Eyes vs Camera

Why is it that seeing the world through a camera looks different from what we see naturally? This article explains what the similarities and the differences are. It makes a distinction between subjective measurement (real eye) and absolute measurement (camera). But cameras allow us to distort and comment on a situation through nuances in the way a scene is staged. And our eyes ‘see’ a different kind of reality. Take this brilliant trolley time lapse captured when the volcano in Iceland erupted. Early use of the time lapse technique had footage in which clouds moved swiftly across the sky and flowers bloomed before our startled eyes. The cameras were fixed and exposed a frame every few seconds. But in the Iceland volcano clip, the camera pans across the scene as well, heightening the impact. Our eyes cannot slow down the action even when it happens right in front of us. That’s why we are amazed when we see this perspective.

Ultra high-speed photography captures water balloons bursting into hundreds of tiny fragments. Or the flight of hummingbirds. And water sculptures. These are frames that are invisible in real life. Gone in microseconds without the ability to process the image at the speed at which the action is happening. In football games, cricket and basketball, shots are slowed down, dissected, analysed by commentators and used by coaches to correct moves and magnify the mistakes committed by opponents. In swimming, they are used to refine the action of swimmers to get that elusive microsecond advantage that could make the difference between a gold and a silver medal.

This post by David Pogue of the New York Times shows how amateurs can capture the action before it begins. Getting fluid shots of athletes in motion used to be a hit and miss affair even for professionals with their bulky equipment and telephoto lenses. But a combination of sensors that detect the action and the ability to anticipate it are letting our eyes and our senses fragment time far beyond the normal experience.