Reflection/Transmission

Complex

By Tim Mickleburgh

Despite being a digital image, this is “straight” photograph: it’s not manipulated and it’s an objective record of what was before a camera at a specific time and place. It is a little disorienting, for like all photographs it has been torn out of its context, but it’s rich in visual information.

Everything we see here, with the exception of a thin strip of frame towards the right, is seen through glass, and the street on the left is seen through two pieces of glass that are angled to each other.  The glass filters the light that it transmits, absorbing a little bit of all colors except blue-green. Reds and oranges are muted, and blue-greens seem brighter in comparison.  The effect is more pronounced where light has passed through two thicknesses of glass, and it’s especially vivid in the glass steps, behind the horse’s legs, where the light is passing through about 18 inches of glass.

Glass also reflects light, though not as strongly, and we see a building on the right that is actually behind us. A secondary reflection from the inner surface of the glass, much fainter, shows as the doubled image of the roofline. Some reflections are more cryptic, like the car wheel that has attached itself to the woman pedestrian’s knee, or the symbolic cyclist that lies before the horse.  Some reflections are purely ambient, like the faint rub of orange on the white pillar, left by light that has passed through the glass and reflected from the unseen side of the horse.

This digital image is not “about” the physics of transmission and reflection; it is about noticing visual subtleties. Graphic designers know that the more you look, the more there is to see, and even the simplest digital camera can become a valuable sketchbook. Taking photographs is easy; it’s the seeing that improves with practice.