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Perspective and Illusion

28 29 aTmospherIc perspecTIve and depth of focus Another way the mind reads distance and depth is by the extent to which atmospheric or aerial perspective is brought into play. In the diagram below the trees are all drawn to the same scale, yet the fainter ones are perceived as being more distant. Particulate matter, whether water droplets as in fog, mist or spray or smoke or dust particles have the effect of washing out colour saturation and contrast, and on a clear day distant objects are less red, more green bluepurple. In fog or smoke we may speak of a vanishing plane, as objects beyond a certain distance are invisible to the viewer. Focus perspective, not shown here, is another trick in the illusionists chest. Outoffocus or blurry objects, relative to defined infocus ones, are interpreted by the mind as either close foreground or deep background to the sharp objects depending on certain clues. Some modern artists play with this to great effect. Atmospheric perspective is widely used in landscape painting. In these pictures by Chinese painters Wang Chienchang 17th C and Lou Guan 13th C we can see the suggestion of distance by the washing out of contrasts and hues in the more distant objects by fog, mountain mists, or waterfall sprays. Again, the mind fills in what the eye cannot see.
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