Seeing Slices

Tupelo leaves in sight slices
Tupelo Leaves, Sight Slices 1

I am sometimes baffled by what I see.

I will slap my face looking at a scene and wonder why am I not seeing what I expect to see.  The Tupelo tree (Nyssa sylvatica) in my front yard commands attention when it comes into fall color, and I expect to be amazed every year.  I expect to see a blaze of color, a shimmering collection of leaves.

I didn’t see it that way this year because my eyes do not work together as they once did.  I can certainly manage daily life, but my photo instincts have changed.  The eyes see so very differently now, with all surgeries done, new glasses, and a single contact lens in one eye.  It has been more than a year since the first retina surgery and all seems stable, but the partial vision loss and spherical aberration in one eye has left me unbalanced.

I am at once frustrated and amazed at the current state of my vision.  The imbalance only really affects me when I move.  Standing still, my brain tends to correct things and lets the right eye, always the dominant one, decide what I am seeing.  But when I stop to think and let both eyes work, they do not focus the same way and I see in slices.

This sounds more radical than it is, I will never be a case study for Oliver Sachs; and in these examples of the Tupelo leaves I have exaggerated the effect.  But the fun part of seeing so differently is allowing myself the excuse to play.

Here is the original photo of Sight Slices 1 (above).  A nice photo in itself.  A straight photo in my old style.  No blur.

By playing with PhotoShop, adding a blur filter and then painting out (erasing) certain areas as “slices”, I am able to draw attention to specific leaf clusters rather than the whole tapestry.  And much more intriguing to look at don’t you think ?  Attention is drawn to the details, the slices, that make the whole.

Let’s try another one.  Here is the original for Tupelo Leaves, Sight Slices 2:

slices 2 original

To make a full tapestry feeling, I need to crop out some rather empty areas on the left that make the photo feel unbalanced.  Then realized I needed to add some more leaves to some “holes” in the composition:

slices 2 with guides and holes

Knowing I was going to blur out most of the photo it was very easy to cut leaves out of one part of the frame and move them to the “holes”.  No sloppy edges would be noticed.  Then, once I had the composition I wanted, I blurred the entire photo and painted away the slices I wanted to reveal.  It took a little trial and error but here is what #2 looks like:

Each of the Sight Slices photos has a different feel and color contrast but illustrate a bit of the impressions I get when I let both eyes truly study a scene.  I see slices of detail in the midst of a subject; and really, whether or not it is blurred.  I have always looked carefully at the details that make a composition, but my vision problems allow me analyze this duality and create photos I wouldn’t have thought about before.

I think it is more interesting to consider the scene with this duality anyway.  As we look into the details that make up any scene, our eyes see the details while the brain assimilates the entire view.  Well duh, but I never thought about trying to illustrate it.

For a little background, I finish with a wide photo of my Tupelo tree as seen from my front steps.  In my workshops I have  a topic “Find a Photo”.  I stood on my steps looking at this scene and wondered what I was seeing.

front yard with tupelo in fall

I also wondered when I would rake the leaves:





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