A Lesson on Atmospheric Perspective

Chontele, Elora, and I recently got back from a short trip to Montville in Queensland, Australia. It’s a quiet town in the Sunshine Coast hinterlands.

The weather was miserable by usual standards, but it felt right for the area and its lush plants and sweeping hills. A dense mist filled the air. Even at midday, we could hardly see 20 meters ahead.

The misty landscape was a good lesson on the effects of atmospheric perspective.

A good rule of thumb for atmospheric perspective is: As things recede into the distance, they gradually take on the appearance of the surrounding atmosphere.

Sometimes, these effects are subtle and hard to see. But they are clearly visible on a misty day. The trees, plants, grass, road, paths, and fence posts get fainter and fainter until they are completely enveloped in the mist. And this all happens within 10-50 meters depending on how thick the mist is.

On a clear day, the effects of atmospheric perspective are less severe, but they work the same way. Objects might get lighter and a touch bluer as they recede into the distance. But this happens over kilometers, not meters.

Here are some reference photos from the trip so you can see what I mean. Feel free to paint from them.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott