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Author Topic: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"  (Read 42216 times)

Tony Jay

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #20 on: April 03, 2015, 06:17:01 pm »

Much to ponder here.

First, please excuse my poor written English. Second, I should declare an interest. I've been a passing acquaintance of David Byrne via a now moribund forum. Also, until very recently, I lived close to the location of his disqualified picture and have photographed there on several occasions. When David announced his win – and prior to disqualification – I warmly congratulated him on his achievement. I knew well the scope and style of his work and had no idea about the competition rules. At the time it felt churlish and mean to point out that his winning picture was obviously (to me) manipulated – my thinking being that it was only my local knowledge that made it so obvious. Then came the disqualification – I had nothing constructive to say – so remained silent.

As to the broader issues discuses in Alain's essay. IMHO most viewers of our work have their expectation conditioned by the wonders of the human vision system. What the human eye sees and what our cameras capture are quite close, but both are very different to that which our vision system shows us. Couple that with the very limited dynamic range of common photographic processes (in comparison with the real world around us) and you might take the view that practically all photographs are necessarily manipulated in some way or another.  Thus the problem for competition organisers is where to draw the line for what is and is not acceptable. FWIW I can enjoy the results achieved by combining elements of different images into a single end product, and I much admire the skill and application of the authors – but it is not photography. Rather, it is an art (?) form that uses photographs as a source material.

Art and photography ….. well.... Since we use photography as a means of documenting much of human activity it follows that much (most?) photography cannot be art. Artistic passport photo anyone – I think not. So can photography be art? Lets make the working assumption of “Yes”. IMHO that gives us a bit of a problem since most art (painting drawing some sculpture) is an additive process. One starts with a blank sheet of paper and we then add stuff in. With photography our camera gives us everything – often rather too much – so we embark on a subtractive process to get what we want.  Ah, manipulation – again! My current thinking is that photography is most likely to be art when it shows us something that we are unlikely to see from another art form. This might happen in a number of ways, but I'm thinking at the moment that the time domain might be a fruitful place to explore.

Right then, tin foil hat, coat, door.
While I agree entirely that photography, as a potential artistic endeavour, is different from other accepted artistic endeavours in that it is actually a, largely, subtractive process whereas the others disciplines are, mostly, an additive process in this way, at least, they are absolutely consistent:
What makes art art is that it is an interpretive process.
Trying to portray photography as a purely documentary exercise is bound to failure.
Merely by choosing what to shoot, and what not to shoot, never mind choosing a certain time of day over another, constitutes interpretive intent.
Also, whenever we look at an image, whether it is labelled art or document, an interpretive process occurs as we assimilate that image. It is often assumed that everyone will interpret a "documentary" image in the same way but that is most assuredly not so.
As soon as post-processing is superimposed on an image even the most subtle alterations may induce profound changes in how that image is perceived.

Art is perception and perception is art and we all perceive differently.
I recently posted an image of a lion lying up in an area of bush but brilliantly lit by late afternoon sun.
Everyone viewing this image "grokked" these documentary facts.
However the perception of this image was largely negative, but there was a significant minority that really liked the image.
The image succeeded at an artistic level merely because it excited diverse interpretive conclusions (although it is doubtful that it would succeed at a commercial level).

None of us appear able to view any imagery without invoking an interpretive effort - this appears to be "hard-wired" within our brains. In addition this interpretation also appears to invoke pleasure (this occurs whether we "like" the imagery or not).
The bottom line is that the debate should not really be about whether some imagery is art or not but rather whether it is any good!

Tony Jay
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amolitor

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #21 on: April 03, 2015, 06:53:58 pm »

It's sort of sad to see this argument dusted off again, by people so relatively thoughtless.

Emerson's point, basically, is that nature gets it right and it's your job to not botch it up again. It's a philosophical point, ultimately. But there is a practical aspect to it, which is that you're never going to get the light and perspective correct. And a quick glance at the disqualified photo shows that, in fact, the light seems, if not outright *wrong*, at least unlikely. This is not to suggest that "anyone can see that it's 'shopped" far from it. I've seen the photo before and didn't think that. It does look surreal, though, an effect probably enhanced by the wrongness of the light.

Emerson even goes so far as to allow that you might composite in clouds, as long as they're shot at the same time from the same place -- so you get the light and perspective correct. He advocates, to be quite precise, HDR techniques. In 1890.

Robinson's point is that as long as it is true to the scene, who cares where the clouds come from? Emerson's counter point is, roughly, "You are a ham-fisted idiot and any fool can see that the clouds are not in fact true to the scene" and so on.

They were both much more fun to read, and far more erudite and thoughtful about these things.

ETA: It's not clear at all to me why Alan is responding to an essay that is more than 2 years old..
« Last Edit: April 03, 2015, 07:30:48 pm by amolitor »
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Isaac

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #22 on: April 03, 2015, 07:04:09 pm »

But there is a practical aspect to it, which is that you're never going to get the light and perspective correct.

Without compositing, without PS, without HDR: the "standard" adjustments in LR are enough to make the light "not correct" -- in a way that can make compositing seem quite benign.

Shouldn't judgement wait until we see what they managed to achieve with light and perspective?
« Last Edit: April 03, 2015, 07:12:02 pm by Isaac »
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NancyP

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #23 on: April 03, 2015, 08:02:42 pm »

This all boils down to: RTFR if you enter competitions.
The rest - modify, don't modify, composite, don't composite - those are aesthetic choices if the photo is for purposes of art and not straight documentation. Heck, in macro I frequently pull out of view an interfering leaf or branch - and that's before the electrons actually hit the sensor.
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amolitor

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #24 on: April 03, 2015, 08:25:32 pm »

Argument over which manipulations are OK and which are not are literally as old as photography, and generally are fairly arbitrary. This is the closest I have been able to come to summarizing the truth:

The power of a photograph over other forms lies in, precisely, its reality.  Every bit of manipulation you perform sacrifices a little bit of that reality. Therefore, make your sacrifices count.
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dchew

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #25 on: April 03, 2015, 08:57:27 pm »

There is only one person who can define whether something is art: the creator. Art is defined by intent. The passport photo example is not art because (usually) the creator is not producing that photo with artistic intent.

BTW, sculpture is a subtractive process. What was that phrase, "I just remove everything that isn't David"...?

My early mentor was Galen Rowell. He was pretty strict when it came to this stuff. I've decided for myself that the degree of manipulation is a personal decision, and no decision is right or wrong. Nor can it be applied to anyone else.

It took me a while to warm up to stitching two images together into a pano or focus-stacked composite. There was something about the single captured "event" that was important to me. But hey, from a physics point of view there are billions of events in a single photograph, so what's the big deal? These days I will stitch to my hearts content by shifting the digital back on my tech camera. It converts my fixed 60mm into a really good 30mm lens too! So I look at it as Sustainable Photography: I'm doing more with less.  :P

Dave
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Telecaster

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #26 on: April 03, 2015, 10:26:45 pm »

This all boils down to: RTFR if you enter competitions.
The rest - modify, don't modify, composite, don't composite - those are aesthetic choices if the photo is for purposes of art and not straight documentation. Heck, in macro I frequently pull out of view an interfering leaf or branch - and that's before the electrons actually hit the sensor.

This is basically what I was gonna write.  :)

As for Galen Rowell, I wonder if he would've maintained his no modification stance had he lived long enough to fully engage with electronic photography & digital processing. He wasn't averse to tweaking scanned transparencies to improve tonality (or, pre-scanning, re-photographing underexposed trannies to pull out more shadow detail).

-Dave-
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dchew

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #27 on: April 03, 2015, 10:39:19 pm »

As for Galen Rowell, I wonder if he would've maintained his no modification stance had he lived long enough to fully engage with electronic photography & digital processing. He wasn't averse to tweaking scanned transparencies to improve tonality (or, pre-scanning, re-photographing underexposed trannies to pull out more shadow detail).

-Dave-

I agree. I often wonder the same thing. Personally, I think he would have embraced digital revolution and adjusted his views as necessary to get the best results. At the end of the day I found him to be quite pragmatic. It sure would be fun to see him use the tools we have today.

Dave
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Tony Jay

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #28 on: April 03, 2015, 10:49:44 pm »

I agree. I often wonder the same thing. Personally, I think he would have embraced digital revolution and adjusted his views as necessary to get the best results. At the end of the day I found him to be quite pragmatic. It sure would be fun to see him use the tools we have today.

Dave
Particularly if it actually enhanced the reality of what was being shot.

Tony Jay
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graubaer

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #29 on: April 04, 2015, 05:44:35 am »

Everybody who looks at a photo automatically assumes, that this images shows the scene as it was and not how it possibly could have been. Imagine all those manipulated photos would carry a label: this image does not show the scene as it has been. It has been manipulated so it resembles a situation that might appear sometime, or not at all. I bet that photos with such a label would not draw as much attention as they would without it.
It just takes the fun out of looking at landscape photos, when I first have to scan the image to find out whether it is a real photo or some kind of modern Caspar-David Friederich or Turner. I am not against post-image recording processing, but this discussion just demonstrates that people have not drawn a clear line, or do not even want to draw one (!), were a photo ends and a digital painting starts. That's all what I wish to see eventually, to separate the 'image hunter' from the 'image creator'.
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amolitor

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #30 on: April 04, 2015, 09:22:44 am »

The trouble is that there is no clear line between the things. All distinctions are arbitrary. All photos are manipulated.

Having holy wars over whether the line should be drawn here or there is stupid. Albeit great fun.
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Isaac

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #31 on: April 04, 2015, 11:33:09 am »

Everybody who looks at a photo automatically assumes, that this images shows the scene as it was and not how it possibly could have been. Imagine all those manipulated photos would carry a label: this image does not show the scene as it has been. It has been manipulated so it resembles a situation that might appear sometime, or not at all.

Which side of the line will you put Monolith, the Face of Half Dome?
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Jeremy Roussak

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #32 on: April 04, 2015, 02:02:58 pm »

Which side of the line will you put Monolith, the Face of Half Dome?

It's black-and-white, so of course it doesn't show the scene "as it was seen". The very existence of monochrome photography illustrates perfectly the utter pointlessness of this whole discussion.

Jeremy
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #33 on: April 04, 2015, 02:56:50 pm »

It's black-and-white, so of course it doesn't show the scene "as it was seen". The very existence of monochrome photography illustrates perfectly the utter pointlessness of this whole discussion.

Jeremy
Thank you, Jeremy.

Before I saw your post, I was about to write that henceforth I might need to add a disclaimer to all of my B&W images:
"Warning! The original scene did NOT look like this. In fact, the original scene had numerous colors."

(or colours, if you prefer).
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David Sutton

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #34 on: April 04, 2015, 05:41:53 pm »

...and having put in their 2 cents worth I'll warrant Jeremy and Eric will put this thread out of mind, take out their cameras and go to do whatever makes them happy on the day. I think I'll join them.
David
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Isaac

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #35 on: April 04, 2015, 06:21:46 pm »

Presumably David and Jeremy and Eric are indulging in a comic interlude to draw attention away from the dramatic darkening of the sky in-rejection of literal interpretation ;-)
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Isaac

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #36 on: April 04, 2015, 06:26:01 pm »

This is the closest I have been able to come to summarizing the truth:

The power of a photograph over other forms lies in, precisely, its reality.  Every bit of manipulation you perform sacrifices a little bit of that reality. Therefore, make your sacrifices count.

That is to conflate what some arbitrary camera records with reality (whatever that means).
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John Camp

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #37 on: April 04, 2015, 06:39:27 pm »

Argument over which manipulations are OK and which are not are literally as old as photography, and generally are fairly arbitrary. This is the closest I have been able to come to summarizing the truth:

The power of a photograph over other forms lies in, precisely, its reality.  Every bit of manipulation you perform sacrifices a little bit of that reality. Therefore, make your sacrifices count.


I would agree, and this may be one of the best summaries I've seen of the problem (or opportunity) of manipulation.

The underlying idea is that a machine has been created that will take the best possible representation of reality, within certain limits defined by other machines (lenses, shutters, sensors, etc.) That range is easily grasped by most people. What isn't easily grasped by most people is the subtle manipulation that changes something that implicitly professes to be a machine representation of reality, to something that isn't. In most human transactions, doing that would simply be called lying. I have no problem with heavily manipulated photographs in which the manipulation is obvious; in those cases, it's clear that the photo is a starting point for something else. When newspapers do that, they call the result a "photo illustration" to tell you that you're not seeing a photo of the actual subject. What I object to is photos (like most manipulated landscape photos) that *might* be real, but are not, and don't explicitly tell the viewer that the view is not real.

That's why Isaac's references to painting and drawings fail. Nobody ever took those as actual representations of reality; John Singer Sargent, one of the best portraitists in history, once said that "A portrait is a picture in which there is something not quite right about the mouth." Nobody ever thought that paintings, or sculptors, were doing what photography has claimed to do; paintings, including the most realistic, have always been constructed, rather than "taken."

The core of this dispute seems to me not to involve much about photography at all, but rather, to consider the question of whether photographers should lie. If you heavily manipulate a photo, to look in any way non-realistic, and somebody wants to buy it, well, god bless them. If you subtly manipulate a photo portrait, to make the sitter look better and that's what the sitter wants, I have no problem with that, either; the sitter is the client and is paying for the work. But if you subtly manipulate a photo of what most people would take to be an aspect of reality (a landscape, for instance) and sell it to them as that, then you're committing a fraud. That's quite clear in such areas as photojournalism -- if a photojournalist did what AB advocates, he/she would be fired. I'm suggesting that in subtly manipulated photos, you ARE representing them as a kind of photojournalism, as documentary, and by not specifically admitting the manipulation, you are lying.
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Isaac

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #38 on: April 04, 2015, 07:27:21 pm »

Nobody ever thought that paintings, or sculptors, were doing what photography has claimed to do; paintings, including the most realistic, have always been constructed, rather than "taken."

Obviously, people have very much expected paintings to provide a likeness.

Obviously, photographs are also constructed.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2015, 12:26:41 pm by Isaac »
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: AB:"Why Photoshop is not Ruining Landscape Photography"
« Reply #39 on: April 04, 2015, 08:35:52 pm »

... The power of a photograph over other forms lies in, precisely, its reality.  Every bit of manipulation you perform sacrifices a little bit of that reality. Therefore, make your sacrifices count.

Good job, Andrew!
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