Multiple wildfires have ravaged the western United States in the past month, scattering particles of ash and smoke into the air. On Wednesday, residents across the West, woke up to a dark, bronzed sky that nearly shut out all daylight.
But as people tried to capture the scene, many noticed a strange phenomenon: Certain photographs and videos of the weird orange sky seemed to wash it out, as if to erase the danger. In some cases, the scene seemed to revert to a neutral gray, making it impossible for the people experiencing the problem to document it and share it with others.
The cause of this is interestingly simple and unsettling.
The un-oranged images were caused by one of the most basic features of digital cameras, their ability to infer what color is in an image based on the lighting conditions in which it is taken. Like the people looking up at it, the software never expected the sky to be bathed in orange.
You see, digital photography camera sensors are color-blind – they see only brightness, and engineers had to trick them into reproducing color using algorithms. A process called “white balance” replaced the chemical, color tone of film. But automatic white balance isn’t terribly reliable. Under the blood-red San Francisco sky, white balance did not have a reference against which to calibrate accurately. Because everything was red, the software assumed that the entire scene was generally neutral. (Note that this is not a problem of digital photography alone. The same problems exist for film cameras: Different stocks of film and development processes had their own renditions of color) (source)
Do you see now?
The most certain things in life, are the ones you need to question.
You see colors.
Do you see colors?
Related article: Philosophy of colours: Do they exist?
When people started to figure out what was going on, they downloaded apps allowing them to set the white balance on their own.
And the colors were ‘corrected’.
But wait a minute…
How does our eye determine color?
How are you certain that you see what you see?
How do you know that you know what you know?
What if someone else sees something else?
In a cosmos full of red, the algorithms thought everything was grey.
Close your eyes.
In a cosmos full of senses and light, could you see everything black?