My New Perspective On Photography
Posted on 08 September 2009
Something happened recently that changed my life in a very positive way. It involves photography and the best lens purchase I ever made. And while I wouldn’t recommend this to just anyone, there is a small group of people who might benefit from my recent discovery and experience new vision just as I have.
I didn’t really give it much thought, but in hindsight, I had been doing progressively less photography for the past 3 years or so. In fact, in the past year, I only snapped those pictured I “had to” shoot. The weird thing is that I never really took the time to analyze why I wasn’t enjoying shooting any more.
In my job I get to hang around some of the most incredible photographers in the world. Not only that, these great photographers are also some of the best trainers in the world, so I’ve gleaned all kinds of photography skills from these folks. Not only that, they are my friends and I have all kinds of shooting opportunities. And since I’ve always liked photography, it only makes sense that I would be shooting quite a bit (even though it’s not an ‘official’ part of my job). Two weeks ago I bought a couple of very advanced lenses and my love of photography is back in full force. My new lenses are actually a couple of cutting-edge contact lenses that have changed my vision in ways that have even surprised my optometrist, and I’m amazed at how well I can see!
I had worn glasses since I was 5 years old, so when I was around 18, I was determined to ditch the glasses in favor of contact lenses. Back in the early 80s, there was no Lasik surgery option, and since I have an astigmatism, I wasn’t even eligible for soft contacts. I went with hard (gas permeable) lenses and they were a royal pain to get used to! They were incredibly irritating to put in, and even the slightest bit of dust under a lens was amazingly painful. It’s a good thing I was determined because it took a couple of months before the lenses were easy to put in and irritation was at a minimum. I’d say it was well over a year before they were a simple, casual part of my daily routine. – Later with the advent of Lasik surgery and soft lenses which could correct for astigmatism, I stuck with my hard lenses. Little did I know how great this choice would prove to be.
Stewart (my current optometrist) has been a buddy of mine since high school and he has been my optometrist for the past ten or twelve years (ever since his practice moved to my part of town). A few years ago during an annual checkup, he said we were getting to the age where we might start to need reading glasses in some situations. I kinda laughed it off, but after another year passed, I found myself struggling with some reading tasks so I bought a couple pair of cheap, weak readers. Restaurant menus weren’t a big deal because I could still strain and see small type and I’d use my readers for lengthy reading projects. But things got even worse. By the time I was 45 I couldn’t “strain” to see small type any more and I needed readers for anything close up, for the computer, and for seeing the controls on my camera. What a pain!
Photography with Reading Glasses is Next-Level Impressive!
I’ve got a lot of experienced photographer friends who wear glasses. As a contact lens wearer, I didn’t realize what an amazing pain it is to need readers for setting all the buttons and knobs, reading the menus, and chimping the LCD, while needing “normal” vision for distance focusing and non-camera vision to spot the photographic opportunity or compose the image before bringing the camera to your eye. These days I have a whole new respect for my friends who use readers (or just about any glasses) while shooting!
What’s Special About My New Contacts?
They correct my distance, middle, and close vision. I can see very well at a distance and I can read 3-point type close up! They’re bifocals (not the old split-in-half kind, they’re called multi-focal) but how they work is actually pretty incredible. The prescription in my lenses is configured in concentric circles (like a target) with alternating prescriptions in rings for close up, distance, close, distance, etc. It took a week after my exam to get them, but when I popped them in, I could instantly read close and distance, and everything in between! It was like I had 35 year old eyes again!! (Oh, I’m 46 BTW.)
Besides my friend Stewart, I was also being tested by a different optometrist in the same office (rather than an assistant) so I essentially had 2 optometrists working on my case. They were both really pleased and surprised at the results, because so few people have my level of success. As it turns out, there are all kinds of solutions for bifocal contact needs, but success is usually nowhere near what I experienced.
Aren’t There Lots of Other Multi-Focal/Bifocal Contact Lens Options?
Yep, and since I’m not an optometrist I might miss some, but here’s a basic run down. Soft multi-focal lenses - These are essentially like mine, though there are a couple of different patterns in addition to the ‘target’ rings. There are fading areas of transition and one option is the old-fashioned split lens with weight or shape designed to keep the close vision section at the bottom. The problem with these lenses is that the optics are simply not crisp enough to get “great” results. Hybrid Lenses - These are a combination of a hard lens in the center for crisp optics, and a soft lens around the outer perimeter for comfort and to help those who are used to soft lenses. The down side is that these lenses are quite expensive and they need to be replaced about as frequently as soft lenses, making them even more expensive. Mono-vision - This is a term that refers to a single-vision lens in each eye. One eye for close-up, one for distance. Ironically this is the most successful solution for most people, it’s relatively inexpensive (it’s much cheaper to make a single-vision lens than multi-focal lenses), and you end up with crisp distance and close vision. The down side is that it takes a week or more for the visual center of your brain to get used to the fact that your eyes are capturing such different information. The reason I would have only gone down this path as a last resort is because there are lots of situations where I need close and far vision in a single eye (like looking through a camera viewfinder for focus and reading the info along the bottom edge of the viewfinder).
Why Wouldn’t You Recommend These Lenses to Everyone?
Hard (gas permeable) lenses are very hard to get used to. I did it when I was 18 because it was that or glasses and I was determined. Most people, given other options, simply wouldn’t put up with months of discomfort when there are other options. If I had gotten rid of my contacts via Lasik, or if I had gone to soft lenses when the soft astigmatism lenses were invented, I wouldn’t have remained comfortable with hard lenses and I probably would have been a bad candidate for these lenses. I made all the right choices (always sticking with my hard lenses) over the years by accident.
One More Cool Side Effect
I was throwing the football with my son at dusk 3 or 4 years ago and I kept dropping catches and occasionally (frequently) got hit in the face or head. This was before I really needed readers, so I thought I was just getting old and losing my coordination, but since it only happened at dusk or night, I chalked it up to weakening night vision. Last week, a couple days after I got my new lenses, my son wanted to run some patterns (he’s on the JV football team) and he asked me to throw the ball with him. It was dusk and I reminded him I have terrible night vision, but I told him I’d try anyway. We threw the ball well after dark, eventually only lit by a floodlight and a couple of nearby street lights and I never dropped a pass!! It was the first time in a long time he wanted to call it quits trowing the ball before me. I love my new eyes!!