Strange vision

The gray is the sky, the gray is the land, the gray is the water.

My world right now: hazy, out-of-focus, and on fire.

Two weeks after the procedure. Progress seems to have halted. Much like the progress on fire-fighting in the province. 300+ fires burning, half out of control, emergency accommodations full up, roads closed, supplies cut off, and a Premier who doesn’t think there’s any reason to declare a state of emergency. After all it’s not affecting him, and the people who are suffering don’t support him anyway. Gee, I wonder why. Maybe because none of the recommendations from the last wildfire disaster year have been implemented? That could be it.

This is my world. According to the camera (P610) it was in focus. Obviously not. But this is what everything looks like to me.

Eyesight: blurred but better.

Nothing is in focus with either eye at any distance, and both are blurred. Think in photography terms; the focal point is one thing, the sharpness another. For those who think focus is over-rated I say repent your sins before it’s too late. Soft focus and blurred images are horrible, especially when there’s no other choice. I’m told my eyes not only don’t see the same, they don’t look the same; there’s noticeable difference in the colouration. Will it clear up? Only time, and a lot of it, will tell.

Large objects I can make out. I didn’t notice the cloud when I took this, though. (G11)

Photography: exercising futility.

I’ve made some attempts. Trying to get used to using the left eye, just in case. How bad is it? Less than half the shots are even viable as pictures, and of the good ones perhaps 25% are acceptable. It’s hard to say because I can’t even evaluate them on the big screen myself. Hey, maybe I can just get out the lousy Lumix and shoot blurred messes badly composed and incorrectly exposed. It would be easy. Judging by some of the “pro” photos I’ve seen in the past I might even win a prize. But it would be embarrassing and debasing of the principals of photography, as well as betraying to all those who put so much effort to bring the form to the quality it is capable of.

This could probably be good, with the moss and trees and light. I can’t see well enough to make a good initial shot, never mind process it.

What is next?

Hunker down to wait out the fires, and hope we don’t die. Or go blind. Or suddenly need some other emergency procedure.

Kind of blind

A week later. I’ve had laser surgery for a torn retina. As it is now, my left eye is still okay but my right eye has a long ways to go. Amazingly the one affects the other because the brain sees using both. In photography terms the left is resolving 50 lines/mm and the right more like 5. I wear a patch to keep it from getting tired and causing distraction with close vision.

I took a camera with me on my rushed trip (the Canon G11) but did not take many pictures. I can’t see if there are pictures to take, can’t see to use the camera right, and can’t see to process an image afterward. I can’t see other people’s pictures either. The only reason I can type this is by using the left eye only, and knowing how to hit the keys without looking (mostly).

There’s a list of things for me not to do. Basically it involves irritating the eye or getting the ocular/blood pressure up. The problem may clear up better or stay the same. Or the retina could tear again. Or it could happen to the other eye. Once again I’m at Life’s casino playing a game I’d rather not.

But I wouldn’t be me without getting at least one photo out of this. Taken from my motel room window. I’m not sure if it’s any good as it was largely guesswork from start to finish. Besides it’s ‘Street Photography’ and that’s not really my thing.

What do you think?

Homeless in Kelowna. (Most of the homeless there are women, unlike in other cities.)

The Last Picture?

While taking photos of hummingbirds at the feeder I suddenly lost vision in my right eye. The symptoms are that of a detached retina. Today begins the hunt to see if anything can be done about it: the longer the wait the lower the chance for restoration.

My vision has been getting worse over the years. It was never all that good, but at least serviceable. It’s bad enough I’m going deaf, do I have to be blind as well?

This could be the event that forces major changes of life. I’m not looking forward to it. Even dealing with the logistics of getting examined is tricky. Writing this blog entry has been a struggle too; I never realized how much I depend on my right eye and the automatic depth perception it imparts.

Female Rufous hummingbird.

Rods and Cones and Pixels! Oh my!

Third in the series on the megapixel myth.

I’m getting old; I actually had to look up some of this data for confirmation. Seems I just can’t remember everything anymore. As it is, I am not surprised at what I found; it was pretty much as expected.

We need to examine how our eyes see in order to understand how photographic technology relates to it. You probably all remember that there are two types of receptors in the retina; rods and cones. You probably also remember rods see light/shape and cones detect colour. What you probably don’t remember is that there are about 92 million rods and 6 or 7 million cones. Not everyone has the same amount or in the same ratio, of course. This is why some people are better at discerning different shades and others can’t tell blue from green. Another fact we need to know here is that on average humans can detect 10 million different colours. You’ve probably read that the JPEG format has 16 million different colours. Do you see where this is going?

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Looking at resolution first, we have to recognize that there is not an exact correlation between the number of receptors in the retina and the pixels on a camera sensor because the two don’t function the same, and neither do the receptor types. On the one hand you could say “92 million rods plus 7 million cones equals 99 million pixels” but the eye doesn’t work like that. Most of the cones are centered in the macula, where they do the most good, whereas the peripheral vision is detected mainly by rods (to alert us to any motion on the edges of our vision which may be a danger). So you could also say the cones correlate to the pixels and our eyes are basically the equivalent of <10 MP sensors. This is also inaccurate as there are rods in the center as well.

In short, you could argue how to correlate the two until the cows come home. But you don’t need to in order to understand that Samsung’s 100+ MP sensors are technically beyond human visual capability, and in terms of center-weighted vision even a typical DSLR is a serious competitor for the human eye (think 7 million cones plus an equal number of rods in the same “area” coming out to a resolution of about 14 MP).

So it’s true: we have actually created technology capable of producing pictures which are sharper and have more colours than we can see. Brilliant. Never mind arguing there are reasons for it; we’re talking about how the technology relates to everyday photos, not specific and specialized applications.

Where our eyes win is in their superior low-light ability. Our pupils may only open to about f2.0, but in terms of light sensitivity we have a range around 46 worth of ‘stops’. Think of it as being able to use ISO 1.75 x 10^15 instead of ISO 25. Okay that number is just absurd and indicates I probably screwed up the math, so let’s just say we can see in really dim light that would leave a camera totally in the dark.

Some similarities between eyes and cameras occur in extreme lighting conditions. For one thing, both go white when the light is too bright; neither handles overexposure well. When the light goes down, both get grainy (or noisy if you prefer) and lose colour definition. You may have noticed this in a dark room. (If you’ve ever been in a colour dark room you’ve noticed how you see nothing, no matter how long you wait for your eyes to adjust, because there is no light to see by.)

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Another similarity is in the ability to handle contrast. This is the one where the ultra-processed images start moving away from reality. When we look at a scene with a wide dynamic range our eyes adjust for the part we’re directly looking at (like using center-weighted metering). If we don’t look into the shadows, the shadows go black. If we don’t look into the highlights, the highlights go white. Eyes have a pretty good dynamic range (about 6 stops) but obviously can’t handle too much range. Neither can cameras. Not all in one shot anyway.

So there’s the first problem: High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging can look fake because it can produce results outside the range our eyes can actually see. Some digital cameras can do better than the human eye right off the bat. Then if you take one frame perfectly exposed for shadows, another perfectly exposed for mid-tones, and a third perfectly exposed for highlights you can create a picture with twice (or even greater) the range we’d normally see. What’s more it is presented to the eye all at once, which is not the way we’re used to looking at things. The scene before our eyes constantly changes because our eyes constantly adjust to give us the best view of what we’re directly looking at, whereas the flat view from the camera is always the same from edge to center to edge.

If you add the extreme sharpness and greater colour definition of high resolution sensors to this high dynamic range as well, you get those stunning images that captivate us on ultra high definition monitors – and which don’t look real.

A certain amount of psychology comes into play at this point. We look at a lot of manipulated photos and instantly accept them as art, but with these ultra images … something grates across the psyche. They are reality made too real; the opposite of most ‘adjusted’ photos, which are reality made somewhat unreal. When we look away to the actual world around us our minds rebel because they’ve adjusted to this ‘new reality’: now everything else looks dull and fuzzy. We begin to question our own eyesight, rather than the image we just saw. After all, how can anything be more real than reality? It is a conundrum our minds struggle with, and consistently come up with the wrong solution to.

For the average person, the end result needs to look as much like reality as possible without going beyond it. Artistic shots are generally a reduction of this reality, not an enhancement of it. Buying the top-end equipment that can produce pictures with qualities we can’t actually see makes no sense for most people. Don’t fall for the numbers game: go for the camera that gives you the results you want at a price you can afford. That’s advice that applies to everyone.

Doctor My Eyes …

We can call it “good news”; my eyes aren’t any worse off than they might be. Near and far focus off a bit more of course, and a very slight indication of cataract in the left. But no indication of retinal problems, and he tested for muscle weakness – which wasn’t present at the time. We did discuss the ocular spasm as well. As with the other symptoms, there’s nothing can be done about it. Hang on – and wait for things to get worse.

Well, they did.

My wife is in England trying to straighten out matters with her Alzheimer’s afflicted sister and not having much luck. So much so that she’s having to extend her stay to August. This means she won’t be here when I go to the Big City for my MRI on July 25th. That means I have to arrange dog kenneling again, as well as a motel stay (because the appointment is at night). Never mind the pre-exam blood test which has me drinking plain water all the time trying to get creatinine levels in line (BORING!)

So I haven’t got the assistance of Friend Wife for more weeks, and it’s annoying because it limits my ability to do even simple things on account of not being able to leave the dogs on their own for any long time. As in not even two hours, never mind four hours or overnight for a city trip. Certainly not to spend a day at the cabin working on it.

Ah, yes. The cabin. Dead loss again this year. It needs massive amounts more work and I’m not up to doing it. In fact we’ve lost two months’ work time already, and a third is going to be lost as well. The poor contractor suffered the loss of his wife so he won’t be coming back soon to straighten out the little problems from his work last year. Never mind no one is going to dig the dirt out and put the plumbing in and do all the other things that need doing. Good heavens there’s an entire stove to be installed (no easy task).

The kids would like to come up and stay for a couple of weeks as usual, but unless they bring tents or an RV it isn’t going to happen. At this point even if all was well (and it is far from) there would not be enough time to complete the tasks necessary to make it livable, never mind adding any improvements.

Also, it’s pouring rain. In fact it has been raining quite a lot this Summer. It’s good for keeping wildfires down, but it interferes with work.

And it interferes with play. I have much more I want to do in the photography department, but not with water cascading from the clouds. I haven’t even been able to do some minor outdoor projects lately because of the increased precipitation. I barely managed to mow down the worst of the tall grass here before things got wet. Ironically replacement tires for the ‘good’ mower were dropped off last night (after I’d gone to bed – very weird delivery time if you ask me).

It’s been a bad weekend for pain. The damp seems to make things worse. I’ve had to fire the furnace just to take the edge off, as burning wood isn’t practical: the supply of split is low and I can’t split any more in the rain. Besides which even bringing some in is hard work.

Oddly enough I’ve been reading about the dog food scare where certain types are thought to be connected with canine dilate cardiomyopathy. One of the types is what we feed our now nine-year-old dogs (that’s like 63 for humans). They show none of the symptoms. I, on the other hand, do. But hey four cardiologists have said there’s nothing wrong with me.

So I sit and wait and watch movies and putter around the house and see to the daily needs of the menagerie. And myself. So much to arrange next week too. Thinking of cancelling the MRI because it’s such a hassle and isn’t likely to lead to anything positive no matter what the results are.

I think I need … a lot less happening in my life.

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Post Script: after publication I get word my wife will be stuck in England even longer, due to lawyer screw-up and general bureaucratic foot-dragging. The Summer is lost, and nothing is getting better.