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My close friends know that I had horrible eyesight my whole life. Since before kindergarten I’ve been extremely near-sighted. My uncorrected range of focus was 0.5 to 7 inches which meant I needed correction for everything including reading.

I still have the same Sony Dream Machine clock radio beside my bed that I had when I was a little kid and I’ve never been able to read it at night without glasses. After wearing contacts for 26 years I started having problems with them and switched back to glasses at age 33. My thick glasses led to lots of problems including nausea, distortion, chromatic aberration, eye strain and horrible headaches that effected my mood and ability to concentrate.

When my good friend/client/photographer/ophthalmologist Dudley Harris suggested I consider Lasik surgery I was skeptical.

Scott Martin working in Yosemite National Park. Courtesy photo.
Scott Martin working in Yosemite National Park. Courtesy photo.

Like any photographer I value my eyesight and am hesitant to take any risks with it. My license plate says “SIGHT” – short for Onsight, my photography workshop and consultancy business – and wouldn’t want to have people laughing at me for messing up my eyesight with a voluntary procedure. While Lasik isn’t for everyone, Dr. Harris felt my nearsighted condition (five diopters, approximately 20/900) was perfect for Lasik correction.

I tend to research things to an extreme. The saying “We tend to be scared of what we do not understand” is true. The more I learned about modern Lasik technology the more confident I felt about it. The more I learned about Lasik doctors in Texas the more I liked Dr. Dell and his center in Austin. I decided to go for it.

I had custom Lasik surgery Feb. 2, 2006. While the procedure takes less than five minutes for both eyes I was in and out of Dr. Dell’s office in two hours. I was given a little Valium (nice) and no anesthesia. My vision immediately after the procedure was about the same as it was before – really bad.

I went over to a friend’s photo studio and guest house near Zilker Park and watched the movie “2046” while I recovered. At the beginning of the movie I couldn’t make out the subtitles but I was reading them clearly by the end. Four hours after the surgery I was seeing perfectly out of my right eye and less than perfect out of the left. The next day an exam with Dr. Harris showed that the vision in right eye was 20/15. The vision in my left eye was 20/25, which improved to 20/20 the next week and could continue to improve over the next few weeks.

Having had the surgery my first thoughts were:

  1. HOLY COW!
  2. Why didn’t I do this sooner?
  3. This is incredible – why isn’t everyone doing this?

I’ve received a good number of emails from interested photographers inquiring about the effects of the procedure. Here are the little details photographers might appreciate:

  1. My range of focus is now 6.5 inches to infinity. I do not have the “loupe vision” ability to focus closer than 6.5 inches as I did before because of my nearsighted condition.
  2. I saw a slight haze around bright lights at night immediately after the procedure. This is clearing up as my cornea heals. No big deal. I saw more haze around lights at night after wearing contacts all day.
  3. I don’t see any stars, striations or halos around lights at night that other people have described.
  4. My night vision and ability to drive at night hasn’t changed at all.
  5. My contrast and color perception hasn’t changed at all.
  6. My peripheral vision is better than ever.
  7. Range finder and viewfinder focusing is easier and more comfortable than before with contacts or glasses.

I think wearing contacts or glasses is similar to modifying a bad camera lens with multiplier filters or viewing through multiple lenses. Why wear an extra lens in front of your eye when you can just fix the eye itself?

Scott Martin prepares for a photography workshop. Courtesy photo.
Scott Martin prepares for a photography workshop. Courtesy photo.

Honestly, I felt like a whole new person. No kidding. For me, the positive effects of the surgery go well beyond the ability to focus. My energy level and ability to concentrate on my work and family lasts longer throughout the day. My Dream Machine happily shows me the time at night from far away. I can’t tell you how liberating it is to see well all the time without the problems of contacts (discomfort, eye junk, wind sensitivity, occasional eye infection) or glasses (distortion, chromatic aberration, low-level nausea, headaches, general cleanliness, etc).

I’ll turn 42 later this year and eight years after the surgery my vision is still great and I don’t need glasses. I’ve noticed some very slight hazing and rings around lights at night – nothing nearly as bad as I used to have with dirty glasses or contacts. Someday soon I’ll probably start using reading glasses as everyone does – the surgery won’t change this. I’ll be able to get generic drugstore reading glasses, instead of the expensive, high index, variable bifocals I would have needed without the surgery. Perhaps there’s another procedure in my future that will correct that too. I’m just thankful for the eight years of amazing vision that I’d had thus far.

Now when people ask me about my SIGHT license plate it has a whole new layer of meaning for me.

Scott Martin is an artist / photographer who lives in Southtown. He leads private photography workshops around the country, and stays up late working with night photography and light painting. 

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Scott Martin

Scott Martin works at night with a camera and handheld flashlights. His images are made slowly, expanding and stretching the photographic moment often over several hours of long exposure, layering and...