Jane Hunt‘s eyes ached when she recently painted a snow scene, so she tried to crowd-source a solution: She went to Facebook and asked other artists how they handle bright days in snowy climes. It’s not just a matter of comfort; snow blindness is a real threat, and eyes need protection from light in all seasons, not just in the sunny summertime. The ensuing discussion yielded much good information.
One commenter from Wisconsin said she wears prescription sunglasses with polarized gray lenses that she feels simply knock everything down one level on the value scale. Another person took the idea further by drilling holes in the gray polarized lenses where the pupils line up.
Others argued that the best method is to wear a hat with a good bill (ideally one with a bill that is black on the underside), to use an umbrella, or to simply squint. A dark blanket on the ground underneath your feet and setup helps with bounce light. Several artists recommended fashioning goggles with a slit in them to shield the eyes, a method that people in snowy regions have utilized for centuries. You can make a quick pair of these with sunglasses and some carefully positioned duct tape.
“Frosty,” by Jane Hunt, oil, 8 x 10 in.
Hunt found herself exploring the many options offered by her Facebook friends, and she began doing her own research. She found that snow blindness is usually reversible and it is caused by ultraviolet light. Fashioning protective eyewear with slits will only offer partial protection; the best answer is goggles that block 100 percent of the UV rays. Second best would be sunglasses with a similar UV rating. (Goggles would block the light coming in from the sides of the lenses.) There are several brands of goggles on the market that use gray lenses to keep the distortion of color to a minimum.
“I think Facebook is a great venue to get people thinking about issues like this,” Hunt told us. “People love to share and help problem-solve, but the downside to so many people throwing in their two cents is that it can be challenging to disseminate the information. As in this case, I often end up researching to find out more details.”