No, not a feeling of detachment… a retinal detachment.
Some of you already know that I experienced a retinal detachment in my left eye late last week. To cut to the chase, the results of the medical procedure look good, and I’m very optimistic about the eventual outcome. Now that I’m recovering I thought I’d reply to all of the messages, questions, and support here in one place… and express gratitude for everyone’s concern and sympathy. Thank you!
So, what happened?
I’ve had the usual “floaters” in my eyes for a long time, so I didn’t pay much attention when I started seeing more of them in my left eye a while back — I figured it was just part of the typical process for aging eyes. However, late last week I noticed a dark “shadow” in the lower peripheral vision of my left eye, and it gradually expanded to become a significant dark area where I could not see. Since I helped my mother through an episode like this some years ago, I had a pretty good idea that I was experiencing a retinal detachment, and I got to the doctor fairly quickly.
Retinal detachment is not uncommon, especially when the vitreous in our eyes detaches as we age, sometimes creating small tears in the retina. Fluid can then get beneath the retina, pushing it up from the structures underneath and cutting off blood flow, and then “turning out the lights” in that portion of the eye.
The first ophthalmologist quickly confirmed what I suspected and referred me to a senior ophthalmologist — who, it turned out, was the same doctor who had treated my mother many years ago.His exam confirmed the bad news that I did have a retinal detachment, but against that background there was quite a bit of relatively good news: the detachment was in the periphery of my vision and not beneath the macula, there appeared to be only a single tear in the retina, the detachment was in the upper half of my eye (things that appear “low” in our vision are projected on the upper part of the retina), we had likely caught it quickly enough, and I don’t have risk factors such as diabetes or previous eye surgery. Continue reading Detached→
My article, “Photography and Luck” appears in this month’s edition of Extraordinary Vision Magazine, available for iOS and Android platforms for free. This is a great photography publication that features images and writing by a wide range of photographers.
Thick smoke from the September 2014 Yosemite National Park Meadow Fire drifts over the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, blotting out the afternoon sun.
Today’s “Morning Musing” post will take the form of a second “photo of the day,” but with a bit of back-story about what you are seeing.
Last weekend a wildfire suddenly appeared in a popular area of the Yosemite backcountry along the Merced River drainage above Yosemite Valley, roughly between Half Dome, Clouds Rest, and Mount Starr King. I was not in the area of the fire, but further north in a different backcountry area, where our group of photographers had been camped for several days on a high ridge area. On this morning we did see a small “puff” of smoke coming from over the shoulder of Clouds Rest, but it was no larger than other fires that, as is typical this time of year, were burning in various areas of the backcountry.
Our plan was to pack up camp and follow a more-or-less cross-country route into a canyon and on to a new camp that night. We loaded up and set out, and by the time we were half way to our goal the smoke plume has begun to stretch across the sky above our position, thought it was still quite diluted. However, very soon the winds whipped up to a surprising degree and the smoke suddenly became a lot thicker and began to blot out the sun and drop ash on us. By this time we were in a valley and could no longer see the location of the fire, but it was plainly apparent that this fire was roaring and likely to become a very serious matter.
This photograph has not been color corrected at all. This is, in fact, what the atmosphere in and above the canyon looked like! Fortuitously, later that evening as we sat around in camp, we saw a flash in the sky and heard thunder… and before long light rains arrived and continued into the next afternoon.
Gilia buds opening on a rainy day, Death Valley National Park
This is going to be a sort of hybrid post, covering two subjects and out of phase with my normal daily photograph posts. Think of it as a bonus post—a photograph and an informal report on Death Valley National Park wildflowers. The description of this photograph follows the report on Death Valley wildflower conditions.
By now it is no longer news that California and other parts of the west are in the throes of a very serious drought. The situation is especially serious in California, which is now experiencing the worst in a series of three below-normal precipitation years. Many parts of the state are experiencing what have been described as historic drought conditions. The situation remains critical—and many of us are worried about the upcoming wildfire season—though recent March and early April rains brought a bit of relief.
All spring I have been hearing that the drought would make this a poor year for desert wildflowers in Death Valley. However, I knew that Death Valley had experienced some rain events in the past few months and that desert plants are quite opportunistic, often quickly blooming in response to moisture. I know Death Valley fairly well, though I’m no expert on wildflowers. However, I had a hunch that we might be surprised by how the wildflower season would play out.
We visited the park for several days right around the beginning of April. Even before we arrived, we saw a decent number of wildflowers as we drove across other desert areas on the way to the park. It seemed like plants were acting in the opportunistic manner I describe above and quickly sprouting up and blooming in response to recent rains. As we entered the park and crossed Towne Pass we (especially my wife, who is passionate about photographing the “small things”) began to notice a lot of wildflowers in many places, including whole beds of colorful flowers in many places along this drive. While we did not see the tremendous blooms on the Valley floor that can occasionally occur, once we got up into higher country we saw flowers everywhere, at least when we slowed down and looked. There was more rain and snow during our visit, and the additional moisture is bound to encourage other plants and flowers to grow.
I just saw a report at the Desert USA website (which names the flowers in ways that I cannot hope to do) confirming what we saw—that there is actually a substantial bloom of desert wildflowers in many places. If you have the opportunity to head out that way soon, do so!
About the Photograph
Believe it or not, it was snowing lightly when I made this photograph! We began our day by driving on gravel roads before sunrise to reach a high location in the Panamint Range from which we planned to photograph at sunrise. The sunrise photography turned out to be a challenge, as it was cloudy at first light and the clouds only increased as the sunrise progressed. Soon we began to notice snow falling on nearby peaks, though it did not fall where we were until after we moved on. Later, in a less exposed location but with temperatures in the low thirties, we encountered our first very light snowfall, and we could see that it was snowing more heavily on the peaks and ridges around us.
We moved on, heading up into Wildrose Canyon. My original plan had been to drive to the end of the road, but by the time we reached the Charcoal Kilns it was snowing hard enough that this no longer seemed like a great idea. In fact, other drivers with two-wheel drive vehicles were having problems ascending the last section of the road to the kilns. We photographed the snowy conditions here and back in Wildrose Canyon, and then as the snow abated a bit we drove on, heading back in the direction of Emigrant Pass. Not far from the pass we found a hillside covered with a spectacular display of flowers. At first it was some cacti that caught our attention, but as we got out and looked around we saw many, many flowers all around. These gilia buds had not yet opened into their more showy display.
The base of a rugged granite wall reflected in the still surface of a sub-alpine Sierra Nevada lake
A few days ago I returned from a 9-day trip into the back-country of Kings Canyon National Park. I was one of a group of four photographers who traveled to a remote location at about 11,000′, where we remained for more than five days, photographing the surrounding terrain morning and evening. We followed the common routine of such work – up before dawn and off to investigate and photograph some valley or lake, back by mid or late morning for breakfast, generally hanging out and doing camp chores during the midday period when the light is often less exciting, then back out in the late afternoon for a few more hours of exploration and photography before returning to camp for a post-sunset dinner. Unlike a typical backpack trip, where one rarely stays in the same place for long, we remained in the same camp for six nights, allowing us to really get to know the surrounding area very well.
With so much time, we were frequently able to return to places that we had already visited – perhaps coming back in the evening after a morning visit, returning to try again to catch a subject that didn’t have the right light the first time, or shooting the subject in various conditions ranging from clear skies to rain. This bit of interesting rock was next to a lake that I walked to on a number of occasions, and on this morning I arrived when the lake was still in shadow but illuminated by light reflected from nearby rock faces. Because it was so early the air was very still, allowing me to photograph this very sharp reflection of the fractured granite cliff where it entered the water. A bit of vegetation just above the waterline has taken on early fall colors.
Addendum: It occurred to me last week that there is a (perhaps tenuous?) connection between this photograph – with its theme of a vertical rock face above placid water – and this one by Ansel Adams that I had an early connection to: http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/photographs/ansel-adams-lake-precipice-frozen-lake-and-5056399-details.aspx – I have a personal connection to the place, which I wrote about here: http://www.gdanmitchell.com/2010/01/14/a-photograph-exposed-submerged-boulders-precipice-lake
Studio Nocturne 2012 Open Studio returns for the tenth year to Fort Mason Center for San Francisco Open Studios, October 13-14, 2012, 11am-6pm – with a Preview Reception on Friday, Oct. 12, from 6-9pm. This year, ten intrepid Night Photographers (“NPrs”) again participate in the event (PLUS twenty Bay Printmakers!) once again showing in the huge “Fleet Room” in Landmark Bldg. ‘D’ (ground level). This annual event is always fun, free – plan to attend! See the link for more information.
Yes, yours truly is one of the photographers whose work will be on display. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area and wonder what my work looks like in print form… come on down! While a good portion of my 15 prints are of night or near-night subjects, some of my natural and urban landscape will also be shown.
I would like to thank Aperture Academy for making me the subject of their June “Featured Photographer” interview. (Thanks are also due to photographer Brian Rueb for setting up and conducting the interview.) As some of you know, I’m rarely at a loss for words… so the interview is long – but you might enjoy reading a few things about me that I probably have not mentioned here at the blog.