Art .. i .. fact

My dad has macular degeneration and is going blind. As a photographer I’m trying to understand his condition through the use of my camera.

Digital artifacts are unwanted blemishes in photographs resulting from the inner workings of the camera. Light leaks or lens flare are one such undesirable outcome. Light from a bright source, like the sun, gets reflected and scattered inside the lens causing streaks and shapes across the scene being captured by the sensor. Recently these effects have been embraced by photographers for creative images.

Harnessing Light for Images: Eye vs Camera

The quantity of light entering the eye is controlled by the size of the pupil, which is adjusted by a muscle – the iris. One area where a camera can outsmart the eye is in the shape of lens flare. In the above photograph an aperture of f22 leads to hexagonal shapes. These patterns of lens flare do not happen with a well functioning eye because the iris adjusts the pupil evenly at all times, rather than by the use of blades as within my camera body.

Though I couldn’t see these artifacts at the time my eye was held to the viewfinder, I knew from the direction of strong sun rays reaching my lens, that I’d get shapes across my image and I chose my aperture accordingly. The wider the aperture the more circular the shapes are so that if I had used f2.8, softer bokeh could be produced.  

Visual Hallucinations

It is not uncommon for people with Macular Degeneration to experience visual hallucinations. These may be in the form of unexpected colour, shapes or flashes of light. That seems to me much like unwanted artifacts, spoiling the quality of an image. A little research has indicated that these visual hallucinations are a result of interrupted message pathways between the retina and the brain and it is important for patients and family to realise that they are NOT linked to mental illness.

This is part five of my sub-series ‘What do you see Dad?’

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 6

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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