Night vision

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If the first thing that you thought of when you read the title was night vision goggles or sights (it was wasn’t it?) then, IMHO, you may be relying too much on technology and not enough on developing your own skills and body.  No it’s not what you think, Gen 25.4 thermal infrared high-tech, big military contractor big bucks stuff.  Night vision for us po’ boys is what happens after you’ve been out in the woods under the stars for a few minutes.  It’s the natural adjustment of your eyes to limited light.  It’s great if you can afford the big ticket battery operated stuff, but seeing how I can’t, this entry will be about the free night vision.  This isn’t to disparage the high tech, but batteries die, goggles get lost or left behind and equipment breaks.  Sure it’s great to have a GPS unit, but you should also have a compass, be able to find direction with an analog watch or by tracking the sun.  Get my drift?  Learn to rely on your body’s natural responses.

When you get out from under artificial lighting at night your eyes will start to adjust to the darkness so that you can see better.  It takes a couple of minutes to start the process and after about 25 minutes your eyes will be fully adjusted.  Even on real dark moonless nights your eyes will adjust as best they can.

The first thing you need to do if you find yourself outside at night is to stop.  Stop walking.  Stop moving.  Stop and give your eyes 2-3 minutes to adjust to the darkness.

If the lights ever go out due to EMP, solar flares or more pedestrian causes like equipment failure or thunderstorms you should be used to moving around in the darkness.  If you spend all of your life, 24/7, under artificial lights and sitting in front of a TV or computer screen then if you find yourself in drowning in the dark you may feel uncomfortably blind, or worse, maybe even freak out.  You should spend enough time in the dark, that you are used to the dark, both physically and psychologically.   Just like exercise makes a body strong, spending time in the dark will make the darkness your friend.

One of the best ways to do this is to get out and walk at night.  You also need to practice walking in woods at night without lights, because if you can do that under a dark sky and be comfortable, then you can walk on a street or sidewalk in the dark too.  When is the last time you made a point of getting out at night? Now it is summer now.  It’s a great time to get out and ramble the woods and meadows. Get out and listen to the creatures of the night.  Get used to finding your way at night without light.  Learn to embrace the dark.  Your world is dark for half of your life so get used to it and use it to your advantage.

When I ski in the woods at night, very rarely do I put my headlamp on.  If there is snow on the ground it helps to reflect the ambient light.  With a moon and snow on the ground sometimes it is so bright that I cast a shadow.

As long as you walk with the aid of lights your eyes will never adjust to the darkness and you’ll miss seeing the world around you.

One problem with using lights at night is that it sets your night vision right back to zero.   Another problem is that a flashlight or headlamp will light you up at night like a Christmas tree.  If you are walking at night and using a flashlight, I’m also out walking, but I won’t be using a flashlight.  I’ll be able to see you walking with your artificial cone of light from hundreds of yards away.  You might as well be wearing a glow in the dark bullseye.  Even better if you have a headlamp on, then all someone need do is aim two feet down from that and….

If you are out walking at night using your flashlight and you come upon someone else walking don’t shine light in other peoples’ eyes.  It will ruin their night vision and piss them off.  If I’m out doing my own thing, minding my business, enjoying the woods, of course I won’t be using a flashlight to light my way.  I’ll have one (or many more) just in case, but I won’t have it on.  Please if you come upon me don’t shine your stinking bright light in my eyes.  Don’t be rude, either shut your light off or point in down at the ground while we pass each other.  Most likely I’ll see you coming from far away because of your cone of light and I’ll step off the trail into the woods.  I’ll be quiet and just allow you to pass right on by.  You’ll never even see me.

I can’t count the times I’ve been in the woods at night and seen and heard bright and loud people coming my way and I have just ducked off the trail a couple of feet and laugh silently as they obliviously walk right on past me. You’ll never even know that I’m there watching you, unless I choose to let myself be known.  Don’t be ignorant of your surroundings.  Keep those flashlights and headlamps off while walking at night. So get out and practice.  Get used to walking in the dark without the use of battery powered technology.

GET OUTSIDE EVERY NIGHT!!!

Okay, the digital camera is MIA so we got some old night pictures to post.  Here is Running Bear taking a breather while SKIING AT NIGHT SANS LIGHT.

Snow5And here is another buddy with Green Eyed Dog getting ready to take the downhill WITHOUT ARTIFICIAL LIGHT.  The only light is the flash from the camera.  Trust me this grade is much steeper than it looks, and it’s on cross country skis, at night, without flashlight.

ns2Just do it.  Get out there at night without headlamp or flashlight.  Wait a minute or two for your eyes to adjust and learn to be as comfortable walking around in darkness as you are during the day.

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2 Responses to “Night vision”

  1. Iron Tom Flint Says:

    It’s good that you showed night in winter. It is remarkable how just a tiny amount of light reflected off of the snow enhances your vision.

  2. Andy Coan Says:

    I enjoyed this post a lot. Nothing irritates me more than getting a flashlight in the eyes! And it always amazes me how most people underestimate how dark it really gets when there’s no city lights and, on the other hand, don’t realize how well we can see if you just give your eyes a minute to adjust.

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