On more than one occasion I have cherished the idea here that ‘The wider your eyes are apart, the more depth you can see’. The metaphorical interpretation goes for the bipolar graced and inflicted, as perceiving the world from alternately exaltation and despair gives a deeper insight in the human existence than a moderate mental climate.
I have taken up scrutiny of the physical consequences of this idea as a sculpture project for my Art College study. My reasoning began with posing that when one eye sees no depth and two eyes do see depth, than when the eyes are wider apart you should see more depth. An example of wide apart eyes would be the Hammerhead shark, my long time favourite shark, be it for the waterwinged shape of the head. Many functions have been ascribed to the exceptional shape of the head, but I would like to focus on the specifics of their vision.
Therefor I have tried to imitate the vision that results from eyes further apart than my own with the help of mirrors.
One of my tutors, Susan, suggested looking up the work of Cleary Connolly. They have created helmets that incorporate different set-ups of mirrors that capture the world from different viewpoints. Amongst them is also one ascribed to the Hammerhead shark.
On closer inspection I found their construction missing out on a vital ingredient: both eyes look straight ahead and there is no overlap in vision, no binocular vision, so no depth in vision, only two separate views of what is straight before each eye.
I wanted to see what happened when I focussed my mirror eyes on one object.
The first thing I found was an increase of vision field on both sides of the object. This increase, however, was monocular, so there was no depth of vision:
It was even so, that the binocular field narrowed. That felt disappointing, though it did serve reality.
I was about to finalise the project, when my other tutor, MC, suggested to test my until then theoretical approach in a realistic manipulation of mirrors. I had done some of that, but quite awkwardly with my chin on the table and pain in my neck. So I asked tech Nikki to make a triangular mount for me so I could manipulate the setting of the mirrors at ease.
The effect was quite astonishing. The resulting binocular field had considerably more depth compared to looking at it with my own eyes. This very much confirmed my initial expectation. The mirrored view even looks magnified, even though the sight distance was larger than from my own eyes.
It does take quite a bit of peering and adjusting to get a clear picture and I thought the best way to give a convincing proof was to illustrate it with a photograph.
It is very hard to photograph depth as everyone has experienced watching their holiday photos that were supposed to illustrate heights. A camera has only one eye, hence the monocular flatness of the photo. In a flash chat with Gillian she suggested making a twin pin camera myself.
I got a box from Photo-Bob that had housed a Nikon camera, two pieces of pin pierced shim and construction advice. I painted the inside of the box black, made two holes with the centers 67 mil apart in a side wall, the distance between the pupils of my eyes. I cross-positioned the pinholed shims in place and proudly presented my Twin-hole camera in class, ‘It’s a real Nikon’ and ‘even the casing makes a camera’.
The foto can take a while. It’s a proces of trial and error. If it works it’ll come here.
So now I know that eyes, wider apart than my own, have a deeper binocular vision than me, meaning they experience a different reality. For the Hammerhead the difference in depth of visual field is quite spectacular. But there are quite a few larger animals who have their eyes farther apart than me. Most animals have their eyes positioned at the side of their head. Therefor they have a wider field of vision than us. Only, that for a large part is monocular, so without depth. This suffices them to keep a check on their environment. But many animals also have a binocular field of vision, the overlap of their eyes in front of them. They can see depth where it counts, like where they are going, where they find food, where they approach prey, etc. This view is determining their active behaviour.
Dolphins can see all around themselves, very important for a 3D existence. But their binoculair view covers their fluke, their vital propulsion organ (Dusty only allows a few of the regular swimmers to stroke her fluke) and their front, everything in front of their mouth. Also, her eyes are so positioned that when she opens her jaws she can see what’s coming into her mouth.
I have found that the more capabilities I found in Dusty, the better I can understand her behaviour. Thus I discovered that she can expand her body, thereby switching on her buoyancy and I realised that this must be as integrated in her breath surfacing as our own ‘automated’ breathing (btw, our own breathing makes the same difference). Or that I saw, in a rough sea, her gauging the surface with the tip of her dorsal fin before catching a breath. Or her overtaking me from behind once she sees that I have noticed her, idling her stalking.
The more facilities I find in animal life, the more I realise that animal behaviour is a lot less random than is generally assumed. This kind of research is essential in the emancipation of animals from creatures driven by instinct to ratio-specific fellow beings.