A Wildlife Filmmaking student with sight loss is shooting a documentary on the Isles of Scilly to show how sight helps us experience the world around us.
Natalie Rance, who is studying for an MA at UWE in Bristol, is producing a 10-12 minute film called Second Sight following her personal experience of sight loss from a waterborne parasite.
She was diagnosed with the rare condition Acanthamoeba Keratitis (AK) in April 2017 and lost the majority of sight in her left eye. In December, she underwent a corneal transplant, although the outcome is not yet certain.
She said: “Through showcasing the beauty of the Isles of Scilly and its wildlife, I hope to encourage viewers to appreciate their sight, and how it enables us to experience nature and the world around us.”
Natalie is filming with the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust and Scilly Seal Snorkelling during her time on the islands. She will be filmed entering the sea for the first time since the onset of her condition in March 2017.
AK affects just 125 people in the UK per year. Natalie explained: "80% of AK cases occur in contact lens wearers, often as a result of lenses coming into contact with water, for example from swimming or showering in lenses, or even just touching them with wet hands. I suspect this is what happened to me, as I had swum in my lenses not long before I began to experience symptoms, not having realised the level of risk I was exposing myself to.
"My eye began streaming constantly, and I became incredibly sensitive to the light. I couldn't hold my head upright and I was in a lot of pain. I sought medical help on a number of occasions, but my eye was not responding and my condition continued to deteriorate.
"A few weeks in, when I was removed from steroids, I was in completely incapacitating pain, which lasted 24:7 for months on end. The cornea has the highest concentration of nerve endings in the body, and I felt like someone was stabbing me in the eye with a knife and twisting it around. I've never experienced anything like it in my life. I was told they weren't sure they'd be able to save my sight. It was absolutely terrifying."
At her worst, Natalie was taking medications around every 20 minutes and worried about how losing her sight would impact her future in the very visual field of filmmaking.
Natalie is on the islands until June 11th assisted by two MA Wildlife Filmmaking graduates. She said of her choice of location for her project: "Many people think that you have to travel to exotic faraway destinations to experience amazing scenery and wildlife, and the beauty of the Scilly Isles is proof that just isn't true.
"Scilly is such an incredible and unique habitat, with a number of species not found on the UK mainland. I want Second Sight to encourage people to appreciate their sight, and how it enables us to experience the world around us, and to get out and witness the beauty of nature that is right on our doorstep! Scilly's culture is synonymous with the water, and seemed like the perfect place for me to confront it once more."
The documentary will be showcased to industry professionals from the BBC and elsewhere in Bristol in November, as well as entered into film festivals.
Support Natalie in producing Second Sight and raising awareness of sight loss via her crowdfunding page at igg.me/at/secondsight. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
Watch the trailer for Second Sight below: