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Tripping - Over - The Light Fantastic (Or - The Nightmare That Is Severe Photophobia)
This is a kind of "request" blog post.  I was talking to Roger Nield when he asked me a very difficult question - "How do things like sunlight affect you?".  Hmm - how can I explain it so people with no experience would understand it???

I have attempted to explain the effects of Photophobia in different blog posts before now but I decided that it was time to try to put it all together in one "easy" blog post.


First of all - I suppose I had better explain what Photophobia is.  Contrary to the literal "translation" of the name it has nothing to do with being scared of having your photograph taken.  The "Photo" bit refers to light and the "phobia" bit is misleading.  "Phobia" to me suggests an irrational fear of something - not a sensitivity to it.

Photophobia is a condition where your eyes are sensitive to bright lights.  In my case - sunlight, car headlights, fluorescent lights, etc, are all triggers.  Even something as small and innocent looking as a torch or a camera flash can disorient me.

I will attempt to explain how bright lights affect me without confusing you too much.

On a sunny day like today I know that the minute I leave my front door I will slmost be blinded by sunlight.  (When a photographer told me that bright sunlight was the ideal light to work in he got a shock when I told him it was the exact opposite for me - give me clouds any day.)

If I have got my back to the sun I am OK.  On the other hand - if I am heading into the sunlight the "fun" starts.

As I look out of my office window I can see a road.  If I look to my right I know I will have a clear view of the traffic.  Looking left - on the other hand - will put me in contact with the sun.

This means that I might as well remove my glasses and go by memory.

I am going to assume that your eyes have a "normal" reaction to bright lights.  As in - your eyes can still tell you if something like a car or a bus is heading towards you or you can focus on the small features on a house (windows, etc), or even better, you can see an actual human when they are standing a short distance away in front of you.

I face sunlight and all bets are off.  In very bright sunlight there is not really much point in wearing sunglasses without a baseball cap.

The first thng to go is the small view.  You come towards me on, say, a bicycle, from the direction of the sunlight and you will be almost running me over before I see you.

Traffic is another funny thing.  It can lose its shape and colour.  That big blue double decker bus at the traffic lights??? Trust me - that will turn black once it blocks out the sun.  Apart from which - it turns into a case of "Destination board??? What Destination Board???"

As for humans - do these exist???  I don't know if you have ever had the delightful experience of holding a conversation with a pair of shoes, jeans, tshirt, and jacket which appeared to be standing up with no visible meas of support - only for them to morph into a human as the sun went behind the clouds???

The major headache comes (sometimes literally) when I go from bright sunlight into a darker space.  Even accounting for the fact I wear Transition lenses (what used to be known as Reactolites) my eyes still take longer than most people's to adjust to the change in lighting - so my hands and feet come into play whilst they adjust.  Especially if I am moving around.

I would like to share a tip which will make both our lives easier.  If you are in what I percieve to be a dark space (maybe I have come into your space from bright lights) and you decide to speak to me please feel free to give me an idea as to which direction your voice is coming from.  This will save my neck from hurting as I attempt to locate your voice.

Please keep torches, car headlights (especially those alternating flashing ones which seem to come with attached blue flashing lights), and camera flashes as far away from me as is humanly possible.

Here is a piece of information that any Police Officers reading this may find interesting.  If you are driving around at night with your alternating flashing headlights on - there is no point expecting me to see your front indicators.  They are too small and too dim.

I have rambled on about backlights and font sizes in recent blog posts - so I will give those a miss.

In a nutshell - my level of Photophobia means that if I am looking at (or near) bright lights that is what my eyes will focus on to the point where most other objects can (and will) be drowned out to such an extent where they might as well be invisible.

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