23 February 2008

The ultimate sidelight

The light changes rapidly at sunrise and sunset. With the sun low on the horizon, the color temperature of the light could get as low as 2000 ºKelvin, giving these moments their characteristic yellow, orange, pink and red tones

As I mentioned earlier, the largest changes of natural daylight are at sunrise and sunset. Furthermore, if one observes several sunsets and sunrises in succession, it becomes obvious that they are very varied in terms of color and atmosphere: in fact no two one will be the same.

Sunset and sunrise light is the best sidelight, because at those times the light is horizontal. As its name implies, horizontal light is parallel to the horizon, and when grazing an object will give it a strong three dimensional quality. We perceive this sidelight as aesthetically pleasing because it enhance our three dimensional perception.

At sunrise and sunset, the sun is just above the horizon, and sunlight has to go through many layers of dust, haze and pollution before it reaches the earth surface. During this travel, as dust and haze scatter the sunlight, its intensity is greatly diminished and softened. The scattering also removes the green and blue radiations, leaving mostly the red part of the visible spectrum. As a result, sunrise and sunset light is warm, and depending on the particular day, tinted of pink, red or orange.

Sunrise and sunset light is also rather weak, which in turns means that contrast is very low. This weak sunlight also means that skylight takes on a greater importance and shadow areas become a deeper and richer shade of blue. Shadows at sunrise and sunset are very long, and any texture is very apparent.

The combination of diffused light and of the warm glow of sunrise and sunset creates a light which is extremely pleasing to the eye. If there are any clouds, the sky during these moments can be incredibly colorful. Unlike during the rest of the day, clouds are lit from below, and usually take on dramatic red or orange hues. The reflection of these colors adds complexity to the color of the skylight, and shadow areas sometimes turns purple or pink.

About This Blog

Form is the visual shape of mass and volume. Light makes form legible. There is no form without light.


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