There was a magnificent sunset in Boston tonight. Even you didn’t see it yourself, it is almost certain that some of your friends did, and they made sure you saw it too by posting a photo of the sunset on their facebook or twitter pages. It almost certainly came with some kind of admiring caption. And then you clicked on the photo, and what you saw was well, alright, but certainly not “marvelous”. It was a low resolution photo, taken by a camera phone. The magnificence of an enormous sky reduced to a 5″x7″ window in your monitor. You wanted to feel the awe, but you didn’t.
And that’s perfectly fine. I love photography, I love both taking and looking at photos. But some photographs always disappoint. You simply cannot convey the vast beauty of a sunset in a photograph. It will always look exponentially inferior to the real thing. I have taken my share of sunset photographs, and the truth is they look quite lame. The colors, the contrast, the exposure, everything looks off. Some things cannot be photographed right. Some things when seen in a photograph will be devoid of their glory. If you want to see and feel the magnificence of a sunset, just go out and see one. Just don’t show me the photo you took.