What's a Virtual Light Table?

Maluaka Beach, Maui Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles
Lamp and pampas grass at Rancho Los Alamitos La Purisima Mission, Lompoc, California
Black Pool, Yellowstone National Park Cast a Giant Shadow
Canyon de Chelly, Arizona Iao Valley State Park, Maui

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.

This Web site is my light table. On it you can view the travel, scenic, and “fine art” pictures I’ve taken over the last 50 years.

Since my light table is virtual— that’s computer jargon for something simulated in software— the background is black instead of the glaring white of a real light table. It’s much easier on the eyes! Jug Handle Bay, endocino County, California

Roussillon, Provence Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park, Carlsbad, California Chinatown, Los Angeles

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.

Winter trees and mountains, Getty Center, Los Angeles
Larger version of picture
Harrah's Casino, Las Vegas Staircase at Crossroads of the World, Hollywood Shutter and roses, Vauvenargues, Provence The Water Garden, Santa Monica, California

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.

Abandoned shack, Lee Vining, California

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 0.8% 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.

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