Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Falling into abstraction

with 41 comments

On July 25th in Niagara Falls, Ontario, I took many pictures—hardly surprising for one of the world’s natural wonders. Back in Texas a few weeks later I sorted through the photographs, seeing for the first time in detail what I’d managed to capture. In the images for which I’d used a telephoto lens zoomed to its maximum length of 400mm, clouds of spray had often masked details, pushing some of the photographs toward and into abstraction. Pictures like the one below reminded me of seascapes by the English painter J.M.W. Turner.

Notice that unlike the pictures in the introductory Niagara Falls post a few days ago, these are strictly nature photographs and show no people or human elements at all.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 27, 2019 at 3:55 AM

41 Responses

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  1. We seem to get a glimpse of an ages old world here, hidden in plain sight, especially in the Turner one.


    September 27, 2019 at 4:23 AM

    • I imagine shipwrecks on those rocks in the second picture. Think of all the people who have died at sea over the ages.

      Niagara Falls, too, will disappear into the ages: the erosive force of the water is such that scientists estimate the falls will gradually precess all the way to Lake Erie and therefore cease to exist in 23,000 years.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 27, 2019 at 4:29 AM

  2. Both are nice and powerful shots of the falls. I especially like the chaos of the second. I’d always go for the peopleless shots but I guess it is good to show folks occasionally for scale etc.

    Steve Gingold

    September 27, 2019 at 4:43 AM

    • Naturally I’m with you in going for nature pictures without people. The three last time were the only three where I purposely included human elements. In the hundreds of others I did my best to exclude them, which wasn’t always easy due to the crowds, walkways, embankments, buildings, and other structures so close to the falls and the river. Zooming to 400mm was my friend; even then I sometimes had to crop off a strip at the top to exclude people.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 27, 2019 at 5:16 AM

  3. Powerful shots showing the power of nature.


    September 27, 2019 at 5:13 AM

  4. It’s a wonder that something so large and powerful can at the same time appear to be almost delicate. I suppose the colors contribute to that. The lavender creeping into the first photo from the right, and the hints of teal bubbling in the froth in the lower left quadrant of the second photo make the pairing of the two photos especially nice.


    September 27, 2019 at 6:23 AM

    • I hadn’t noticed that the traces of teal in the second photograph link it to the first, where that color predominates. I wasn’t thinking of the pictures as a pair, choosing them instead to show different sorts of abstraction. I imagine the delicacy you mentioned comes at least in part from the clouds of mist.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 27, 2019 at 6:34 AM

      • Is the sound deafening? The largest waterfall I’ve seen was Horsetail Falls in Saltillo, Mexico, and although the sound was obvious, it wasn’t at all obtrusive.


        September 27, 2019 at 6:51 AM

        • I could hear the falls, obviously, but I didn’t find the sound obtrusive. Probably part of that was how intent I was on looking.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 27, 2019 at 7:13 AM

          • It’s more of a low-pitched rumble, I think. You can feel the vibration, and it’s staggering when you realize this awesome amount of water & weight, is only a third of the original flow, or sometimes, a quarter. (The rest is diverted to the electric generators) When Charles Dickens stayed near by, he wrote (as I remember it) about how the power of the falls was conveyed to him not visually, but by the constant vibration of the ground, night and day.

            Robert Parker

            September 27, 2019 at 8:53 AM

            • Thanks for your information. I remember reading about the reduced flow in our times compared to originally because of diversion to generate electricity. I don’t recall noticing a constant vibration now the way Dickens attested to it.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 27, 2019 at 12:41 PM

  5. My first impression when I looked at your superb images of abstraction was “Poetry in Motion”. Crazy what the human mind can do?!

    Peter Klopp

    September 27, 2019 at 8:20 AM

  6. I’ve seen a lot of photos of these falls, I like these two a lot. To me they have a dreamlike quality.

    Robert Parker

    September 27, 2019 at 8:54 AM

    • Yes, dreamy. I wanted to do something different from the run-of-the-mill Niagara Falls photograph. I don’t recall ever seeing a picture of the rocks and spray at the base of the falls.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 27, 2019 at 2:06 PM

  7. I love the rhythm in the first shot. And the delicacy of the second does remind me of Turner.

    Niagara Falls
    Slowly I turn(er)

    Michael Scandling

    September 27, 2019 at 10:16 AM

    • Then happy rhythm to you. I’m glad you see a harmony with Turner in the second photograph. With your last sentence’s allusion to something else you became a comment-turner.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 27, 2019 at 2:09 PM

  8. The second one reminds my wife of Casper David Friedrich. Now that she mentions it…

    Michael Scandling

    September 27, 2019 at 10:17 AM

  9. Very, very beautiful, Steve! Enjoyed these!

    Lavinia Ross

    September 27, 2019 at 10:58 AM

    • Thanks, Lavinia. These are more incentives for you to make that return visit I suggested.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 27, 2019 at 2:13 PM

  10. You captured the saturated color of the falls, this amazes me each time we visit.


    September 27, 2019 at 1:28 PM

    • I wish I could visit as often as you do, and in varied seasons. I’m willing to be re-amazed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 27, 2019 at 2:14 PM

  11. Amazing!!

    M.B. Henry

    September 27, 2019 at 4:24 PM

  12. Powerful yet beautiful!


    September 27, 2019 at 8:31 PM

  13. Love them both!

    Mark Walton

    September 28, 2019 at 8:22 AM

  14. I sense the sheer power of the falls in your photos, Steve. One feels very insignificant.


    September 28, 2019 at 7:10 PM

  15. These are two of the prettiest photos I’ve ever seen of the falls. They are absolutely gorgeous. They look like paintings, to me 🙂


    September 29, 2019 at 9:28 AM

    • Hooray, that’s quite a validation. I’m pleased with these abstractions in their own right and because they’re different from other pictures I’ve seen of Niagara Falls.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 29, 2019 at 11:01 AM

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