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Marjo

Doubilet's Nudi Beauty!

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"However, I do think that there are circumstances where touching marine life IS justified."

Yes I agree there are such circumstances but they are by scientists not by a photographer regardless of who he is and how original the images may be. After all if he can do it why can't one of us?

Edited by mtnman

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AMAZING shots ... so amazing, I may buy a few prints!

 

I think the debate is a good one.

 

The golden "touch nothing and leave only bubbles" rule is a good one ... but why does this rule exist? To protect the underwater environs.

 

Did DD or his assistants hurt the animals or the environs? I seriously doubt it.

 

Would I do what he did? No way. I'm why the rule exists. I don't know what I'm doing and I WOULD likely hurt such a delicate creature were I to attempt to move one.

 

The best argument against him is probably the "copycat" angle ... will other people try this? No doubt they will.

 

Do I believe these same people would be moving or harrassing other things in the abscence of these images? I have no doubt they would.

 

I'm of the opinion that such images will not increase the amount of "touching" ... those of us who "don't touch" will admire the images and go go on "not touching". This didn't make me want to touch anything.

(Did make me start thinking about trying to re-create the effect in post, however!)

 

Some will undoubtably try to capture similar images, but I'm pretty sure that if these folks were not putting little critters on white u/w studio sets, these same folks would be moving them from this place to that to get a "better shot".

 

Bottom-line: no harm, no foul.

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I believe this has been done, in the book I think is called Archipelago about the Hawaiian islands. I need to find it.

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After all if he can do it why can't one of us?

 

One could argue a that it is becasue David Doubilets eyecathing images in National Geograhic Magazine reaches millions of readers around the world and hence the "good" that comes out of these photographs far outweighs any possible distress to these Nudi's.

 

Unfortunately, while "you or me" might be able to create some amazing images, we neither have the name recognition nor backing to publish images to reach an audience of this magnitude and with this impact. Even if you are well published, be it in magazines or in books or in other media, very few media would have the same reach and impact as National Geographic.

 

Also, if it were "you or me" (and with you and me I am referring to the large number of underwater photographers) the likelyhood of us being able to do it correctly and legally with the scientific or conservationsit justification is low.

 

One day when we "grow up to be David Doubilet" and we have the possibility and venue to reach and worldwide attentive audience at the same scale as National Geographic, you or I might be justified to use an unusual method like this.

 

As for the idea of David Doubilet photoshopping, it is a very interesting debate. It evokes some mixed feelings in me. I would agree that the backgrounds of the images could have been created in photoshop and that doing so would have possibly been less "invasive" in the minds of many. The geek in me says "yes, this is how we could improve the world thru technology" (and yes, I am a geek by profession, so i am not opposed to technology per se), but the photographer in me would have been extremely disappointed to have found David Doubilet photoshopping out backgrounds.

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the photographer in me would have been extremely disappointed to have found David Doubilet photoshopping out backgrounds.

No offense meant, but I will never understand this attitude. I would be dissapointed if he LIED about doing it, but I'm with Cor - I would have been even more impressed if that's how he did it.

 

While I'm more than willing to give him a "pass" on the "no touch" rule ... I'd give him even more props for creating the same image without having had to physcially interact with the animals to get the shot.

 

On that ... I think the hardest part of the PS effort would be the shadows ...

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I applaud David Doubilet for these images, truly works of art. Similar techniques were used by the Church's and others but here the execution is flawless and really brought to another level.

 

I also applaud the fact that he has more or less thumbed his nose at the notion that touching is always bad. Does a nudibranch even know when it's been "manipulated?" Will it's behavior be "modified?" (Tongue firmly in cheek)

 

I like the way Jeremy put it, "no harm, no foul."

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No question, DD is an idol and has been an important inspiration, and this technique seems to be new

( didnt i saw somewhere a pygmy seahorse with a blue plate in the background?), but i will always prefer a

shot from an animal in its natural environment, especially cause i know its much harder to get an excellent shot!

 

regarding "dont touch this": may be some nudis like to be touched tenderly? :)

 

beo

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OK

 

I wanna see someone who thinks this can be done in photoshop do it and have the same quality and effect.

 

thats an open challenge .. i doubt anyone will come up with an image of the same studio style feel with the perfect lighting and shadows etc.

 

I am convinced it is better and easier to do it the old fashioned way, using a little bit of ingenuity and photographic talent still outbeats any digital post processing.

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I know I may be belaboring this point, but I think there are a number of issues brought up here, irrespective of whether the nudi itself is manipulated or not. So forgetting about whether it is right or wrong to manipulate critters, if I were to set up an 'underwater studio' like this with a background, and take photographs, would they qualify for the 'unmanipulated' categories in compettions. If not, why not, and if yes, then why is this different to creating the image in photoshop.

Is it appropriate to exhibit these in a natural history type magazine like Nat Geo magazine, where the animal has effectively been taken out of it's normal environment in the image. Would these qualify for the BBC Wildlife Photographer competition?

I think in the final analysis, it's 'all about the image', and these are great images.

 

OK

 

I wanna see someone who thinks this can be done in photoshop do it and have the same quality and effect.

 

thats an open challenge .. i doubt anyone will come up with an image of the same studio style feel with the perfect lighting and shadows etc.

 

I am convinced it is better and easier to do it the old fashioned way, using a little bit of ingenuity and photographic talent still outbeats any digital post processing.

For an adept photoshop user this would be easy; I am not adept, but seeing you lay down a challenge, I will find some folks who are, and see if we can rise to the challenge. The challenging parts are creating a believable mask and drop shadow. Can anyone provide some nice nudi shots with normal background, for practice?

Edited by loftus

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I would like them more. It would have been absolutely wonderful if DD would have embraced digital post processing to create such a relatively easy effect, keeping the same impact of the beautiful photos.

 

 

Easy effect? really? i couldnt get a clean, natural looking cut out of an object in PS if my life depended on it.

there is no way i could ever make that look natural in PS. would look all choppy and crap if i tried it. I'm just a photographer, not a graphic designer. and i would think David would say the same :) (just a guess mind you)

 

it would be a heck of a lot easier and less time for me to do it in camera thats for sure.

 

Personally, i like the shots myself.. well done DD.

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I think the basic idea would be relatively easy to accomplish is photoshop. Selecting and separating the nudi and substituting a white background....fairly simple. Even the shadows are not that hard.

 

What would be difficult, if not impossible, as Giles has pointed out, is duplicating the lighting. The white background is acting as a giant reflector and acting as a light source itself. That would be a real challenge even to a Photoshop guru.

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Ok, maybe they're not so easy, but for an expert not rocket science either. But that wasnt really what I reacted to. First of all, I love these images. No question about that. But it's obvious how they were made, and there is a bit of a double standard there. If any of us had made those shots, the discussion would be a lot more extreme.

 

I wish he had made them with PS, because that would help remove a stigma that surrounds PS and I for one would have thought that would have been truly awesome.

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I believe this has been done, in the book I think is called Archipelago about the Hawaiian islands. I need to find it.

 

I believe this has been done as well. The artists names are S. Middleton and D. Liittschwager. There are a couple of examples in this newsletter;

 

http://www.bms.bc.ca/library/pdf/BMSCnewsletter2(2).pdf

 

Check out the image of the Leopard Blenny on pg1 and the Hermit crab and green sea turtle hatchings on pg 8. I have no idea how the photo's were created or if the subjects were manipulated.

 

Cheers,

 

Mike

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but the photographer in me would have been extremely disappointed to have found David Doubilet photoshopping out backgrounds.
In film days a photographer submitted to the mag by sending in exposed film only. All developing/processing was done by nat geo staff. I suspect in today's game the photographer submits virgin RAW files only and all post-processing is done by NG staff as well. It is very likely that every single image we see in Nat Geo is manipulated, in the truest sense of the term.

 

I tend to agree with the assumptions that there was probably no harm done to the nudi's, but I am curious why a magazine like Nat Geo and a photographer like Doubilet wouldn't simply not disclose the animal handling and allow the public to assume the backgrounds were done in post. If the animal handling was a bad choice the disclosure would seem to be a worse one, if only because it may give rationale to divers and photographers who until now may have been reticent to engage in this level of animal manipulation.

 

Still, in my experience diving around people who make a living at this game (and not speaking about David specifically here).....animal manipulation as well as reef ravaging isn't exactly an uncommon occurance. It doesn't usually happen on one of their guided tours or instructional trips, but there has always been more than a few sanctimonious foxes in the hen-house in this regard :)

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I'm not impressed. I won't dispute the beauty of these photographs. BUT, am I the only one who thinks that Doubilet's photos were EASY to capture??? After all, by using this technique, he has managed to control virtually all of the environmental factors which would normally limit an underwater photographer, including: background, lighting, angles, escape routes for the nudis, and even time/depth.

 

Speaking of the latter, does anyone really think that he took his 'studio' with him to 25 meters? I seriously doubt it. He probably had his assistants collect, and bring them to 5 meters of calm water where he could take his sweet time. And not that DD would ever have backscatter in a photo, but 'whiting out' a spec has never been so easy. In conclusion, given the (arguably) robust nature of nudis, the quality of these pictures, and the ease of results, I think we're going to see a lot more of this. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be limited to nudis in the future. Can anyone say, 'boxer crab'? :)

 

-David

Edited by dsbierman

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I'm not impressed ... am I the only one who thinks that Doubilet's photos were EASY to capture???

 

I agree that the actual execution of this idea was not "brain surgery". I'm still impressed.

 

Some of the best ideas are very, very simple. It's HAVING the idea and actually doing something about it that tends to be hard.

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Simply because it is DD and the images are in Nat.Geo. doesn't justify the process. The ends rarely justify the means and that is the case here. While I love the images their beauty doesn't mean the technique was appropriate. The fact that they will be seen by so many people is a good reason not to have done it in the first place. The no harm/no foul argument while probably correct in the no harm aspect could be used in too many situations. Is it okay to move that mimic into the water column?

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I'm not impressed. I won't dispute the beauty of these photographs. BUT, am I the only one who thinks that Doubilet's photos were EASY to capture??? After all, by using this technique, he has managed to control virtually all of the environmental factors which would normally limit an underwater photographer, including: background, lighting, angles, escape routes for the nudis, and even time/depth.

 

I disagree. The beauty of the photographs is what matters. The ease of capture is irrelevant, lest we have "I know it's just a Christmas tree worm and poorly framed, but he only used his left hand to take it" kind of response. Shooting nudibranchs isn't particular difficult. Even I can keep up with a fleeing nudibranch.

 

I find this thread interesting, even though we've beat the topic to death before. When someone linked to the gallery on another board without knowing the method of capture, I posted that I talked to a dive guide that was there when he used this technique.

 

I'm ambivalent about manipulation, but what always strikes me as ironic is that those who most zealously assert the no touch/manipulation/interaction also admire the old photographic giants and legends who took far greater liberty than most people imagine. Putting nudibranchs on a card pales in comparison to other techniques employed in the past and to some extent even today.

 

I find the greater good rationalization weak, yet I personally I can't condemn them for doing things I woudn't. Trying to draw a line in the sand on who can do what or even what should be allowed is difficult, if not impossible.

 

If we are against having a bucket of fish in the water for sharks, are we not also against killing a starfish to feed the harlequin shrimp?

 

We've managed to give a pass to Cousteau on his dynamite fish surveys, why not famous photographers?

 

BTW, extracting nudibranchs from a scene would be fairly easy. Extracting a crinoid or feather duster would be far more difficult. As someone mentioned, the lighting would not be the same.

 

BTW, all those great macro insect photographs we admire? The insects were probably captured and held captive in a refrigerator in order to make them "less active".

 

BTW, if we won't to cause no deaths, we should ban identification of all new species.

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Still, in my experience diving around people who make a living at this game (and not speaking about David specifically here).....animal manipulation as well as reef ravaging isn't exactly an uncommon occurance.

 

I am sad to hear that that is your experience. It is not my experience at all. I see a lot of clumsy tourists with cameras doing unintentional damage with their fins and cameras and sometimes also some uncalled for poking or moving of sealife. However when diving with people who make a living as photographers I have not seens any "reef ravaging".

 

 

And were these images EASY to make?

 

Well, I don't think that shooting ANYTHING underwater is "easy". But I guess everything is "relevant", it all depends on what other task you are comparing to. But if it was or wasn't "easy" is really irrelevant. Sometimes the simple ideas are the best and at lelast I find these images amazing. They suck me in and I want to keep watching them. They inspire me and make me wonder how something as estetically pleasing and intriguing as Nudibranch could have evolved.

 

You know. there is that old joke: How many photographers does it take to make an images? The answer is 100. One to actually make the image and 99 to say "I could have done that". :)

Edited by Marjo

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Speaking of the latter, does anyone really think that he took his 'studio' with him to 25 meters? I seriously doubt it. He probably had his assistants collect, and bring them to 5 meters of calm water where he could take his sweet time.

 

Having been his extremely bored assistant for a day, I can tell you for a fact he would have been right down where the creatures were and have his assistants bounce dive all day bringing him different camera's with diff lenses and diff studio stuff, new lights etc etc He even made us do this for him at Stingray City as he didn't want to leave the water and miss anything even though it was 15ft deep and right under the boat. Almost 12 hours I think we spent at Stingray City that day ..

I really don't want to defend DD, I have never been his hugest fan, but without trying to offend anyone who is against how these images were taken I have to say something. Shut Up. Outcrys of he shouldn't have touched these animals is almost as bad as an onslaught of people going out and trying to imitate him. I don't care how perfect of a diver anyone thinks they are, you leave your own footprints of damage, guaranteed. What's worse is you probably don't even realise. So who are you to talk, at least he knew what he was doing and probably did it with as little damage as possible.

This is an inevitability when diving, you are trespassing in territory you don't belong in, therefore your mere prescience is an imbalance. How many times have you been in an overhead environment .. do you really think your bubbles didn't affect anything? How many times has your peeking in a hole or finding a creature scared them to run away, how many night dives has your flash light lit up a critter for the predator hanging over your shoulder. Have you ever sat in the sand ? brushed against coral, blinded a animal with your flash, used fish food to attract fish. OMG the list could go on and on .. and I am pretty sure everyone is guilty of some underwater damage just by being there; if you know it or admit it or not.

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I feel fortunate to have known David Doubilet was taking these kind of images before they were published. I dove with him and Jen in Raja Ampat and saw what he was working on at that time.

 

Not that David Doubilet needs me to vouch for him but my experience showed that each and every time the subjects were replaced to exactly where they were found by the guides and handled delicately.

 

Cheers

 

Todd

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but without trying to offend anyone who is against how these images were taken I have to say something. Shut Up. Outcrys of he shouldn't have touched these animals is almost as bad as an onslaught of people going out and trying to imitate him.

Just a little disclaimer here; I have no issues with the moving of the nudis. Simply that these are highly 'manipulated' images in one sense or another, and anyone who has no problem with how these images were taken should not have any issues if they were created with the help of Photoshop.

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This is an inevitability when diving, you are trespassing in territory you don't belong in, therefore your mere prescience is an imbalance. How many times have you been in an overhead environment .. do you really think your bubbles didn't affect anything? How many times has your peeking in a hole or finding a creature scared them to run away, how many night dives has your flash light lit up a critter for the predator hanging over your shoulder. Have you ever sat in the sand ? brushed against coral, blinded a animal with your flash, used fish food to attract fish. OMG the list could go on and on .. and I am pretty sure everyone is guilty of some underwater damage just by being there; if you know it or admit it or not.

 

 

That is the ultimate issue. And there is not going to be an easy answer as to when the line of what an individual thinks is too much interference. It all comes down to the "ends justifying the means" and no one will have the same answer. The one extreme position is that scuba diving should not be done at all and effectively we are all hypocrites about the subject. And of course this thread and other threads have covered all the shades of gray.

 

Discusssing these issues is something that hopefully gets people thinking about their impact underwater a bit more. To the extent they make adjustments to help lessen their impact, and further assess their true abilities to do something with proper knowledge and skill, I think it helps.

 

I would gather that you have seen way too many photographers doing things beyond their skill level or without regard at all to their surroundings. I know I have. Standing in the sand, strobes banging against the coral, gloves on and grabbing live coral to steady themselves. Hopefully they read threads like this and take something away from it.

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My, My, My......

 

It's amazing how things change when you take a real hard look at the issue.

 

When I first saw the images by DD I couldn't help but think they were just the ordinary standard studio product shot type of commercial photography practiced by all kinds of photographers on a daily basis. However, I did give him credit for using a tried and true technique in a completely different surrounding that being an underwater one. Fair enough.

 

What intrigued me was the creative process with which he was able to come up with something that I thought was fresh and new, as I had been swayed by comments posted by other Wetpixel members.

 

I also decided to read the newsletter that Bottomtime mentioned in his post about this technique being utilized before. That newsletter can be found “hereâ€.

 

Indeed, this technique has been done before, and for quite a long time as a matter of fact, by Susan Middleton and David Liitttschwager. Susan Middleton chaired the California Academy of Sciences department of photography from 1982 to 1995 before striking out on her own. She produces these images in conjunction with David Liittschawger who used to work as a studio photographer under Richard Avedon.

 

More information on Susan Middleton and David Liittschwager can be found “hereâ€, “here†and “hereâ€.

 

This web page, located “hereâ€, is especially enlightening (no pun intended) as to how they actually photograph their underwater specimens. It is quite elaborate and I wouldn't use the term “minimal†when trying to quantify the amount of manipulation of the critter.

 

Both Susan Middleton and David Liittschager have worked with National Geographic on several occasions and have even had film crews document their methods. As you well know, DD is also affiliated with National Geographic, so I can see him as being aware of this technique simply through the connection with National Geographic.

 

Having said all that, I think we should be looking at these images in a different light (again no pun intended).

 

I tend to look at these images as technically well executed, and well presented, although not ground breaking in any sense. To think of them as anything else we would, unfortunately, have to introduce the nasty “P†word to this forum, and I know DD is to good for that.

 

P.S. I also read about those Bamfield Barnacles in the newsletter and wished I could do that too! :):):D

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Indeed, this technique has been done before, and for quite a long time as a matter of fact, by Susan Middleton and David Liitttschwager. Susan Middleton chaired the California Academy of Sciences department of photography from 1982 to 1995 before striking out on her own. She produces these images in conjunction with David Liittschawger who used to work as a studio photographer under Richard Avedon.

2502636518_0b35ac154b_o.jpg

Doubilet Shotting Underwater Photos Liittschawger shooting things in a tank... not quite the :) same

 

Are you kidding me .. it's not even underwater photography ... it's kidnapping and then ransom photos !

 

Can't even begin to compare these two styles of photography and their impact. I am sure that Susan and David are not the first to do that style of remove and photograph either, it's as mentioned how science has been doing things for years.

 

Doubilet may even have shown us how we can better research the ocean. Rather than removing bits of it and its inhabitants go and watch their behaviour and get all the information you need while underwater.

Edited by Giles

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