Archives for July 2010

Out and About

Even though I’m now officially on the waiting list for my next guide, Yara’s exact retirement date is somewhat in the air. Before then I wanted to make sure we got in one last set of photos together. I also wanted to do something different from the studio shots we’ve done in the past. Given the abundance of beautiful weather, I wanted to have a set taken outdoors, something more candid and in natural light. Due to a variety of reasons, not the least of which being my own indecisiveness, this ended up happening as three separate photo sessions with some incredibly fabulous photographers. Yara and I had a wonderful time and I’ve been bursting to get the digital images so I could share them with everyone! However, I won’t have the last set taken by Heidi Benjamin Pet Photography for another week or two and since I’m anything but patient I took the liberty of uploading some of my favorite photos from Cindy Andreassen and Red Cottage Photography:

Lastly, my favorite of all is the photo below of us lying in the grass together. Yara has her leg positioned rather possessively over my left arm, which we all found considerably adorable. It’s taken from behind so the composition of it has me looking off to the side at Mike while Yara is facing forward looking at Lisa. I think it’s a very natural and beautiful shot of us. Especially when one considers that at the time my back was getting assaulted by bugs and the close proximity of Yara had me breathing in her incredibly raunchy breath with every inhale. I suppose what they say about beauty being pain is true.

Yara and me lying in the grass together

I’ll post again when I get the images from Heidi Benjamin, but for now much thanks goes to Cindy Andreassen and Mike and Lisa Dack for their time and expertise!

Lone Duck

A duck swimming on Washington Park Lake

During our walk this morning through the park I finally managed to grab a rather awesome shot of one of the many ducks that frequent Washington Park Lake. It’s one of the rare photos that I am actually quite proud of. And now Yara and I are off to go meet with the photographer and pick up our professional shots from last week. \o/

Last Vet Visit

Saturday Yara had what was hopefully her last visit to Parkside Vet. Because she was still suffering from her allergic reaction last month when she had her annual checkup, I didn’t fast her and have the blood work done that was needed for some of the tests we wanted done.

Since her diagnosis in November 2008, Yara hasn’t had her TLI, folate or B12 levels checked. Her vet just called and informed me that, obviously, her TLI level shows that she’s EPI. But her folate is normal and her B12 is at 228, which while quite lower than normal is still significantly higher than it was when she was diagnosed. Given that she weighed in at 64 lbs, the highest she’s ever weighed, and is doing so well, the vet and I both agree that B12 injections aren’t necessary for her unless she starts exhibiting severe EPI symptoms or drops her weight drastically again.

So, basically, yay!

July 16, 2010

Things have been kind of crazy around here. There’s all the graduate school shenanigans going on, which thankfully seem to have worked out quite nicely, and then there’s this whole work-related mess that I’m in the middle of. But I’ll save all that drivel for another day.

Yesterday, Yara and I took a stroll through Washington Park accompanied by Cindy and her camera. Cindy would be the fabulous photographer whose handiwork includes a few of these shots of Yara and the rather fetching portrait that I used for my holiday card back in 2008. Given Yara’s looming retirement, I really wanted to get in another set of portraits with Cindy and/or Jean. Especially since Yara adores them both to no end and they’ve both been so awesome to us over the years. And while they are some of my personal favorite photos we’ve had taken in the last three years, I wanted to do something very different from the studio shots. So, long story short we walked all around the park and Cindy took a literal ton of candids of Yara and me. I promise to share them all as soon as Cindy hands them over. Probably sometime towards the end of next week. Sadly, Jean wasn’t able to join us as originally planned, but I think we’re going to try and get some photos of her with the two of us at some point in the near future.

Meanwhile, I actually got a new camera recently and have been attempting to figure out how to use all the new, complicated features. Mostly I’ve been playing, as is plainly evident if you’ve been checking out my Flickr account or the sidebar on this website. Or, well, have even a passing understanding of how I take photos in general! Yara, of course, is the main subject of these “tests” and she’s not exactly thrilled for photos on a good day so you can image how enthusiastic she’s been. Yesterday I played around with the timer burst and got some rather adorable shots of me pestering Yara, who was being a bit naughty and lounging on the sofa uninvited. Behold:

I’m still learning all the ins-and-outs of this new camera — it is far more sophisticated than either of the previous digital cameras I’ve had even though it’s classified as a point-and-shoot. Being totally colorblind doesn’t make me especially discerning to the color abnormalities some digital cameras suffer from either. Mostly I just need a camera with a good size screen and a nice zoom, which this one has in spades with a 3.0 inch screen, which is same as my last camera, and a 26x zoom. I have noticed that it tends to lean towards the bright side when taking photos, as opposed to my last camera which seemed to darken everything. It’s especially noticeable on the automatic setting and/or if it isn’t properly focused. For now, though, I haven’t any firm judgments.

Anyhoo, on a whole other subject, I put up a post a few days back attempting to visually showcase how the world looks through my eyes. Take a gander if you missed out. And I also think there’s some EDF news to share, but my puppy raiser contact and I are in the midst of some serious phone tag so what the particular news is and how much of it I can share is up in the air at this present moment.

Seeing Blind

[EDIT: Since originally posting this, I have updated the photo examples to better showcase my vision. I’ve edited the descriptions to reflect these changes.]

One of the hardest things as a blind person with limited vision to explain to sighted people is how we see. Most people assume blind means totally blind and even those that do understand that differentiation often have trouble grasping what our vision is like. Even amongst other blind persons, I find it hard because I have always seen the way I do so I don’t know how it specifically differs from anyone else’s, let alone perfect vision.

That isn’t to say, however, that I don’t enjoy hearing how things are supposed to look. One of my favorite things is listening to someone describe a sunset to me — my dad in particular has a very vivid way of explaining the colors and how the sky looks. I don’t really get it since I have no perception of color, but it sounds pretty cool. I also have fond memories of listening to another friend of mine who lost her sight at 13 explain things to me that she remembers, like the colors of fireworks.

Anyway, I’ve long since wished there was a way to show others how I see. Achromatopsia is such a strange disorder because in a lot of ways what I do see is quite vivid and what I don’t see is indistinct and generally ignorable. But the difference between those two really depends on how much light there is and what kind of light, too. For instance, a lamp can cause me to loose detail but being outdoors even with the sun behind a cloud will completely blind me because the sky itself is a source of light.

Awhile back a few internet pals of mine posted about this topic and used some fancy photography to trick their cameras into being nearsighted to sort of show how their vision works. (See here and here if you’re so inclined.) I tried to emulate the saturation that light causes my vision by fiddling with exposure levels but couldn’t really get the results I wanted from my camera and so instead I decided to play with Photoshop and the results aren’t so very bad.

Above are three versions of the same image. On the left is the original without any manipulation. On the top right a greyscaled version, which is pretty much how I perceive the world visually. For the most part, I generally can’t tell the difference between a color and a black-and-white version because while there is an absence of color there is still a very present definition of contrast. However, while it’s accurate to say that I see in shades of grey, I personally find this a poor description because I don’t have any better understanding of what grey is than I do what green is. And I do have the ability, inconsistent as it might be, to detect the presence or absence of color. Anyway, on the bottom right is a very overexposed version, which is about as close an example as I can give as to how I see. Light causes me great difficulty because it washes out my vision, much like how you are dazzled when turning on the light during your late night trips through your home. In this case, since these were taken outside, the combination of the bright sunlit sky and snow-covered ground basically destroys most all the details. Frankly, it’s painful to try and make out even that because of the extreme sensitivity my eyes have to light.

Again, on the left is the original and on the top right the greyscaled version. The bottom right is overexposed to illustrate my vision on the sunny afternoon this was taken. I was standing about six inches away from the blossoms, which was literally how close I needed to be to be able to distinguish that there were flowers on the bush to photograph. An interesting note, there’s a bug on one of the blossoms that I only discovered when viewing the photo at home, blown up on my computer.

This last trio is from an overcast afternoon on Empire State Plaza. You may notice the photo on the bottom right is just slightly less overexposed than the previous examples. Even though there was a massive cloud cover, there is still ample light to degrade my vision. I enjoy days like this because (a.) I find it is less painful on my eyes due to the lower exposure of bright light and (b.) I can often make out more of my surroundings albeit as shapeless blobs.

I didn’t bother manipulating any photos taken indoors or at night because for the most part they’re much like the greyscaled images above. Generally if the light levels are to a point that I’m having trouble seeing things I turn off lights or close blinds or stop doing whatever it is I’m using my vision for, like reading. If I can, of course. But for the most part, if I’m close enough to something indoors, I don’t have much loss of detail in what I see. Though, my distance vision is pretty much nonexistent, so things generally need to be fairly close for me to make them out at all.

In low-light situations, such as nighttime, my vision is fairly good. Provided there isn’t one single source of very bright light to wash out my vision, it is pretty much on par with a normally sighted person.  This is partially due to the fact that the functioning part of my retina, the rods, are meant to be working in these exact situations and as I am so used to seeing minus distinct detail and all I probably could get around even better than most sighted people. I don’t have any distance vision or depth perception, though, so it’s not like I’d be driving a car. But I can safely walk around without Yara guiding me and make out buildings and other landmarks usually absent to me. I still can’t make out steps or curbs, though, which are one of my biggest obstacles in navigating independently.

Anyway, it isn’t a perfect representation. But I hope it helped to show you all a bit of what it’s like to see through my poor eyes. ;-)