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Manipulation of subjects for the shot.


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#21 Paul Kay

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Posted 24 December 2007 - 09:42 AM

I think that the problem here is not being clear about what a shot is about. Many underwater photographers equate much underwater photography with natural history photography in which case the guidance for manipulation is well established - nothing which changes the 'essential truth' of the situation/image is allowable (and this is still subject to discussion!). But for other aspects or types of photography manipulation may be acceptable or even needed. The RPS nature group has an excellent code of conduct for nature photographers (I have a printed copy but can't find it online) the gist of which is that if you have to disturb the subject to photograph it then don't take the photo. Of course underwater photography is a little odd in that disturbance is almost inevitable given our size and need for life support systems. And if disturbance is required to take a specific shot for a specific purpose (I've moved two starfish - Luidia ciliaris and sarsi, closer for illustrate their differences for ID purposes) then the shot may be classed as technical or scientific but isn't natural histrory and shouldn't be classed as such.

Some types of (non-natural history) photographs still portray 'reality' (documentary for example) so obviously manipulation is still out, others want to portray a specific idea so more or less anything is acceptable (advertising). But to manipulate a scene or image and claim it to be natural is unacceptable. Conservation is of course an entirely seperate topic and whilst I'd like to believe that all underwater photographers are conservationists I know that it is simply not true.
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#22 craig

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Posted 24 December 2007 - 10:48 AM

No Cor, I'm arguing that not all manipulation is touching. The word "manipulation" is used here with the implication that it is synonymous with touching and harassing. I used modeling as an example of shots being set up (manipulated) while still being acceptable. I also used shark baiting as an example where we accept manipulation in shots in a hypocritical way. I am not equating modeling with harassment.

There is a standard belief that no subject should ever be manipulated to get a shot. That belief is both naive and hypocritical and it derives from the misconception that all interaction with wildlife is harassment.

Funny thing is that I would think that anyone who describes his photographic interest as "creating art" would be OK with manipulation. Preserving natural or journalistic accuracy isn't important in that case, as Paul said. Something I've never understood about photo pro judges is exactly what their objection is to a shot that combines creatures unlikely to be seen naturally together. Is it jealousy? Are they asserting what they believe to be superior knowledge and experience?

My experience is that the best critter shots occur without manipulation anyway. There is only so much that can be done before a creature becomes uncooperative and the opportunity is lost. I find that the best manipulation does not involve touching the subject.

Since the subject of pointers was already brought up (and for negative reasons), I'll mention that I always dive with pointers. In fact, I dive with two in case another diver needs one. :D On my last trip I was one of few, maybe the only, that dove with pointers yet there were numerous divers frequently diving with a single gloved hand. That's a practice I object to, except in demanding conditions, since the purpose of the glove is to allow you to grab hold of the reef. I witnessed that occurring too often. As was explained to me by a divemaster I took a particular dislike to, some coral is more important to take care of than others. :)

Also on that trip, you will recall Cor, that a photo pro ripped the top off a coral head to gain access to two stonefish. Because the two stonefish faced in opposite directions, I pulled out my pointer in an attempt to turn the 2nd stonefish around and the divemaster pitched a fit. What the divemaster didn't know was that I was shooting macro and couldn't possibly benefit from the shot I was attempting to set up. My real motivation was to see if I could help get the desired shot without any more of the reef being destroyed.

So which does more damage, poking a stonefish to turn it around or ripping off a chunk of a coffee table-size coral head so you can shoot it in place?
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#23 Drew

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Posted 24 December 2007 - 10:55 AM

What constitutes "mental trauma" in underwater creatures and how does that compare to the constant threat of being eaten? I believe any attempt at determining "mental trauma" is anthropomorphizing too much.

I was being very facetious with that line. I guess I shouldn't have.

witnessed just such an octopus spontaneously leap into the water column and I took a (not especially good) shot. Now that shot has been labelled as "manipulated" because some people believe it's the only way to get it. I agree that the process that leads to harassment as you describe is a bad thing, though. I blame photographers who want to duplicate the results of others. Much of that is motivated by contests and money.

Oh I don't doubt it happens. Seen it myself too. Never seen it stop to pose threatened with the sun behind it though :D And those who want to get that shot or better will be forced to poke and prod a bit to do it. Whatever their motivation, that sort of harassment is problematic for marine life.

The reason people generally don't associate posing with manipulation is because it is not manipulation.

Yeah... what Cor said.

Does it "stress" them? Is it "harassment"? I'm not sure what "harassment" really means underwater. I do know I could easily be charged with "stalking".

George makes a good point. What is the problem with a nudge here and there to position the fish. If it's not injured or stressed too much, what's the harm?

I keeping looking for them, but I haven't been quite as lucky. They definitely don't hang around the local quarry.

Sorry George. The naked women free diving scene moved out of quarries and went to FL. You could try any club med, Hedonism or full moon parties. :D Plus you know yellow kitchen gloves underwater means isn't for thermal protection, it's chemical protection. :)

...And if disturbance is required to take a specific shot for a specific purpose...then the shot may be classed as technical or scientific but isn't natural histrory and shouldn't be classed as such.

Paul that's great input but the problem is that of attrition. Why is it ok for one guy to take a tech/scientific shot, but someone else can't do it for fun?
As Cor says, if the subject performed on cue, then there'd be no need for this discussion. And we all agree sort some of interaction is necessary. Taking 4000 full power strobe shots on a nudibranch is fine. They are not photosensitive. But a small pygmy seahorse or any subject with eyes, you don't need to watch Finding Nemo to know that limiting your strobed shots is probably the kinder thing to do for it.
I do think with discussions like these, that large grey area can be finetuned and narrowed. It'll never be perfect but the community at large would benefit greatly from it, and so would the marine life.

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#24 fdog

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Posted 24 December 2007 - 11:46 AM

Wow. This is like culture shock.

Obviously my "photographic culture" is different from those here - in my world, walk up to an active news event and ask someone to move a bit because it composes better, well, expect discipline. Have a pattern of it, or stage an event, and expect to be fired. And PS? I can't even erase a telephone pole coming out of someone's head!

Such is the pact expected by journalistic integrity.

Anything else is art. The rules here are very different, and limited by your own ethos and standards. Only you can determine how far you want to twist the "It's all about me" dial.


All the best, James

#25 Paul Kay

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Posted 24 December 2007 - 12:40 PM

Paul that's great input but the problem is that of attrition. Why is it ok for one guy to take a tech/scientific shot, but someone else can't do it for fun?


Ahhhh! Thereby lies the problem. Personally I'd only do this with creatures which its unlikely to create a problem with (those starfish survive far worse judging from the regenerating arms). If you want to shoot natural history, you have to abide by its codes (of conduct). If you are a scientist you have to justify your actions by the standards set by scientists (surprising what is acceptable) and so on.

At the end of the day, like anything else in life, its down to you and your own code/integrity/etc. I know of photographers who have done stuff I simply wouldn't dream of (sometimes due to absolute commercial pressure), but then I'm happy to work to standards that are acceptable to me. A discussion like this is useful, of course, as each of us has to decide for him/herself what standards are acceptable.

One last comment. I know of some divesites which I would Never write about, would only discuss with a very few trusted friends whom I know would respect them and their inhabitants, and which I hope will remain unspoiled! A pity in many ways. Enough said?
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#26 NWDiver

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Posted 24 December 2007 - 12:57 PM

"George makes a good point. What is the problem with a nudge here and there to position the fish. If it's not injured or stressed too much, what's the harm?"

To me this is the "slippery slope". How many times has someone "nudged" that fish? How do you judge "stressed too much?" If someone sees you do it then do they feel free to do it to other species? Maybe they choose a species more fragile than a stonefish.

Also if we reduce the numbers of people prodding or physically positioning creatures doesn't that make the incredible pictures that much more special?

Personally I think it would be great to have some kind of "Guidelines for Responsible Underwater Photography". Something that dive guides, dive operations and fellow divers could point to. It would never eliminate the problem but it might get people new to the hobby started in the right direction and make some think twice if they know others are around them when diving....

#27 cor

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Posted 24 December 2007 - 02:01 PM

Funny thing is that I would think that anyone who describes his photographic interest as "creating art" would be OK with manipulation. Preserving natural or journalistic accuracy isn't important in that case, as Paul said.

You're oversimplifying . Are you truly saying that if your goal isnt journalistic accuracy then you must be the manipulation overlord? If you're not for us, you're against us type reasoning?

My goal is to have a great time taking photos for myself, and traveling. How wonderful that underwater photography can combine both. I like the hunt of finding things, and I like to then take unusual images of them if I can. That does not mean by manipulation! I find it unfortunate that you are suggesting it must be.

Also on that trip, you will recall Cor, that a photo pro ripped the top off a coral head to gain access to two stonefish. Because the two stonefish faced in opposite directions, I pulled out my pointer in an attempt to turn the 2nd stonefish around and the divemaster pitched a fit.

I recall that well. It is burned into my retina. I found that whole scene appalling. I felt so bad watching it, I quit the dive right there and then and steamed to my room. And maybe that is the famous grey area. For some people maybe that whole chase after 2 stonefish was ok. I dont have a single picture of those stone fish from 3 trips in a row because every time they were badly positioned. For me, that went several steps too far.

So which does more damage, poking a stonefish to turn it around or ripping off a chunk of a coffee table-size coral head so you can shoot it in place?

Dont do either. Move to the next subject.

I dont want to suggest I dont coax creatures sometimes. I think almost everyone does. Certainly most pros ive been around do in one way or another. But like anything in life, things arent black and white. You make moral decisions every single day of your life. I eat meat, but not if it's from mass production factories. I eat free range eggs only. But then, I drive a "bad" car. I know its bad (no, not an suv). When im interacting with creatures in nature, there is a very clear limit for me on whats acceptable and what isnt. You just feel it in your gut. I cant quantify that limit, but it's there.

Cor

ps: i agree with all of what pkg said.
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#28 stillhope

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Posted 24 December 2007 - 03:18 PM

I thought one thing craig said was a good call to action: "I find most of the talk about arbitrary standards of behavior to be unreasonable and hypocritical."

Sounds like a good result from all the energy going into this discussion would be a set of standards for underwater behavior well-founded in science (i.e. not arbitrary). They maybe for photographers/videographers, or even divers who just like to look closely at stuff. Maybe there should be standards that are somewhat variable depending on the particular habitat, carrying capacity, season, credentials of diver, etc.

There are similar things that exist for people who go for walks in parks and different ones for wilderness areas. Of course, not everyone will agree, but I think that many objections will be avoided if the standards are carefully crafted and can evolve as science learns more about what's going on underwater.

Edited by stillhope, 24 December 2007 - 03:20 PM.

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#29 dbh

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Posted 24 December 2007 - 06:10 PM

Personally I think it would be great to have some kind of "Guidelines for Responsible Underwater Photography". Something that dive guides, dive operations and fellow divers could point to.


In my experience, dive guides have done the worse "harassment" that I have witnessed to get those tip dollars.

There will be a fight topside if I ever witness someone breaking off coral to get a shot :-).

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#30 craig

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 12:46 AM

You're oversimplifying . Are you truly saying that if your goal isnt journalistic accuracy then you must be the manipulation overlord? If you're not for us, you're against us type reasoning?

No, not at all. I simply mean that if journalistic accuracy isn't a consideration, then standards could be relaxed. I didn't mean to say that you should manipulate subjects.

My goal is to have a great time taking photos for myself, and traveling. How wonderful that underwater photography can combine both. I like the hunt of finding things, and I like to then take unusual images of them if I can. That does not mean by manipulation! I find it unfortunate that you are suggesting it must be.

Actually, I think we are in close agreement on our views.

I recall that well. It is burned into my retina. I found that whole scene appalling. I felt so bad watching it, I quit the dive right there and then and steamed to my room. And maybe that is the famous grey area. For some people maybe that whole chase after 2 stonefish was ok. I dont have a single picture of those stone fish from 3 trips in a row because every time they were badly positioned. For me, that went several steps too far.
Dont do either. Move to the next subject.

There was a question earlier in the thread asking what I'd do if I came across someone abusing the reefs or the creatures. In this case, I felt that by helping model the subject I could minimize any future damage. The choice not to tear off the coral head was not mine to make. I resented being accused of being the problem in that instance, though.
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#31 Islandbound

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 02:57 AM

I for one do not "model" what I shoot but then I live minutes from where I like to dive and am in the water daily. This has allowed me the opportunity to go back again and again to a particular place to try and get the shot that I think I like.

If I found out that a particular photographer that I admire for their work has a habit of manipulating their subject I would be greatly disappointed. When I see a beautiful photograph I always assume that that photographer has spent the time and effort to capture that image through patience, subject knowledge, skill and perhaps a bit of luck. An image captured through manipulation might as well be a photoshopped image because it is no more real as a representative of nature in what it represents. I look at many photographs by the great photographers here on Wetpixel and other places as a source of what I should strive to be like and this certainly does not include poking a stick at an animal to make it turn around.

Having said this what Craig did my moving the fish to spare the coral does make sense to me however and I would probably do the same thing in his position.

#32 fdog

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 10:47 AM

As an aside, I would point out that the simple act of carrying a pointer stick is an admission (and a mindset of) that "I'm going to touch something".


All the best, James

#33 AllisonFinch

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 03:40 PM

<_<

OK, I will admit that I have gently positioned critters. However, I really draw the line at some of the manipulation I've watched guides do to assure us good shots. I do take some notice of people who decry this "harrassment" while still showing shots of crinoid shrimp and soft coral crabs and other creatures that I know animals were harrassed to get.
The photos say it all. I have never seen a crinoid open its arms up to say "hey, here's a nice shrimp to photograph".

If you feel you must do a SMALL positioning, do it small and do it gently. Don't finish your dive with ripped crinoid arms still dangling from your guides hands.

#34 AllisonFinch

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 04:30 PM

As an aside, I would point out that the simple act of carrying a pointer stick is an admission (and a mindset of) that "I'm going to touch something".
All the best, James



:) Absolutely wrong!!

I user a SAND SPIKE, not a "poker". I can slowly push this fiberglass spike into the sand and use it to position myself in all kinds of water (currents, surge etc). This helps to keep me from moving around while my attention is being focused through a viewfinder. I can find a "dead" area to place it on for balance (even one finger does more damage). I can push it into the sand and hold it with my camera tray handle and use it as a monopod. All of this keeps attrition to a minimum.

I have excellent bouyancy control, but viewfinders can severely limit anyone's focal view.

I feel that every photographer should carry one and then resist the urge to use it in a cruel manner.

Edited by AllisonFinch, 25 December 2007 - 04:38 PM.


#35 zippsy

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 05:44 PM

As an aside, I would point out that the simple act of carrying a pointer stick is an admission (and a mindset of) that "I'm going to touch something".

If you expect people to touch things with pointers, are they also expected to point at things with touchers?

#36 fdog

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 07:46 PM

Pointer, sand spike, poker, special fiberglass balance stick...I think we're all on the same page, we know what these things are. Sheesh.

A culture that really, really takes conservation and protection of the environment seriously are cavers. This is a group that offered a US$6,000 reward because someone wrote their initials in the soft bottom of a cave! And if the <insert name here> stick is so benign, why don't cavers use them? It actually is a great way to be ridiculed right out of the community. (Not to mention an easy way to kill yourself)

I stand by my assertion, you only take a special stick along to touch something. You're planning on it from the begining.

I'm not spreading hateraide here; it's entirely up to you and it's no business of mine. Just trying to be honest.


All the best, James

#37 zippsy

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 08:12 PM

errrrr...... maybe I was too obtuse.

I was disagreeing with your premise that these sticks are intended by all divers to be used to "touch" things. Although I've stopped carrying one, I primarily used mine to point at things, secondly as a means to get attention of divers, third, as some protection against the very aggressive trigger fish we have in the region (to scare, not poke). I have on rare occasions used it to push away from a reef that I got too close to but I didn't go down with that plan. Most people I know or work with use it the same way.

So, all cavers take the environment seriously? Maybe it was a fish that put his initials in the cave. Then again, I'd be happy to avoid generalizations if you do too.

#38 Big Blue One

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 09:11 PM

If I don't know you, it's not my job to act as the reef policeman. If the behavior is particularly damaging, I may say something but it will be to a group leader or a dive master.


Ha - out here in SE Asia it is often the case that the divemaster or dive guide is one of the main culprits. Our dive group has to indicate to guides that their job is to find stuff - not to poke, manipulate, or move stuff.

I think it is important for all of us to constantly keep each other in check - for the simple reason that there are no reef police so we have to be each others conscience and eyes and ears sometimes - and if we don't do it then maybe someone will create the reef police.

Maybe this is inevitable anyway as diving becomes more accessible and agencies focus on training minimums rather than acceptable behavioural norms.

I dont think poking and physically moving critters is acceptable even if they are nudibranchs.

btw - this is my starter list of etiquette :) - i have copied it over from the original forum as it seems to be topic de jour currently - http://wetpixel.com/...showtopic=22139
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#39 writepic

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 03:48 AM

Also on that trip, you will recall Cor, that a photo pro ripped the top off a coral head to gain access to two stonefish. Because the two stonefish faced in opposite directions, I pulled out my pointer in an attempt to turn the 2nd stonefish around and the divemaster pitched a fit. What the divemaster didn't know was that I was shooting macro and couldn't possibly benefit from the shot I was attempting to set up. My real motivation was to see if I could help get the desired shot without any more of the reef being destroyed.


you should have put your poking stick in that particular divers eye and then swam away. people like that do not deserve to be there in the first place. "photo pro"? are you joking?


Ha - out here in SE Asia it is often the case that the divemaster or dive guide is one of the main culprits. Our dive group has to indicate to guides that their job is to find stuff - not to poke, manipulate, or move stuff.


one day a long way into the future it will occur to someone to pay diving professionals a professional wage, and for them to then be responsible for their actions, with failure to do so meaning they will lose that wage and be sorry for it. at the moment most diving wages are a complete joke, and many dive "professionals" are complete jokers. until such a time we will all suffer such consequences.
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#40 Drew

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 05:12 AM

Let's be fair about the local dive guides, esp in SE Asia. They are paid a pittance (high for their country's per capita income though)and they get tipped several months or even a year's wage when they perform well... and well means showing difficult to find stuff. Photographers always tip more than leisure divers, so they work harder for them.
If there wasn't a demand for finding and moving subjects around then I doubt they'd work that hard. So it's really the demand from the photographers that has fueled the supply. And like it or not, there is enough money in the 'manipulation' crowd (which seemingly is in the minority) for it to continue. I wouldn't blame the guides as much as the demand from the photographers.
The photopro who damaged coral to get the shot isn't as uncommon as we'd like. This actually makes a great second topic... what would you do if someone blatantly destroys and manipulates beyond all taste and boundaries?

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