[Tig] What color is it in here?

Richard Kirk richard at filmlight.ltd.uk
Mon Mar 30 16:58:05 BST 2009

Rob Lingelbach wrote:
> I once made note to a client of what I wrongly called the 
> "crepuscular" effect of light shining through human skin, which from 
> time to time I see on film.     What I was referring to and must have 
> a different name, is what you see when you shine a flashlight through 
> your hand or fingers; some light gets through.  Anyway, nobody knew 
> the proper definition of crepuscular (twilight-like) so I got away 
> with it.
Sticking a flashlight behind your fingers gives you a red light. You get 
a similar color when you close your eyelids and look at the sun. 
However, there is another effect that gives you a similar color. I 
notice it when I can reading on the coach into work and the sunlight is 
flickering. You get some really strange color shifts and the text goes 
from looking black to red-orange. This effect was first described by 
Purkinje (same man - he did a lot for early neuroscience).  See...


You get a similar effect when you look into the sun, but you quickly 
adapt to it. However, I think the artist Turner was aware of the effect. 


In his 'Ulysses deriding Polyphemus' you see in the moored ships on the 
right of the painting, that the detail is done on brown and red, strange 
brown and red, where you would normally expect features in shadow to 
look cool, as they are lit from the sky. Turner did this painting ten 
years after Purkinje's paper. I don't know whether he could have heard 
of Purkinje's paper, but he did have scientific friends, and he did 
experiment (he dabbled with UV, and thought it could magnetize needles).

Richard Kirk

FilmLight Ltd.  	Tel: +44 (0)20 7292 0400 or 0409 224 (direct)
Artists House,		Fax: +44 (0)20 7292 0401
14-15 Manette Street    
London W1D 4AP

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