The Gas Bubble

December 9, 2010 · 4 comments

art - autumn leaves of dogwood tree detached retinaIn order for the eye to heal after retina surgery, the doctors put a nitrous oxide gas bubble into the eye.  This is just enough pressure to hold the retina in place while it heals.  The bubble is the reason my eyesight is so blurry in the left eye.

Depending on how I hold my head, the gas bubble moves around; and when I look straight down at something very close to my eye I am best able to combine the vision of two eyes into one image.  I don’t know the actual explanation.  But for one thing, I can see next to nothing unless I practically put my face into it.  If I look down, the gas bubble becomes almost a perfectly symmetrical drop of water.  In fact, everything looks watery as the bubble bobs with the slightest movement of the head.

Combine the one eye with a watery bubble that can only make out faint shapes at close range, with a good eye wearing bi-focals and you get some new perspective on seeing.

So now I am off into my garden to see what I can see, thinking I need to juxtapose various layers of subject matter into one frame.  I put my head right in among the beautiful dogwood leaves with their fall color and looked to the ground.  As I contemplate what I am seeing, with my left eye getting real friendly with leaves, and right eye focusing on the ground, I begin to realize the fluid nature of the bubble is making the leaves on the ground look watery.

The potentially for wonderful photograph was made possible by my Canon G11 camera.  In normal times I use a tripod for all pictures.  For thoughtful consideration of a composition and ultimate sharpness, a tripod is essential; but there would be no way for me to use a tripod looking straight down while in the middle of tree branches.  The G11 has a swivel back which allows me to see the viewfinder no matter what direction the camera is pointed.

So I held the camera out from my body where my head had been, positioned right next to the leaves and pointed down.  I could see the image in the swiveled up viewfinder and began to gently probe for a composition.  The camera would autofocus on the ground and I could later use Photoshop to make those sharp leaves look watery.

fall leaves2 of dogwood tree seen with detached retina

Each composition has its merits.  Different amounts of negative space.  Different amounts of the soft blurry orange.

If I put my eyes completely onto  the leaves to get a complete mass of orange my right eye can still see a wee bit of focus, a slot between two leaves.  Now there is so much blur I can not see the watery affect, but still quite interesting:

slotted fall leaves of dogwood tree

More cool photos to come….

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Lauren December 9, 2010 at 10:23 am

I appreciate your sharing your experience with one blurry eye and sharing what you do see – which is spectacular and fascinating! Some of my favorite childhood memories are of riding in the back of my Mom’s Chevy station wagon in the darkness of night without my glasses (which I began wearing at age 3). I was able to see spectacular ‘snowflakes’ at the top of every light post while everyone else simply saw a street light. There is always more to be seen…

Thanks Lauren; what a great memory and I bet there is a Photoshop filter for that too — Saxon


Philip Alldrit December 9, 2010 at 4:54 pm

When I first read about your eye problems on Gardening Gone Wild, I was shocked. It seemed so unfair that someone who earns a living by seeing, should suffer such a setback. When you made further postings, I thought of Beethoven, who lost his hearing but continued to compose. You’re very brave and determined, turning your misfortune into a learning experience – with good results.

There was an interesting movie made in the early nineties called “Proof”. It was about a blind photographer who used his senses to guide and compose his pictures, then his friend would later explain what he had captured in the pictures he had taken.

Great work Saxon, you inspire . . .

Thanks Philip. If I had the detached retina during my busy season it would really be a hardship but this time of year it really is an opportunity. And all indications are my sight will return to normal. This is not a permanent condition. So I am trying to “see” all I can while I still have the blur in the one eye. best – Saxon


Ellie Smith December 11, 2010 at 3:50 am

Saxon, I am very much in admiration of your ability to take this health issue and turn it into an inspiration for your art. I’m sure that at the end of the experience it will have changed the way you photograph forever.

I am really enjoying your essays about how you are viewing the world. For those who are visual artists, I can imagine that the whole idea of possibly losing your vision must be extremely frightening and stressful, and yet you have found a way to rise above that gut reaction.

I like all of the above photos, but the first one seems most magical to me.

Of course, as another gardener, I totally “get” how healing and comforting it is to get your hands into the dirt. I’m so glad you are finding comfort in the “new” photography too. I found myself playing with the “out of focus” thing yesterday, and got some very satisfying images. This one is my favorite:

Looking forward to more of your posts.

Ellie – Glad you found the new blog and appreciate the comments. I think like the first photo best too – that is why it’s first…
The thing about shooting out of focus for me right now is that I am seeing out of focus, not not my “normal” myopic nearsightedness, but complete blur. I have to use the computer to try and recreate. I don’t know how to use Photoshop well enough to create photos out of the blue that I really like, though I know some computer artists can do this effectively right out of their own heads.
Your picture ( Tradescantia?) is nice because you visualized it that way and did not do it in the computer. Love the single flower barely in focus. – Saxon


Tammi December 11, 2010 at 8:29 am

Hi Saxon,

I’m new to the blog subscription event, so this is my second try. I love your blog! The photos are beautiful and fun and leave me with a feeling of gratitude for the natural world. Thank you for mentioning our book. I’m told it will be available for sale on February 9th, so keeping my fingers crossed that nothing disrupts that time schedule. Merry Christmas!


Tammi – It is great to have you watching this. I hope you are not having trouble subscribing. Your second try ? You have an open invitation to come stay with us if you get a book tour going and Mrs. Dalloways the premier garden book store anywhere, especially in N.CA. has given us an open date for whenever you and Homegrown Herbs hit the road – Saxon


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