Camera Lucida by Agie Mañego (Staccato)

29 Mar

Cameras are a lot like eyes.

Our eyes can play tricks on us, and, cameras can capture these tricks, like it is capturing time (since you can’t really take pictures by blinking, right?). It’s all just a matter of how you look at things.

But how do pictures fool our eyes? Would it be right to ask how our eyes fool our eyes too?

There’s something called depth perception wherein we picture the world around us as three-dimensional, even if our retinas see these in two-dimensional form. We see things around us differently, based on where we ground ourselves. In other words, we perceive depth in the different objects around us – some closer, some further; some bigger, some smaller. To this, we use two kinds of information: Binocular and monocular cues.

What is a binocular cue? You know how they say that if you close one eye and use the other to aim (a gun?), it won’t exactly hit your target on the spot? It would be a little off, they say. This is because we get two views of the world, one from our right eye, and the other from our left. These two views combine and the difference between the views determine the depth, or distance, of whatever object it is that we are observing. This gives us the “three-dimensionality of the world.” This happens because the object we are looking at is “in a slightly different place on the left and right retinas” of our eyes.

Monocular cues (also called depth cues), on the other hand, come from the image of any one eye. These cues provide depth as well, much like a camera (since they technically have just one lens). There are, also, several monocular cues such as:

1. Familiar size.

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Take a look at this picture (omnoms?). Without telling you that these jars are the same height, would you have been able to tell? Maybe, maybe not (perhaps if they were arranged side by side with the same distance from each other). Generally, things closer to us appear bigger than those further, except for the case of, say, buildings in the distance. In the picture above, assuming you know that they’re of the same size, the smaller jar would, obviously, be further away than the bigger jar.

2. Height in the field of view.

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Generally, objects positioned higher in a picture are seen as being further away. Which of the cupcakes is within my reach? The one towards the lower part of the picture or the one further (and blurred)?

3. Linear perspective.

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It is said that objects further away take up less space on the retina. Parallel lines appear to join together the further it gets – notice how the aisle appears narrower the further it is.

4. Overlap.

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Notice how, in the picture above, the little mug overlaps the other three? Obviously, thinking about the mug’s position on the picture, you’d say that the one a little higher placed would be farther. But if an object also overlaps another, it is said to be closer.

5. Texture gradient.

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Supposedly, things further away from your view become denser and finer. Notice how the sand looks “spottier” in the lower portion of the picture? This is due to the fact that, as mentioned, it is closer. Look at the waves as well, you see a bit of, for lack of a better word, lines to denote the waves but, further away, it looks flat and plain.

6. Defocus blur.

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Like cameras, eyes can focus on certain things as well. Outstretch your hand and look at it, notice how the things behind it blur? Now, focus on the things behind it (be it a wall or not) and notice how your hand is what’s blurred this time. I wanted to add this little bit because focusing, to photographers, is important to denote what your subject is. And, I suppose in terms of vision, it denotes the object we are focusing our undivided attention on. Notice how, in the picture above, it is slightly more focused on the flower rather than the piano keys?  In the picture below, on the other hand, notice how it is also focused in the middle area rather than further (higher up in the picture) and closer (lower portion of the picture). It adds, again for lack of a better word, a bit of personality and mood to the picture.

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