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Alex_Mustard

Time For A Major Philosophy Change?

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The field is being leveled.

The photographic result distincton, ie: publishable images, between "Pro" and amateur underwater photographers continues to shrink as the technology improves. To me, it's simply moving toward an objective of perfection through technology. The goal, seemingly, is to produce the perfect photo with the least amount of input, (Dare I say: Thought?) from the photographer.

 

This leaves the photo itself, the vision & story behind it, as the last remaining element that distinguises one photographer from the next.

So, embrace these new technologies Alex, for someone who makes a living by the camera, anything that lightens the workload has to be seen as a plus. But you're brain's still on the hook for the final creativity of the image... :swimmingfish:

 

Rand

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I think you shoot what you are striving for. If you strive for a certain look or feel then the best way to do that is to do the best job you can with whatever camera you have (in other words - it is best to get it right in the cameras first). Post can only make it look better.

 

Eventually we will be able to put remote control vehicles underwater and have them photo fish. An electronic fish with cameras for eyes and a strobe in its butt. We won't even have to dive. While this will make it easier to photo schools of fish and give us new angles to work with etc... the result will be less satisfaction.

 

I get personal satisfaction out of being there. Visualizing a shot. Working hard to get it. Taking one shot that makes you really proud.

 

I was introduced to photography with Digital and have since been shooting a lot more film. Not underwater yet but that is yet to come. I think there is something to be said for images taken with film... as a unique identifier.

 

I am selfish. I don't care what other people think. I do what I do as a personal challenge and a way to express myself. Some people find that knowing the billion different effects you can make with photoshop is a challenge and it can definitely help you express yourself. I have dabbled in it... but its not what I want to be doing. And I see myself doing less of it as time goes by.

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Ah Alex, I had a similar conversation with that DP from Lytro a few months back and really he thinks DSLR is going the way of film.

 

Some traditions die a natural death. :swimmingfish:

 

Right now, there's a 14mp camera shooting 120fps, so missing the shot is much less likely than say, a daguerreotype. Like everything else, many "traditionalists" choose a period they are comfortable with and judge from there. The mini-mini-Mustards will probably laugh at your DSLR collection with their iRetina cameras :)

Keeping an open mind about technology will allow the user new ways to capture images. In the end, that's the point no?

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Thanks everyone for the comments so far. In many ways opinions are the most important thing here.

 

I have a traditional outlook - I guess that was my reason for posting. But I am beginning to conclude that this point of view might be a drawback and does it really have any justification?

 

Alex

 

 

Your question will be debated as long as their are people taking pictures. I still remember Minor White and Ansel, after a few too many beers, arguing over the concept of commercial "art"(strong on the commercial, short on the art). Ansel believed that for a photographer to make a living off of his work, his images needed to be bigger than life, so putting perfect clouds in a perfect mountain scene only made sense. Minor believed the image should communicate something to the viewer. Ansel would point out Minor made his living teaching...while he only had his images.

 

History seems to have sided with Ansel...or look at the work of other people we remember....like Yousuf Karsh, famous for his portraits....was this image done with lighting or darkroom work, or some of both?

 

Photo

 

And was complex lighting any better than complex darkroom work?

 

If you are trying to present commercial art, then I would suggest that you make it larger than life...something normal mortals will never see or be able to duplicate. If you are making yourself happy, then who care. And anything that helps you, you should use.

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What delightful topic, here is my take on technology and how I try and apply it, its a bit like landscape versus wildlife photography, shooting a wreck or a reef allows us more time to work the subject and this is where things like the HDR, panoramic and various other time consuming technique can not only be applied but IMO are welcome, on the other hand, shooting fish behavior demands spur of the moment reaction and a readiness on the part of the photographer, here, I feel, nailing the shot in camera as much as possible is rewarding. I am not putting cropping out of the equation, just trying to avoid it if at all possible, it feels more proper to this type of imaging. Tooling should never become an excuse for poor artistry

 

We could go on and on about tools influencing the art, how about this one; was the shot of a wild animal lessen by the fact it was taken with a long telephoto versus a shorter in your face focal length? the landscape less beautiful because of the extreme wide angle lens? I rarely question the path, but value the destination, what was done to get the shot needed to be done, after that, the shot will either suck big time, be good or simply marvelous. my first job in photography was as a B&W lab technician back in 71, to says that we manipulated the image on occasion then has got to be the understatement of the day :) everything was push processed, zone system'ed, dodged, burned, cropped, bleached, toned. Straight print you say! are you kidding me :swimmingfish:

 

I strongly believe Amsel Adam would be embracing Digital big F#$@ng time if he was around, heck he would probably be consulting for some B&W plug-in developer for all I know.

 

Alex, I like the painterly feel of you Wreck shot, its also right at home in this thread, good posting mate!

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I'm becoming more and more convinced that photography is more about pre-visualising the final output image than being about the technology or the decisions about how it was taken. Actually looking at a scene (in whatever genre), 'seeing' how you want it to appear as a photographic image and carrying that through to achieve the desired image is to me what photography is now about - and the digital revolution has provided us with far more ways of doing this than most of us had in the past. Whether Photoshop is used is as irrelevant as what lens, camera and so on - to the final viewed image. Traditionally photographers were largely limited by the technology they used - I do remember looking at a retoucher's portfolio of images, all carefully adjusted and re-coloured by hand using scalpel, brushes and dyes, but the cost of doing this was well out of reach of most photographers. Today we have an astounding array of technology, but one thing remains the same - 'seeing' and then 'executing' an image. Personally I have had no trouble with moving on from the traditional constraints imposed by film (although I fully support 'rules' which ensure that falsity in wildlife images is not acceptable). I actually suspect that the majority of photographers have already had their major philosophical change....

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I think this conversation is a bit premature at the moment -- Alex's feelings aside.

 

Yes, the Lytro camera is now shipping but it is still at the emerging technology stage. I doubt they will be able to amass enough market capital to truly make an impact on the way we create our images.

 

I think the more important question to be asked is whether any of the major players will be interested in swallowing this company and using the technology in their high end (or low end for that matter) products?

 

I'm not saying this technology is not promising, but rather other things have to happen in the marketplace before it becomes an issue where we have to reflect on our abilities as photographers.

 

The technology can go two ways, either high end products, or low end consumer market. If it goes high end, then it can only enhance our skills as photographers just as auto exposure and auto focus has. If goes low end to the more consumer market (iphones and point and shoot cameras) then I fear it will have a more detrimental effect on photography as a viable occupation.

 

If the company does get taken over, then we might just see Eric ending up as an employee for one of the major camera manufacturers. Hopefully Canon for his sake. I don't think he would appreciate having to switch over to the dark side, as they say, because the company he works for gets bought out by one of Canon's competitors. :swimmingfish:

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I have a traditional outlook - I guess that was my reason for posting. But I am beginning to conclude that this point of view might be a drawback and does it really have any justification?

 

Editorially, do you want your work to be believed? To faithfully represent the truth? To maintain integrity? To remain credible?

 

The reputation of a few photographers has been killed by going too far in the manipulation stakes...it makes no sense to join them, no matter the justification...

 

My 2p

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Editorially, do you want your work to be believed? To faithfully represent the truth? To maintain integrity? To remain credible?

There are of course some genres of photography where the inherent truthfulness of the image is essential - photojournalism, forensic or scientific photography as example.

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And others that produce jaw dropping images that are impossible without technology. Focus stacked macro for instance :-

 

http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=16018

http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=15703

http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=15792

http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=15794

 

 

None of the above (I believe) could be obtained without serious amounts of 'manipulation' - whatever that means.

 

They represent a view that is not possible with conventional technology - but in many ways just overcome the mechanical and physics limitations of the camera and lens.

 

Paul C

Edited by PRC

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There are of course some genres of photography where the inherent truthfulness of the image is essential - photojournalism, forensic or scientific photography as example.

 

 

You are right Paul, documentary work should not stray into the manipulated image for the sake of the subject, artistic and commercial work on the other hand should have free reign on the method used.

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Agreed Paul. And that's the point really! If you are shooting within certain constraints, then obviously those limits should be observed. In that sense, a light field camera isn't considered manipulation since it's taking a picture of the scene captured. Same way an Epic will capture an 18 stop 14mp frame at 60fps. So what's wrong with that?

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What a fascinating discussion, Alex. I've read every opinion and could take the view that everybody is correct, even though some disagree with others. Why? Because images have such a diverse range of motivations, needs and individual perspectives, both when created and when viewed. An image is usually attributed to one person. But thousands and in some cases millions of people can view it. It is impossible to satisfy every individual need simultaneously. Only when bounded by rules, explicit or implicit in (for example) competitions, publishing, ethics, and so on, can one person seek to impose rules upon others. And in adopting a style or fashion of the moment, which we see much of in photography, some people can be motivated by peer pressure, which is both good and bad. I like to be inspired by others and have no shame in emulation. But I also choose freedom to explore.

 

I value the adventurous soul who tries to break free of convention. I wish that I had more courage and time to do so. Exploration should have the minimum number of constraints if people are to discover new things and advance art or science. The minimum constraints are probably somewhere around the boundaries imposed by decency and morality. So whether or not I like a particular image, I am willing to respect anybody who attempts to embrace a new technology if the associated results bring satisfaction to either the creator or viewer of an image. The point is that I'm not the only person who creates or views images; other people's motivations, needs and perspectives matter just as much as mine.

 

Paul Colley

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Very interesting post Alex.

 

A little story: In the early 2000s, my wife/partner Danielle was judging in Antibes. The chair of the photo jury was Ernie Brooks II himself; talk about someone who knows something about photography.

 

Once they had selected the 10 best one, to make the final selection his advice was: “Pick the image that has the strongest message.”

 

We may have different goals in our photography but, ultimately, it is a statement. In that sense, cropping, dodging and other “manipulations” may be part of the process.

 

Obviously we all strive to make the best image right from the start and, if possible, only using the camera. However, digital reality means post-processing. Then the question is: How much is too much?

 

Let’s say I have a 60mm and not a 105mm… is it wrong to crop my pygmy seahorse picture to make my statement? How many iconic pictures have actually been cropped? I may intentionally use a larger cropping when I make the image simply because I need to be able to crop the images according to its future use: magazine vs computer presentation. I may not have the time nor the tools to reshoot with a different cropping.

 

Mr. Brooks advice to his jury members was right, plain and simple.

 

One day we were talking about the digital darkroom with him and he explained how much he loved this new technology. He mentioned that in the old days, he would use special paint in different shades of black/gray/white to manually retouch an image where there was a trace of backscatter.

 

Ansel Adams’ process was also darkroom intensive, does it degrade the quality of his images? Absolutely not.

 

Retouching or post-processing is also a question of measure.

 

As for competitions, they can all have different rules. Truth of the matter is that technology makes it almost impossible to set a rule like: no post processing.

 

If the contest is about selecting the best photographer then asking for a raw image makes sense. If it is about simply judging the strongest image, post processing and things like cropping and other basic manipulations are probably OK.

 

Of course, if you publish a picture and pretend it shows reality and the image has been manipulated in such a way that it does not have anything to do with reality then it is not OK.

 

Here’s a question: A photographer submits a perfectly lighted image of a grouper in a contest. He cropped the original for a good reason: there was the tip of a diver’s fin appearing in one corner. Does it disqualify the photographer? Is his/her image bad because it was cropped? This person may not have had the luxury of time to wait for the fin to disappear… maybe there was too much action going on… does this make the image a bad one?

 

Another case in point: I have a D800 and use a DX format lens to shoot a macro picture of a shrimp. Would it be wrong to crop the image to DX angle of view if I shot it with an FX lens?

 

Has it ever been wrong for a painter to use a camera obscura as a tool?

 

Let’s continue to discuss this interesting subject…

 

Michel

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Part of the impact of underwater photos comes from the assumed difficulty in taking them. Non-divers like underwater animal shots because they assume they were hard to get. Divers like shots of stuff they find it hard to see or get close to, because they assume they were hard to get. Underwater photographers have a much better understanding of which shots were hard to get, and value them accordingly.

 

I occasionally complain that the majority of the photo viewing public has no understanding of how hard underwater cave photography can be, with having to stay alive at the same time as creating art. A friend of mine once took a bunch of photos of a wreck at 130m that weren't that good - except they were taken at 130m in a temperate ocean.

 

The satisfaction in taking a great photo is increased if it was tricky. I think viewers feel ripped off when they value a shot that they assumed was difficult, only to later discover that it was Photoshopped and not as hard as they thought. Objectively though, even easy to take or lucky shots can be fantastic art...so surely even hard to get shots made easier by technology can be fantastic art too?

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Does it really matter?

 

Surely people will continue to use what works for them - or at least makes them happy or money (whatever their goals may be).

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I come from a time when you had 5 controls and you were judged by what was in the box after processing. Digital has really revolutionized photography and how we approach the final image. With competitions it is really hard to tell if something is real or not (take the wolf jumping over the fence from a few years back) So we have two options: post processing to deliver an image that coveys the story you are trying to tell, whether this is cropping or HDR or what ever manipulation you need to do, as previously mentioned the viewer judges the image that is in front of them regardless of how it got there, or as Alex said try and get it right in camera.

I personally feel that if you are setting yourself up as an "Underwater Photographer" you should be just that and do the best you do with the skills and the equipment you have while on location. Sure with newer models of cameras coming out you can virtually sit on the bottom a post edit the image to a level that you would normally use Photoshop for. This probably a positive case for shoot-out style competitions.

The danger of becoming an "Underwater Creative" is that the viewer could end up with a false impression of a location/ destination which they travel to based on what they are seeing in a given image.

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I have a friend who runs a very successful Graphic Design firm and he always tells me, "Good art evokes emotion."

 

For me, the images I consider "best" are the ones that trigger an emotional response, good or bad. Immediate images that come to mind are Alex's Bohar Snapper, Eric Cheng's "Screaming Turtle" and Jeff's recent winning image "Fire in the Water".

 

Personally, I don't care how you get to where you get as long as you are honest about how you got there. One of the reasons I enjoy taking a class from Alex or attending a class with Jeff is because they are always pushing the boundaries in search of THE image.

 

I think I have probably taken three or four truly great images and each of these came after an iterative process where there was more error than success. However, when you finally GET the image, whether in camera or after several rounds of post, and you cannot stop but say, "Wow", then you know you are onto something.

 

These would be my guidelines:

 

1. Strive to get the best possible image in camera. Sometimes lipstick on a pig is just lipstick on a pig.

2. Work the image in post.

3. Be honest in telling how the result was achieved.

 

Though I'm not quite the ninja some of the wetpixelers are, the reward for me is in the journey.

 

As always, Alex, thanks for stretching the boundaries of the craft.

 

Basim

Edited by BotSO

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Also one need to remember an interesting fact to our trade, a landscape photographer is just that a landscape photographer, same for the architectural, portrait, wildlife and photojournalist, where the heck does it say that, as underwater photographer, we must master all these various aspects, there are not many photographic disciplines that demands such broad requirements or expectations and is performed in such foreign (at least to most people) environment. so yeah, give me technology, give me tools, give me the means, but more importantly, give me the talent to use them properly.

 

We ought to pat ourselves on the back for embracing such a difficult mean of expression, so there you go, group hug, kumbaya, etc, but there is nothing else I'd rather do than this :swimmingfish:

 

Cheers.

Edited by Viz'art

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technology and life are like a movie. Rules are generally made based on a single frame or limited section in that movie. As the film.. err. sorry.. movie continues, we start to question those rules since they do not quite seem to fit the movie anymore. So we make some new rules based on the current frame and the cycle continues. Primary transport did not go away from horses because the horse could not get you there anymore.

Time for a major philosophy change? Its always time...but we are rarely ready for it. I, no more than the rest.

 

Wanting a natural shot?

Did you bring artificial light or a filter/device to change the color?

Did you use a lens that only can see the angle the eye can see or did u use some wide angle or macro lens to see something more?

Did you free dive or bring packaged air?

Did you use fins or just your feet?

When did it go from being natural to not quite so natural anymore?

Or is the technology allowing us to bring out the nature that the eye cannot see?

Are we bringing out beauty beyond what the eye can capture? Was the beauty not already there...and now we are finding new ways to share it?

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I follow a Japanese photographer who is also famous for his "aquascapes" Takashi Amano is an analog landscape photographer. With the knowledge that his favorite film was to be discontinued he purchased a 20 year supply(whatever that is). He is frantically arranging freezers for the storage of these films. I began my career in photography long before digital technology entered the photographic realm. Nothing was more thrilling, examining a newly processed roll after the ritual performed in complete darkness then seeing an image appear in the amber light of a darkened room. But when every new tool came along I learned about it, questioned it, doubted it, and embraced it's inherent abilities. I applied them in improving the results that my mind's eye envisioned when the shutter slid open. As artists we define the parameters that guide our vision, we do not determine the attributes that bind the hands of everyone else. I cannot say I am not dismayed by the apparent replacement of technique, and skill with sophisticated software fixes. Right clicking for spell check, cordless electric drills, and photoshop are great tools nevertheless. I would much rather be in the fiel=d with an 11X14 Deardorf shooting B&W negs and contact printing them in palladium, but the kids like to eat...

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Great subject Alex. Don't limit yourself, express your creativeness and let go of boundaries!

All we want to see is high quality images...

 

I remember the difficult times when digital came and I thought that it was bad and evil because

I had developed a good technical level of underwater photograph.

But soon I realized that I had no choice but to change and follow the stream...

 

Since a few years back, I got the same feeling about digital photography and retouch. But since

since 8 years I work in the commercial photography and retouching business I realized that for

me It is all about the final product. I try to create a feeling and make an enhanced impact with

my images since then. Using the raw file and photoshop to the extreme in some cases. I have

been thinking that maybe I should call my images "art" instead of underwater photos..? All I'm

trying to do is to show as nice underwater images as possible for people to enjoy, and it work's :swimmingfish:

 

 

Kind regards // Alex

http://www.dawson-photo.com

 

_

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I remember in the film days taking a photo class, which ended by a competition for best image. I shot several images and did not win. My tutor selected some of the images shot by me and then selected an area in a picture and had that cropped to show me what i should be looking for in a photo. The result was awesome

 

I learnt two things that day..One was that you need to have that special eye to take great images ..Two that my master had that eye where he could discern a great image even in a messy photo and that i needed to see things with an open and creative mind.

 

Does this mean one crops images or alters them drastically ? Well i for one will go by Alex's philosophy of getting most of it right in the camera. I liked the simplicity of film cameras in many ways to the learning curve involved in the new digital age - but i guess this is probably age talking :-)

 

Finally i feel that great images are taken by the photographer with an open creative mind and that special eye..... post processing and corrections, including cropping beyond a certain limit take away the glory of that moment and what the eye wanted to capture. It is more of an after thought......not the thought of that moment.

 

Cheers..and great topic Alex..

 

Diggy

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Digital photography has been around for such a short time and yet has come so far. But it has only really taken us back in time. As some have already mentioned Ansel Adams and his piers manipulated the hell out of their original images and I am changing my attitude back to what it was when I started photography. I'm probably one of the few underwater photographers who actually studied photography at college at a time before digital technology and before slide film was the norm. Sure we had slide film, but mostly we used colour neg and black and white neg. Plus we had 35mm, medium format and large format cameras to play with. We had a massive darkroom with black and white and colour processing and I would spend hours in a chemical infested orange glow dodging and burning, cropping and tweaking until what was on the paper in front of me was how I imagined the final image to be.

 

When magazines wanted colour slides to really justify the cost of the scanners the companies bought, all that creativity died away and while it encouraged many photographers to hone certain in camera skills, it killed some of the creativity in producing a final image. Now that creativity is back and it doesn't turn your silver jewelery black! Photoshop is just a darkroom, without the need to convert the loft or take up the toilet all evening. It's a means to really put into pixels what your mind saw.

 

Many people who think themselves photographers I'm sad to say, can now produce well exposed, pin sharp pictures, but should that be the ultimate end result? I don't think so. Henri Cartier Bresson didn't produce pin sharp, frozen images, nor did my other hero Don MacCullin. But their images had emotions wrapped around the main subject. I'm fed up with seeing lifeless looking fish portraits or frozen nudibranchs. Where is the drama? where is the animal's sense of place in the world (or sea)? Digital photography has given us the world to create beautiful emotion filled images and the majority treat it as a way to try and recreate the constraints of slide film (with a lot of added saturation in many cases).

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Hi all,

 

What a great topic-well done Alex!

 

I, like many others I suspect, go through "phases" with my photography, and in some of those phases have attached a higher importance to post capture processing. That said, I am really a capture photographer-the major part of the enjoyment I get from underwater photography is to do with being underwater taking pictures and interacting with the creatures and scenes I am attempting to capture. I too come from a film background, where the importance of achieving images in camera was high, but would still describe my attempts to do so more in terms of the enjoyment of the process, rather than a lofty ideal! I do not enjoy post capture processing as much, so hence ascribe a lower priority to it.

 

I have been fortunate enough to have administered three underwater photography contests recently, OWU, DEEP and our own Picture of the Year. As a part of this process, I have viewed several thousand pictures, many of them excellent images. One thing that I have taken from this, is how much improvement can be done to an image. When some of the RAW files were viewed, and compared with the contest entries, the post processed images were significantly better than the original (and before I create a stir, let me stress that I am talking in very general terms here, and not implying entries were over-corrected, or referring to any specific images!) If absolute image quality is your goal, then it is hard to argue that significant post processing will not improve it. For example, re-processing older images through a more recent conversion processes (Lightroom 4) improves these images substantially.

 

Within the competition arena, we already make distinctions between processed and non processed images, so I don't think the adoption of new technologies presents an issue. When we are all post processing significantly (if that day comes), then the traditional categories will simply fall away for lack of entries.

 

So the conundrum for me is that, firstly, my principle pleasure in the underwater photography process is the capture, but secondly, my images would look a lot better if I spent more time in front of my computer with them.

 

Practically, I think that as new technology becomes easier to implement (the new process in Lightroom 4 for example again) I am likely to adopt it. If technolgy is complicated, difficult, or most importantly, time consuming, I am less likely to embrace and use it.

 

Adam

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