellen Tinsley
Fuquay-Varina, NC

Your easy, powerful, and trusted home for help

  • Easy

    Donate quickly and easily.

  • Powerful

    Send help right to the people and causes you care about.

  • Trusted

    Your donation is protected by the  GoFundMe Giving Guarantee.