Saturday, April 14, 2012

Eyes, mind and camera

click photo to enlarge
Displayed on a chest of drawers in our house is a beige, glazed, clay model of an animal. It has big ears, a wide mouth and, on each side of its body, green, feathered wings. Its tail is broad, notched, and may be either feathers or hair. The general posture, if I can call it that, resembles the way a dog sits with its front legs straight and the rear legs folded under. Except that those back legs are bent the wrong way and look more like a person's would if they were kneeling. The mythical beast, which has elements of the griffin and Pegasus about it, is a treasured possession that was made by my youngest son when he was young. He must have used his memory when he modelled the back legs of the animal, because if he'd followed an actual precedent, as he did for the rest of the animal, he'd have got them right.

Our eyes and mind often deceive us in this way. We look at something and create an internal picture that is at variance with reality. Sometimes that is because we mis-interpret the subject, but other times it's because we can't clearly see the phenomenon in question. A classic example of the latter relates to the eighteenth century and earlier paintings and drawings of running horses, with their front legs stretched forwards and their back legs stretched rearwards. It was only when the English-born photographer, Eadweard Muybridge, in the nineteenth century, ran a series of sequentially taken still photographs rapidly one after the other, that the truth of the horse's gallop became clear.

I was reminded of this when I leaned out of a bedroom window to take some photographs of rain falling on our water lily pond below. When I varied the shutter speed of the camera I recorded different versions of the effect of the drops hitting the surface of the water. None of them precisely matched what I thought I was seeing with my own eyes. The shot that I've posted today is quite close but the camera saw the shadows of the ripples on the surface of the pond much darker and in greater numbers than they appeared to me. However, it's an effect that I like, and it adds a semi-abstract, unifying layer over the young leaves and dead strands of vegetation. I frequently take photographs of this pond in spring when the lily leaves unfurl below the water, and in autumn when they die back from whence they came. Why this time of year should appeal to me more than summer when the multiple showy flowers are in full bloom I leave you to work out.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 300mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/320 sec
ISO: 3200
Exposure Compensation:  0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On