Color signals in natural scenes: characteristics of reflectance spectra and effects of natural illuminants

J Opt Soc Am A Opt Image Sci Vis. 2000 Feb;17(2):218-24. doi: 10.1364/josaa.17.000218.


Multispectral images of natural scenes were collected from both forests and coral reefs to represent typical, complex scenes that might be viewed by modern animals. Both reflectance spectra and modeled visual color signals in these scenes were decorrelated spectrally by principal-component analysis. Nearly 98% of the variance of reflectance spectra and color signals can be described by the first three principal components for both forest and coral reef scenes, which implies that three well-designed visual channels can recover almost all of the spectral information of natural scenes. A variety of natural illuminants affects color signals of forest scenes only slightly, but the variation in ambient irradiance spectra that is due to the absorption of light by water has dramatic influences on the spectral characteristics of coral reef scenes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Color*
  • Environment*
  • Light*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Scattering, Radiation