Back in the twentieth century, before digital cameras and Photoshop replaced film and darkrooms, photographers, editors, and art directors editors the world over used a light table — or a portable version, a light box— to look at slides (also called “transparencies”). Most color pictures in books, magazines, and calendars started out as slides. And far more slides were viewed on light tables than were ever projected.
A light table is a rather simple device: A pane of frosted glass with fluorescent lights (corrected to approximate the color of sunlight) behind it. Put a slide on the frosted glass— or often, a strip or “page” of slides sleeved in clear plastic — and the colors of the pictures shine through in all their brilliance, with much brighter and purer color than you’d ever see in a print.
Using a real light table usually means squinting at slides through a loupe or magnifying glass. My virtual light table has a virtual magnifier, but you don’t need to squint. Just click on any small “slide” and you’ll see a page with a larger version of the picture. The “magnified” page will tell you the picture’s title and the year I took it, along with any explanation that might be appropriate.
You can try the “magnifier” with the “slides” on this page. When you’ve finished
viewing a picture, click the blue BACK button at the bottom of the page (or use
your browser’s BACK button) to return here. Or you can click the blue button to the
right of the BACK button to visit the Travel Photo Essay or special page where the picture came from.
On a few pages that are “menus” for a collection of related pages— such as the Virtual Light Table home page or the Travel Photo Essays page— the pictures serve as links to the various pages or sections. But you can use the “magnifier” for pictures on those pages by clicking on the Larger version of picture link underneath or next to the picture.
I’m frequently adding new pages and pictures to my virtual light table. So please come back and visit often to see what’s new!
The 18 pictures on this page sample about 1% of the
pictures on this Web site. I took 13 of them with a digital camera, four with color
negative film, and one with slide film. The negative film was processed by a lab
that printed the pictures on movie print film, which they cut and mounted as
slides. (That service is no longer available from any lab.) Thus, I actually used a
light box to review and select all the pre-digital pictures. But I don’t think
you’ll be able to tell which of these pictures started out as slides, negatives, or
digital sensor data.