Scotopic Vision and the Hidden Things

The all 6th grade camping trip added a new element to my work. At dusk on a night hike, my youngest child 9 other 6th grades and I sat down with the camp councilor and listen as she talked us though observing our night vision. She had us observe the slowly fading light and to listen to the sounds as these changes happened before our eyes. As the night grew dimmer, our vision changed. What occurred was that our eyes rods began to take over instead of the cones. The eye uses the 3 different cones to see colors, and the one kind of rod that see shades of grey. As the light fades color fades away and is replaced with shades of grey. Details become shapes with a higher contrast than previously seen in the daylight, your eye shifts to pick up on shape and your peripheral vision is heightened. It was fascinating. The councilor had us stair at someone’s face and as we stared at their features they began to faded into a non-descript blob of middle grey tone. Seeing in grey tones after dusk and before pitch black is when this occurs. This is called the Purkyně Effect, and the vision is called Scotopic vision from Greek skotos meaning darkness and -opia meaning a condition of sight.

I really could not believe that I am only now paying attention to this! Everything about this felt relevant to my work. I am interested in this cloak of grey in my work because it is both showing something that is hidden and hiding something that is normally visible. I am adding this effect it my paintings as a new visual element. I am also interested in how it creates a binary between dark and light, it reduces what is before you and heightens the periphery.