Crepuscular rays intrigue me. Most of the images I have shown you from my back yard are from sunrise, over the Sandia Mountains. A couple of nights ago, this was the view looking west. I knew trees and houses would be in the image, but I did not care. I could not get what I wanted to get without including other things. This was another spectacular New Mexico sky!
Crepuscular Rays at Sunset, Summer 2017
We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open. ~ Jawaharlal Nehru
Wearable Sun Protection – A Necessity in the High Desert
Light – Beautiful and Potentially Damaging
Wearable sun protection – I have known of its existence for some time. Several years ago I even bought a UPF blouse. I disliked it so much, I have worn it maybe a dozen times, probably less. And, it was relatively expensive. I’ve never worn hats; I never looked right in them. For almost as long as I have worn glasses, I’ve had Transitions lenses. I knew they did not darken in cars, but that never bothered me. I never considered extra protection for settings in which the Transitions lenses did not darken.
Not only am I a physician, but virtually everyone in my family has had cataracts (well, that is partly age, but UV exposure is certainly a contributing factor), and one form of skin cancer or another, and the major cause of that is UV exposure. So you would think that before now I might have figured out that sunscreen, unless religiously applied every two hours to any and all exposed parts, was not enough. And, of course, that would not protect the eyes. Here in the desert, wearable sun protection, including for the eyes, is something everyone should consider.
Light, with a capital L, has been important to me since childhood. Those of you who read here often know that. To say merely that I love Light is an understatement. A fellow anthropologist and writer friend describes life on earth as pretty much “Purgatory, a place between Heaven and Hell.” Although my approach to life tends to fall a little more on the Heaven side, much of the past six months of Winter/Spring felt a bit like Purgatory. I was definitely paying for my exposure to the beautiful Light of New Mexico. All’s well that ends well. As a result, however, I have almost completely changed my wardrobe. I have found some things that I can tolerate wearing, and some things that I actually enjoy wearing.
Wearable Sun Protection I Have Found
Because some of you may also be interested in wearable sun protection, I am going to share some of my finds. In the interest of full disclosure, I am an Amazon Associate and receive a few pennies from any items purchased from Amazon through links here. I have no relation other than customer to other suppliers of skin or eye protection whose links are given here.
Because I’ve had glasses with Transitions lenses for so many years, I never gave thought to additional sun protection for my eyes, even though I knew those lenses did not darken in the car. They darkened every where else. I have known I had cataracts since 2011, but they never bothered me until late November of 2016. With multiple risk factors for them, I didn’t give them much thought at all until the night driving home from Corrales I was truly “blinded by the light” of all oncoming cars. I definitely thought I would *never* wear those very large, dark glasses that “old” people wore when their eyes got “bad” (feel free to laugh at me for that one. Karma).
Most cataract surgeons require that a patient show up with a pair of glasses to wear home (among other things). The glasses in the “cataract kit” I purchased from my surgeon’s office came with a two-for-one coupon from Dioptics for equally effective, but more aesthetically pleasing fits-over sunglasses. And I often wear mine alone as sunglasses, given that I only need reading glasses now. I have two pairs, one of which I like better, but both are functional without looking too awful. My eyes can definitely feel as well as see the difference.
This is Haven’s “Ranier,” and I liked it so much my mother ordered a pair for herself:
Retirement brought jeans (which I had never owned until then) and shirts in place of suits and dresses. Mohs surgery on an ear for a skin cancer has brought hats and sun protective shirts in addition to religiously and regularly applied sunscreen. I’m gradually getting used to these. 🙂
1. This is my favorite sun-protective outfit. The shirt is Columbia’s fishing shirt. I don’t fish, but the shirt has all these practical pockets; washes and dries quickly; layers over tanks, tee shirts, and turtlenecks; I can wear the sleeves rolled up or buttoned down; button it high on the neck or wear it open. It carries a UPF 30 rating. Ha! Look what I just found for my Oklahoma friends! I bought this pink one at Amazon for a good price because it is an older color for Columbia. It is a new color to me.
The hat has no special UPF protection. It is my favorite hat for short times of being out in the sun. It is sort of my “social hat.” I wore this outfit to a concert by the Santa Fe Opera Brass Quintet this morning, and I did not feel at all inappropriately dressed. The hat was an Amazon purchase, and it is so much better than what I had expected. I always get compliments on the entire outfit, including the hat, wherever I go.
Wearable Sun Protection
2. This is my most practical sun-protective outfit. I wear it when gardening (here prepared to dig weeds) and when photographing down on the bosque. The shirt is also the Columbia fishing shirt, rated UPF 30, just in a different color. I got a good buy at Amazon the day I bought it.
The hat is from Sun Protection Zone and is rated UPF 50. I bought it at Costco. While I don’t particularly like the look, I do like protecting my neck and ears. Sometimes protection is more important than style.
3. This top is from Coolibar, and has a UPF 50 rating. I have a matching neck gaiter, but it was too hot for that the day I was doing photos. I also have one of these in burgundy with a matching tank top that makes the neck coverage more complete. These will be more comfortable in the fall and winter.
4. In these next two images, the shirt is another Columbia fishing shirt, this time in Collegiate Navy. Can you tell I really like these shirts for my lifestyle? This was another Amazon purchase for me, for a very good price on the day I purchased it.
The two different hats are from Solumbra. Solumbra has a wide range of sun protective clothing, but overall I find them to be relatively expensive and not particularly flattering. “Free shipping” with orders of $175.00 or more doesn’t seem particularly “free” to me. However, I do like Solumbra’s hats for real sun protection that is not overly ugly. Every now and then Solumbra has a flash offer for honestly free shipping, and that is when I’ll order a hat I may have been watching. I do think Solumbra has the best sun protective hats I have found so far.
Shortly after my birthday in the fall I came face-to-face with the reality of sun damage from the Light I have so loved all of my life. I intend to continue being out of doors for photography and gardening for the rest of my life. However, I am learning – still in the process – how to protect my eyes and skin in whatever ways I can, such as with wearable sun protection in addition to sunscreen, which I will be much more religious about applying. Maybe some of you will consider wearable sun protection to be an option for your lifestyle also.
(For my friends who read both blogs, I intend to post this a little later on my gardening blog. It will be the exact same post. Thanks.)
I saw the light, a vision tale, is a personal story about cataracts. At one time I probably would not have written about that, but now I know a fair number of friends have some degree of cataracts. This should be a hopeful tale.
Light has always been important to me. Even as a little kid traveling through the Southwest on family vacations, I “felt” the light of the high desert. It was years later before I could express anything about that, though. I lived in southern Arizona from 1969-1976, when I was working on my PhD at the University of Arizona. I just knew I liked it there. After that I had a job teaching at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. At that point, I was aware of how important light was to me. I enjoyed many aspects of life in Kansas City, but not the extended periods of dark, gray skies and cold, windy winters. Springs were magnificent. I moved to Albuquerque in 1985. While I like to visit other places, I am always happy to get home and back to the light of the high desert. Although sunrises and sunsets have been called by some “the greatest cliché” in photography, I show them here because I really like them. I think the people who knock them have never seen a real New Mexico sky. 😉
New Mexico Sunrise. The Spot Where the Sun Will Rise Is Appaent.
Several years ago, my ophthalmologist told me I had cataracts. He also said, “You don’t need to do anything about them now. You’ll know when you need to do something.” Something akin to a “decisive moment,” I guess. I saw him in early November and told him I was not having any problems.
Many of you know Tim and Laurie. Some of you know that my journey into digital photography began in 2008, when my little Nikon Coolpix died while I was photographing roses in their garden. I replaced that with a compact digital, but a complex one. So, I had to go take some classes, and one thing led to another, and another, and another… That all started in their rose garden.
Late in November I was out in Corrales with Tim and Laurie, photographing some cranes that were right there close to their house. Laurie had a wonderful meal, and we sat and talked, and I stayed well past dark. That was a Saturday night. For those of you who know Albuquerque, Alameda was bumper to bumper traffic from Corrales to the Northeast Heights. And I was “blinded by the light”of the headlights of every oncoming car. At least I knew what was causing that. But, I was very happy to get home, and I have not yet driven again at night since.
I saw the cataract surgeon in December, and the earliest date was in March. So, I took it.
This was a long, dark winter, although not cold. My house seemed really dark. I kept thinking I needed more lamps, or maybe even some additional light fixtures. Anything to make the house brighter!!!
Cataracts and Color
I saw my regular doctor in February. He told me that I would love the brightness and “all the color” once I had my cataracts fixed. I thought to myself, “what?” with respect to color and cataracts. Many of you are familiar with the work I have done with my son, who, like my father, has severe red deficient color vision. I’ve seen my ophthalmologist for years because I am on a medication that has the potential to damage the retinas. Today there are highly sophisticated tests to assess the retinas and any changes, but when I first started going, color vision was part of the assessment. The cones that detect different wavelengths of light are part of the retina. The patient arranged a series of colored cylinders. The Munsell Hue Test is no longer part of the evaluation, but you can see an online version and try it yourself: Munsell Color Test
Keep in mind there are many limitations in the virtual world, such as differences in monitors, lighting conditions, and so forth.
I had never had any problems with that test in the ophthalmologist’s office, but I decided to try the online test. I keep my monitor color-calibrated, and in good lighting conditions for working with color photographs. I was “shocked, shocked I tell you” with my results on February:
Color hue discrimination test, 2_5_2017
Color Vision and My Family
Color changes usually associated with aging, toxins, etc. tend to affect the blue-yellow axis. To me, my results appeared more red-green. So I immediately took the Enchroma Color Vision Test, knowing the limits of online testing. I was shocked that my results came back Mild Protanopia. My father had and my son has Severe Protanopia. My father, son, and I do have the same X-chromosome that so severely affects their color vision. As a female, I have another X-chromosome, a normal one, from my mother. That allowed me to see colors normally most of my life. I think, although I do not know for sure, that when the cataracts began to affect my color vision, that decreased the protective effect of the normal X-chromosome, and allowed some expression of the red color deficiency carried on the chromosome from my father. I do not know that as an absolute fact. It is my working explanation of some of the phenomena I see in my personal experience.
Until I did the Munsell Test online, I was not aware of any changes in my color vision. This is in spite of the fact I have spent so much time working on the color vision of others.
Even though cataract surgery is very “routine” these days, I did worry a bit. I mean, it is surgery on your eyes, the window to the world from someone looking out.
I had to be at the surgery center by 8:00am. I was home by 10:15, and served coffee and banana bread to my mom and to her friend who had driven us.
I had no pain. I had blurry vision in that eye, a short term effect of the surgery.
After the Surgery, the Light!
By that evening, some of the blurriness began to clear. More amazing was the light! The room kept getting brighter and brighter. It was almost like watching a sunrise, except with white light. I did not expect this at all. I had the surgery because I wanted to be able to drive at night. All the dark corners of that room became bright before I went to bed. It was like an unexpected miracle! When I covered my left eye and looked with only my right eye, things appeared as what had become my normal. When I covered my right eye and looked only with my left eye, things looked bright and “clean.” I realize now that through my right eye, which still has a cataract, I see things with a very slight cyan cast.
But, it is the overall brightness everywhere that is so beautiful and so amazing to me. I did not know I would see such a drastic change.
After the Surgery, Color
Five days after the surgery, I repeated the Munsell Color Test. These were the results:
Color hue discrimination test after surgery_3_11_2017
Quite a change from February’s results.
I repeated the test the following day:
Color hue discrimination test after surgery_3_12_2017
I will not repeat this test until I get my right eye done next month. But I will note, yesterday in the gym I realized some of the balls that I had always considered green were actually turquoise. I want to stress that I had not been aware of color changes, and I have done some work with color deficient vision in other people.
Two days after the surgery I knew I was seeing distance as well without glasses as with my prescription glass. Less than a week after the surgery I was out driving with my prescription glasses, and realized they were interfering with good vision. “Get.These.Off!!!!” Those glasses are history! And that is after surgery on only one eye. I’m getting along quite well with reading glasses for close work, and no glasses for everything else.
I saw, and am continuing to see, the light. It was such an unexpected gift. I just wanted to be able to drive at night. 🙂
Country gospel is not usually part of the rotation of my playlists. But since that first night, sitting in my family room and watching it getting brighter and brighter almost by the minute, this old Hank Williams song keeps running through my head. We may assign different meanings to light, but we share the pure joy.
Mountains and light – ever changing and with the interplay being part of the magic of New Mexico, “Land of Enchantment.”
On a glorious day in October of 2014, friends Laurie and Tim, along with my mom, spent a day exploring parts of New Mexico we had not seen in some time. Tim and I were both celebrating a birthday, and the trip itself provided many wonderful birthday surprises.
All day long we saw clouds. Some were big, bright, white puffy clouds against a brilliant blue sky. Some were dark storm clouds. And then there were these clouds that produced some shadows but allowed (and created) rays of light at various points. It was late afternoon, and we were on the east side of these mountains on the journey back to Albuquerque. The mountains from our vantage point would have been in shade, even had there not been clouds.
As we rounded a curve, the rays appeared, ever-so-briefly. We stopped for photographs, and actually had a “rural New Mexico” moment when we met another couple.
Many images from that day had a special meaning to me from the moment they were created. Less than a month later my calm, routine life was shaken by a seismic event that has given some of those images an even more special meaning. This image is one of them.