Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Glitter Path

A glitter path is a vertical reflection of a very bright light source on water, extending from the horizon straight down to the water near the viewer.

Glitter path, photo by Harald Edens
Typically the source is the sun or moon, so sometimes it's called a "moon-path." The glitter path widens where the water is disturbed, and it narrows in the areas where the water is calmer.

Study by Peder Krøyer
Wavelets present many small reflecting surfaces at a variety of angles. Wherever those surfaces are just the right angle to reflect the sun, a spot or dash of light appears.

The effect fascinated Danish artist Peder Krøyer (1851-1901), who did many studies of it, and included it in some of his most famous paintings.

In Howard Pyle's magical story, The Garden Behind the Moonthe "moon-path" appears one night and a young boy discovers that he can walk out on the water:

"There was the moon-path, and there was the wave, and there was this bar of moonlight right a-top the wave. I stepped out again, and this time I wasn't afraid. This time, would you believe it, I didn't fall into the water at all. All the same I had to jump off that wave on to another, for the moonlight was sliding under my feet. It was as slippery as glass."
BooksHow to Read Water: Clues and Patterns from Puddles to the Sea by Tristan Gooley
The Garden Behind the Moon by Howard Pyle
Online: Glitter Path, explained in Backyard Optics 


RozendaalAstrolabes said...

Somewhat unrelated, but the first picture reminded me of it, have you ever seen the green flash? I took a video of it one time, you can only see it when you have a really clear view of the sunset, some of the sun's light turns green as it crosses the horizon

CerverGirl said...

This is wonderful, thank you for sharing--I love that we as artists can be inspired and fascinated by such wonderful nature around us.

scottT said...

Also see the paintings of Edvard Munch such as "The Dance Of Life" for a more stylized and decorative rendering of this effect.

Rosy Carls said...

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Glenn Tait said...

A phenomenon I've observed at a near by lake is the glitter paths of the tall field lights, which have a warm yellow cast, is that the reflected light is much more chromatic than the light source, almost an orange colour. The light itself appears washed out in comparison to what's on the lake. Time would be early morning before the sun is high or the sky is over cast. Have you come across this? Would you have a name for this effect.

Jean said...

I saw an unusual glitter path today. It was made on a river by the setting sun’s reflection on the plate glass windows of a large modern house.

Dennis Holmgren said...

Excellent post! Your posts and articles about lighting and color are your best and most valuable ones IMO. I keep re-reading your book over and over and discover new things each and every time :)