Seeing Nothingness

A well functioning human eye is a biological marvel surpassing the ability of a camera at taking images.

I’m using my camera to try and understand how macular degeneration is affecting Dad’s vision, reading up about the condition as we go. My intention is not that these are scientific posts but rather that I can more meaningfully journey this next stage with my elderly father.

My full frame DSLR has a lot fewer photoreceptors (pixels) to capture photons of light than my retina has. In addition to that, pressing the shutter of my camera takes one static image but my eyes are on continuous shoot updating information to my brain regarding light, detail and colour of the subject.

When I took a series of photographs overlooking the Valley of Thousand Hills in bright sunlight, I knew that my images would not be consistent with the scene. A human eye can manage a sizeable dynamic range – from the very brightest of light all the way through to very darkest. Not so my camera – so the sun in my photograph shows as a circle of blown highlights in which all visible detail is lost.

This is an imperfect analogy, but dad permanently misses details now in everything he looks at …

He talks of seeing areas of ‘nothingness’…

And his brain is working harder now to identify other cues that help interpret these visual lapses. Currently he’s having to come to terms with the extreme difficulty reading his beloved books.

This is part four of my subseries ‘What do you see Dad?

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 5

I’m in South Africa with my elderly parents for a time, my fourth visit in two years. I meld into their routine and help where I can, always trying to preserve their dignity. Their perception of life is determined by past experience, values and the current ravages of deteriorating health. My lens is recording as respectfully as possible their reality. This is a sub part of a project Plot148, not yet complete.

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