Photographing with keratoconus

My journey through sports photography with keratoconus.

I was diagnosed with keratoconus during my sophomore year of college at San Diego State. Keratoconus is a rare eye disease with less than 200,000 cases in the United States each year. Now what is keratoconus? According to the Mayo Clinic, “keratoconus occurs when your cornea — the clear, dome-shaped front surface of your eye — thins and gradually bulges outward into a cone shape.” I am right handed… which means that my right eye is the dominate one when it comes to photography. My right eye was severely damaged by keratoconus and my left eye not so much.

The best treatment to stop the spread of keratoconus is a procedure called CXL Cross-linking. Back when my keratoconus was discovered cxl cross-linking was a procedure that was not FDA approved. The procedure was being used in Mexico, UK and Europe. It was slowing going through FDA approval but not at the pace I needed as my vision in my right eye continued to deteriorate. I opted for intacs surgery. They basically put plates into the cornea to attempt to reshape and flatten the cornea.

San Diego Silverbacks WR Dave Post II runs down the field after making a catch.

I fought and fought with my insurance company at the time to allow me to get the CXL treatment. I had specialists after specialists send letters to my insurance company on my behalf. Each time I was denied. One time the insurance company’s specialists actually reviewed the wrong eye. It was basically an attempt to wait me out of my parents insurance. The cost of CXL is $4,000 per eye and I have the disease in both eyes with my right eye being the most severe. They would have rather paid out for a full corneal transplant. The transplant ranging from $13,000 to $30,000.

Finally I was able to get CXL cross-linking. They have two versions of CXL cross-linking. The version I got, “involves removing the corneal epithelium and dropping a formula of riboflavin solution on the cornea for a period of time followed by controlled UVA light exposure.” I got my procedure at the Gordon Schanzlin New Vision Institute in La Jolla. They did both my good eye (left) and my bad eye (right).

I have taught myself to photograph completely with my left eye. Something which has taken me some time to do. Normally when photographing you have one eye on the eye piece and one eye on the action. That helps you monitor what is happening on the field as you photograph. I have to heavily rely on one eye which does make photographing a bit more dangerous but also makes your more aware of what’s happening on the field.

San Diego Legion’s Ryan Matyas scores a diving try in a match against the Dallas Jackals.

I picked up my first camera in March of 2017 following the passing of my uncle. My uncle and I would take about sports for hours every week. It was my way of connecting with him. My first starter camera was a Canon Rebel T6i. Shortly after I got my first professional camera (Canon 7DM2) in December of 2018. Since 2017 I have photographed a ton of different events.

  • 50 (Women’s Premier Soccer League/National Premier Soccer League) games
  • 40 United States Major League Rugby (USMLR) games
  • 40 Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) games
  • 35 high school football (La Jolla and San Diego High School All-Star Games)
  • 30 local beer league hockey games
  • 22 semi pro football (San Diego Enforcers/San Diego Silverbacks) games,
  • 20 NLL (National Lacrosse League) games,
  • 12 NCAA Football Games
  • A hand full of NCAA Soccer, Softball and Baseball games.
  • 3 women’s professional surfing competitions
  • A hand full of other professional sporting events.
University of San Diego Running Back Terrence Smith hurdles defenders on his way to the end zone.

I have worked very hard to become the best photographer that I can. I have advanced quickly because I photograph a ton of events. I am what you would call a hobbyist professional photographer. I do not depend on the money I make through photography to support myself. I have an amazing job in the sports and entertainment industry. I work 40 hours a week and will sometimes work 6 days a week during the NFL season. I tend to photograph between two to four events per week. My schedule this year booked out in December with bookings all the way into October.

My clients (old & new) involve the following teams:

My photos have been viewed around the world via San Diego Sports Domination and other publications. Below is a list of websites that have featured my work.

  • Americas Rugby News
  • San Diego Union Tribune
  • Seattle Times
  • Denver Post
  • DJ Coil Rugby
  • El Latino Online
  • La Jolla Light
  • Tonga Online News
  • San Diego Community News Group
  • SB Nation
  • University of San Diego

If you would like to work with me… have any questions… or would like to contact me… Please fill out the form below.

About DavidSDSU (1275 Articles)
I graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Media Studies. I am also the Founder and CEO of San Diego Sports Domination. I am an award winning blogger and have been covering San Diego State Athletics and San Diego Sports for the past 10 years. I have written many guest articles and have appeared in many podcasts. I am also the team photographer for the San Diego Silverbacks, San Diego Surf (WPSL) and San Diego Strike Force. At my day job, I am a Live Coverage and Studio Coordinator at STN Digital a Digital Marketing Agency that works in the Sports & Entertainment Industry. We work with the biggest sports & entertainment companies in the world.

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