A Norwegian fairy tale trope in every day life, the effect of atmospheric perspective on a landscape makes you long for the horizon. Known as “Sju blåner”, or “seven blues” in English, it is an old expression and a measure of infinite distance.

Like other literary tropes – “once upon a time”, “a long, long time ago”, “in a galaxy far, far away” – “behind the seven mountain ranges” is timeless and evokes the feeling of being adventurous and wanting to explore… beyond.

What lies behind or above the seven blues is often the destination of the adventure hero’s journey; he must venture out into the world – both far and beyond far… The distance is usually covered using magical means, riding on large birds, or with the help of seven-mile boots.

Translated from Norwegian Wikipedia article Sju blåner

What causes it? It’s not that dissimilar to why the sky is blue, it turns out.

As the distance to an object increases, the contrast between the object and its background, the definition of the object and the saturation of the object all decrease. The scattering of daylight, called sky light, in front of the object helps reduce the contrast further and increases with distance. Sky light usually contains more short wavelength light than other wavelengths, which is why distant objects appear bluish, but can still be orangey-red during sunrise and sunset as the sky light has to pass through more atmosphere, due to being lower on the horizon.

Babb’s Hill, from St Martins Hill, Canterbury, is a beautiful sweeping hill. From the south-side of the city, it’s difficult to get the same perspective of the cathedral as from the University of Kent campus. But it doesn’t matter, because the landscape here falls away to rows and layers of trees and houses beyond instead.

This photo doesn’t do the atmospheric haze as much justice as I’d like, though it is visible to the mid-right, but I regularly walk past this spot and experience the folds of the land filter and fade. It’s definitely something I will enjoy trying to capture more in future.

🔗 References

Some interesting reads and photo collections: