Camera lucida

Last updated
Camera lucida in use Camera Lucida in use drawing small figurine.jpg
Camera lucida in use

A camera lucida is an optical device used as a drawing aid by artists.

Contents

The camera lucida performs an optical superimposition of the subject being viewed upon the surface upon which the artist is drawing. The artist sees both scene and drawing surface simultaneously, as in a photographic double exposure. This allows the artist to duplicate key points of the scene on the drawing surface, thus aiding in the accurate rendering of perspective.

History

Mr Jenkins cottage, Illawarra, John Rae.jpg
Scenery from Mr Jenkins cottage, Illawarra, ca. 1850, by John Rae, watercolour drawing created using a camera lucida, State Library of New South Wales, DL PXX 74 no.16

The camera lucida was patented in 1806 by William Hyde Wollaston. [1] [2] [3] The basic optics were described 200 years earlier by Johannes Kepler in his Dioptrice (1611), but there is no evidence he or his contemporaries constructed a working camera lucida. [4] By the 19th century, Kepler's description had fallen into oblivion, so Wollaston's claim was never challenged. The term "camera lucida" (Latin "well-lit room" as opposed to camera obscura "dark room") is Wollaston's. (cf. Edmund Hoppe, Geschichte der Optik, Leipzig 1926)

While on honeymoon in Italy in 1833, the photographic pioneer William Fox Talbot used a camera lucida as a sketching aid. He later wrote that it was a disappointment with his resulting efforts which encouraged him to seek a means to "cause these natural images to imprint themselves durably".

In 2001, artist David Hockney's book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters was met with controversy. His argument, known as the Hockney-Falco thesis, is that the notable transition in style for greater precision and visual realism that occurred around the decade of the 1420s is attributable to the artists’ discovery of the capability of optical projection devices, specifically an arrangement using a concave mirror to project real images. Their evidence is based largely on the characteristics of the paintings by great artists of later centuries, such as Ingres, Van Eyck, and Caravaggio.

The camera lucida is still available today through art-supply channels but is not well known or widely used. It has enjoyed a resurgence as of 2017 through a number of Kickstarter campaigns. [5]

Optics of Wollaston camera lucida Cameralucidadiagram.png
Optics of Wollaston camera lucida

Description

The name "camera lucida" (Latin for "light chamber") is obviously intended to recall the much older drawing aid, the camera obscura (Latin for "dark chamber"). There is no optical similarity between the devices. The camera lucida is a light, portable device that does not require special lighting conditions. No image is projected by the camera lucida.

In the simplest form of camera lucida, the artist looks down at the drawing surface through a glass pane or half-silvered mirror tilted at 45 degrees. This superimposes a direct view of the drawing surface beneath, and a reflected view of a scene horizontally in front of the artist. This design produces an inverted image which is right-left reversed when turned the right way up. Also, light is lost in the imperfect reflection.

Wollaston's design used a prism with four optical faces to produce two successive reflections (see illustration), thus producing an image that is not inverted or reversed. Angles ABC and ADC are 67.5° and BCD is 135°. Hence, the reflections occur through total internal reflection, so very little light is lost. It is not possible to see straight through the prism, so it is necessary to look at the very edge to see the paper. [6]

The instrument often came with an assortment of weak negative lenses, to create a virtual image of the scene at several distances. If the right lens is inserted, so that the chosen distance roughly equals the distance of the drawing surface, both images can be viewed in good focus simultaneously.

If white paper is used with the camera lucida, the superimposition of the paper with the scene tends to wash out the scene, making it difficult to view. When working with a camera lucida, it is often beneficial to use toned or grey paper. Some historical designs included shaded filters to help balance lighting.

Microscopy

As recently as a few decades ago,[ when? ] the camera lucida was still a standard tool of microscopists. [4] It is still a key tool in the field of palaeontology. Until very recently, photomicrographs were expensive to reproduce. Furthermore, in many cases, a clear illustration of the structure that the microscopist wished to document was much easier to produce by drawing than by micrography. Thus, most routine histological and microanatomical illustrations in textbooks and research papers were camera lucida drawings rather than photomicrographs. The camera lucida is still used as the most common method among neurobiologists for drawing brain structures, although it is recognised to have limitations. "For decades in cellular neuroscience, camera lucida hand drawings have constituted essential illustrations. (...) The limitations of camera lucida can be avoided by the procedure of digital reconstruction". [7] Of particular concern is distortion, and new digital methods are being introduced which can limit or remove this, "computerized techniques result in far fewer errors in data transcription and analysis than the camera lucida procedure". [8] It is also regularly used in biological taxonomy.

See also

Related Research Articles

Kaleidoscope Cylinder with mirrors containing loose, colored objects such as beads or pebbles and bits of glass

A kaleidoscope is an optical instrument with two or more reflecting surfaces tilted to each other in an angle, so that one or more objects on one end of the mirrors are seen as a regular symmetrical pattern when viewed from the other end, due to repeated reflection. The reflectors are usually enclosed in a tube, often containing on one end a cell with loose, colored pieces of glass or other transparent materials to be reflected into the viewed pattern. Rotation of the cell causes motion of the materials, resulting in an ever-changing view being presented.

Photography Art, science and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation

Photography is the art, application and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film. It is employed in many fields of science, manufacturing, and business, as well as its more direct uses for art, film and video production, recreational purposes, hobby, and mass communication.

Camera obscura Optical device

Camera obscura, also referred to as pinhole image, is the natural optical phenomenon that occurs when an image of a scene at the other side of a screen is projected through a small hole in that screen as a reversed and inverted image on a surface opposite to the opening. The surroundings of the projected image have to be relatively dark for the image to be clear, so many historical camera obscura experiments were performed in dark rooms.

Technical drawing creation of standards and the technical drawings

Technical drawing, drafting or drawing, is the act and discipline of composing drawings that visually communicate how something functions or is constructed.

Image artifact that depicts or records visual perception

An image is an artifact that depicts visual perception, such as a photograph or other two-dimensional picture, that resembles a subject—usually a physical object—and thus provides a depiction of it. In the context of signal processing, an image is a distributed amplitude of color(s).

Graphics tablet computer input device

A graphics tablet is a computer input device that enables a user to hand-draw images, animations and graphics, with a special pen-like stylus, similar to the way a person draws images with a pencil and paper. These tablets may also be used to capture data or handwritten signatures. It can also be used to trace an image from a piece of paper which is taped or otherwise secured to the tablet surface. Capturing data in this way, by tracing or entering the corners of linear poly-lines or shapes, is called digitizing.

Pinhole camera simple camera

A pinhole camera is a simple camera without a lens but with a tiny aperture – effectively a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light from a scene passes through the aperture and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box, which is known as the camera obscura effect.

Henry Fox Talbot British inventor and photographer

William Henry Fox Talbot FRS FRSE FRAS was an English scientist, inventor and photography pioneer who invented the salted paper and calotype processes, precursors to photographic processes of the later 19th and 20th centuries. His work, in the 1840s on photomechanical reproduction, led to the creation of the photoglyphic engraving process, the precursor to photogravure. He was the holder of a controversial patent that affected the early development of commercial photography in Britain. He was also a noted photographer who contributed to the development of photography as an artistic medium. He published The Pencil of Nature (1844–46), which was illustrated with original salted paper prints from his calotype negatives, and made some important early photographs of Oxford, Paris, Reading, and York.

Daguerreotype First commercially successful photographic process

The daguerreotype process, or daguerreotypy, was the first publicly available photographic process, widely used during the 1840s and 1850s.

David Hockney, is a British painter, draftsman, printmaker, stage designer, and photographer. As an important contributor to the pop art movement of the 1960s, he is considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century.

Viewfinder system through which the photographer looks to compose and focus the picture

In photography, a viewfinder is what the photographer looks through to compose, and, in many cases, to focus the picture. Most viewfinders are separate, and suffer parallax, while the single-lens reflex camera lets the viewfinder use the main optical system. Viewfinders are used in many cameras of different types: still and movie, film, analog and digital. A zoom camera usually zooms its finder in sync with its lens, one exception being rangefinder cameras.

Micrograph process for producing pictures with a microscope

A micrograph or photomicrograph is a photograph or digital image taken through a microscope or similar device to show a magnified image of an object. This is opposed to a macrograph or photomacrograph, an image which is also taken on a microscope but is only slightly magnified, usually less than 10 times. Micrography is the practice or art of using microscopes to make photographs.

An optical instrument is a device that either processes light waves to enhance an image for viewing, or to analyze and determine their characteristic properties. Common examples include periscopes, microscopes, telescopes, and cameras.

Precursors of film

Precursors of film are concepts and devices that have much in common with the later art and techniques of cinema.

Cornelius Varley British artist, scientific researcher and inventor

Cornelius Varley, FRSA was an English water-colour painter and optical instrument-maker. He invented the graphic telescope and the graphic microscope.

History of the camera History of the technological development of cameras

The history of the camera begins even before the introduction of photography. Cameras evolved from the camera obscura through many generations of photographic technology – daguerreotypes, calotypes, dry plates, film – to the modern day with digital cameras and camera phones.

Hockney–Falco thesis

The Hockney–Falco thesis is a theory of art history, advanced by artist David Hockney and physicist Charles M. Falco. Both claimed that advances in realism and accuracy in the history of Western art since the Renaissance were primarily the result of optical instruments such as the camera obscura, camera lucida, and curved mirrors, rather than solely due to the development of artistic technique and skill. Nineteenth-century artists' use of photography had been well documented.

Projector Optical device that projects an image or moving images onto a surface

A projector or image projector is an optical device that projects an image onto a surface, commonly a projection screen. Most projectors create an image by shining a light through a small transparent lens, but some newer types of projectors can project the image directly, by using lasers. A virtual retinal display, or retinal projector, is a projector that projects an image directly on the retina instead of using an external projection screen.

<i>Tims Vermeer</i> 2013 documentary film by Teller

Tim's Vermeer is a documentary film, directed by Teller, produced by his stage partner Penn Jillette and Farley Ziegler, about inventor Tim Jenison's efforts to duplicate the painting techniques of Johannes Vermeer, in order to test his theory that Vermeer painted with the help of optical devices.

Ryan and Trevor Oakes are identical twin American artists and draftsmen best known for collaborative large scale drawings using a concave gridded easel. They create camera obscura exact drawings using an easel which they devised and built. Their drawings, paintings, and sculptures explore the intersection of art and mathematics.

References

  1. Marien, Mary Warner (2015). Photography: A Cultural History, 4th ed. New Jersey: Pearson. p. 7. ISBN   0-205-98894-6.
  2. Wollaston, W.H. ‘Description of the Camera Lucida.’ In Philosophical Magazine 27 (1807):343-47
  3. Wollaston, W.H. ‘An Instrument Whereby Any Person May Draw in Perspective, or May Copy of Reduce Any Print or Drawing.’ British Patent no. 2993 in Pritchard, Andrew (1847), English patents : being a register of all those granted for inventions in the arts, manufactures, chemistry, agriculture, etc., etc., during the first forty-five years of the present century, Whittaker and Co
  4. 1 2 Hammond, John; Austin, Jill (1987). The camera lucida in art and science. Taylor & Francis. p. 16.
  5. NeoLucida Kickstarter
  6. Hockney, David (2006). Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters. Thames and Hudson. ISBN   9780500286388. quoting Wollaston, W. H. (1807). "Description of the camera lucida". A Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, and the Arts.
  7. Mobilizing the base of neuroscience data: the case of neuronal morphologies, Giorgio A. Ascoli, Nature Reviews, Neuroscience, Vol. 7, April 2006, page 319
  8. Distortions induced in neuronal quantification by camera lucida analysis: Comparisons using a semi-automated data acquisition system, T.J. DeVoogd et al, Journal of Neuroscience Methods, Volume 3, Issue 3, February 1981, Pages 285–294