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The Physics and Art of Photography, Volume 1

Geometry and the nature of light
John Beaver


This book uses photography as a point of departure for learning about physics, while also using physics to ask fundamental questions about the nature of photography as an art. The topics center around hands-on applications and are most often illustrated by photographic processes that are inexpensive and easily accessible to students, including a versatile new process developed by the author, and herein first described in print. A central theme is the connection between the physical interaction of light and matter, and the artistry of the photographic processes and their results. In addition to focusing on the physics of light and the optics of lenses, extended discussions of topics less commonly covered in a beginning text are also explored, including symmetry in art and physics, different physical process of the scattering of light, photograms (photographic shadow prints) and the nature of shadows, elements of 2D design, pinhole photography and the view camera. These subjects have been chosen because of their role in a more general discussion of the relation between science and art that is of interest to readers of all backgrounds and levels of expertise.

About Editors

John Beaver is a professor of physics and astronomy at the Fox Valley Campus of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, where he teaches physics, astronomy, photography and interdisciplinary courses. He earned his BS in physics and astronomy in 1985 from Youngstown State University, and his PhD in astronomy in 1992 from The Ohio State University. His published work in astronomy focuses on the topics of spectrophotometry of comets and gaseous nebulae, and multicolor photometry of star clusters.

Table of Contents

I Some Preliminary Ideas
1 What is Science; What is Art?
1.1 The Coherence of Our Experience
1.2 Truth in Science
1.3 Operational Definitions
1.4 Inspiration and Perspiration
1.5 Criticism and Self Esteem
1.6 Looking at Art

II The Nature of Light
2 What Light Is
2.1 The Speed of Light
2.2 Geometry
2.3 Waves
2.4 Particles
3 What Light Does
3.1 Reflection, Absorption and Transmission
3.2 Specular Reflection
3.3 Refraction
3.4 Diffuse reflections
3.5 Scattering
3.6 Interference
3.7 Diffraction
3.8 Fluorescence
3.9 Polarization
4 Sources of Light
4.1 Light and its Spectrum
4.2 Thermal Radiation
4.3 Non-Thermal Radiation
5 Wavelength Reconsidered

III Geometry and Two-Dimensional Design
6 Geometry and the Picture Plane
6.1 From 3-D to 2-D
6.2 The Human Brain's Construction of Three-Dimensional Reality
6.3 Linear Perspective and the Camera Obscura
6.4 The Picture Plane
7 Light and Shadow: Photograms
7.1 Shadows and the Source of Light
7.2 Laser Photograms
8 Ray Optics 1: Pinhole Photography
8.1 Focal Length and Angle of View
8.2 Distortion and Angle of View
8.3 Vignetting
8.4 Focal Ratio
9 Ray Optics 2: Lenses
9.1 Focus
9.2 Focal length
9.3 Depth of Focus and Focal Ratio
9.4 Zone Focusing
9.5 Ray Tracing
9.6 Aberrations and Distortion
9.7 Resolution
9.8 Lens Design
10 Symmetry
10.1 Transformations and Invariance
10.2 Symmetry in Physics
10.3 Symmetry in Art
10.4 Asymmetry and Broken Symmetry
11 Two-Dimensional (2-D) Design
11.1 Elements of 2-D Design
11.2 Figure and Ground
11.3 Lines
11.4 Geometric Shapes
11.5 Value and Contrast
11.6 Hue and Saturation
11.7 Depth Cues
11.8 Unity and Repetition
11.9 Rhythm
11.10 Framing
11.11 Composition: Some Useful Rules of Thumb
11.12 Some Examples of 2-D Design in Photography
12 The View Camera
12.1 Description of movements
12.2 Movements and the Image Circle
12.3 Selective Focus
12.4 Controlling Perspective

A Make Your Own Photograms
A.1 Cyanotype Photograms
A.2 Ephemeral Process Photograms
B Notes on the Golden Rectangle
C Optimal Pinhole Size for a Pinhole Camera
D Units, Dimensions and Scientific Notation
D.1 Units and Dimensions
D.2 Scientific Notation


Paperback ISBN: 9780750329538

Ebook ISBN: 9781643273310

DOI: 10.1088/2053-2571/aae1b6

Publisher: Morgan & Claypool Publishers


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