Monday, February 04, 2008

Famous ship size optical illusion, Astoria, Oregon

This is typical, and yet always surprising. You're looking down the street when a ship passes town on the river, and - wow - it look like THIS time the ship is so much closer to the docks. You wonder what's up. Why is the ship nearly in your lap? Nearly on the streets of town? But no, it's actually an illusion. We get used to it, but it continues to amaze. So I'm walking down the street when I see the ship, and I think, "I'll get a photo of the illusion this time." You can see I'm crossing the street one short block from the water by the time I get my camera out of my backpack. First shot. The ship looks only a few yards from the buildings.

I step up on the curb out of the street and take a second shot. The ship still looks big and quite close. Then I begin walking fast toward the boardwalk to get another photo quickly before the ship goes too far up river, but I need to get close enough to the water so my sight line has cleared the buildings. Watch what happens. . . .

Huh? Honest. I didn't fix anything and there are no tricks here. As soon as the ship clears the buildings relative to the viewer's sight-line, everything changes. I haven't moved to a new position, and I didn't wait for the ship to move away from us. Yeah, it's turning a bit north into the river and away from us now. It makes a little difference, but not nearly as much as it appears. It's truly an optical illusion. If I had run at full speed straight onto the boardwalk when I first saw the ship, it would be the same. I'll try to get more of these on "film." They're fun. Usually I'm in my car driving when I notice them and I can't get the photo.

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