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Sometimes, Even the Best Lenses Need to Be Replaced

Posted By Dennis Hays On January 29, 2010 @ 12:02 am In Art of Photography | 6 Comments

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I’ve used cameras for most of my life, and I have really enjoyed what photography has brought me. This science and art requires attention to detail and ongoing maintenance. If you are serious about what you do, you probably spend many hours taking care of your gear. We know it’s important to keep dust off of our lenses and sensor, because any foreign matter degrades the quality of the image.

Recently, I noticed I was having some problems driving at night. Automobile headlights created a glare that made it difficult to see the road. I had also become quite light sensitive, to the point where even house lamps were difficult to look at. My night vision, which at one time was almost cat-like, now lacked contrast and detail.

As a photographer, I saw all of these changes in terms of cameras and lenses — and also from the perspective of an auto-hypochondriac.

A Feeling of Impending Doom

Yes, I suffer from “auto-hypochondria.” That is, whenever I’m driving my automobile, I tend to absently scratch or rub my neck or shoulders and find something I hadn’t felt before. Immediately, I believe it’s a death sentence.

More often or not, it’s an ingrown hair, a mosquito bite or other benign item. But there’s always a panicked minute or two when I feel impending doom.

So it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that upon realizing I had vision problems, my mind went directly to macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and other sight-stealing diseases. Any one of those could mean the end of my love affair with photography.

I went to my eye doctor and shared my concerns. After an extensive series of tests, including dilation, he revealed his diagnosis: posterior subcapsular cataracts.

“Thank God!” I said with relief.

Like Sandpaper to the Lens

I was fortunate. Cataracts can be “fixed,” usually by removing the lens and replacing it with a plastic or silicon lens. So, while having cataracts is not good, it’s a darn sight better than degenerating vision, leading to blindness or worse.

The type of cataract I have is much like someone took sandpaper to the rear of my lens. Light hits that area and scatters; hence the automotive headlight glare. The cataract also reduces contrast, compresses the dynamic range and affects acuity.

My doctor told me that sometimes cataracts can be slightly yellow. Besides the light-scattering effect and reduction in night vision, I could have had the equivalent of a built-in yellow filter. This would have affected my personal “white balance” and impacted my editing and overall color judgment. In my case, however, this wasn’t a problem.

But my cataracts do affect my ability to look through the viewfinder, chimp the LCD and evaluate lighting. I have to dial down the LCD (both camera and computer), as the brightness increases glare and tires my eyes quicker.

Cataracts can manifest due to environmental conditions (chemical, ultraviolet or radiation), trauma, injury to the eye or even genetics. Age is also a factor. Most of us will get them, if we live long enough.

My doctor said there wasn’t any rush to replace my lenses, but that when I was ready, I would need to make an appointment with an opthamologist and have surgery.

I scheduled the appointment the next day.

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6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "Sometimes, Even the Best Lenses Need to Be Replaced"

#1 Comment By Tyler On January 29, 2010 @ 2:04 am

A nicely refreshing little article I wasn't at all expecting from the title. Drives me to shoot now with my young eyes :)

#2 Comment By Mark Coons On January 29, 2010 @ 8:27 am

I had implant surgery on both eyes in the same year and it is great. I had worn glasses all my life and thick ones at that. After the surgery I no longer needed glasses except for the occasional need for reading glasses.

It's an easy procedure with great results.

#3 Comment By ian campbell On January 29, 2010 @ 11:33 am

Developing macular degeneration myself, which I've always thought a rather comic end for a photographer...

#4 Comment By Serge Van Cauwenbergh On January 30, 2010 @ 5:38 am

Such a story gives me the creeps. As photographers our eyes are one of the most important parts of our body. But according to your explanation, your eye problem can be fixed with surgery. I wish you all the best and a successful recovery afterwards!

#5 Comment By Alistair Scott On January 30, 2010 @ 8:26 am

Thanks for the very up-beat article. Sight is such a precious sense for a photographer. I too started to have problems with my sight - persistent 'floaters' in one eye getting in the way of my vision. My father suffers from macular degeneration in one eye so I was worried it could be genetic.

The opthalmologist gave me the all-clear. It was caused by the separation of the vitreous body (the jelly-like substance inside the eye) from the retina - which occurs naturally with age (she told me) and the 'floaters' would eventually clear.

But, having had a scare, I put details of a simple test - the Amsler Grid - up on my blog:

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This test can be done easily and quickly on a regular basis and will pick up impending problems early.

Good luck with your treatment! I wish you well.

#6 Comment By John On February 2, 2010 @ 4:03 pm

Great read, wasn't what I was expecting out of the title but it's really an eye-opener. Inspiring to get out and shoot more while still at a young age


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