On the journey of making photographs in life, I have met many people from many walks of life. And people love to talk and ask lots of questions. One of the most common questions I get is: “What kind of camera do you have?” I answer them honestly, and tell them “I shoot with Nikon cameras and Nikkor lenses!” And then I usually engage them in a discussion about photography from a grass roots level. This is about what makes a photograph that preserves a memory, capturing a priceless moment in time, or being able to freeze time and make an image that takes you back to the moment such that you can smell the air when you were there. Photography is really not primarily about cameras and gear. I suspect I would be able to make the same images even if I used the “other” brand of camera bodies and lenses. No, its really about the photographer and his or her vision, especially within the context of being a landscape photographer. Each image starts with a vision, which then leads to a composition, which then leads to setting up technical aspects of the shot and knowing what to do in each situation. This includes anything from custom white balance, to the aperture, ISO, and shutter settings, whether to use filters or not, and the list is virtually endless. But none of this is even possible, not even the vision at the beginning, if it were not for good physical vision first!
Yes, what is a photographer without their vision? This is what I pondered over the last six weeks or so. You see, for the last eleven months, I have battled a disease known as Medullary Thyroid Cancer, a nasty and tricky disease. I have had my entire thyroid removed, and a total of 92 lymph nodes removed from my neck and chest. All in all, I have been able to still work, still do many things I could do before, and still get out and photograph the beautiful things in life as I have done for years. In May, I noticed the vision in my right eye (my camera eye) began to get blurry. So I saw a local eye doctor and they examined my eye and told the vision had changed and that I needed eye glasses. I figured since I am almost 43, I guess this is no big shock, and its time to fess up and realize that I am at the age where vision changes happen! This was still not an easy thing to hear.
It just so happened that the following week, after Memorial Day, I was scheduled to fly to Texas and have a routine visit and checkup with my oncologist at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. I had a thorough exam where near the end, my endocrinologist and oncologist, Dr. Steven Sherman, asked me whether I had any other health changes since the last time I saw him. I told him about the vision change, and he immediately had me seen that evening by ophthalmology. That same night, after having my eyes dilated and examined, I was told that I had a 7mm metastatic tumor sitting on the macula of my right eye, and that I could lose the vision in the eye at any time. This was devastating news for me, as I thought of never being able to see life again the same, let alone through the eye of a camera. Dr Sherman worked closely with a retinal specialist and a radiation oncologist, and before I knew it, they had me setup for two weeks of targeted radiation treatment to my right eye. Here it is six weeks from beginning the radiation treatment, and the tumor is responding well, and my vision is improving. I credit the God-given medical acumen of Dr. Sherman and his experience with this disease as saving the vision in my right eye! I am so thankful and grateful for the expert medical care by the entire staff at MD Anderson, which is a world class cancer center.
I hope this post encourages some, but really hope that it opens the eyes of us all. We are not guaranteed a tomorrow. We tend to take things for granted in life, even something like our vision. We expect to wake up each day and go through life the same or better than yesterday. So, when life throws you a curve ball, don’t be afraid of it. Be thankful and grateful for each day, and for things like good eyesight! Because like so many things in life, you don’t know what you have until its gone. I do believe life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react and handle it. Now, get out there and enjoy today, stop and smell the roses, and be grateful to be able to see the vast beauty God has given us to enjoy on this earth! God bless you all,
“And without faith it is impossible to please God” — Hebrews 11:6