The Beauties and Majesty of Niagara

Niagra Falls

Lately I have been reading some historical books on photography.  One of the books is “The Evolution of Photography” by John Werge.  He was a photographer from England in the early days of photography. He traveled to America and many other places performing his work of photography.  He came in contact with many of the people we read about in history books.  This book was published in 1890.  Therefore, this book covers the history of photography, from John Werge’s point of view, from before the daguerreotype was popular to the discovery of the dry plate.

At the end of his history, Mr. Werge includes a number of his writings that had been published in the photographic community.  In “Pictures of Niagara,”  he explains the dangers and hardships that were endured in the beginning years of photography  in order to make images of  Niagara Falls.  He also describes the site.  He writes, “The colors and beauty of Niagara in sunlight are indescribable.  You may convey some idea of its form, power, and majesty, by describing lines and giving figures of quantity and proportion; but to give the faintest impression of its beauty and colors is almost hopeless.”  He goes on to say that many painters and poets have tried to express the beauties of the falls, but have come up short.  He continues by writing, “I fear the beauties of Niagara in natural colors can never be obtained in the camera; but what a glorious triumph for photography if they were.”

We now have the ability to capture images in color, the colors from nature.  But does this mean that we can capture the experience?  Will color capture the form, power and majesty of the falls where black and white failed? Or is there something in the experience of being there that can’t be captured on film or digital.  I was at the falls in 2004.  It was beautiful and majestic.  However, as you can see  from the image above, the addition of color from my compact digital camera doesn’t really do much in expressing the majesty and beauty of the place.  If  it is the goal to capture the experience of a place with our cameras, maybe color is not a factor.  Something to think about.

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~ by Annette Skewes on May 21, 2012.

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