Thursday, August 08, 2013

Caustic Observations

Yuba River with Caustics, September 2011
As often happens, I find something on the internet that reminds me of something else. It sends me on a journey, and I learn something new in the process. I absolutely love when that happens. And, it makes me want to share it with you.

One of my favorite websites Atmospheric Optics has been on vacation. I still check in every now and then just to see which photos from their archives is up on the front page. I also often use the search option to research some optic phenomenon. I checked in on Monday and found this photo posted there. It's an optic called a Skypool, a phenomenon of the shape of water surface and color. It reminded me of something I had shot a few years ago at the Yuba River. I did a post on it back then. Here's a link to that old post.
Closeup of Caustics
I wrote Les Cowley at Atmospheric Optics and sent him the above photo. I asked if these rainbow ripples on the Yuba were skypools. I heard back from him, and he delightfully informed me that they were not skypools, but rather caustic optics. CAUSTICS? I had never heard of such a thing, and yet there I had been photographing it two years ago! Les wrote:

Your shifting spectral colours and bright patterns are something else – ‘caustics’ on the river bed.     The name caustics is said to come from their appearance of being sharply focused sunlight that would scorch like a burning glass.  The lines on the sea or river bed are mostly unsplit into colours – or at least not significantly.    The flashes of colour happen when a sharply tilted wave acts like a prism to split the image of the white line into a spectrum.    
Caustics on the Yuba River
I was surprised to see that even Wikipedia has a page devoted to the phenomenon. Who knew? Certainly not me. And now you know! The planet is full of such beautiful phenomenon. I would like to learn something new everyday. How's that for a dream of growing old!

13 comments:

  1. Your photos are very nice! The rest is Chinese. I guess I'm going back to that link again. I really do like learning new stuff!

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  2. One would think you have amazing luck but I think you just have an amazing eye. I think have never seen that phenomenon but maybe I need to look more closely.

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  3. I think Arkansas Patti is right. You've tuned your perceptions to this kind of thing.

    I was going through some old stuff and found an Audubon Society guide to North American weather. I don't remember when I got it, but it must have been a long time ago. It has some nice photos, including atmospheric optics and a lot of cloud ID's. I think some of your atmospheric optics photos are at least as good as theirs.

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  4. Can't believe I learn so much from you, Robin. I also run through Websites like I used to explore the encyclopedia.

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  5. your curiosity and scholarship is infectious. i love the things you discover and share with us. me, i just love watching the sky and the water, but now I see them just a tad differently because of your keen eye and intellect. Merci.

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  6. Neat!
    I think learning constantly is how you stay young at heart.

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  7. always so much fun to share in your discoveries! thanks for passing on the information and images so we can learn with you - your curiosity serves us all well!

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  8. Beautiful. I appreciate the way you notice details and make connections and share them here!

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  9. Beautiful photos - I remembered that first post.

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  10. Very cool images - both the optic of the day in Sedgewick, Maine and your "caustic" optic images of the Yuba River. Unfortunately learning something new everyday just reinforces the fact that I really do not know it all. Everyday my ego takes a hit. Don't know how much longer I take it.

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  11. I have seen caustics but never knew they had
    a name! thanks for educating me today, Robin!

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