Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sky, trees, water

Most people use sight as their main tool for sensing the world. Light from the sun or some other source bounces off various objects and enters our eyes. Our brains have learned to interpret this so we know that's our friend Kim, we can see our destination across an open area, and that's a car coming towards us quickly.

Our other senses don't let us move as quickly or confidently around in the world. Compared to dogs we don't have a sense of smell. Our range of hearing isn't particularly good. Our fingers and sense of touch are good as far as they go, but any octopus can do better. Taste only works on things that are in our mouth.

There are other senses as well. If we've seen an object we want to pick up, even though we can't currently see it, we can reach out and pick it up. Our sense of balance is pretty good; we are the only creatures that have mastered walking on two legs all the time.

But our eyesight is not infallible. In fact, it's pretty easy to fool us. We only actually really see a tiny fraction of what is in our range of vision. Our brains stitch this together so we perceive an unbroken whole. Usually this works pretty well. But there's a famous video where watchers are asked to count the number of times one team of basketball players pass the ball. Afterward they are asked if they noticed anything else. Most don't. That video has been updated, and I was fooled again. You can see several of these here.

I think one of the reasons I like reflection shots is they distort reality, and remind me that so-called reality was already distorted even before the light enters my eyes. A simple example of this is a ray of light bouncing off a surface. The exact mix of light wavelengths and the colour, texture, opacity, and other qualities of the surface influence what my eyes will perceive. Then there's what the brain does with the information. There are many ways we can be deceived or deceive ourselves.

Then we come to photographs. There used to be a saying, "the camera never lies." It did, and it does, and did so even before Photoshop. I've already had some fun playing with photographs. It's trivially easy to manipulate a photo to appear unreal. But even an ordinary photo is likely to have been manipulated in some way. The photos that make you go oooh and ahhh are certainly manipulated, often producing an unreal effect that nevertheless is accepted as real. What I'm working on these days is to produce an image that is still a photograph. Tweaked and tuned to make it the best photograph possible, what our eyes might see under ideal conditions. If I tweak and tune too much, I hope viewers consider it art instead of a badly edited photograph.

The first is near Baker Park, and the second is in the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.

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