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Photo Absurd


I am legally blind. My vision is 20/300 which means that what a normal sighted person sees at 300 feet I must get to within 20 feet to see. The condition is called "Stargardt's Macular Dystrophy" also known as "Fundus Flavi Maculatis". A form of Macular Degeneration much like the one that is associated with age related macular degeneration. The effects are difficult to describe. It is a loss of central vision acuity. Everything appears in two dimensions with a distorted center, but NOT blank. Glare exacerbates the problem into a blank like effect. At varying distances there is also a double vision effect, depending on the size of the object and background.

So when in conversation I am asked what my hobbies are, I pause to frame the moment before answering in a dry matter-of-fact tone garnished with ever so slight a smile..."photography".

Laughter soon follows. It doesn't bother me, rather I feel a certain pride in it. "I am sorry, no offense intended but that’s rather absurd". Yes, it would sure seem that way, but in my mind it isn't so absurd.

What does bother me is how incredulous some people can be or become. It's understandable after all, I do walk around without the dog, the cane or the black sunglasses which society seems to expect as a convenient identifier... plus I take pictures. It is what it is. I do have a hard time seeing but If I can manage to conduct my life as best as I can then why should I put on the "show"?

The dog, cane and shades would all diminish my ease of mobility for the sake of being believed. I cannot drive anymore nor can I read normal print or notice facial features and expressions at a mere 10 feet.

It's a pickle. It feels as though I am expected to fit one of two molds. The stereotypical blind guy with the cane and such who is unable to work or get much done. Or, -the average life of a sighted person without the hassles of vision loss and it's real limitations.

I refuse to be boxed into the first nor can I be the later. And so I am posting this webpage to facilitate understanding.

This is my macula in the left eye
This is my macula in the right eye

A friend of mine suggested that I create a websight to display my photos and dedicate one page to how photography enriches my life despite the vision loss, and while I am at it, edit some photos so that others can see things as I see them. A stellar idea.

Due to the poor eyesight I end up taking many pictures, since I never really know what I end up with until I download them onto my computer. With the aid of screen magnification and Photoshop I can then get to see with greater detail what I couldn't appreciate fully at the moment when the picture was taken. The closer objects are the less distorted they appear. Magnification will do this for me unless the pixilation in the photo is really poor.

This first picture is a perfect example. At the time I took this photo I could not see the ducks which were about 30 yards away. My wife kept saying "get a picture of the ducks", "where?" I ask. "in the water" she replies. I just couldn't see them. I didn't dare walk much closer to the opening in the ice so I took it on faith that the ducks were there, that and I could hear a few of them quacking in that direction.

When I downloaded the picture I was amazed at how many ducks there were. It also explains why I could not see them. The number of ducks blended into one another. The dark color of the ducks and the water was undistinguishable. I mistook it all as the darkness of the water. Had there been a few less ducks I probably would have been able to make out individuals contrasted with their background.

Raw image


As I see things

The purpose of these contrasting photos is to simulate how my vision impairment makes things appear. I had mentioned that I couldn't see the ducks when I took the picture yet ducks could be made out in the simulated image. Keep in mind that the photo is a tighter field of view and zoomed in a little than it was in actuality. If the hoto was my full field of view this is an approximation of what it would look like. The further away or the brighter the day the harder it is to distinguish objects.

This was a very poor picture and typical of many of the photos I take. Though it does illustrate a few things.

First, I get to see the ducks better than I would have otherwise. In general I pick a subject and experiment with the various camera settings looking at the LCD screen to try and get the sharpest image I can until I think I have something I'll like later on. I don't actually see the numbers for aperture, shutter speed and such. So I end up taking many photos. However I do have an idea where I want to start with the settings. And I seek to frame the image for interesting perspectives also, which brings me to my second point.

It is a creative outlet for me. Even if a photo in it's raw form is rather poor, I can often find somethig in it or a way of presenting it. Making something out of nothing.

Perhaps its not of great value but croped into a panorama and in black and white I think it has nicer appeal.

Single objects are easier to spot, maybe identify but not with any detail just as an educated guess.

Raw image
As I see things

Old boat stuck in the mud flats near Point Mackenzi, Alaska. Distance of more than 60 yards. (its a guess)

I can now level the horizon, crop and size it. Hey! look at that, It still has an old tire on on its starboard side.

Naturally I see things through a unique perspective, albeit one which I don't enjoy nor would I imagine anyone else would find very interesting. So why not explore the potential of other perspectives. There in is where I find a really enjoyable creative outlet.

This world has its hardships but there is much much more... this world is full of wonderment and beauty seen and unseen. More often than not these lay hidden in plain sight, regardless of ones visual abilities. These worldy treasures surround us at every moment awaiting to be viewed or percieved by whichever sense, it only requires the will to find them and in so doing one lives the moment of the experience.

What would truly be absurd would be to cease seeking to live the experiences available simply becauseof a loss of one's customary sense. Really, it' iss just a change in perspective. Smell the roses if it pleases you.

While on a canoe trip in the Kenai Penninsula I wondered, hey how would a toad see things?.

"Toad's view"

Kenai Canoe Trail system. Kenai Penninsula, Alaska

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