Apparent Diplopia, one bird but two reflections - Favorites #5

Diplopia - the simultaneous perception of two images of a single object.

Larger versions of the photos can be viewed by clicking on the image.

     This photo was taken at Joe Patti's Seafood in Pensacola, FL. where many locals purchase fresh seafood (shrimp, whole fish and fillets, crab, clams, mussels, oysters, scallops, etc.). The scene has changed since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 but in 2007, when this photo was taken, shrimp boats tied up to the pilings shown in the photo to be unloaded. Gulls, Terns, Brown Pelicans, Grebes, Cormorants, American Coots and other birds fed on the debris that went overboard during unloading.

     During most of the day workers serving customers inside the building could be seen through the window. But in the late afternoon the sun angle was such that vivid reflections of external objects appeared on the window and obscured the sight of inside objects. By carefully choosing a position on the opposite side of the docking area it was possible to have the reflection of two pelicans in the window with only one of the birds directly in front of the glass. Cropping produced images such as the first one in this series.

    Why is the first image one of my favorites? I was intrigued by the ability to generate photographic images of apparent diplopia. Most of my research career was devoted to trying to understand how the brain controls movements by studying the neural control of movements of the eyes. Diplopia (double vision) is usually the result of an impairment in the function of the muscles which move the eyes. If the movements of the two eyes are not precisely coordinated, visual signals arising in each eye will not reach corresponding points in the retinotopic maps found in visual areas of the central nervous system but will simultaneously activate different, non-corresponding areas of the maps and, thereby, produce double vision.

     These photos were taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 camera and for various reasons have a number of technical flaws. Later, after acquiring my first DSLR camera I returned to Joe Pattis to try to duplicate these photos. To my surprise the building was being renovated and the glass in the windows had been replaced. The new windows either failed to show the reflections I wanted to photograph or the reflections were very faint. This dramatic demonstration of the transience of the visual world occurred early in my development as a photographer and I learned to make the most of the scene before me for, as I learned from this experience, I knew it could be impossible to replicate in the future. Karl Lagerfeld's observation that "photographs capture a moment that's gone forever, impossible to reproduce" was verified and, for me, this was a vivid demonstration of Susan Sontag's statement that "Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”

    While the glass in the new windows is not a good surface for collecting reflections of external objects, on quiet days the reflection of the new windows in the water in the docking area serves as a fuzzy frame for photos of birds in the area as this photo taken in 2017 illustrates.

If you like seafood, mouth-watering photos of the interior of Joe Pattis can be seen by clicking on the link below.

David Sparks

I retired in 2005 after 40 years of research and teaching at the University of Alabama in Birmingham (24 years), the University of Pennsylvania (8 years) and the Baylor College of Medicine (8 years). Photography is my retirement hobby.

Nature photography, especially bird photography, combines a number of things that I really enjoy: bird-watching, being outdoors, photography, travel, messing about with computers, and learning new skills and concepts.  I now spend much of my time engaged in these activities.

David Sibley in the preface to The Sibley Guide to Birds wrote "Birds are beautiful, in spectacular as well as subtle ways; their colors, shapes, actions, and sounds are among the most aesthetically pleasing in nature."  My goal is to acquire images that capture the beauty and uniqueness of selected species as well as images that highlight the engaging behaviors the birds exhibit.