What is Aerial Perspective

What is Aerial Perspective

  • Only on rare, crisp, winter days is the atmosphere absolutely clear. When the weather's right, though, you'd swear you could reach out and grab that mountain peak twenty miles away. This un- canny sensation of reduced distance on clear days makes you realize how hazy the atmosphere is the rest of the time. This familiar phenomenon of tones diminishing in intensity the further they are from the viewer is known as aerial perspective. It comes about as a result of the change of temperature between the warm earth and the cold air and is best seen early in the morning. In photographs, you'll notice it more when you fit a telephoto lens to the camera; the lens magnifies a small portion of the distant scene, so the haze is more prominent.

  • You may have observed that brilliant scarlet subjects sometimes seem to jump out of a picture, so that they almost hover above the surface of the print. This is really just another manifestation of aerial perspective: warm colors such as red, orange and yellow are the first to be absorbed by the atmosphere, so we associate them with things close by. Cool colored subjects - blues and greens - appear to recede from the viewer. When you want to suggest depth you can use this effect to advantage by composing pictures with warm hues in the foreground, and cooler colors behind.

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