“What I've always wanted to do would be bad for me, so I've decided that I can't accept your offer.”
Richard Feynman

Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman

How We See

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Following is a quote by Galen Rowell from his book Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape:

“On my way out of the mountains, I saw the most intense color I had ever seen. A blanket of green shocked my eyes more than the brightest sunset or the bluest sky. Hanging meadows next to the glacier upon which I was walking emanated the verdant color of life with incredible brilliance. My companions went ahead while I got out my  camera and shot half a roll of various exposures and compositions. I felt tremendous exhilaration as I integrated patches of vivid color with patterns in the ice below, certain that one of these images would be among the best of my entire career.

Back in the states I was disappointed that the color in my slides bore no resemblance to what I had seen with my own eyes. The meadows in my picture were quite drab, and the images even had an overall blue-gray pallor caused by the veil of rain.

I was deeply embarrassed to admit that the vivid green had been only in my mind. The physics of light couldn’t explain what I saw. For months I had lived without seeing green. My world had been almost entirely blue and white: snow, ice, and sky at very high elevations. To my green-deprived brain the first sight of meadows muted by rain had brought forth verdant images of emeralds, oceans, fresh vegetables, and home.

At the time I had absolutely no inkling that my perception was faulty. Since then I’ve learned that that type of illusion is normal. We generally see what we are prepared to see. When our perceptual systems jump to unfounded conclusions, we see illusions… “

Galen Rowell

When I remembered this a couple of days ago I began contemplating if there are things my consciousness experiences in excess, or things my consciousness is lacking in experience – and how these may be affecting my view of the world.

Then, earlier this morning my teacher published an article titled Learning from Life – in which he highlights the idea that most learning occurs in hindsight:

“It is inevitable that our personal buttons, or old unhelpful and often repressed memories, will be pushed by ourselves, though we might project it onto others with such neat phrases as “look what you made me do!”  …  So rather than the ideal of foresight with skillful responses being in place and in readiness whatever the situation, we have the more realistic possibility of progressive levels of learning options starting with hindsight as our guide for insight.”

Paul Harvey

This article was with me as I was searching through Mountain Light to quote Galen Rowell. Then I noticed this next paragraph and decided to include it here too:

“A photographer may not have control over his individual perceptions, but he does indeed have control over what he chooses to photograph. Reading illusions is just as much a part of reading natural light as reading really physical phenomena. I will probably never repeat my mistake with the green meadow because I studied my results, went back in the field, and learned to predict when and how such faulty perceptions occur. I now know how to make certain illusions work for me, and how to obtain by natural methods, without manipulation, that illusory shade of green I once only imagined.”

Galen Rowell

Enjoy 🙂

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