Ray Tracing


One of the really cool things people do with computers is called ray tracing. Basically, the artist (well, I use that term loosely) describes the scene geometrically and the computer figures out how the light will fall on the scene and as a consequence, what the actual scene will look like. It's called ray tracing because the method used is for the computer to project a ray into the scene from each pixel in the image area. The ray is traced back through all the reflections to identify the locations of all the shadows, highlights, etc.

Well, I've spent huge amounts of time at ray tracing, frankly with relatively sparse results. Often I use ray tracing to create simple graphic elements for web pages or slides. On this page I've included a few of the more interesting tracings I've done.


My earliest successful ray tracing, from c. 1993. My son and I spent considerable time at this. Back then, computers were a lot slower than they are today and the efficiency of ray tracing programs wasn't what it is today, either. If I recall, this took something like 26 hours to render.

Bencher Paddle

I operate amateur radio Morse code. Today's Morse operators generally use a thing called a paddle rather than a key for sending the code. I needed an image for my QSL card. A ray tracing seemed just the ticket since it allows total control and some degree of simplification, making for a better graphic. You can see the result on the left.

Magazine Cover

In early 1999, I was working with Chip Cohen, NI1R, on getting an image of his fractal quad yagi that could be easily understood. This antenna is fairly complex and not particularly easy to understand. I was using ray tracing to try to understand it myself. Well, the upshot of it all was I was commissioned by Monitoring Times, a SWL magazine, to do the artwork for their April cover. The complete cover is shown at the right.

QRP Field Day

This is a work in progress, inspired by the romance of amateur radio's field day event, in which stations operate from emergency power in the field, and from the Y2K predictions of doom. In any event, a station, lit by candlelight, and consisting of the traditional QRPp radio enclosed in an Altoids tin seemed just the thing.


In 2001 I built an Elecraft K1, an amateur radio transceiver kit. The radio was pretty appealing, and I felt it might make a nice ray tracing subject (well, for those inclined to find radios pretty!) Here is the result, clicking on the image will show a 1280x1024 image (70K).

Palm Paddle

The image of the K1 brought email from a number of Elecraft enthusiasts, among which was the principal of Palm Radio, a German company which manufactures Morse code paddles which are favored by Elecraft users. This led to a series of Palm Paddle images under various lighting conditions. (Large image is 1024x768, 86Kb).


Of course, the combination of a radio and a paddle to go with it just begged for them to be put together into an image that might be useful for a QSL card.

27 Dec 2004

[Home] [Family] [Work] [Radio] [Computing] [Pictures]