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John Bantin

Is it art or is it reality?

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The point is that retouching skills are available to the masses when in the past they were only used by those with large budgets. Are you going to retouch the pictures of your spouse to make him/her look slimmer, maybe more hair, a better complexion? Maybe substitute a picture of someone else altogether?

 

Will you complain if you go somewhere that you were led to believe had gin-clear conditions from the pictures you saw in magazines only to find you were sold a Photoshop idea or how gin-clear it could be?

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"Will you complain if you go somewhere that you were led to believe had gin-clear conditions from the pictures you saw in magazines only to find you were sold a Photoshop idea of how gin-clear it could be?"

 

I thought that this was called advertising???

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I thought that this was called advertising???
It is called advertising .. however .. in this day an age of internet .. we expect to have information at our finger tips and we expect it to be truthfull ... of course different cultures like information differentl .. some not naming any northern american countries at all .. like to be over sensationalised for shock factor or perhaps just hide the truth all together .. or perhaps fabricate something the masses will like. (it's interesting living with different TV than I grew up with)

 

The internet as it has done with finding prices on goods has let us look around more and find our own views that we each prefer ..

 

so with that in mind .. i dont know what my answer would be as to what sort of images I would rather see .. I guess it depends on the circumstances.

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To John's point, though, if you put something in an ad that isn't a reality, it's false advertising. I have seen ads of cold water spots using warm water tropical fish in them. That's the risk with ads because anyone these days can us PS or similar tools but those blokes in the room working on the ad may not know their ass from a hole in the ground with respect to the marine environment, and maybe even the resort owners don't know because they are hospitality experts not diving and marine life gurus. This, combined with tools that allow just about anyone to create ads and tweak photos and make montages, can easily mislead people because the people creating the ads don't know any better. A lot of diving resort ads these days don't use a lot of underwater pics because their diving sucks, so they use a lot of topside shots, like of food, a colorfully dressed dancer, a sunset, a smiling diver, etc and then talk about how great the diving is. Is that false advertising? My take on these kind of ads is that the diving blows.

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Advertisers have always had the money to retouch. Let's try and separate advertising from editorial content. (I know that is difficult for those of you who live in countries where the media is totally driven by the advertisers and not the readership - and evidently North Wales!)

 

Now editorial content, which in Europe has always had what we call integrity, is now vulnerable to highly retouched submissions from Jo Public that editors like because they look nice but do not reflect what a place is like when you get there. Surely, it's as bad as illustrating a piece on Turkey with shots taken in the Red Sea - isn't it?.

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Following the same argument (to a flippant conclusion) perhaps we should also ban skilled photographers from shooting for travel features as they will often make a place look nicer than it is! When diving for my first book, the writer (who's day job is a diving travel journalist) would often look at my pictures after a joint dive and no believe they were taken on the same dive he had just been on.

 

Being slightly more serious - i think that extreme lenses such as fisheyes and super-dooper macro lenses do not show the marine environment in a representative way - and could certainly be considered more misleading about what someone could expect to see in an area, than cleaning backscatter out of a picture or cloning out an errant fish.

 

And I think that there is a wider issue of why people read diving magazines in the first place. Often it is not just for information, but also to be entertained. I will always read John's reviews on kit, even if it is kit I would never own for my type of diving - because I enjoy reading his opinions.

 

Alex

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Manipulate; ma·nip·u·late

To move, arrange, operate, or control by the hands or by mechanical means, especially in a skillful manner: She manipulated the lights to get just the effect she wanted.

 

This issue goes to the heart of a lot of "ty's - integrity, ability and our credibility, creativity.

 

I get annoyed when the word manipulate is seen in some way as derogitory or demeaning. I think the trouble stems from the fact that it seems to be used an easy alternative to "composite" or "combine" or "edit".

 

You manipulate all kinds of things to make a photograph - hey that's what we do- we manipulate light, perspective, zones of sharpness, exposure, tone (before digital by film choice, or in the darkroom), reflectivity (polarising filters)... there are many, many more, but you've got the point.

And I agree the great photographers (the Ansel Adams example) have always been the best manipulators.

 

A statement like No sir, I no longer manipulate anything to make my images. would mean you are longer a photographer, but merely a picture snapper, like all those folks with mobile phone cameras.

 

But here-in lies a fundamental premise...

 

I think there needs to be a HUGE distinction between manipulating tone, colour, localised tone/contrast and saturation etc of a capture versus adding, subtracting or moving content to make a new scene that did not exist in the capture.

 

Those of us that have been around the photo industry for a long time have seen it all before. I have NO PROBLEM per se with composite images, and feel they can be the best way to portray a subject, and I use those techniques myself in some of my commercial work, as they can at times do a job that one-capture-photographs can not do. We'd all find it difficult not to use the tools that our competitors use.

 

However I do think we have a responsibility to the viewer, to help them know what is true and what is not. We can never expect to see digital composites labelled as such, but if we want our unmanipulated images to be appreciated for what they are, we should start making a point of it, and being pro-active in labelling them as such.

 

In the long run, the "market place" (ie the final consumers of the images) will make its own decision about our credibility, as image makers. Anyone who has put their work in front of the public regularly knows that the craft is becoming less well respected as time passes (but I am sure this has always been the case as things have gotten easier - think the introduction of glass plates, gelatin film bases, rolls of film, cameras you can carry one handed, light meters, light meters built into cameras, auto exposure, auto focus, zooms, scanning, image stabilisers, digital capture).

 

It would be nice to be held in more regard than used car salesman, lawyers and real estate agents, and politicians (who are always manipulating stuff).

darren

Edited by photovan

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So here is a self-portrait after I finally got finished retouching it.

post-4197-1157692095_thumb.jpg

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This one has obviously been touched up to make you look slimmer :rolleyes:

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In these circumstances, we must be careful to distinguish between retouching and touching up!

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but.....

 

i think you looked better in your old avatar...

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"Let's try and separate advertising from editorial content. (I know that is difficult for those of you who live in countries where the media is totally driven by the advertisers and not the readership - and evidently North Wales!)"

 

So how many magazine editors do you know who would publish a photo of Snowdon (highest mountain in (North) Wales fo anyone not famiar) in the drizzle John? Except to make a specific point, I would guess that the answer is very, very few. Most editors will choose a nice sunny view with blue skies despite drizzle possibly being a mite more common. So are editors manipulating the image of North Wales simply by making a choice - you bet! Advertising and editorial are to a degree inseperable.

 

And as Alex points out choice of lens has an enormous effect too.

 

There was never a less true statement than'the camera never lies'!

 

But attempting to represent a subject 'truthfully' has a wide variety of meanings and is dependent on its audience as well as its creator. And I suspect a lot of wetpixelers migt be a tad disappointed at meeting you in the flesh after that intriguing 'photoshopped' self-portrait..........

 

As for whether its art - the audience is the beholder!

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actually Paul i have met john in the flesh... and his chest needed a lot more support than you see in that pic..

 

:rolleyes:

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so was i... or should i say generous... hahahah

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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.

 

jb

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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!

post-4197-1157788478_thumb.jpg

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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.

 

 

post-4522-1157807016_thumb.jpg post-4522-1157807083_thumb.jpg

 

 

Tim

 

B)

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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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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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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.

 

My $0,02

 

Michel

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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.

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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

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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:

 

Alex

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