I was having a great evening of conversation with friends at a local establishment when my eyes suddenly became incredibly dry and irritated. It could have been the cold air occasionally drafting in from the front door or maybe some smoke fumes wafting from the clothes of other patrons.

I asked the waitress for more and more water, thinking perhaps I had let myself veer into dehydration. When I finally became too distracted by the dryness to focus on my friends, I excused myself to the restroom and quickly removed my contact lenses.

Ahhh…what a relief. My eyes weren’t turning to stone, they were just feeling a little suffocated. I didn’t have any contact solution, case, eye drops, or backup glasses with me. So I threw out my lenses and went back to my friends with drastically impaired vision.

To give you an idea of how poor my natural vision really is, here is a photo that recreates my view. Can you identify the content? (Use the slider on the right side of the image to see what it really is.)

I am the definition of nearsighted. When I’m trying to identify anything far away, I have to think in terms of color and shape. That blurry red thing – maybe that’s a … tomato? Context helps a lot, of course. Why would there be a tomato in the bath tub? You get the idea.

So in general, I avoid doing much without some kind of correction. But this evening, I had no choice but to sit with my friends and observe them in a blurry haze. As I told them about my dilemma, we all shared our own stories of when we knew we needed glasses and how different the world suddenly became.

Then we compared our abilities and tested ourselves. “Can you read the letters on that sign?” I showed them how shallow my range was by holding my hand about six inches from my face. “Even this is not too clear,” I explained.

As our conversation returned to other non-vision topics, I began to see just how cinematic my view can be. The scene behind their faces was a beautiful blur – reminiscent of the *bokeh effect I cherish when I’m taking photos. “My eyes are fantastic lenses!” I shouted this in my mind as I became more distracted by the roundness of lights, the overlapping color blocks, the crisp detail of things nearest to me.

My natural worldview is stunning all on its own.

I was taken back to childhood memories of looking through photos that Dad took of squirrels and birds in our backyard. I remember being fascinated with how the background was blurry, but the bird was in focus. This was before I really understood how cameras worked, but it established my appreciation for the aesthetic very early in life.

On this night I decided that I need to spend more time without wearing contacts or glasses. The view is so beautiful – it’s what I’m constantly going for in my photography, so why not enjoy it? Seeing only what is close to me has a beautiful way of eliminating unnecessary distraction. I don’t need to see a television screen in a restaurant – I only need to see my companions.

*bokeh is a term that refers to that beautiful blur you see in certain photography. Each lens has a different way it handles light that is out of focus. Here is an example of an image with interesting bokeh:


Life looks great up close.