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Is it art or is it reality?


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#41 Kelpfish

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 05:25 AM

I agree and disagree with Alex. As he slightly admits, getting rid of pro shooters was, I assume, light heaerted. It is the prod who know how to best represent the marine environment, and generally speaking this is not through trickery. They know how to choose the lens, compose and light the image. Alex, you said it yourself, your friend sometimes could not believe that these images were real, but they were. I think it's angolob that lens choice fools the viewer (in terms of advertising) into a false reality. However, where I DO AGREE is something like a 105mm macro with a 2x converter with a 4T diopter setup. About the only people who know about this are serious photographers and we also know that if you snap a winner the lay diver will say, huh? What's that? I never saw that! And rightfully true. The purpose, usually, for a pro to shoot is to get the nicest shot under the existing condition....and you are right....most pros can do that. But I don't think that is misleading unless the shot is a once in a lifetime occurrence of a whale shark eating a hammer head who is eating a tuna who is hooked to a fishing line. Then advertisers might plop that image into their ad (without any form of disclaimer) and to me that is where we start crossing the line. :D :D This is fantasy, of course :unsure:

If we consider your logic, then we might as well consider the quality of sensor, the strobe (and color temp), lens, WB, etc. and that is, for sake of this particular discussion, not a factor per se`, at least in my opinion. :rolleyes: Your book cover (very cool BTW) is art. In my book, all images are reality and in fact nothing in it has ever seen PS. :D Yea yea, it's all film and I can tell you, with digital I have gotten a lot better pics and have some fantastic stuff that will replace a lot of the existing images when I do my revision. Why, I want the readers to live vicariously through my work and I want to represent the best visual management I can when I revise. That doesn't mean I am misleading anyone, it means I am taking out the 70's porn and putting in last week's Playboy shoot :D This is all my opinion, of course, but I suppose it's my length of time in this industry (it'll be 30 years in Aug 08).

off to work.

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#42 John Bantin

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 11:54 PM

I shot this a long time ago on a Nikonos V. It needed a lot ot organising, a lot of money, and a lot of luck. This is unretouched. Now all it needs to do something similar is a few clicks! Please excuse me. I'm just a grumpy old man!

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#43 Kelpfish

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Posted 09 September 2006 - 04:58 AM

Now that is a work of art in a world of reality :P
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#44 tdpriest

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Posted 09 September 2006 - 05:06 AM

A great image, but no context: it could be an aquarium, the sea, or, as John says, a fake. There is no way to tell from the image, so it has to be taken as an image, not a story. A set of images, or a context (reef, aquarium walls, divers in the background) would turn the image into a story.

A false image tells one story, but was made as part of a different one (eg seperate dives in seperate places, and so on). I would say that all the great wildlife photographs include the context in which they were taken (think of Doug Perrine's sharks, for instance, or Alex's snapper). This may be the reason why I wasn't too thrilled with many of the images in David Doubilet's fish book, as I couldn't work out the context or the story.

I think that is why I've taken a long time to come to close-up photography, and why I prefer a "blue-water" macro image to a black background one.

This is an example of context and its absence, though I have to admit the context-free image has been photo-shopped to make the point.


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#45 John Bantin

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Posted 09 September 2006 - 05:54 AM

You've made a good point Tim. However, of the six rolls of film I shot at the time there are plenty of frames with lots of context. I was striving for graphic simplicity, something that we strove for in advertising photogarphy in the last Century and which I think is what makes Alex's modern pictures so striking.

Now I can get that graphic simplicity in the alternative frames by cloning out the other diver (the trainer from Sanctuary Bay), healing the nasty detritus stirred up by the divers and dolphin, and generally getting an effect now very easily - when I had worked so hard to get it on film. On the other hand I can put in some context too.

What would you like to see? A Red Sea reef? A whale shark passing by in the background perhaps or just a hammerhead shark attacked by a giant octopus? I have a vast library of material, a high definition scanner and reams of digital files on archival quality CDs, and Photoshop CS2 and a bit of practise too!

As I said, I actually never need to go diving again!

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#46 SilvioMarchena

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 01:00 PM

I think that the shear weight and number of responses claiming that digital manipulation in post-production is fair and equitable photographic measures, is telling. It's the old *they protest to much* moment of clarity for me. Just listen to the excuses making examples of emulsion bias. Or look at the dictionary references to what "manipulation" means. These kinds of responses would not be necessary if this post-production manipulation had a valid correlation to established photographic means and measures viewed as acceptable for over a century.

The bottom line, I think, is this: people are getting better images with digital manipulation then they could without. Is it because they are lazy in the field or because they are unable to create the same image via traditional photographic means? I believe more often than not it is the latter and I believe it will get worse. I felt the same way about dodging and buring as well. If I had shot the image better, dodging or burning would not have been necessary. So while I believe digital manipulation renders the image weightless, I also felt dodging and burning did too.

There is something to be said for capturing an image that satisfies all the expectations of your vision when making that shot. I don't hate digital manipulation, nor do I feel the need to call anyone who employs it a "cheater", but I see it as strange that anyone would find satisfaction in that type of image or wish to offer it up or show it as an example of their photographic efforts.

I understand the business aspect of manipulation and find that perfectly acceptable, but when considering photography as an art-----I simply don't see how post-production manipulation is an acceptable component of the photographic endeavor.
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#47 manatee19

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 05:17 PM

I remember chairing a photo jury in Antibes one year and a great picture got lots of comments, including the one from this diver who said he had been to the same place and that the shot was impossible since the depicted shark species would not be found in the crevice that was pictured... while others said it was true and they had been there. Go figure!

In the end, the picture was plausible, not like a clownfish in the Virgin Islands that we saw in a VI ad in Skin Diver many years ago. And it delivered a powerful message. I don't think it won anything in the end but it could have been among the top three.

Ernie Brooks II always said: "What's the message." and I humbly think he is right. Ansel Adams perennial images didn't have to do with what people saw in Yosemite. It was a powerful rendition of the place done by a skilled photographer who spent hours in the lab to make the most dramatic image from his negative.

Unless there is a rule within a contest asking specifically for no manipulation whatsoever, photography is an art, a language used by people to express themselves. Images should not lie [unless used to produce an effect or identified as such], but nothing prevents one from using skills to present a rendition of the emotions he/she felt while exploring the undersea world.

And those who publish have to use common sense. And I always say to those who look at our images: "It never appeared so bright in the real world. However, rendering the spectacular red of a coral trout as illuminated by a strobe simply means that we are showing what nature presents to us, with the tools we have.

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#48 John Bantin

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 02:08 PM

I suppose it's a question of degree. That is to say, how much you do it. A couple of drinks doen't make you an alcoholic, a one brief love affair doesn't make a a man a despicable philanderer. (Oi, what's wrong with that?) Spotting out a bit of detritus or getting the colour more acceptable is one thing. Moving animals around, even in the same shot, in my book is another.

I buy my own photographic kit. Diving equipment manufacturers and diving services suppliers get even-handed treatment from me whether they choose to advertise in the publications I write for or not. All the equipment I get on loan is returned as soon as it is finished with. Did you know you can now get Diver Mag as an iPad/Android app?

 

#49 mrbubbles

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 02:51 PM

I'm late to this, but intent is a more important issue. If your using all available tools to create your vision or interperatation of an image, thats creative lisence. If your intent is to fool a viewer, or win a contest by not playing by the rules, thats different. I go back to the drahfuls suggestion to add an "M" for manipulated for more then minor adjustments. The definition of minor vs major would be its own debate

#50 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 03:00 PM

I think this is an excellent discussion, and in an attempt to stimulate more of the same - I want to add two points.

Firstly, I think that there is a tendency for photographers to immediately cry Photoshop as soon as they see an image that they couldn't/don't know how to create themselves.
I remember back in 1999, when Doubilet's Water Light Time was released, an underwater photographer friend of mine showed me several pictures in the book that he was convinced were Photoshopped. Now I am pretty sure that none were, but basically whenever he saw an image that he had not the talent or dedication to have produce himself he accused Photoshop.
Do you feel that there is a tendency for photographers to accuse each other of Photoshopping whenever they seen an images that represents something new or difficult to achieve?

Secondly, when we sell our images into the world of advertising it is common for them to be manipulated. Often this is so the ad agencies can offer a unique image to the client for the campaign - and also so that the image represents the message of the campaign.
And we photographers rarely kick up a fuss - as these pay days can net us more than a whole year of editorial work! It seems that photographic ethics are easily bought. Does this matter?
We can argue that since these images are not advertising the marine world or diving products then realism doesn't matter. But is this correct? Should we endeavour to have more control over the manipulation of our images after we have sold them? Or should we just pat ourselves on the back on actually making some decent cash from underwater photography and head off to the Porsche dealer!

Anyway I am interested to hear views on both (and please substitute in a product, car or otherwise, of your choice into the last line - to save a load of responses along the lines of "I would have got a BMW, Land Rover etc"). :lol:

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#51 cor

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 03:30 PM

Do you feel that there is a tendency for photographers to accuse each other of Photoshopping whenever they seen an images that represents something new or difficult to achieve?

Absolutely, no doubt about it. I would go a step further; that this is a big reason that some pros have negative feelings towards digital (i know of 2 myself). They do all this work to get this amazing shot, and the first thing out of someones mouth is 'thats photoshopped isnt it?'. I can see how that could be annoying.

The flip side of that is, that many, especially non-digital, people think digital photographers always use photoshop to manipulate images, which is far from true.

Should we endeavour to have more control over the manipulation of our images after we have sold them? Or should we just pat ourselves on the back on actually making some decent cash from underwater photography and head off to the Porsche dealer!


If the image does not lie (like that VI clownfish), i dont see a problem. In _every_ ad category images are being manipulated to make products look better. A big mac never looks like the one on the photo! :lol: Why would underwater ad images be any different. It's a fact of life that wont change. I agree it's a matter of degree though, and I would probably complain if an image i sold was used in a matter that I found morally offensive.

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#52 Graham Abbott

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 04:10 PM

Superb topic... I think the key word at the start of Johns thread was "art", art and reality are surely two different forms of photography? Sure, now people can create art from their images and why not? This new realm of computer wizardry will bring forth many very young talented artists creating fantastic images using nothing but Photoshop and a little creativity, hey who knows, they may not even go to the expense of taking the shot.

I am sure there will be new artists who will be creating life like images pixel by pixel, at the end of the day it is an image that either moves you or it doesn't!

How many have watched documentaries and thought - natural history or reality? The very same thing happens in natural history and always will.

I'd say an image only lies when it is wrongly trying to advertise something that it is not in order to lead others! Just like when photographers submit species trying to promote an area or operator they dived with, then the publishers publish animals which are not found in certain areas, even countries. This shows the level of professionalism of those publishing dive magazines. The latest one of these I notcied was a Rhinopias aphanes supposedly from Bali, try PNG or the Coral Seas! I would hazard a guess the shot was actually taken around Loloata Dive Resort. I have seen a few videos of this very same fish, supposedly from Indonesia, though the footage must have came from elsewhere!

#53 drsteve

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 08:38 PM

I love this topic. On one side you have the purists which think that any manipulation beyond pressing the shutter button is too much and on the other you have the anything goes crowd. As usual I am somewhere in between, but I don't have a lot so sympathy with the purists. I have grown more lenient, mostly as my skill with Photoshop has grown.

The elephant in the room that no one is talking about is what the heck is "Reality" anyway? Think about it. You bring a complicated hunk of glass and electronics in a waterproof box to 60 feet. Then you proceed to "stop motion" with a shutter (electronic or mechanical) and you illuminate the scene with a portable light source that is designed to reproduce daylight (on the surface) on a sunny day. DAYLIGHT at 60ft!? How natural is that? And you want to talk about reality. Sheesh.

People forget the history of photography. When it was invented, the only image making people knew was painting. Not surprisingly early photographers manipulated images extensively to protray images like what they were familar with. It was was the norm. It was expected since that is the only reference people had. The goal of image making was not to represent reality, whatever that is, but to portray experiences and perceptions of the world. Many people point to Ansel Adams who took pride that he was equally skilled in all phases of photography, from the composition, to the exposure and developing, to the "creative" printing.

Next came the era of the mass market camera and lab processing. Since the chemical magic was largely out of the hands of the photographer, he/she had no choice but to concentrate on the parameters available to him/her, i.e. the capturing of the exposure. It was only at this point that people started to confuse images with "reality".

Now we are in the digital age and we have come full circle. The manipulation, which was routine to the early photographers, is again commonly available. In my opinion, this is a good thing since photography has never been about reality. It has always been about art and recording experiences.

That being said, my personal philosophy is that editing should reduce and simplify. I have no problem with removing back scatter or a even wayword fin tip. Similarly I think that adjusting colors, burning, dodging, and cropping are all fine. I don't have a problem with removing lens distortion and chromatic abberation. I think that there is nothing wrong with taking a fisheye image and converting it to rectilinear. I know that for some, these are words of heresy, but they are all in line with my goal of bringing the image closer into line to what I experienced.

Where I draw the line is when people start adding things that weren't there. For me collages of multiple images are out of bounds unless labeled as such. Moving or replicating features goes too far. Most "creative" filters are verboten. I guess you could summarize my philosophy as "delete good, add bad".

I'll get down off my soapbox now and put on my asbestos suit.

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#54 John Bantin

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 11:01 PM

The most famous ad I ever photographed was where we substituted the gasometers at the Oval cricket Ground for two tankards of Guinness. We used the dye-tranfer process to combine the two pictures. It is now in the Victoria & Albert Museum as an example of 20th Century poster art.
It didn't stop the big cheese of the company (was it Lord Iveagh?) asking at a review of the company's advertising with the agency JWT, if we had permission to paint the gasometers! That's advertising.

Now I am involved in Editorial photography with the supposed morals of journalistic integrity. (Some of you might need to look that up!)
Should I make the water look perfectly clear at a location or should I represent it as it actually is? That is my question. If I retouch my editorial pictures (you can see some on www.divernet.com) would I be misleading the readers?

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#55 cor

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Posted 13 September 2006 - 11:35 PM

Now I am involved in Editorial photography with the supposed morals of journalistic integrity. (Some of you might need to look that up!)
Should I make the water look perfectly clear at a location or should I represent it as it actually is? That is my question. If I retouch my editorial pictures (you can see some on www.divernet.com) would I be misleading the readers?

Arent you giving your own answer? If the buyer of the image expects an unaltered image, you give an unaltered image (or risk exposure). Although I still think certain 'alterations' are ok. Alterations that are done on the image as a whole, to fix for instance color problems or do some sharpening. A DSLR is not velvia, it needs a little help to come even close.

I said this earlier in the thread I think. A lot of what we're talking about here depends on what your image is used for.

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#56 John Bantin

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Posted 14 September 2006 - 12:17 AM

Yes Cor, but many contributors to magazines now send in totally retouched pictures and there is a danger that the art editor thinks I am an inferior photographer!

I am at the moment turning the milky waters of a Fiji tiger-shark shot into the clear waters of the Bahamas!

I buy my own photographic kit. Diving equipment manufacturers and diving services suppliers get even-handed treatment from me whether they choose to advertise in the publications I write for or not. All the equipment I get on loan is returned as soon as it is finished with. Did you know you can now get Diver Mag as an iPad/Android app?

 

#57 Paul Kay

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Posted 14 September 2006 - 12:24 AM

A couple of points. The 'Art' debate seems to have taken back seat - hardly surprising since the definition of 'Art' is one which rages - especially with some of the more modern 'pieces'.

'Reality'. I could argue that since we cannot actually see backscatter when we take an underwater photo using a strobe, then removing it is actually producing an image which is more akin to what we saw and therefore is nearer to 'reality' (which in itself is difficult to define).

But what we are overlooking is that image manipulation, which, whilst in its relative infancy, is here to stay and will undoubtedly become easier to apply and harder to detect in a finalised imaged. I suspect that it is an aspect of image making that we simply have to accept and live with. It will raise interesting problems - especially when considering informative images which may or may not in future be valid to show things such as species distribution. Perhaps data verification software will become the norm for wildlife photographers?

Quote: "I would probably complain if an image I sold was used in a matter that I found morally offensive" - in the UK (& in Europe via other legislation) the 1988 Copyright Act allows the artist to assert 'moral rights' which I assume means that the artist can veto any usage of their artwork if he/she does not like that usage. But asserting moral rights on an advertising image would lead to no sales very quickly indeed!
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#58 Michael

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Posted 14 September 2006 - 09:27 AM

This link details the hot water a Corbis shooter got into for lying to his photo library and NG Adventure. He composited two images - a snorkeler and a breaching whale in Hawaii. The image was published in the magazine several months ago:

http://blogs.graphic...nal_geogra.html

It encompasses some of the issues mentioned in this interesting discussion, and it reminded me of similar, well publicized incidents in the past involving journalists covering the wars in Lebanon and Iraq who manipulated their images - and were fired by the news wires once caught.

Personally, I follow the guidelines stipulated by the WPY and Natures Best Competitions regarding the images I license directly or through third parties. I believe if you go beyond what these two competitions accept, the images become worthless in the editorial natural history photo market - the one I specialize in.

Last week I was notified I won a prestigious photo award here in the States. Three seconds after being congratulated, the magazine's editor asked me if the image was manipulated and asked me to FEDEX the original 35mm slide to her for verification, which I did.

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#59 Paul Kay

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Posted 14 September 2006 - 11:55 AM

Today I sent an image to a magazine twice - the original non-cleaned version and the cleaned version in which the curious part of the image (see my posting re European lobster in the crittur ID here in WetPixel) was far easier and clearer to see. In this case manipulation has enhanced the image which is I think, of scientific interest. I was completely up fron about what had been done and await the feedback with interest.

Manipulation has its place even in natural history photography. But I think it best to be open about any adjustments which have been made.
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#60 photovan

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Posted 14 September 2006 - 11:00 PM

This link details the hot water a Corbis shooter got into for lying to his photo library and NG Adventure. He composited two images - a snorkeler and a breaching whale in Hawaii. The image was published in the magazine several months ago:


So a NG Adventure photo editor can't pick such an obvious composite?

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