Seeing Light Review

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SEEING THE LIGHT Optics in Nature, Photography, Color, Vision and Holography David Falk, Dieter Brill, David Stork, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1986, ISBN 0-471-60385-6.

One of the classic contemporary texts on optics, although it was written before the digital age hit. But the explanations of the classic optical phenomena are right on, with a wacky sense of humor appearing from time to time.

Sprinkled throughout the text are TRY ITS which are demonstrations that can be done at home, like making a periscope, a pinhole and an anamorphic slit camera based on 126 film cartridges (no longer manufactured by Kodak since 1999, but still hanging in there thanks to Ferrania of Italy!), conical anamorphic photographs, and many more. There are also PONDERS which really get you thinking about what you just read or experienced.

The frontispiece is the first Random-Dot Stereogram (aka Magic Eyes) that I ever saw and they describe how to make one without using a computer! Their holography section is surprisingly quite comprehensive.

One of the authors, David Falk, has published an article in Scientific American and devotes a whole web site to nay-saying the basic premise of David Hockney’s book, Secret Knowledge. I myself prefer to believe in Hockney’s explanation of the use of optical devices to render perspective and the fact that the artists kept their tricks secret, knowing what I know about 19th century photographers and 20th century holographers.

The only downside of this book is that some of the photographs could have been reproduced better. But there are a lot of them!

A must get book for all practitioners of optical arts! It is a bit on the pricey side, but what textbook isn’t in this day and age!

-Ed Wesly