National Geographic : 1930 Sep
THE COLOR CAMERA'S FIRST AERIAL SUCCESS BY MELVILLE BELL GROSVENOR With Illustrations from Natural-color Photographs by the Author IT WAS indeed a red-letter day in world progress when, in 1829, the two Frenchmen, Daguerre and Niepce, combined their researches in chemistry and the camera, out of which emerged the daguerreotype. Down the milestones of a hundred years from that day, the brains of unnumbered students of photographic science have labored and traveled to per fect and simplify the need of mankind for faithful imagery, and thus create a lan guage that is to-day more universally un derstood than any sounds formed by the human voice. No single man may claim to be the discoverer of photography. It was the outgrowth of theories born of early al chemists and chemists who turned their stumbling steps toward the study of the action of light. Out of such research evolved the science of photochemistry. The fundamentals of the camera were known as far back as the twelfth century. Even the great inventor and artist, Leo nardo da Vinci, who was born in 1452, de scribed and left among his papers the theory of a camera obscura. In 1568 Bar baro suggested convex lenses and a crude diaphragm by which a sharper image might be obtained. But whereas pioneer experimenters of the Middle Ages groped laboriously for ward, recording progress through slow decades and centuries, the modern develop ment and refinement of the camera and the photograph-the stereoscopic camera, the motion picture, the natural-color photo graph, the aerial photograph, the micro photograph, the X-ray photograph, the sound picture-have all come within the memory of living men. COLOR PHOTOGRAPHS FROM EARTH, SEA, AND SKY Of equal importance and value in the dissemination of knowledge through pho tographic records has been the contem porary development of photo-engraving, by means of which the details of a photo graph may be transferred to the printed page, both in black and white and in color, and thus less expensively multiplied by the million. The educational value of this achievement is priceless. In pursuing its mission-the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge the National Geographic Society, through its official journal, the NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC MAGAZINE, has made the photo graphic illustration its handmaiden. For more than 30 years The Magazine's pages have been enriched by the contributions of photographers from all parts of the earth, even from the floor of the sea and, more recently, from the skies above. Members of The Society will recall that the first natural-color photographs to be made of under-sea life were reproduced in their Magazine,* and that the first series of natural-color photographs of the Arctic regions were also made by The Society's staff photographers for these pages.t Now come the first successful natural-color photographs made from the skies. NEWLY DEVELOPED PLATE MAKES AERIAL COLOR PHOTOGRAPHY POSSIBLE Aerial color photography has perhaps been previously attempted, but heretofore it has been impossible to overcome the primary difficulty, namely, that natural color plates require from fifty to sixty times the length of exposure to light nec essary for black-and-white pictures. With such a time handicap, successful color pho tographs from swiftly moving airplanes and from wind-tossed lighter-than-air craft have been impossible. Recently, however, a new method of nat ural-color photography has been developed abroad, and the National Geographic So ciety sent Mr. Charles Martin, the chief of its photographic laboratories, to study this and other processes. The new plates *See "First Autochromes from the Ocean Bottom: Marine Life Along the Florida Keys Is Successfully Photographed in Colors," by W. H. Longley and Charles Martin, in the NA TIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for January, 1927. t See "First Natural-Color Photographs from the Arctic," in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for March, 1926.