Seeing the World

About a year ago, I got new eyes. To be exact, I had lens implants. When I could no longer drive at night, distinguish brown from purple, and thought every traffic light was huge and fuzzy and had six lights, I went to an eye doctor who told me my eyesight was “near normal.” It could not be. Three doctors later, I met one who asked what I did. I told her I was a writer and then added, slowly, “and an artist.”

Cypress at dawn. © Quinn McDonald, 2014

Cypress at dawn. © Quinn McDonald, 2014 There are no lights in this photo. Natural light and rain lit up the cypress. The pink is a Bougainvillaea blossom.

“You see the world differently,” she said, “and you need to see the world clearly.” I could not believe that anyone who saw the world as I did at the time could survive. Because I had brought my blood sugar under control and lost a lot of weight, the lens implant surgery was recommended and my life changed overnight. I had clear, color-correct vision back.

Since then, there has not been a single day that I have not been grateful for my eyesight.


Sparkling branches. © 2014

But I keep thinking about how artists, sensitive people, and people who are “different” see the world. This morning I noticed how hard it was to get these photos right. I could see them very clearly, but the camera could not.

Cypress against palm tree. © Quinn McDonald 2014

Cypress against palm tree. © Quinn McDonald 2014

This is not the first time this has happened. The camera and I do not see the same things. Sure, lighting can be tricky. Angles have to be just right. But so often I see an image that the camera cannot seem to capture. I wonder if I do see the world differently.

-Quinn McDonald likes the world she sees, even if her camera doesn’t see the same thing.


6 thoughts on “Seeing the World

  1. Anybody else have a hundred shots for every image they try to capture, hoping even one can be manipulated to show the same thing your eyes saw? I’m over the moon when I can tweak a picture until it resembles what was actually happening, but nothing compares to getting it just right at the shutter-click.

    My logical brain has worked in conjunction with my whimsical heart to classify the phenomenon: why my camera can’t see what is plainly Right. There. Their working hypothesis goes something like this:

    The camera is not an active participant, and so only views what “is”: wet on a tree, bugs in a field, dead leaf on the ground. Conversely, when I (you, we) are the viewer, looking through our own eyes, we are active participants. We become a catalyst: a living/seeing/thinking/reasoning/loving/hating person who “gives” their attention (it may not involve a lot of movement, but it is a physical act) to a subject/moment/scene, adding our own energy/action/vibration to the mix of air and earth and water and life. And since for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction: the subject/moment/scene gives back (the reverse physical act) to us an “insider” view full of magic that we can see plain as the nose on our face, but that the camera can’t see at all: a tree lit with raindrops, butterflies filling a field with music we can almost hear, the fire of autumn ablaze at our feet.

    I’m pretty sure it means YOU bring the magic…to everything. You ARE the magic…in everything.

    Of course, none of that lessens the cursing when the camera refuses the magic with blind insistence that it just doesn’t exist.

    • We bring our whole life to every scene we see–experience, emotions, memories, expectations. That’s a whole series of filters for every scene. And then, of course, there is the fact that as artists we do see the world differently. Six different cameras would take six similar shots that six different artists would describe completely differently.

  2. I experienced just this phenomenon yesterday, when I tried to photograph the falling rain with the sun shining on it.  The camera’s view made it look like dots of snow!  

  3. It’s true. We all see something different when viewing the same scene. There is a lot of processing done by the brain before the finished picture is presented to your consciousness. And just what that processing is depends on your past experiences, your beliefs, your attitudes, even your present mood.
    Eye + Brain resembles Camera + Photoshop

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