The View From Here

Booting down the Interstate as a passenger, I have ample time to admire the bare fields.  In the warm low-angled January light, they practically glow.  I make approving noises and the Big Guy gives me that look.  You know the one.

Are you kiddin’ me?

He doesn’t speak, but the communication is clear enough.

Oh, right.  I’m wearing my sunglasses. 

As I peek over the top of the frames, squinting against the harsh light, the landscape is revealed as somewhat less appealing than I had thought.

Sighing, I retreat behind my tinted lenses, where the view is more to my liking.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had this silent conversation.  The grain fields of southern Alberta, the badlands of South Dakota, the corn stubble on fields carved out from the Canadian Shield, the high desert of Arizona  – all these and more have benefited from whatever tint is added to my prescription sunglasses.  Through them, the world looks warm and lovely, especially in the shoulder seasons, and I am often left modifying my photos to match what I remember seeing.

Rolling hills, mountains, and blue sky
Patagonia, AZ

Should I stop admiring this artificially enhanced view, since it’s not real?

Nah.

Colour isn’t so much a feature of the physical world as the result of our interaction with it.  Even excluding the special case of colour-blindness, the experience of colour isn’t standard across humans.  And other animals have their own perceptions – some see less than we do, and some see more, even into the ultraviolet part of the spectrum.

So if my sunglasses change what I see, that’s OK by me.  Who’s to say that what they show me isn’t as real as what I see without them?  Well, besides the Big Guy, I mean.

But it is a good idea, I think, for me to remember that the lenses I wear make a difference, and not just when booting down the Interstate.

 

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12 Comments

  1. Tom Watson

    Isabel
    I hope that if we ever meet you’re wearing those good lenses of yours, because then what you see will undoubtedly be better than you get…and I much prefer you to see that enhanced view of me!
    Tom

  2. Ralph

    Most of us see Red, Green & Blue color vision. One form of “color-blindness” is the loss-of-function of 1 of these colors. A small percentage among us build our color vision from 4 color detectors (a 2nd, different, red, I think). And then there are synesthetes, of course. So – many kinds of lenses.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Ralph – Yes. I know a guy with more than the usual red/green colour blindness – I think he sees almost no colour, although I guess that doesn’t mean a black and white world exactly either. Sort of weird. He once asked what colour an office chair was (an icky turquoise) because he said “it didn’t look nice.”

  3. John Whitman

    Isabel – regarding your, “Through them, the world looks warm and lovely, especially in the shoulder seasons, and I am often left modifying my photos to match what I remember seeing.”

    Is modifying photos considered “fake” photography? And is “fake” photography a cousin to “fake” news?

  4. Judith Umbach

    Who is to say that glare is any more real than warm colours? My eyes have changed over the years, so they aren’t the least bit reliable in conveying information. As with most things, go with what makes you happy – a healthy approach to life. This very much applies to editing photos.

  5. Marion

    I’ve been in exactly the same situation: benefiting from the warm view of my sunglasses without immediately realizing it. Funny that once you’ve seen the ‘enhanced’ view, the ‘real’ one looks wrong.
    But I wanted to mention also that I found very interesting the LiveScience article “Your Color Red Really Could Be My Blue” that you linked to with your text “the experience of colour isn’t standard across humans”. Food for thought/meditation; for me, it raises interesting questions related to how we tend to believe that the way we see the world is the way it actually exists and that everyone else is wrong or not seeing it correctly (colour-wise or otherwise).
    From within that article I clicked on a link to another good one, and eventually decided to subscribe to the newsletter. Thanks for that connection!

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Marion – Oh yeah, the world and our world-view don’t necessarily align, but it can be hard to remember that when it counts. Glad you found some new reading material!

  6. Barry

    to leave the physical explanations of colour blindness and retreat to an “artificially enhanced view”

    . . . #68
    “I have done that,” says my memory. “I cannot have done that,” says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually – – – memory yields.
    Beyond Good & Evil; Friedrich Nietzache

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