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Aerial/Atmospheric Perspective


Aerial perspective or atmospheric perspective refers to the effect the atmosphere has on the appearance
of an object as it is viewed from a distance.

Also, in art:

A technique of rendering depth or distance in painting by modifying the tone or hue and clarity of objects
perceived as receding from the picture plane, especially by reducing distinctive local colors and contrasts
of light and dark to a uniform light bluish-gray color.

Features of Aerial Perspective

1. Lower Saturation/ Increased Blueness

As objects recede from the picture plane, their color saturation decreases and their apparent
“blueness” increases. Some painters, notably Cézanne, employ "warm" pigments (red, yellow
and orange) to bring features forward towards the viewer, and "cool" ones (blue, violet, and
blue-green) to indicate the part of a form that curves away from the picture plane.
a. Why the sky is blue
Rayleigh scattering of sunlight in the atmosphere causes diffuse sky radiation,
which is the reason for the blue color of the sky and the yellow tone of the sun
Diffuse sky radiation is solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface after having
been scattered from the direct solar beam by molecules or suspensoids in
the atmosphere. It is also called skylight, diffuse skylight, or sky radiation and is the
reason for changes in the color of the sky.
The sunlit sky is blue because air scatters short-wavelength light more than longer
wavelengths. Since blue light is at the short wavelength end of the visible
spectrum, it is more strongly scattered in the atmosphere than long wavelength
red light. The result is that the human eye perceives blue when looking toward
parts of the sky other than the sun

i. Is it always blue?
Near sunrise and sunset, most of the light we see comes in nearly
tangentially to the Earth's surface; thus, the light's path through the
atmosphere is so long that much of the blue and even green light is scattered
out, leaving the sun rays and the clouds it illuminates red. (See image)
Therefore, when looking at the sunset and sunrise, we see the color red
more than the other colors.
In locations with little light pollution, the moonlit night sky can be perceived
as blue. However, because at low light levels human vision is limited when it
comes to color sensitivity, the night sky is often seen as colorless.
ii. Space vs. Earth
Sky is black in space and the sun is white because space has no atmosphere.
b. Pollution
i. & dust
Particles in the atmosphere can “catch”/ scatter light to exaggerate effects of
aerial perspective, so an object that is 50 feet away might appear to be much
further away than it really is.

2. Receding Clarity
As objects recede from the picture plane, they become less detailed.

The depth of focus, that is, the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene
that appear acceptably sharp, of the human eye is limited. The human eye DOF varies
depending on several influencing factors, including pupil size, target detail size, and type of

3. Less Contrast
a. How the eye sees less differences in area of less contrast
The ability of a person with normal visual acuity to see fine details is determined by
his or her contrast sensitivity. As spatial frequency increases, our ability to
determine the differences between values decreases. There are only two values in
this image, but, as spatial frequency increases (the values are smaller and closer
together), it is more difficult to tell them apart. This happens when observing detail
from a distance, as well.
b. Sampling of art displaying usage AP
Polarization of sunlight

Why the sky is blue?

Ambient (diffuse) lighting

Water vapor and pollution

Atmosphere in space vs earth

Light Pollution

How to apply to art

1. Blueness
2. Receding Clarity
3. Less Contrast