If we see nothing, then this does not mean that nothing is there.
John D. Barrow, The Artful Universe
It is not really news that human perception is limited. We hear only within a certain frequency spectrum, we can only see within a certain range of wavelengths and only things of a certain minimum size. Our perception is also optimised for a certain time window.
No wonder then that humans have been wondering forever what it is out there that we don’t perceive. The “known unknowns” and the “unknown unknowns” to quote a former U.S. politician. Photography can stretch into some of these unknowns but that opens questions of its own.
The physical range of our sensory apparatus has of course an explanation in evolution. Our senses are fine-tuned for detecting food and predators. Optics of all kind (like microscopes or infrared devices) have helped us extend this sensory range. So have cameras. Even without any post-processing on the computer the camera can extend our vision significantly. It can change our angle of view, the relative sizes of objects and the time window for perception – to name just a few of these possibilities. The effect can be quite dramatic. Long exposures remove the ripples in the water and make it seem calm. The picture at the top was made on a stormy morning with waves up to half a meter. Therefore even a four-minute exposure didn’t quite smooth out everything. With clouds the effect depends on the structure and speed of the clouds. In the photo cloud banks were moving very fast and thus got smeared out. With clouds moving at a slower pace instead of a general blur more dramatic movements would be revealed. We can say that a shifted time window can either erase information (e.g. removing ripples and waves in water) and or introduce new information (e.g. the path of clouds).(more…)