Nice article Mike.
I think the issue of manipulating images can become important in Nature Photography versus Fine Art Photography.
If your goal is to take accurate photographs of nature's creatures, in their natural settings, then image manipulation should be kept to a bare minimum with the only goal being to render the image as accurately and close as possible to "what you saw."
In this case, you are not
manipulating the image to change it in any way, but rather to have the image look UNchanged from how you saw it live
. In fact, in the forthcoming National Geographic Photography contest
, they even have a direct message from the Executive Editor of the magazine, that the goal of all images submitted is to keep it real
, and there should be NO "extra" image manipulation at all, besides minor sharpening, etc.
By contrast, if your goal as a photographer is to creat a Work of Art, then IMO you pretty much have poetic license to do whatever you want to do that pleases you: sepia tones, composites, color filters, etc. And that goes for pre- or post-process.
To show an example of this distinction, I recently made my own blog post about digitally-repairing a butterfly's wing
. And if I wanted to sell this digitally-manipulated print as a Fine Art Image, there would be nothing wrong with this, because I can pretty much do whatever I want to do as an artist. However, this digitally-manipulated image I used as an example would not
qualify for the National Geographic Photo Contest, and IMO it would also be unethical to place my manipulated image in a "nature book" as if
it were a shot taken in nature. It wasn't.
So, while I agree with you that there is a world of possibility in manipulating images for the Fine Art Photographer
, a straight Nature Photographer has much less leeway was to what is considered "acceptable" manipulation IMO.