Introduction to Atmospheric Perspective
Linear perspective is based on mathematics and straight lines, but atmospheric perspective relies on something entirely different. Also called aerial perspective, it conveys depth through value changes, colors, and visual clarity.
One of the best ways to illustrate atmospheric perspective is in a landscape photograph. Imagine you’re viewing a mountainscape far in the distance. The formations closest to you will look the most colorful and in the greatest detail. As the mountains appear farther away, they have a dull, bluish cast covering them.
How does this happen? In atmospheric perspective, water, vapor, and even smog affect what you see. As there’s more distance between you and a form, the increased particles result in less visual contrast. It also has to do with color wavelength. Blue color waves tend to bounce around these particles, which is why things take on this hue from long distances.
This idea, that things closer to you are brighter and easier to see, goes hand-in-hand with values in compositions. Things that are high contrast (a combination of light tones and dark tones) are more eye-catching than low contrast. In the above painting by artist Adem Potaş, the trees in the backdrop practically disappear because their tone is nearly the same as the rest of the sky.