Luminous Landscape Forum

Equipment & Techniques => Landscape & Nature Photography => Topic started by: Rob on January 15, 2003, 05:48:43 PM

Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Rob on January 15, 2003, 05:48:43 PM
Erik, agreed but why dont we look at everyones photographs unedited? By that I mean all film is developed according to a set time in the bath etc...

Film photographers would have a raving fit because they couldnt manipulate the image. I assert that if you looked at many of the top photographers work unedited and with a standard exposure without ANY filter use or special films they would mostly blow chunks. This applies to everyone whether its National gegraphic, Michael Reichmann or anyone else.

Unedited images blow..thats the bottom line..a good photograph is made in the darkroom when the editing takes place-not in the field. If you doubt me I challenge people here to post some of their works straight out of the camera with absolutely no manipulation or post processing or editing.

Most would not post them because like everyone elses(yours, mine, others etc) they blow badly without heavy post processing. Most National geographic landscape shots I see are highly oversaturated and processed film work that would probably not raise an eyebrow if it were taken straight from the print with a standard exposure. Am I saying I could do better? No..I am simply saying what Ansel Adams stated.. good photographs are made...they are not taken.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: James Pierce on January 16, 2003, 04:55:54 AM
I should have been clear - I use the same colour profile for all my printed work - my screen needs to be calibrated against the printer.  All the time my aim is to get prints that look like my slides.  I agree with you tough, great images are made - I only print exposures etc that are perfect, I work hard to get those exposures etc.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Dan Sroka on January 25, 2003, 02:30:31 PM
Jonathan, interesting point about black and white: I think that sums it up nicely. I believe macro photography gives us another good comparison. The majority of my work is macro, where I isolate a small detail from a noisy environment. The motivation behind my work is to show the hidden beauty you can find in non-obvious places. To do so, I consciously edit out things from my subject just by where I place my lens. I decrease the depth of field to isolate my foreground. Yet even though these images do not show the subject as the "actually" are, they are still photographs.

Dan
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Ray on March 10, 2003, 10:17:57 AM
Interesting that this topic keeps re-surfacing - should a photograph accurately reflect 'reality' - is it deceptive and dishonest to manipulate a photo, as an artist does with a painting? Indeed, what is reality?

I think perhaps part of the answer, and the problem, is that the camera tends to mimic the processes of the eye. That's our standard for reality. Cameras are mechanical eyes. In some respects they're inferior to the human eye. In some respect they're superior. When the photographic result deviates significantly from the job the eye would do, we sometimes get a bit anxious. That's not reality - that's not how it really looks - if you want to do that sort of thing then take up painting.

As I understand (and I'm no expert) the human eye is roughly a fixed 25mm lens with a range of apertures from F3 to F8 (varies with age and individuality). That's not really very impressive from a camera perspective, especially when you consider that the resolution of that 25mm lens is rather lousy at the edges (peripheral vision - good for movement but hopeless for resolution). The 'eye' lens is also subject to the same laws of diffraction, astigmatism and other aberrations that camera lenses are subject to, and of course focussing limitations that vary with the individual.

But one thing the eye can do that the camera is yet to do, is incorporate multiple 'shots' of different exposure and focussing into the one scene or photo. As I sit in my lounge gazing at the amazingly detailed white clouds against a deep blue background, I know that to capture that detail with a camera it's going to be 1/125 to 1/250 at F22 and ISO 100.(Spot meter reading about 1/750).  I also know that to capture a 'correctly' exposed shot of the loung I'm sitting in will require something like 1/30th at F2.8, yet my eye can toggle between the two scenes without any sense of blown out highlights or black, intractable shadows. I'm looking at a full 9 stop range, but not in one go. Here's where the eye is superior to the camera. It can almost instantly adjust to changes in brightness within a certain range. (Neural adaptation which takes about 1/5th of a sec). I'm not sure what that range is, probably around 10 or 12 stops.  Extreme ranges take several minutes of adjustment, like walking into a dark cinema from the sun light (probably more than a 20 stops difference).

What happens if I take a photo of the scene of lounge and window, with a 25mm camera lens? I can get the scene through the window correctly exposed and focussed and the lounge out of focus and unnaturally dark, or I can get the lounge correctly exposed and in focus but the scene through the window severely overexposed and out of focus. A camera with a real dynamic range of 9 stops would help, but in order to get both scenes in focus, I would probably have to use f32, which means resolution is going to be severely compromised.

Another way of doing it is simply to take two photos with different exposures and focussings, and crop and paste the window from one photo to the other. Blending is perhaps not the right word. The result would be a scene incorporating a 9 stop dynamic range and an apparent breaking of the laws of diffraction. (I like the idea of that!).

Such a result would be completely natural, authentic and 'real'. Whilst it's true that the eye cannot focus on the lounge and the scene through the window simultaneously, it could if the 'real' scene were reduced to the size of an 8x10 or 20x30 print.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Jonathan Wienke on March 12, 2003, 03:53:33 PM
One thing about a camera that is an important consideration...the vantage point, perspective, and field of viw you choose to record can have an overwhelming impact on the perception of reality created in the mind of the viewer of your print. I would say that the choice of what, when, and where you record an image, and the field of view chosen is more important than the choice of equipment used to record the image. You can significantly alter someone's perception of a subject by the images you choose to record, and the images you do not.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: jrisc on April 12, 2003, 02:31:26 AM
Quote
Interesting that this topic keeps re-surfacing - should a photograph accurately reflect 'reality' - is it deceptive and dishonest to manipulate a photo, as an artist does with a painting? Indeed, what is reality?

I think perhaps part of the answer, and the problem, is that the camera tends to mimic the processes of the eye. That's our standard for reality. Cameras are mechanical eyes. In some respects they're inferior to the human eye. In some respect they're superior. When the photographic result deviates significantly from the job the eye would do, we sometimes get a bit anxious. That's not reality - that's not how it really looks - if you want to do that sort of thing then take up painting.

As I understand (and I'm no expert) the human eye is roughly a fixed 25mm lens with a range of apertures from F3 to F8 (varies with age and individuality). That's not really very impressive from a camera perspective, especially when you consider that the resolution of that 25mm lens is rather lousy at the edges (peripheral vision - good for movement but hopeless for resolution). The 'eye' lens is also subject to the same laws of diffraction, astigmatism and other aberrations that camera lenses are subject to, and of course focussing limitations that vary with the individual.

But one thing the eye can do that the camera is yet to do, is incorporate multiple 'shots' of different exposure and focussing into the one scene or photo. As I sit in my lounge gazing at the amazingly detailed white clouds against a deep blue background, I know that to capture that detail with a camera it's going to be 1/125 to 1/250 at F22 and ISO 100.(Spot meter reading about 1/750).  I also know that to capture a 'correctly' exposed shot of the loung I'm sitting in will require something like 1/30th at F2.8, yet my eye can toggle between the two scenes without any sense of blown out highlights or black, intractable shadows. I'm looking at a full 9 stop range, but not in one go. Here's where the eye is superior to the camera. It can almost instantly adjust to changes in brightness within a certain range. (Neural adaptation which takes about 1/5th of a sec). I'm not sure what that range is, probably around 10 or 12 stops.  Extreme ranges take several minutes of adjustment, like walking into a dark cinema from the sun light (probably more than a 20 stops difference).

What happens if I take a photo of the scene of lounge and window, with a 25mm camera lens? I can get the scene through the window correctly exposed and focussed and the lounge out of focus and unnaturally dark, or I can get the lounge correctly exposed and in focus but the scene through the window severely overexposed and out of focus. A camera with a real dynamic range of 9 stops would help, but in order to get both scenes in focus, I would probably have to use f32, which means resolution is going to be severely compromised.

Another way of doing it is simply to take two photos with different exposures and focussings, and crop and paste the window from one photo to the other. Blending is perhaps not the right word. The result would be a scene incorporating a 9 stop dynamic range and an apparent breaking of the laws of diffraction. (I like the idea of that!).

Such a result would be completely natural, authentic and 'real'. Whilst it's true that the eye cannot focus on the lounge and the scene through the window simultaneously, it could if the 'real' scene were reduced to the size of an 8x10 or 20x30 print.
QUOTE:  Interesting that this topic keeps re-surfacing - should a photograph accurately reflect 'reality' - is it deceptive and dishonest to manipulate a photo, as an artist does with a painting? Indeed, what is reality?



How many of you out there see reality in the same way as an image shot with a 600mm lens?   How many of you see the world with the same perspective as a 14mm lens... or an 8x10 view camera with a 12 inch lens?  

I believe all images captured with a camera have very little to do with reality.  

I never experience reality within a frame.

Photography is the way we share emotions by exploring reality with a devise called a camera.  

There is no film or digital capture devise that reflects reality; not even a mirror reflect reality?

PhotoShop hasn't changed anything other than it being a more powerful tool than we have ever experienced.  

http://www.sokolsky.com/ (http://www.sokolsky.com/)
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Rob on January 15, 2003, 08:02:11 AM
A few more thoughts on my last post regarding film and digital.

The film photographer uses high saturation film like Velvia to give a landscape that extra pop. There is nothing natural about these oversaturated images we often see in print. Photographers use such films because without them a landscape often appears boring and dull when captured on normal saturation film.

This is why I never really coud understand the complaints of some about digital imaging being artificial and 'manipulated'. The  same person who will make this statement will brag about his/her portfolio full of grossly oversaturated sunsets and mountain ranges that really bare no resemblance to the reality of the scene. They will then complain about a digital image being 'fake' because one used a saturation or huse adjustment.

Is it just me or does it seem hypocritical?
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Jhaelen on January 15, 2003, 02:15:42 PM
Michael, if your reading this thread...

I have long admired your work. Sometimes I just browse the site and examine your photographs. Most of your work seems quite natural looking although I know by reading the articles and watching the Video Journal you sometimes do quite a bit of work to improve it.

Do you feel you have a limitation with regard to the amount of manipulation you will do? Just curious.

Daniel
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: James Pierce on January 15, 2003, 06:37:05 PM
I'll take on your challange - www.thirdglance.com - All my images are shot on E100VS - not the least saturated of films, but certainly nothing like velvia.  My images are scanned and then colour corrected to match the tranny.  If the colours look a bit unbelivable then it is because that is what it was like.  I invariably find that images that have the saturation etc pushed up look rather fake and generally overdone.  I don't use any colour filtration or grads.  Once in a blue moon (and I really mean once every two years or so) I use a cir-polar filter.  Until the price became un tenable in Australia I was a kodachrome 64 guy.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Bill Lawrence on January 15, 2003, 09:56:48 PM
Daniel,

Egads, I saw your message when I was browsing at lunch, figured I would respond after work (that's why they call it work) - looks like the thread sparked off something.

In response to the question when does digital photography become digital art, I would argue (almost) all of it is.  Same way as almost all film photography is art.  Just don't ask me what art is.  Most of the images I do (and presumably most of those done by those who hang out here) are designed to be aesthetically pleasing or to invoke a reaction from the viewer.  Whether I succeed or not is another question, but this is the goal at least.  So if I'm photographing a part of the environment, I manipulate the image by photographing a selective part of the environment from a likewise selected vantage point to achieve a pleasing (or whatever) effect, select a time of day to give me the right light.  I then use a medium that I think will best capture the image (digital, a specific film), modifying the image with filters.  And finally do global and specific digital manipulations in Picture Window or Photoshop.  I still consider it art (digital or otherwise), whether I have done no post-processing at all or whether I have cloned something in or out.

That being said, for things I display, I have cloned things out (telephone wires, annoying streetlights, etc), but I've never put things in that weren't in the image originally.  In the things that I have cloned out, it is (usually) because I had no choice to have the object in the field of view and still get the shot.  So far at least, my pleasure in photography has been to represent things that were actually in my field of view (otherwise, why not set up a stock of useful image parts and take up digital compositing).  And, of the things where I know that something has been inserted, and can't say that I have particularly liked the image - but if I can see that they've done it, they can't have done a very good job.

Mind you, if the goal of the photography is an accurate record of events - then all this goes out the window.

So, I must admit, I have no clue when a photograph (digital or otherwise) ceases to become a photograph - although there have been a lot of interesting thoughts in these two threads.  But let me ask a only partially hypothetical example - I saw a photographer at a craft show proudly displaying a photo entitled something along the lines of Chincoteague Pony.  Showed a lovely sleek pony on the beach, head up, looking majestic, mane flowing beautifully in the wind.  Only problem, is I've spent enough time in Assateague and Chincoteague to know that it wasn't a Chincoteague pony.  It was well groomed, and didn't have the wide girth associated with grazing in brackish water.  So, if I took a nice beach scene, and cloned in a Chincoteague pony into it (and did it just so, so that you couldn't tell they were photographed separately), would this be any better, worse, or even different?

It would take a better mind than mine to say.

As to being lazy with digital, to tell you the truth, I *believe* my technique has actually improved with it.  Nothing like the instant feedback to say that this photo failed completely to make you try again, and start researching what you can do to stop that from happening in the future.  I do spend more time editing though, since as I've gained skills in doing it, I find that I can do more.  It's kind of like everything else with computers - the great labor saving device lets you do things much faster - only since you can do it twice as fast you now have to do three times more ;^)

Bill
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Allen in Maine on January 16, 2003, 07:35:13 PM
I LOVE this site.

This exchange sounds like a photo version of "Where's Waldo?"
Call it "Who's an Artist?"

The whole digital versus darkroom, manipulated versus straight print is nothing more than an updated version of "Is photography art?" Which, unfortunately, always seems to reflect our own insecurities about what we do. In the end, we should accept what we do as "image art" and thus be able to throw off that wet blanket of "What is it?" and "Is it real?" A painting is not the object, a map is not the terrain, a score is not the music. An image is not the subject. Whether it is manipulated or not should be irrelevant to its enjoyment - is it visually interesting?

Every photograph will reflect some degree of manipulation - from the selection of color versus B&W, which film for what purpose, use of lenses, use of filters, pushing, pulling, developing, printing, etc., etc., etc.

But for those who would like to put both feet in a single  camp and do a true test of compositional and technical mastery, here's what I propose for future film-based photography:  large format (4x5, preferably 8x10), neutral positive color or B&W slide film, displayed borderless in it's own lightbox. This would present the original, unadulterated image (bracketed or not) to the world for straight viewing. No manipulation. There would be no dispute about it's level of manipulation. Certainly the use of filters would make it a little more difficult - but there are good arguments that filters compensate for some of the inadequacies of film in capturing certain types of light or color.

The displays would be beautiful.  And "real."  I just don't know if they would be "art." But it really wouldn't matter.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Bill Lawrence on January 17, 2003, 08:25:46 PM
Yes, the Chincoteague ponies are famous wild (though feral from a couple of hundred years ago if I recall) ponies.  And pesonally, I agree that if it is cloned in, and it makes a nice image, then so what.  If you like it, buy it (or do it).

But I actually do have a beef with the photographer in that the sign in front of the photo implied this was one of the feral ponies (though I did not go and ask explicitly), when I can say with >99% probability that it was not.  It seems to me a misrepresentation in that the photographer was at least implying it was what is was not.  Other than that, it was a nice photo.  Interestingly, my wife asked the photographer if she worked with digital, and got growled at with something along the lines of "digital ain't photography".

Then again, I clone out phone wires and such when I can't work around them.  Am I misrepresenting it if I don't explicitly say - "landscape with phone wires removed digitally"?  Or "landscape with saturation added"?

I enjoy the technical discussion of lens resolution and pixel density and such, but this thread makes a nice change of pace!

Cheers!
Bill
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Dan Sroka on March 10, 2003, 02:30:38 PM
Interesting description, Ray. For me though, if photography just recreated what exists, frankly that would be quite dull. Imagine if poetry wasn't needed, because it was easy to describe (in 20 words or less) love, hate, fear, desire, etc.

My guess as to why people want to believe that photography does recreate reality comes down to a psychological desire to preserve and share their inner experiences. If a photo can show you what I see, then somehow I am preserving that fleeting moment. What's probably happening though is that as a photographer, you are creating a visual metaphor for what you experienced -- it looks accurate to you, but it is more emotionally-accurate then technically accurate. Like a poem, or a story. When you show the photo, and someone responds to it, that is because your work has caused an emotional reaction similar to what you experienced when you took the shot. That, to me, it a mighty fine and noble goal!

On a technical note, a detailed and large photo won't capture a scene that is technically comparible to your eyes because they lack the same sense of depth perception and peripheral vision. But more so, our eyes simply are not still camera. Instead, they flit nervously and continuously over a scene. They take in countless moving fragments, that build on each other like a symphony, combining with memory, smell, and other senses to create what we remember as one complete "visual" picture.

(Fun fun conversation! Love the way it is making me *think*.)

Da
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Dan Sroka on March 12, 2003, 12:42:43 PM
We really need to be having this coversation over a couple pints, you know?

I generally agree with you, but this is a pretty theoretical situation. The camera may not be able to be tricked, but as soon as someone looks at the print, that "purity" is gone. Sort of like Schroedinger's cat: a camera in a vacuum may be accurate, but once a person checks to see the results, that accuracy is compromised by their interpretation of it.

Is this any different to the relationship between between the eye (the mechanical recording device) and the brain? The eye is simply passing data on to the brain.

There's a whole school of thought on this stuff in cognitive science. I remember a theory about "High" vs "Low" cognitive processes. Low processes are reflexive, instant, and "dumb" -- they happen without our ability to turn them off. For example: when your eyes are open, you see -- you cannot will yourself to not see. The High processes are all those squishy things that deal with the information gathered buy the low processes: your brain trying to figure out what you are seeing.

Man, I haven't thought of this stuff in *years*! OK, now I *do* need a drink. But since it is the morning, it'll have to be another cup of joe. Have a good day, everyone!

Dan
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Dan Sroka on March 15, 2003, 02:16:42 PM
Ray, I would believe that study. I studied cognitive science but in my school days, and that was the sort of thing we did. There's another simpler variation called the stroop effect. In this experiement, you show someone a stack of cards. On each is a name of a color ("red"), which is printed in another color ink (like blue). For each, you ask them what the color of the ink is. Sounds easy, but there is a huge error for people saying the word "red" instead of naming the color. It's goes down to the idea that language is a very hard-wired process, a reflect almost, and is hard to overcome.

What does this have to do with photography? Oh, I don't know! It's just fun to talk about.  I guess I just love that slipperiness between the obvious and the subtle, especially in photos. For example, I have a collection of photos I took that are macros of flowers. I was enjoying the project, because of the colors and textures I was finding. But as soon as I show the photos to friends, all they see are "georgia-okeefe-esque" erotic images. They claim I have a dirty mind, but I laugh and tell them that it was THEY who interpreted it that way. Too funny.

(OK, must get back to playing with the puppy.)

Dan
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Jonathan Wienke on February 10, 2003, 06:38:42 PM
Quote
Jonathan, interesting point about black and white: I think that sums it up nicely. I believe macro photography gives us another good comparison. The majority of my work is macro, where I isolate a small detail from a noisy environment.
Exactly, every technique used to limit the composition in "normal" photography applies to an even greater extent in macro photography, so you have a much greater degree of control over what is included in the shot and what is excluded. This does not mean macro photography is less "real", though.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Bob Stevenson on April 12, 2003, 03:21:06 AM
The late Andreas Feininger had a useful slant on this which I seem to always be quoting to users of this site;

  "..The camera is superior to the eye and the photograph can, and ideally should portray the world more graphic than reality itself..."
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: BJL on March 07, 2003, 11:20:25 AM
Distortion of contrast by films is another point against the idea that an original transparency is an "honest unmanipulated image" (as National Geographic seemed to think when their contest rules not only banned digital but also restricted entries to transparencies). All positive films seem to significantly increase the contrast relative to the original scene: even the relatively low-key Astia has a gamma of about 1.8(*), while Velvia seems to be the champion in this category too.

This contrast exageration probably has origins in an earlier era when positive films were mostly used to make slides for projection; it expands the contrast range of a typical scene to fill the greater range available with a projected slide. Still, that is a significant distortion of reality for the sake of a nicer "artistic effect."


* Meaning that a 1 stop change in subject brightness leads to a 1.8 stop difference on film.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Jhaelen on January 15, 2003, 11:07:37 AM
Bill,

I think it would be safe to assume most every photographer has a different idea of what he or she wishes to represent in a photograph. The tools and methods used are irrelevant to me.

I personally use the digital process for most of my image editing.

I would ask you this however: At what point is an image manipulated enough to become digital art? Is the photograph simply an element of a digitally created art piece, or is the photograph the centerpiece? I would like others thoughts on this question also.

In a slightly different direction... A good friend of mine is also an avid photographer, albeit not as serious about it as I. An interesting thing happened when I introduced her to the digital process. Her time in the field shooting reduced while the time spent editing steadily rises.

She had mentioned to me that she is getting a bit lazy in the field with regard to attempting to get the quality of photograph she is used to. She felt at some point her photography was suffering because she knew that if the photograph was sub-standard or even bad she could usually patch it up in Photoshop.

I just mentioned this because I have not seen it brought up before. I had not expected this to happen and it was interesting to discuss this with her at length. While I did not experience this myself I wonder if any if you have. She's going to hurt me for telling everyone this. 

Daniel
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Dan Sroka on January 15, 2003, 03:05:49 PM
Quote
She felt at some point her photography was suffering because she knew that if the photograph was sub-standard or even bad she could usually patch it up in Photoshop.

I think that any photographer goes through phases, especially when discovering a new tool. The first time you use a zoom lens, and don't need to hoof it around to compose a scene. I believe that she may feel she is spending more time editing that photographing, but I don't think this is a problem. Soon, she'll get her Photoshop feet thoroughly wet, and she'll learn what it can and cannot do, and she'll be back out there with the camera trying to do her best.

I'd recommend that she makes she she prints her work out -- many things which look good on the screen don't translate to the print, and this is instrumental to learning what can be "patched" in Photoshop, and what needs to be done in camera.

Personally, I've been doing digital darkroom work for a long long time. Like many digital tools, it removes some hurdles (namely, needing to set up a darkroom), but I would never call it easy. Just like a Casio keyboard makes it easy for anyone to make basic tunes, it is still a long and challenging path to make real music.

How much digital manipulation is too much? There's no real answer to this, since with digital, you open the doors to so many new forms of photographic art. I think of digital manipulation in films (Yes, I brough this up in another post): how much is too much? For example. after watching Jar Jar Binks, you might think ok, this digital character thing is too hokey to ever be a serious part of film. Then, you see Gollum in The Two Towers, and see something that changes you mind.

I believe that with digital, the definition of "photograph" will soften and blur, and begin to merge with other artforms.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Rob on January 15, 2003, 06:47:59 PM
James, the rules are NO post processing whatsoever...just develop all the prints the same-the same time in the bath, no over or under , no pushing, no dodging, burning..absolutely no processing accept leaving the film in the bath for a set period...all images equally


The argument here is that the film folks are saying digital is 'unreal' because it requires post processing...so I say the film folks cannot do any post processing and we will see how good the images are...

Once Again...images are made, they are not taken
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: AWeil on January 16, 2003, 05:53:53 PM
Well, I used to have just my camera - no darkroom, no computer -  only dependency on a commercial lab. At this time, 'TAKING' an image was the only thing I could do - aside from the choice of film material. Even simple things like framing was extremely important to get what I wanted. I envied everyone with a lab, thinking they can do about anything to their pictures - I can't.
Today, I scan my images and use Photoshop.
It felt like an entire new world opening up. Indeed, I do spend more time on my computer than in the field these days. A lot of this time is the steep learning curve. But a good part of this time is spend revisiting 'old' pictures. Some spring to life for the first time and some are surprisingly good. They don't need much work. I must have taken so much care to get it right.
I do catch myself today when 'taking' an image that I think, I can fix it later. That's ok - but with limits. Of course, you can add a waterfall if its nice - but why would you?
Digital technology can help, but the old computer rule of 'garbage in - garbage out' still applies. Only the good pictures warrant the time and effort to work on them. That has not changed from the darkroom days.
A.Weil
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Erik M on January 17, 2003, 01:38:19 PM
So, if I took a nice beach scene, and cloned in a Chincoteague pony into it (and did it just so, so that you couldn't tell they were photographed separately), would this be any better, worse, or even different?

There's nothing wrong with this, provided you let me (the buyer, collector, etc.) know that the pony was never on the beach and that this is a composite. I could then judge weather or not I valued a creation as much as a straight photo. Honesty: it's really the simple solution.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: sergio on January 17, 2003, 02:37:25 PM
I think alterating a photograph really matters if its going to be used as evidence in court.
Alfred Stieglitz was fighting this conception of photography a century ago. Photography is an art form (maybe wont apply if you are shooting news and documentary) and art doesn't obey reality. Who cares if the pony actually was there, as it really COULD have been there.Why ruining the magic of the image by saying its just digital manipulation. Chincoteague pony's, those are famous, right?
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Jonathan Wienke on January 19, 2003, 06:28:05 AM
Fascinating thread. What we are trying to decide is rather philosophical; when does a photo cease to become a "photo" (with all of the documentary baggage associated with that concept) and enter the realm of "art"? For me, unless your photo is going to be used as evidence in court (where ethics demands a high degree of correlation between the image and the state of the universe as seen from the point of view of the camera at the time the shot was taken), then the ultimate objective is the reaction to the image in the mind of the viewer. Moving the camera 3 feet to the left to hide an ugly sign behind a bush when taking a landscape photo is no more or less valid as an image altering technique than cloning it out in Photoshop after the fact. Airbrushing Aunt Suzie's hideous facial wart is no different than having her turn her head slightly to hide it. In all these cases the "reality" of these images could be called into question, because they fail to tell the "whole truth"; they sin by omission, as it were. Neither landscape image would suggest the existence of the sign, and neither portrait image would suggest the existence of the wart. However, no photograph can possibly depict every possible detail of every element of the environment in which it was taken, so this is not an indictment of any of the hypothetical images described.

Much of photography involves choosing what to photograph, and which vantage point and field of view to use. This has more of an effect on the finished image than any other factor, regardless of whether one is using digital or film, and regardless of the means used to process the image. The choice of subject, vantage point, and when to capture the image makes all the difference between a ho-hum snapshot and an Ansel Adams.  My personally preferred approach to removing the sign from the landscape image would be to move the camera; not because it is any more "truthful", (although it is, from a certain point of view) but because moving the camera a few feet is less hassle than trying to get rid of the sign in Photoshop.
I enjoy photographing sunsets. I could create vividly colorful sunset scenes in Photoshop without bothering with my digital camera and all of the other accoutrements of digital photography, but I find manufactured images to be less interesting than ones with a reasonably high degree of correlation to an actual location and event. In pursuit of the goal of creating images of sunsets that have a significant basis in reality (which is a personal preference) I carry around a camera and tripod and devote considerable time and effort to recording images of sunsets that I think are aesthetically pleasing. When people look at my work and ask if the sky really looked like that, I tell them that the brightness, contrast, and color saturation may be adjusted somewhat, but the image depicts with a reasonable degree of accuracy what the camera saw when the image was recorded.
Likewise when taking a portrait, I try to capture the personality of the subject without highlighting their shortcomings, real or imagined. This process involves selecting the environment, clothing and perspective for the shoot, selecting the image from the shoot that that has the most pleasing facial expression, and occasionally airbrushing acres of acne. None of the images may correlate particularly well with what you might see when the subject is asleep and wearing curlers and no makeup, but that is not the point of portrait photography.
In general, I find the task of defining whether an image is "real" or not to be an endless morass of legalistic quibbling. If an image with a gamma adjustment of 1.2 is still "real" what about 3.2? Is B&W photography "real"? By any objective methodology of measurement, it has a lesser degree of correlation to "reality" than color photography, but I have never heard anyone dispute the "reality" of an Ansel Adams landscape print. How far can I turn up color saturation before an image is no loger "real", and who is going to send the color police after me if I exceed the limit?
If someone purchasing a print inquires what techniques were used to create it, don't be dishonest, you can always refuse to answer the question if you think they won't like the answer. Hey it works for magicians, why not photographers? Come to think of it there are a lot of similarities; they are into sleight of hand, we do sleight of eye. Anyway, I've ranted enough for one post, so I'll shut up now.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: swilbilly on March 02, 2003, 05:02:43 PM
I just thought I would chime in on this one. I am an but a novice, however after several years of shooting and two working with scanned images in Photo Shop. I have found that if I start with a poor image no amount editing can really save it. Conversley I have also found that with a great image to start with, anything more that basic color balance and contrast editing only degrade the end result. I guess what I am saying is simpley that a great image is just that and a poor one is poor. I do agree that great images are made. But consider that a great image comes from a great shot with great editing. Thanks -- Swilbilly
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: AWeil on March 10, 2003, 01:06:06 PM
I follow this interesting thread for a while now.
Sometimes, I'm not so sure I can follow all the technical aspects. But frankly, I don't mind. For me, technical aspects are secondary.
What makes looking at images (photographs, drawings, paintings even sculpture) so important and always fascinating is the personal view of the person creating it. I don't care about reality. It is just there and open for interpretation - to me the greatest challenge.
Why look at an image of, say the Utah desert and its rock formations, photographed so many times or some semi-wild animal in a winter landscape? Polar Bears are cute, flowers pretty, people - well.... It is only, because I care about people and the way they see the world and their abitlity to use what ever tools they are comfortable with to show me and others how diverse, beautiful, strange and maybe uncomfortable or lovely this same world can get.
Ok, it's immensely valuable for specialists in a certain field (here:photo - any kind) to exchange about what's new and available to better represent those personal impressions. Otherwise, I do not think there is such a thing as reality common to all - and I like that.
To revert back to an earlier post: It's fine to delete power lines in photoshop - they might simply not represent the feeling I had when looking at this scenery and (as a lot of contributers have said) there are many ways to influence the representation of ones impressions.
Edit on further thought: There are situations, when 'true reality' is an issue: 'true color' for serial printing and worse yet, 'true color' for cataloge work in professional photography - this time related to 'taking' the image, 'working' with it and printing. I have dealt with both issues in my profession. This is an art, not a problem - as I have been told by veteran master printers doing reproduction and pre-press. I'm just so clad, that I do not have to deal with that with my personal work. I just like the result or I don't and it's my choice.  
A.Weil
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Ray on March 11, 2003, 10:21:54 PM
Dansroka,
I understand what you're saying and I hope you'll forgive me if I appear to be trying to invalidate the artistic process as it applies to photography.  Part of the problem as I see it, is that the camera really is an extraordinarily good and accurate recording device. Its limitations and distortions can be viewed as differences to the way the eye processes information, but valid in their own right. What we normally see is not necessarily 'reality' but a highly selective perspective that's shaped and defined not only by the properties and design of our eyes (the elecromagnetic spectrum is huge and we see just a very small portion of it) but by our conciousness which can include or exclude parts of a scene for a whole host of reasons.

The camera is not so easily tricked. In fact, I believe the camera really cannot lie. It can only be itself. I suppose that's self-evident in general terms. Inanimate objects cannot lie. Only people can lie.

So, in view of this remarkable quality of the camera to faithfully and dependably record whatever's in front of it, without bias or prejudice, without lapses of consciousness or selective failure to notice things, it's no wonder that some people feel a bit uneasy about tampering with this extraordinary fidelity.

The case for the camera.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: dbarthel on March 18, 2003, 07:26:58 PM
My digital post processing is limited to essentially what one would do in a wet environment. Adjusting contrast, brightness, saturation, croping, etc. I probably use 10% of what photoshop can do to an image. In fact, I wish there was photoshop-darkroom and photoshop-graphicsartist versions. Most of the stuff in photoshop is in my way.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Roman on April 20, 2003, 01:40:10 AM
Matters not to me if its digital......film.....processed....left alone......

All that matters is....

a.) Did it look like I wanted it to look. when I'm finished.
b.) Is it a plesant image to view.
c.)Is it effective in saying to the viewer what I wanted to convey.

Art is art...whether its with a brush...spray can....digital camera.....film.....(I could go on...but you get the drift.)

Celebrate creativity in all areas
Use what works...(for you)
Dont use what dosnt...(for you)

Most of all....

Keep an open mind......and Have FUN!!

 :cool:  :p

Roman
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Rob on January 15, 2003, 12:10:11 PM
I may be wrong but I believe it was Ansel Adams who said something along the lines of:

"A good photograph is not taken. It is made"

How is choosing to make your image digitally any different than choosing to make it with film?

The fact is even for the most seasoned professional such as Ansel Adams if it wasnt for the ablity to manipulate images afterwards(whether its in the wet lab or the computer) the resulting images would pretty much blow.

Now take this hypothetical scenario and apply the following rules:

- All images film photographers take would be takern with standard film with no filters . When developing they would be given a standard exposure-  Such and such a time in the bath etc etc. No post processing, dodging, burning etc.

- All images taken with a digital camera will be displayed as is straight out of the camera

Now take the above rules and have the top professionals display their new portfolio with the above rules applied and I can guarantee you the majority of the images would blow chunks. They would look quite average and most of the images probably would not be striking in any way.

Now we can see what Ansel Adams meant when he says good photographs are made and not taken. Even Ansel himself realized post processing is neccesary to achieve the art. He was a master of the dark room. Without such processes as dodging and burning and experimentation many of his images such as the famous Moonrise image would quite frankly never have made it.

I submit that if Ansel Adams were around today he too would be working with Photoshop and using all the digital tools that are available. I know this because Ansel by his own admission knew good images are made and they are not taken.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Erik M on January 15, 2003, 03:47:52 PM
Rob,

I think you're overreacting. Not everyone uses Velvia. Ektachrome 100S exists for a reason.

But seriously, most objections to manipulations come from compositional elements either being added or removed digitally without the viewer's knowledge. If someone wants to remove telephone lines that are running through the most beautiful valley in the world, then do so. But please tell me that you've done so. If you're creating a scene that does not exist in real life--good for you. Just please let me know. I don't think there is anything to be gained from blurring the lines between straight photography and photography mixed with graphic art. Both are wonderful. They simply need to be kept separate for the sake of evaluation. It will ultimately be up to the viewer to decide if he or she values a 'straight' shot more or less than one that has had compositional elements added or removed via digital techniques.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: James Pierce on January 15, 2003, 06:39:29 PM
I might say though - some post processing work has to be undertaken to make prints look the same as the trannys.  And ... I don't produce alot of work like this in a year.  I might make 30 images that I'm happy to sell as limited edition work.  I shoot alot of other stuff for stock, but that is a whole different game.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Rob on January 16, 2003, 07:50:11 AM
James, I understand what you are saying.

I was just pointing out one of the myths of professional photography. A lot of laymen think every shot the professional takes is a masterpiece. The difference between a professional and layman(besides experience) is the pro takes lots and lots of photos and has a wide range of possible exposures to choose to make in the darkroom. The laymen typically takes one or two shots of a scene and turns in his images to a lab at WalMart who  does a standard development. The professional makes his photos to his liking.

I recall a recent conversation on this board where Michael Reichmann discussed how he took over 180 shots of birds in flight against a backdrop to get a couple keepers he was satisfied with. For the professional many shots are not planned down to minute detail. They simply happen to be one of the keepers out of the mutlitude of shots. The more you take the more your chances of success. There really is nothing magical going on that the layman is not doing. The profesional simply takes a lot more photos and has the experience and wisdom to manipulate and develop the promising images.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Erik M on January 17, 2003, 01:34:57 PM
So, if I took a nice beach scene, and cloned in a Chincoteague pony into it (and did it just so, so that you couldn't tell they were photographed separately), would this be any better, worse, or even different?

There's nothing wrong with this, provided you let me (the buyer, collector, etc.) know that the pony was never on the beach and that this is a composite. I could then judge weather or not I valued a creation as much as a straight photo. Honesty: it's really the simple solution.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: marko on January 25, 2003, 07:25:51 AM
Please stop using the word professionals! What's that got to do with quality? That is just a way of making a living.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: BJL on March 10, 2003, 11:20:24 AM
Ray,

   a very nice summary. I was just briefly sceptical that a blended view of a high contrast scene "would be completely natural", but then realized that it probably can come close if presented well.

One example to consider is Michael R's blended image of sunset and bushes in his recent Big Sur collection. In the small image on my screen it seems unnatural (but way better than a fill-flash shot); I am seeing the whole scene at once and my reaction is that in reality my eyes would be adjusted to the sun, and so the bushes at the bottom of my field of view would be dimmer.

But if one were to make a suitably big print, and view it from close enough to reproduce the angular field of view of the original scene, then one's eyes would have to move between sky and bushes, and it might then reproduce what one would see by moving one's eyes around the original scene and so having them adjust the the brightness variation.

This is perhaps one perceptual reason for the advantage of presenting wide angle images like landscapes with big, high resolution prints.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Dan Sroka on March 11, 2003, 01:08:10 PM
Quote
When you press the shutter, you can do no other than record what exists.

Yes, but in the act of capturing what exists, you are interpreting it, and changing it. What is captured is always an interpretation (intellectual, emotional, or mechanical).

Quote
I'm not sure if you're saying that all your photos are essentially quite dull because they record only what exists and that in order to make them interesting you have to manipulate them in Photoshop and mold them according to a pre-conceived idea.

Yes, all of my photos are terrible dull.  That is not at all what I meant. I was speaking philosophically, that if the goal of photography was merely to capture a fragment of reality, I personally would find that a very dull objective. I love photography because I believe it is not that -- because everyone who takes a picture sees a different reality, captures it differently, expresses it differently. You give 5 people the same camera and point them at the same mountain, and you'll see 5 completely different "realities".  


Quote
I should also mention that many poems consist of less than 20 words - Japanese haiku, for example

Exactly. Though the "equipment" of that poetic form, the poet is interpreting reality.


Quote
I'm intrigued about your concept of emotional accuracy. It seems almost an oxymoron. The word 'accuracy' belongs in the technical domain, does it not? ....Your opinion of those qualities, and your emotional response to those qualities, may change over quite short periods of time, but the 'real' qualities of the photo (whatever they are) remain fixed. That's their attraction. Same with paintings.

Yes, it is an oxymoron, or you might think of it as a noble fool's quest. I mean creating art that is "accurate" to your intentions. Photos that try to evoke what you felt as you took the picture. It is nearly impossible to do, which is why so many of us artists and photographers can spend our entire lives on this quest. The impossibility of it makes it fun.

Yes, some qualities of images may remain fixed, but that context and interpretation will vary wildly. Part of the game of the artist is to play with (or ignore) these interpretations.

Dan
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Erik M on January 17, 2003, 03:21:08 PM
If you think no one cares then you should have no problem letting potential buyers know that you have created a photographic creation and not a straight photo. If you believe that the majority of gallery and art show buyers favor composite, imaginary landscapes over traditional 'straight' photos then promoting yourself as a landscape creator (and not a straight shooter) could only add to the value of your work.

Furthermore, I might add that if you find conventional landscape photography terribly boring you might want to become Wilderness Travel certified by the Sierra Club. That way you can grab your 7.5 minute USGS maps, put on a pack, bring your water filtration equipment, and go 'off trail' for a few weeks. I guarantee you you'll see rare, magical landscapes that need no alteration and have never graced the pages of any calendar.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Jonathan Wienke on March 07, 2003, 03:32:26 AM
Quote
I have found that if I start with a poor image no amount editing can really save it. Conversley I have also found that with a great image to start with, anything more that basic color balance and contrast editing only degrade the end result.
You will get little argument from me on this point. Trying to make a crappy image be excellent by editing is kind of like putting lipstick on a pig.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Ray on March 18, 2003, 11:34:52 PM
I tend to agree, unless you're into surrealistic stuff. I use the 'levels' control a lot, rather than auto levels or auto contrast. The contrast slide control can too easily blow out highlights. Nevertheless, Photoshop can help to overcome the dynamic range deficiencies that are a limitation of virtually all still cameras. Blending images of two different exposures of the same scene (using layers) can really enhance the final result. I don't know how you'd do that in the wet darkroom.

There are lots of features in Photoshop that take time to learn and my problem is, I prefer to spend that time using techniques I'm already familiar with to churn out prints. Perhaps I should spend more time with my nose buried in those heavy tomes ranging from Photoshop 4 to 6 which are sitting on my bookshelf for reference rather than continuous study.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Jhaelen on January 15, 2003, 02:06:57 PM
Being a large format photographer myself I am quite aware of Adams' views and methods and I am in agreement with your views as stated in your last post.

As stated before I scan and use digital post-processing for most of my work and love it.

It would probably be safe to say the potential of image processing in today's digital world far exceeds the capability of the traditional darkroom. It requires less expense, less training, and less time.

I was, and am, simply attempting to spark a discussion on the positive and negative aspects of digital manipulation considering the fact that a photographer has far more power to alter his or her own images.

Is the art of photography (landscape in particular) now only limited to the imagination of the artist? At what point does it become unacceptable to alter an image considering the limitations of the traditional darkroom? At some point would Adams have added a waterfall simply because he could have?

Please do not misconstrue my intent. I am not attempting to ruffle feathers. I would truly like to know what if any limitations people place upon themselves, if any, with regard to landscape photography and photo manipulation with tools available today. I am curious to know how my views compare with others.

Daniel
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Jhaelen on January 17, 2003, 11:05:05 AM
This has been a very interesting thread!

Some of the discussion suggests that all photographs need at least some post-processing. While I think for the most part improvements can always be made to a photograph this is not always the case.

When I began shooting 4x5 I was not able to shoot as much film as I might have liked due to cost. I developed habits at that time that still influence me today. I tend to pass up many shots that are mediocre and those shots I do take I make every possible effort to expose and compose correctly. Those that did not turn out as expected were culled.

Today I tend to keep more knowing I can do some adjustments myself. I tend to be very critical of my own work and do not generally keep mediocre originals but I certainly have become more liberal with regard to keepers.

In printing many of these need no adjustment in the printing process. This is subjective of course and someone else might not exactly like my original in terms of composition, exposure, or tonality but they do adhere to my personal tastes.

I will also stress I do not consider myself a professional although I have sold quite a bit of work at the request of people who have seen some of my prints. It is not my main income though. For me landscape photography is as much about being there as taking the photograph. I care about the places I visit and I think this improves my photography to a great degree.

Daniel
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: sergio on January 17, 2003, 07:39:11 PM
Reality is more surprising than fiction, without a doubt.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Ray on March 10, 2003, 11:30:44 PM
Quote
Interesting description, Ray. For me though, if photography just recreated what exists, frankly that would be quite dull. Imagine if poetry wasn't needed, because it was easy to describe (in 20 words or less) love, hate, fear, desire, etc.
Dansroka,
When you press the shutter, you can do no other than record what exists. It may not exactly correspond with what the eye sees. The deficiencies of the camera in all it's aspects will be imposed upon the image - blown highlights, dark shadows, slightly unnatural colors, distorted perspective depending upon the focal length of the lens, and perhaps the biggest of all distortions, the conversion of 3 dimensionality to 2 dimensionality.

I'm not sure if you're saying that all your photos are essentially quite dull because they record only what exists and that in order to make them interesting you have to manipulate them in Photoshop and mold them according to a pre-conceived idea. I've read comments that that's what Ansel Adams did. He was a master of post processing - dodging and burning etc.

I should also mention that many poems consist of less than 20 words - Japanese haiku, for example - although I admit I'm being a bit pedantic here and it has nothing much to do with my argument.

I'm intrigued about your concept of emotional accuracy. It seems almost an oxymoron. The word 'accuracy' belongs in the technical domain, does it not? Emotions can vary with almost the rapidity of a camera's TTL light meter. They may be accurate for the moment but change significantly over periods of time. A photograph, on the other hand, if it's been well preserved, will retain its qualities consistently and true until the second law of thermodynamics has its way. Your opinion of those qualities, and your emotional response to those qualities, may change over quite short periods of time, but the 'real' qualities of the photo (whatever they are) remain fixed. That's their attraction. Same with paintings.
Title: Landscapes and color
Post by: Ray on March 15, 2003, 09:08:13 AM
Well, we're not getting a flood of responses to the latest postings on this topic. A pity! Just as the conversation was turning interesting. Maybe everyone's at the pub. You're right, Dansroka, it's a conversation for the pub where the beer helps fire the synapses.

Thinking about your concept of high and low cognitive processes, that wasn't quite what I had in mind. So many of our bodily functions are taken care of by the brain stem - or whatever - the beating of the heart, the breathing of the lungs, the eyesight and so on. What I was trying to get at, is the very selective role that consciousness plays in excluding or including information that the eye actually sees.

I'm reminded of a story I heard recently on a radio program where the topic was 'the nature of consciousness'. I can't vouch for the veracity of the story, but it rings true to me. Apparently, a group of uni students were shown a video of a basket ball game. One team was dressed in white. The other team in black. Half of the the students were given the task of counting the number of times the black players passed the ball to each other, and the other half was given the task of counting the number of times the white players passed the ball to each other.

About half way through the video, approximately one half of the audience burst into laughter. Why only half? What had happened?

Well, at some point a person dressed up as a black gorilla had briefly appeared, for two or three seconds, pranced around and pulled faces at the audience.

This event must have been seen by all. It wasn't a wide screen video with all the black players on one side and the white players on the other. The players were intermingled on a 4:3 format. Yet that half of the audience which had been given the task of 'concentrating' on the white players, had missed the joke. The 'eye' must have seen the black gorilla, but the brain didn't register it. Not important, I guess.

I would say that this sort of thing is happening all the time, in different circumstances and to different degrees.

Another example which really intrigues me, is the assertion by some Ancient Greek scholars that the ancient Greeks were not aware that the sky is blue. How do they know? Well, of course they don't know for sure. But it seems that in all of the extant ancient Greek literature, there is no mention of a blue sky and no depiction in their art of a blue sky. One can draw only two conclusions. Either they were aware the sky is blue, but considered it irrelevant, or their consciousness simply didn't register the fact.

To get back to earth, Jonathan's point about perspecive and vantage point should not be ignored. He's absolutely right. The great thing about landscape photography is that, no matter how many times a location has been photographed, there's virtually an infinite number of permutations of lighting effects, sky effects, weather effects, season effects, vantage point effects and lens effects. Have I missed any? Yes. A shot with a 15mm lens would be different to 3 or 4 shots with a 50mm lens stitched together. The creative potential is enormous.