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Meteorological Optics: Photographs by Dr. Alistair Fraser

October 09 – October 27, 1973

In conjunction with the exhibition Nature Into Art, the Renaissance Society will be exhibiting Meteorological Objects, photographs and explanatory captions by Alistair Fraser, being circulated by the Smithsonian Institute.

Meteorology is the study of the properties of the atmosphere, and optics is the study of the properties of light. The meteorological phenomena illustrated in this exhibition cover a range of scales; so spanning the whole sky and requiring a fish-eye lens to record it, others exceedingly small and requiring a powerful telescope to record it. Dr. Fraser used a 35 mm camera throughout and noted the focal length of the lens on each caption In addition, Dr. Fraser notes on each caption the observing distance for correct scale for those who wish to observe the phenomenon in the same scale as nature presents it.

The exhibition is divided into four groups of phenomena: Scattering, The Mirage, Waterdrop Optics, and Ice Crystal Optics. Dr. Fraser explains each in didactic and readable terms. The color photographs within each group give sensuous and esthetic examples to the informative captions. Dr. Fraser includes in his captions observations of the effects of meteorological phenomena on historical persons and events. For example, he reports, "During World War I (on 11 April 1917) the fighting between the British and the Turks in Mesopotamia 'had to be temporarily suspended owing to a mirage' in the words of General Maude, the British Commander."

Dr. Alistair B. Fraser, a Canadian, began an extensive photographic collection of all kinds of meteorological phenomena while working as a weather forecaster in Vancouver, B.C. After completing his p= phd in Meteorology at Imperial College, University of London, he joined the Department of Atmospheric Sciences of the University of Washington. Much of the material in this exhibition was assembled while he was in Seattle. His present position is that of Associate Professor of Meteorology at Pennsylvania State University.

All photographs other than those credited in the captions were taken by Dr. Fraser. All photographs and captions are copyright Alistair B. Fraser, 1972.


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