Seeing Different Shapes in Elliptical Perspective

All shapes on a plane are affected by elliptical perspective. Imagine odd-shaped leaves floating on water. As they recede toward the horizon, their apparent vertical measurements diminish [aster than their horizontal measurements-in the same way and at the same rate as with ellipses.

Picture a landscape with a calm lake or river. In such a setting, note how the shorelines of land forms-peninsulas, rocks, or islands-define the plane of the water. Place the shorelines in imaginary ellipses and you will see that those closer to you are more rounded-have greater minor axes-than those in the distance. In the far distance, the shorelines fit into ellipses so narrow that they are almost straight lines.

When flat shapes are seen at an angle or in the distance, their horizontal measurements change the least and vertical measurements change the most.

Right. In this illustration, the shorelines of the various landmasses fit into imaginary ellipses that become increasingly round as they advance toward the foreground. This correctly establishes the plane of the water.

Wrong. Here the elliptical perspective is subtly reversed. The near shorelines are flat, straight lines (i.e., the imaginary ellipses narrow), while in the distance they become more rounded.

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