The Photographers Eyes

I’ve always been intrigued by cameras and composition. I trained as a fine artist and focused on life drawing and painting with a side of ceramics. In college photography was a discipline I had to study for a year to satisfy the requirements of my BFA. I did really enjoy it, but it was not my “go-to” discipline. I learned the mechanics and even did a few professional shoots here and there. A camera was a tool in my designers toolbox. This all changed for me in 2006, but to tell the whole story I need to go back a little further.
When I was 17 I wrecked the family car. I was coming out of a construction zone and just when traffic started to speed up the car in front of me stopped for a dog crossing the road and I plowed right into it. I didn’t realize that I was so close. Afterward my mom decided to get my eyes checked out. It turns out that I had a slight crossed eye that could have interfered with my depth perception. Along with this the doctor discovered that I had cataracts. I was born with them. They were unusual in shape and not very common. I had 20/20 vision, and really didn’t notice anything. The doctor said that they might never be an issue.

Every time I moved to a new city and got a new eye doctor, they would ask it if was OK to bring in all their staff to see my cataracts, they were very unusual, something you might only see a couple of times in a career. One doctor even asked to photograph them – I finally got to see what the fuss was about. They looked like tiny galaxies, circular with swirls radiating from the center.

Now spring forward to 2006, my eye doctor had advised me that I could really benefit from cataract surgery. He suggested that once I began to lose the ability to focus (we all start to experience this in our 40’s) that I seriously should consider it. By this time I was living in a rural area and I was having difficulty driving at night. It never occurred to me that the culprit might be my cataracts, I assumed it was the lack of street lights. I had the surgery one eye at a time. I was the youngest person in the office by about 30 years. None of my fellow patients could imagine me having cataracts. The surgery only took a couple of minutes, and for those seconds between when they remove your old lens and when they replace it with a new one, my field of vision was filled with swirling rainbows through liquid – it was vivid and beautiful.

The next morning when I went out into the sunlight I was stunned by what I saw. I had always had 20/20 vision. I could see details and contrast just fine. In those first moments that morning I realized that I had never really seen color before. I never knew that a lawn was filled with thousands of shades of green and that each blade of grass both cast a shadow and caught a touch of sunlight. I never knew that the parking lot at work was made up of hundreds of greys and browns – I had always seen it as just kinda black. Before my surgery I had taken photos of mostly still life and everyday objects. I loved finding a new way to see something ordinary, but now my eyes were overwhelmed with the vividness of the world around me. I upgraded my camera kit to better capture the color and began to take my camera everywhere.

After work and on weekends I began to seek out color. Autumn leaves, sunsets, spring flowers, songbirds. The first time I had a show locally, a reporter asked me what inspired me and seemed surprised when I said color, since I had so many wildlife shots and landscapes. The subjects of my beloved still lives became more colorful. Color is the unifying theme of almost everything I shoot.

Today, I cannot even imagine the dullness of the world I lived in for so long without knowing it. I live for color and in the spring time when the Ozarks are alive with color. Currently I have a show up here in Eureka Springs called Harbingers – I collected works shot between February and April to represent those things that usher in a glorious spring after a long cold winter. I’ve mounted each on canvas over hard board and fixed then onto stretcher bars exposing the wood sides. I wanted to try to take the technical photography and give it a warmer hand-crafted feel. As spring has blossomed here I continue to add to my Harbinger library – and it’s no surprise that the images are filled with color. The images used in the show are in the slideshow below. Scroll through to see the images larger and to see camera settings.

Shutterbug notes – I chose my current camera set up partly because of its dynamic range. Moving to manual really give you a lot more control over color. Moving off auto gives you access to all the features of your camera and let’s you get the most out of it. Try seeing things in a new light, you might never want to go back to your old ways of seeing the world around you!

35 thoughts on “The Photographers Eyes

  1. Beautiful series of shots ~ and you’ve captured the incredible colors of nature just like the are to be seen and admired. Enjoyed your write-up and story, and your experience with cataract surgery. What an interesting and fascinating thing to really see color (I’ve never thought about this before). As with photography, you make a terrific point of “opening up your eyes” and understanding your camera so you can bring such color to life. Wonderful post.

  2. Good to see some of your wonderful images again, Lorrie
    The colours on the back of that Wrong Turn Rufous are amazing.
    (and thanks for sharing the story behind your eyesight issues of the past).

    • Hi Vickie, that Rufous hummingbird is not native to this area. This one was stranded here over the winter. This happens sometimes, but it’s very rare to see one here. It’s feathers are iridescent. She was a gorgeous bird.

  3. Lorie – what a story – I can relate a bit – having been very nearsighted all my life, when I had cataract surgery, suddenly I could see without glasses – it was a miracle to me.
    So happy to see you back – and look forward to seeing your work when in ES.
    Oh – and these photos – gorgeous! K

    • Hi Kathleen! Did they correct your lenses when you had your surgery? I had sharp vision, so that didn’t change much and I just wore a simple bifocal for a long time. The last couple of years I’ve developed an astigmatism – but I’m still so glad I had the surgery. My work is in DaVitos for a couple weeks and in a gallery downtown too. I’ve been doing some shows and mounting canvases, trying to move my photography to another level. It’s exciting to just see your work presented. Have you written about the cabin lately, I need to catch up! L

  4. I’ve have missed you, too and I’m very glad to see you here again! What a personal story! Colors are extremely beautiful – especially in nature that offers either a stunning variety of shades or a kind of gorgeous pure explosion! You’re so right about it – but true – how should you (or anyone in such a case) know before a surgery and before getting the new lens(es).
    Your today’s photographs are wonderful – as all pictures you posted as long as I’m visiting your blog, Lorrie. But now I know the story behind, can imagine the very special “value” of colors for you and may esteem each one of your colorful photos still much more.

    • Hi Michele – I love that, the “value” of colors. I have missed posting. I’ve been taking a lot of photos, springtime is so colorful. I think having the surgery really made me see the value of my eyesight. Having it at its best really makes a difference. Nice to hear from you!!

  5. Heyyyyyyyyyyyyyy you! I’ve missed you here in the blogisphere. 🙂 Beautiful shots alive with colour. ❤ And love you story – you are one of the most interesting people I've ever met!
    Diana xo

  6. Great photos and story. I had a similar experience discovering color after cataract surgery. Thanks for sharing this experience with us. Your example shows that the procedure is not as scary as many folks think it is. Ω

    • Thanks Allan, I do miss that close focusing, but the trade off is so worth it. After my surgery my favorite color changed. I never knew how warm and saturated orange was. Now it draws my eye every time.

      • For me it was the pastels—pink, purple, blue—that took on a new life. It was also nice to see in the dark again, especially on Graveyard shift! Ω

    • Thanks Michelle. The only flowers I have grow here on their own, I guess I’m just to lazy to garden. I do look forward to other people’s gardens blooming though 🙂 Nice to hear from you!

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