Size and Shape of Reflections

Reflections on an irregular but flat reflecting surface appear larger than the object's height because the reflection is repeated in the irregularities of the surface. The most extreme example of this type of reflection is one that emanates directly from a light source. While driving behind another car on a rainy day, notice how its reflection in the wet pavement is vertically larger than the car itself, and how, when the brakes are applied, the reflections of the brake lights extend beyond the car's reflection. A sunset over water is another example; the sun's reflection is elongated because the water's surface is irregular.

Reflections on shiny curved surfaces are distorted according to the specific contour of the reflecting surface. A cylinder, for example, converts the features of objects reflected in it into parallel stripes. A reflecting sphere shrinks the image and gives a wide-angle view of its surroundings. A slightly concave surface causes the reflection of an image to appear larger than the image itself, while a very concave surface compresses and inverts the image. A cone compresses reflected images into triangles.

Mirrored or metallic curved surfaces concentrate the reflected image and increase the brightness and darkness of its values. This is our primary clue for identifying metallic objects.

All objects become compressed into stripes when seen in reflecting cylinders.

The reflection of the brake light in the wet pavement is longer than the reflection of the car. Reflections of light sources in irregular surfaces are often quite long.

Concave spherical reflecting surfaces shrink and invert images reflected in them. If the concavity is slight, it will magnify the image.

Objects reflected in conical surfaces appear as triangles.

The curved metal ferrules of these brushes concentrate the values they reflect into intensified lights and darks, which are our primary due to recognizing polished metal surfaces.

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