Reflection on Refraction

This week’s photo challenge theme is Refraction.

I wasn’t entirely sure how refraction differed from reflection. A quick consult with Webster’s Dictionary told me that refraction is about the bending of a ray or wave of light (or heat or sound) as it passes through a medium such as water. It showed the image of a drinking straw in a glass of water. At the point where the straw touches the water, it appears that it got cut and moved sideways a bit under water – an illusion caused by the bending of light by water.

This picture shows how a tiny water drop ever so slightly distorts (displaces) the ribs of the leaf:

waterdrop inside leaf

waterdrop inside leaf

I am pretty certain, that this nested reflection in these water glasses qualifies as a refraction:

drinking glasses at pool bar

drinking glasses at pool bar

Also, the distortions caused in round reflective objects seem like refractions to me rather than simple reflections:

Some windows will yield reflections almost like a mirror, but not this one:

church window on fire

church window on fire

The adjective “refractory” refers to being altered, hard to manage, stubborn, not yielding to treatment, resistant to heat. I am beginning to like this word….

So the difference between reflection and refraction? In my mind (and I am not a physicist), reflection is a simple mirror image on water or another reflective surface while refraction breaks up the image. I am wondering whether reflections on a disturbed (not smooth) water surface would be considered refraction? Like here, where the carp on the right has broken the water’s surface and rippled it so that the image of the fish is no longer as clearly defined as the one on the left?

two blue carps

two blue carps


About Beauty Along the Road

A blog about discovering beauty in all its ordinary and extraordinary manifestations.
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12 Responses to Reflection on Refraction

  1. WOW!! Seeing my green glass ball stopped me right in my tracks, Annette! So cool to see a bit of home in your beautiful post!


  2. ladysighs says:

    I think refraction is one of those things that… we know it when we see it. Thanks for your description and examples. 🙂


  3. Barneysday says:

    Beautiful shots, all very well done. Congrats on another wonderful post!


  4. Love the carp photo. 🙂


  5. dogear6 says:

    I had the same struggle with refraction vs. reflection. I ended up going with the stained glass windows, mostly because I knew they weren’t considered a reflection!



  6. I struggled with this challenge and love your entry here. Beautifully done!


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