What I See

– Posted in: Garden Design, Garden Photography

Where do I begin to describe the wonders that I see?  My world is new and changing daily.

The following set of photos were taken a few weeks ago, between the two eye surgeries.

I began with this Camellia sasanqua ‘Apple Blossom’ quite by accident because at first I simply had to get outdoors, to get some fresh air, to escape the dreary thoughts and worry that accompanied my fear when first eye surgery did not work.  I worked the garden.  I clumsily planted a few things and began warily to look at things with my blurry left eye.

Whether or not it can be explained by the Nitrous Oxide bubble in my eye, I could see virtually nothing.  I small branch of the Camellia swatted me as I lurched through a shrub border.  “Hey!”  Was it scolding me or inviting me ? I put my face completely up to this white flower and its yellow stamens to drink in its delicate scent, rubbing it against my eyebrow feeling like our sensuous and languid Beatrice the cat, who rubs my pant leg to invite her meal.

I was apprehensive about getting my camera, but knew I must.  It was a moment I needed to record or I would forget the scent, forget the gray color of white, forget I could see a hint of the red on the lip of the petal, forget I was forgetting my troubles.

I used my little G11 camera.  The very model my great friend David Perry allowed me to use in a shoot-off we had in Seattle a couple years ago.  It has a wonderful swivel back that allows you to hold the camera at funny angles and still see the screen.  And it shoots Raw.  I am giddy with its potential.

“What can I see ?”  I was determined to study my condition with the camera.  With two eyes, one good and one bad, it became an exploration of perceptions.  I needed to put my face really close to something for my left eye to see anything but the right eye couldn’t quite understand this new perspective.  Nor could the camera capture it.  But this is where PhotoShop excels – changing reality.  Or creating reality as the photographer wants it presented.  The Camera Always Lies.

I put my face into my Magnolia campbellii and looked down at the leaves on the ground.  The leaves had little color looking through the gas bubble in my eye, and the camera captured way too much in focus, no matter what setting I tried.  And the leaves on the ground looked watery, due to the dual vision I suppose, but there was no way the camera was going to give me what I saw.

But I knew what I wanted to get.  I could previsualize what I knew what PhotoShop could do – so I took a bunch of pictures not sure what was in focus.  I could hardly tell anyway.  It turns out the most important thing was to have the foreground soft focus so I could play with the rest in PhotoShop Layers.

leaves Magnolia campbellii, viewed with m'eyes recuperating, enhanced photoshop

I won’t go into the details here but, and I hereby announce, I now have my own blog.  I have been telling myself for years I should have my own blog, but wondered how I would fill it up beyond my twice monthly postings here on Gardening Gone Wild.  But now I have so much to say.  I am exploding with new ideas.  In my next post here I will let you know where to find my personal blog, but these are the teasers.

pink flowers Camellia sasanqua 'Kanjiro' for m'eyes recuperating

Camellia sasanqua ‘Kanjiro’.  ‘Apple Blossom’ made me start this process, but I need strong color.  I also need a bigger scale to show the real affect.  Can you tell the center of this photo is softer than the edges?

In this one it is more obvious:

pink flowers Camellia sasanqua 'Kanjiro' for m'eyes recuperating

And simply an in-your-face composition with a leaf adding a dominant counterpoint.

pink flower and green leaf of Camellia sasanqua 'Kanjiro' for m'eyes recuperating

And just a lovely, lovely pink:

pink flowers Camellia sasanqua 'Kanjiro' for m'eyes recuperating

The last two photos here, of Dogwood leaves, were taken the same day as the others, but are not exactly what I saw.   I have enhanced them with the knowledge I now have from photos taken just in this past week.  The photos I have taken recently, since the big surgery, have altered how I remember.

fall leaves of dogwood tree, Cornus florida for m'eyes recuperating photoshop

I can not explain what I am doing or what I see.  I don’t have the words today.  But I have lots of new photos and my world is changing daily.

fall leaves of dogwood tree, Cornus florida for m'eyes recuperating 2 photoshop

My eyes are seeing dualities I never recognized.

narrow crack of focus,fall leaves of dogwood tree, Cornus florida for m'eyes recuperating

More to come.  I am in the garden every day recording new perceptions, and my sight should be “normal” in 4-5 weeks.

Saxon Holt

Saxon Holt is the owner of PhotoBotanic, a garden picture resource for photographs, workshops, and garden photography stories. A landscape photographer and award winning photojournalist with more than 20 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California.

Saxon Holt

Latest posts by Saxon Holt (see all)

Previous Post:

Comments on this entry are closed.

Kathy in Napa November 23, 2010, 11:56 pm

Saxon, I don’t think I have any particularly inspired comments here-your experience takes me into the tunnel of my long standing paranoia about my own incredibly myopic eyesight-1st pair of glasses in 4th grade, haven’t been able to see the ‘E’ on the chart since about kindergarten. My BIL has endured the detached retina gig, and his description to me of the recovery period…well, I wondered at the time if he could possibly be exaggerating. I know better now. I wish you a full recovery, and really look forward to your blog.

Thanks Kathy. I trust the doctors and the recovery period and hope in the meantime I can get enough computer time to share all the cool photos that are coming. – Saxon

Melody November 24, 2010, 9:51 am

Very interesting and beautiful. I love the focus being most on the colors and shapes since the brain doesn’t just recognize “another flower”. That last picture is wonderful with the out of focus leaves and in focus grass.

Thanks Melody. I can’t yet decide which ones I like the best and every time I touch one I see new possibilities of interpreting what I see. The view changes every time I move my head as the gas bubble rolls around my eye, so I am capturing the ephemeral. – Saxon

rebecca sweet November 24, 2010, 12:03 pm

Wow. WOW! What a powerful post, Saxon. It’s wondeful that you’re able to take a stressful situation and see the positive in it, and then to be able to share it visually with everyone. And ‘Congratulations!!’ on your new personal blog! I know it’s been something you’ve been thinking about and can’t wait to read it!

Thanks Rebecca. I may just send you a personal invite to see the new blog. Telling you virtually tells the world (g) …. – Saxon

Kelly/Floradora November 24, 2010, 12:12 pm

Isn’t it interesting how a forced change of perspective can open up so many new ideas? – As long as one is willing to embrace them! Can’t wait to see your new blog.

Thanks Kelly. Don’t know how in the world I will be able it explain this to students, but I bet you would “get” it. – Saxon

Mr. McGregor's Daughter November 24, 2010, 10:19 pm

Altering the image to make it less realistic clues in the viewer that this is art, not photojournalism, can’t wait to see more. I admire how you’ve made lemonade out of your predicament.

While I am flattered to call it art, I am altering to make it look like I see it. Well, it IS enhanced but for the purpose of telling the story. Still journalism ? Much fun – Saxon

Town Mouse November 24, 2010, 10:30 pm

Last week we saw the Post-Impressionist exhibit at the De Young, and I remembered looking at the van Gough paintings and wondering whether he really saw things like that, or just expressed them like that. What a coincidence to see you post right after, and to be struck by how powerful the distortion can make the view.

Best of luck with your recovery from the second operation! I’m so sorry to hear the first one didn’t work out.

I will be going to the de Young myself to see the show. I wonder if looking at those paintings with eyes that are already weird will make them look normal ? (g) – Saxon

Craig @ Ellis Hollow November 25, 2010, 11:30 am

Best wishes on a speedy recovery. I’m hoping that your new perceptions will continue to influence your work even when you’re seeing well again. Don’t tease us too long with the blog. Please let us in sooner rather than later.

Thanks Craig. I have already walked through the doors of perception and am reveling in the view. When my eye heals I won’t turn back, but I won’t be seeing what I am seeing now. That is the hope with healing after all. However, as you will see in my next GGW post, perceptions are not just about sight.

My next post here is due Dec.8 – Saxon

Heather's Garden December 7, 2010, 1:29 am

I’ve always been scared of losing my sight. I have terrible eyesight, 20/400 if I recall correctly, and uncorrected cannot see the big ‘E’ on the chart. My father had a retina detach (for no clear reason) and has gone through the gas bubble, etc. and has not had great results. I’m often told I should get the laser surgery to correct my vision and I always respond that I don’t know what I would do if something went wrong. It’s easy enough to put in contacts each day. But I don’t live my life through my eyes the way that you do, Saxon. I truly hope the surgery is a success and I too cannot wait to read your personal blog (your posts here have brought so much to the way I see the world through my camera).

Thanks for the encouraging words Heather. I never even wanted contacts OR laser surgery, I was so protective of my eyes. Now this is forcing me to let go, and embrace new ways of seeing. – Saxon