You would think that, given our amazingly complex brains, we would be able to see and process anything that the dumb camera can “see” and record.  Well, you would be wrong — mostly.  At least I think so.

PC Softball GSAC Macon - 13

Here’s an example.  I froze the college softball catcher with an exposure made at 1/6400 of a second.  We humans are just not fast enough to register the ball, the bat that missed the ball, the catcher’s eyes, glove positioning and the tension shown in her body and free hand.  We just can’t take it all in.  Or maybe we do but can’t retain it.  You’ve seen pictures of a bullet passing through a light bulb.  Same idea.


But there is another sense in which the camera catches more than we do.  (I’m sure to get some argument here.)  This photo was taken with an exposure that lasted a full second.  We don’t see rushing water this way.  We see it, I think, more accurately.  This — the silky water — may be more pleasing but this isn’t how it registers in our brains in real life.  The difference is that the camera is recording a continuum of time (one full second, in this case) whereas our eyes and brains are taking many, many shorter shots.  We can think of the camera as letting the individual bursts of light pile on top of one another while our brain wants to keep them separate.

There are other ways that cameras see (or process) life differently:  Depth of field and memory come to mind.  Not to mention the newest camera’s ability to make a bright photograph in an almost dark room.

OK, so there you have my completely un-scientific thesis on the subject.  And I have to admit that this isn’t something that people sit around and ponder — but it is part of my sense of photography.  Am I way off base? 

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