Blind Minnesota photographer: 'Don't let anyone tell you you can't do something'

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Chuck Roelofs may be legally blind, but he has a vision when it comes to photography.

Photography is the art of capturing an image by recording the light reflecting off of an object - but what happens when the photographer is always in the dark?

A Forest Lake, Minnesota man is changing perspectives on what the visually impaired can do.

Chuck Roelofs is on a mission to see the world through a different lens.

"I love coming out and being in the fresh air... love being out in the cold. It doesn't really bother me that much," Roelofs said.

Roelofs picked up his hobby four years ago when a friend gave him a camera.

"Photography is very healing for me, very therapeutic. It's a stress reliever for me. If I’m having a bad day or having a rough time, I can grab my camera and immediately I'm in what they call my happy place."

Since then, he's taken tens of thousands of photographs, from landscapes to portraits and everything in between - even though he is legally blind.

"When I was born, my mom had measles during the pregnancy. That can cause the optic nerve to not develop correctly. I've had this since day one of being born," he explained.

Roelofs has a condition called nystagmus, which causes his eyes to move from side-to-side involuntarily, as well as epilepsy. As a result, he can't drive and he has to work much harder to bring his subjects into focus.

"What you can see at 200 feet, I see at 20 feet. That's probably the best way to explain what I deal with,” he said. "If I'm out in the field and an eagle flies by, nine times out of 10, I'll miss it because I can't see it because I'm too far away or it goes too fast."

For some people, the idea of a blind photographer is an oxymoron.

"People hear that term and they automatically assume you can't see anything. Part of my mission with this whole thing is to bring awareness of what legally blind is and what they can and can't do."

Roelof’s wife Faith said it’s easy to see how her husband's new hobby has changed him.

“He’s more outgoing and it used to be where he would rarely talk to people if he didn't know them. Now it’s got to the point where I have to say it’s time to stop the Minnesota goodbye, time to go," she said.

For Chuck, capturing the power and beauty of Mother Nature on camera is a picture perfect past time, and for those who see his often stunning images, he hopes it’s an eye-opening experience.

"I really want to through my work tell people look, any kind of limitation, you can do what you set your mind to do. If you have a passion to do something, go do it. Don't let anyone tell you you can't do something."

Roelofs has sold a few prints of his photographs, and he recently held an exhibition of his work at Woodbury City Hall. He also posts many of his photos on Instagram and Facebook.