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Old June 10th, 2010, 11:02 PM
Nick Masson Nick Masson is offline
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Default In Galen Rowell's footsteps: the line b'twn "adjust" and "manipulate"

Hello all,
I am starting a thread to get some ideas on people's opinions concerning the use of post-editing tools in outdoor photography. I have for a long time been an admirer of Galen Rowell's work, and particularly his philosophy in what concerns approaching natural subjects. Unlike Galen, however, I have left behind slide film in favor of digital, but that brings up some interesting questions concerning the ethics or morals of post-editing digital images.

The field-guide for National Geographic photographers once started with the quotation "the image doesn't start with the camera, it ends with it". It think that is particularly true for those still shooting film where there is often minimal post-processing between slide and print. With digital, however, I feel the case is different.

The engineers of digital cameras strive to create devices that more accurately portray the world, whatever that means. In an optical sense this may be obvious, even trivial. Yet how we "see" the world isn't at all how the camera sees the world. We see details in shadows and can resolve images across a large dynamic range. In film photography, this is where graduated neutral density filters come in play, and in digital you also have the choice of applying a GND filter in Lightroom (if you have a large enough dynamic range that you don't loose too much in the shadows or high-lights). Similarly, where a warming filter once was necessary for warming images for film, we can now adjust the temperature scale in post-processing and get almost exactly the same results.

So in a sense, the film photographer uses filters and photography techniques to do all the processing before the image is taken, whereas now most of that can be taken care of post-processing (though you still tend to get better images with the filter... light is light). So where is too much post-processing something "wrong". Certainly it takes some of the challenge out. Chasing the light and shooting from the hip is far more difficult than slowly working a tone-curve until you get desired results. Yet at a certain point, I feel like the degree of post-processing possible with software does cross the line between adjustments and manipulation. It isn't "noble" anymore, however you chose to define it.

For instance, how about contrast/tone-curve/saturation adjustments. Those seem to take away, at least when pushed to their extreme, the natural essence of what is being photographed. The images shift from representations of nature to images that take on a painter-ly or artistic look (i.e high saturation, contrast, "pop"). Then again, such effects can be made through filter and film choice (i've seen plenty of velvia print that look like the saturation slider in Lightroom has been slid to MAX).

Anyway, i've often milled over these thoughts as I read chronicles by Rowell and the like, and I thought i'd throw it out there as food for thought. I am also not sure exactly what section this discussion belongs in, as it is of a more philosophical nature, so if someone believes it to be better suited for another forum group please don't hesitate to link or switch it over.

Cheers,
-NICK
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Old June 10th, 2010, 11:20 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Originally Posted by Nick Masson View Post
The field-guide for National Geographic photographers once started with the quotation "the image doesn't start with the camera, it ends with it".
Those words are utterly foolish given the history of photography, except for war, forensic, scientific and news photography where documenting trounces art. "Art deals with giving different weights to possibilities"and that's what Ansel Adams did staring at the mountainside before the picture and months in the darkroom with the resulting negative. The National Geographic folks are under the delusion that they are working for some higher order and belong perhaps to news reporters more than entertainment. Truth is they are the latter.

In scientific photography the photograph itself is of no particular value except for the data it holds. There's no need for any esthetic appreciation. By contrast, art photography, work designed to elicit our emotional and cognitive responses in one glance and then draw us back for more, depend on both content and form but mostly the latter.

As you point out, there's no real truth in photography except for documentation where we can say how many knife wounds there are in the chest or, against an included ruler, how long a wound in the abdomen might be or who came through the door at what time.

Rather photography samples what we see from a particular angles chosen for effect more than truth. So we can allocate importance as we wish according to our skills. We choose lighting conditions and even filters to further accentuate or decrease differences or add particular thematics not otherwise present in pictures that would be snapped without guidance from motive and imagination.

Photography, artistic photography begins and ends with the brain. The camera is not some instrument of truth but of recording the kind of sample that makes our case for a slice of eternity.

Asher
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  #3  
Old June 11th, 2010, 08:40 AM
Doug Kerr Doug Kerr is offline
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Hi, Nick,

The dilemma is that no image is a "reproduction" of the scene.

Attempts to define "how different is the image from the scene" are doomed, as are any consequent attempts to set generalized guidelines as to "how much difference is 'acceptable' " under different situations.

Our result is always (we hope) "art". No art is life. In the most "realistic" of classical portraits, the paint is not skin.

The only issue we can hope to deal with is "what properties of our art will make it the most [something] to some particular viewer/client/jury."

Best regards,

Doug
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Old June 11th, 2010, 11:18 AM
Mike Shimwell Mike Shimwell is offline
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This could be a long and arduous debate:) There are a range of views here - although we content ourselves with applying them to our own work and not judging or belittling otehr people's ideas. So, I probably use less processing than Asher, but he bears with my photographs and I bear with his graphic arts:) I shoot a lot more film than Asher, so there is some processing built in.

I started this as a placeholder, but will return to the subject later...

Mike
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Old June 11th, 2010, 03:56 PM
Ruben Alfu Ruben Alfu is offline
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Hi Nick,

This is my take on this never-ending debate. The mere act of capturing an image with a camera is nothing but a step in the process of creating a photo, a crucial step indeed. This must be the last step for a photojournalist, but that's because of ethics and regulations of the profession, it's not an artistic choice. Continuing developing an idea in post-processing is just that, another artistic choice, by the way, heavy editing of images is almost as old as photography itself, it's a natural thing to do.

Regarding outdoors and natural subjects in general, I see no difference other than, as you mentioned, personal philosophy or preference. I have a project going on that I have chosen to do entirely "in-camera", I just feel good doing it this way (...?), but honestly, I'm not sure that this adds anything in terms of artistic value.
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Old June 11th, 2010, 03:57 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Originally Posted by Mike Shimwell View Post
This could be a long and arduous debate:) There are a range of views here - although we content ourselves with applying them to our own work and not judging or belittling otehr people's ideas.
Mike,

As I, remarked, "Photography, [i.e.Artistic photography], begins and ends with the brain". It is partly factive*, about "what was there" and so documented and fictive "what possible derivatives might be perceived", a kind of parsing of "is".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Shimwell View Post
So, I probably use less processing than Asher, but he bears with my photographs and I bear with his graphic arts:) I shoot a lot more film than Asher, so there is some processing built in.
As Photography is as much about perception as about fact, it must be always subservient to the photographer's thoughts and the way these are imprinted on the capturing of light and rendering into a delivered image. Some will work the hardest with myriads of decisions crafted well before the shutter is released and the film exposed and processing might be essentially "routine". Others might use prolonged development, more dilute or stronger chemicals or agitation to spirit out appearances not otherwise present, or do the same in the computer. So, I think your words support this assertion that [artistic] Photography is about what is done to manipulate or frame perception. So it follows that photography begins and ends with the brain. It is therefore subject to the creative intent of the artist and then the culture the viewer can bring to it. That's what happens when the artist makes the work public.

So, I'd claim that, at the least, there's some sense of consistency by our mutual factive versus fictive tendencies in photography. We each do not demand exclusivity of either exactness or discipline in maintaining a full extent of "truth" in the matters the image records in some way. Could we also agree on the following:

Exactly where in the chain the photographer's fingerprints appear is not as important as there being some purpose and intent in showing the picture the way it was made by that photographer at that time.

Asher

*OTOH, [documentary] photography is purely factive, and , (in science, for example), can be sometimes reduced to having a software program interpret the picture on it's own.
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Old June 11th, 2010, 04:27 PM
Doug Kerr Doug Kerr is offline
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Hi, Asher,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Asher Kelman View Post

*OTOH, [documentary] photography is purely factive, and , (in science, for example), can be sometimes reduced to having a software program interpret the picture on it's own.
Yet, even in photometric photography, when we seek to use an image to deliver to us information about the dimensions of an object, we may choose different technique (different vantage points, perhaps the use of a telecentric lens, and so forth) that will vary just what the image seems to say about the physical reality.

And often in forensic photography, in order to discern what may seem a simple and unequivocal fact (the number on the license plate of a distant vehicle license plate), we may have to use various image enhancement techniques.

And in fact there might be two numbers on that license plate: the one now intended to be seen, and the one it used to show before it was "repainted". Perhaps to reveal the latter we may need to use special techniques "at the camera". Or to avoid revealing it, we may need to use special techniques.

So while we might say, simplistically, "the object of this photography is to reveal to us the real truth about a physical object", that doesn't commend a certain technique. We cannot rely on a general eschwance of "modification". Nor does the statement even really tell us the objective.

So I think all the cases are actually the same: we seek to produce images (at various stages of the process) that will "do what we want done".

Best regards,

Doug
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Old June 11th, 2010, 04:40 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Masson View Post
Hello all, I am starting a thread to get some ideas on people's opinions concerning the use of post-editing tools in outdoor photography. I have for a long time been an admirer of Galen Rowell's work, and particularly his philosophy in what concerns approaching natural subjects.
Nick,

Let me bring to the attention of folks who do not know of Galen, excerpted from his website

"Galen Avery Rowell, August 23, 1940 — August 11, 2002

Galen Rowell was a man who went into the mountains, into the desert, to the edge of the sea, to the last great wild places in the world to be absorbed by their grace and grandeur. That is what he did for himself. For the rest of us, he shared his vision with—click—the release of a shutter, creating photographs as timeless, as stunning, and as powerful as nature itself.” –Tom Brokaw, from the foreword of Galen Rowell: A Retrospective"

"No scene was taken for granted; the principles of action photography were applied to his landscapes and vice versa. His favorite landscapes feature unexpected convergence of light and form, seemingly unrepeatable moments captured by combining imagination and action with a clear understanding of outdoor optical phenomena.

He called these images “dynamic landscapes,” and his quest for them is documented in his bestselling 1986 book, Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape"
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Old June 11th, 2010, 04:54 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Originally Posted by Doug Kerr View Post
So while we might say, simplistically, "the object of this photography is to reveal to us the real truth about a physical object", that doesn't commend a certain technique. We cannot rely on a general eschwance of "modification". Nor does the statement even really tell us the objective.

So I think all the cases are actually the same: we seek to produce images (at various stages of the process) that will "do what we want done".
Doug,

These nuances, aside, the object of documentary photography (and the technique to make it meet our criteria for usefulness to purpose) is to deal with facts as objectively as that level of technique allows. Emotions are not a consideration. Art, however, deals with "perceptions" as much as fact and in that, ability to evoke feelings and thought are paramount. In this purpose, there's no absolute requirement, per se to be constrained to any particular extent by the facts of the matter photographed. The extent to which facts are indeed represented as an observer might experience from that same point of view, helps define the style of the photographer but not the quality of the work. The quality of experience evoked by the work, however, does indeed define the art.

Asher
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  #10  
Old June 11th, 2010, 05:00 PM
Doug Kerr Doug Kerr is offline
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Hi, Asher,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Asher Kelman View Post
These nuances, aside, the essential object of documentary photography (and the technique to make it meet our criteria for usefulness to purpose) is to deal with facts as objectively as that level of technique allows. Emotions are not a consideration. Art, however deals with perceptions and in that, ability to evoke feelings and thought are paramount and in this purpose, there's no absolute requirement, per se to be constrained by fact.
Well said.

Best regards,

Doug
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Old June 11th, 2010, 05:01 PM
Mike Shimwell Mike Shimwell is offline
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Originally Posted by Asher Kelman View Post
...

Exactly where in the chain the photographer's fingerprints appear is not as important as there being some purpose and intent in showing the picture the way it was made by that photographer at that time.

Asher

*OTOH, [documentary] photography is purely factive, and , (in science, for example), can be sometimes reduced to having a software program interpret the picture on it's own.

Hi Asher,

Glad you didn't take offence at my humour! There are a couple of thoughts that spring to mind:

- We all know, even if we don't admit to it, that a photograph is not reality. It's flat, film or digital changes tonal relationships and colour (film inherently, digital through the raw conversion settings etc), it is based on a particular projection that is more or less distorted by the lens imperfection, the focal lenth of the lens changes our perception of depth and relative size, the aperture hides or reveals more or less of the frame content, exposure reveals and hides and changes tonal relationships and (most of all) we select what to include and exclude and where to view it all from. So non of it represents the whole truth of a situation. Artistic photography clearly has wider boundaries than journalistic photography - the latter seeks to show the truth of an event or outcome (BP perhaps?) and artistic photography seeks to reveal or to stir something in the audience, with less concern for factive representation perhaps. However, none of it is inherently true. I don't think this makes the question and the response unimportant however, which I'll disuss below.

- I broadly agree with your comment about where the photographers hand is felt in the chain being less important than the purpose and intent. If I choose to shoot Velvia it's a different intent from shooting Porta 160NC which is different again from TriX. I could work with the raw file to achieve similar or equivalent outputs. (Particularly, I would counsel that raw converters at default settings do not present a true picture - ACR/LR has horrible reds/yellows, DXo has lovely reds and yellows but not realistic etc). However, choosing Velvia vs Tri X still produces an image that refers directly back to the projected image on the sensor. This is absolutely replicable in digital. Now, cloning and other geometric transformations move the image away from the photograph of the projected image in a completely different way (I have removed the odd leaf from at least one picture I've presented here, and have no qualms about dust removal) and each artist must make there own call on this.

My concern, as I've expressed before, is that much of photography's power lies in the indexical relationship with the subject. If we break this down without thought we lose the essential difference of photography from painting. ref Doug's post - paint isn't skin and nor is pigment ink on paper, but a photograph has a different relationship to subject than a painting. Both are good, but the difference is important to photography.

So in the context of landscape photography, Galen Rowell used Kodachrome. This gave him a particular look that is very different from the more recent Velvia look. In today's digital world a lot of landscape has taken the velvia look and run with it, plus added fairly commonly content alteration etc. To me, these are often very pretty pictures and wall decoration, but they have lost an essentail connection back to the subject. In advertising, women, men and objetcs are pictured after heavy processing that leves them looking nothing like the object in front of the camera (consider the object in front of the camera is merely the mannequin on which we build our desire). As a rsult, few people believe in photographs today. Perhaps that's wise, but it is a loss when pictures really can help tell important stories.


Nick
, this is probably long and rambling (it's late here) and not much help, but we all have to make our own choices and stick with them, living with the results.

Of course you can change your mind as you go along.

Given your subject matter, it would be worthwhile looking at some of Alain Briot's work and approach. Alain is a photographic artist(:)) who manipulates his work very heavily to achieve his desired result. His aim (I will try to express it appropriately) is to produce pictures that express to the viewer his own inner feeling at the scenes pictured. He has some wonderful work, and is very honest about his approach. Interestingly, I think that Ansel was perhaps closer in spirit to Alain than to Galen, as he would invest huge effort in putting a print together from his negs.

In general I do not manipulate images heavily, but then I periodically go and use Lightroom's positive preset and get weird highly saturated colour...


Finally, and not addressed to any individual. I think that a lot of budding photographers lose their way in today's media infested worl as they are constantly encouraged to work photos to extremes and to clone/other PP techniques images when they would benefit faar more from making some pictures, printing them and looking at them. This can be done with a disposable camera from WalMart...

Mike
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Old June 11th, 2010, 05:05 PM
Mike Shimwell Mike Shimwell is offline
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Nick,

Let me bring to the attention of folks who do not know of Galen, excerpted from his website

"Galen Avery Rowell, August 23, 1940 — August 11, 2002

Galen Rowell was a man who went into the mountains, into the desert, to the edge of the sea, to the last great wild places in the world to be absorbed by their grace and grandeur. That is what he did for himself. For the rest of us, he shared his vision with—click—the release of a shutter, creating photographs as timeless, as stunning, and as powerful as nature itself.” –Tom Brokaw, from the foreword of Galen Rowell: A Retrospective"

"No scene was taken for granted; the principles of action photography were applied to his landscapes and vice versa. His favorite landscapes feature unexpected convergence of light and form, seemingly unrepeatable moments captured by combining imagination and action with a clear understanding of outdoor optical phenomena.

He called these images “dynamic landscapes,” and his quest for them is documented in his bestselling 1986 book, Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape"

I bought a copy of Mountain Light for my Father back in the late 80s and still read through it periodically. It's a lovely lovely book.

Interestingly, the pictures really stand up to the test of time, even though they are pretty soft and fuzzy by today's standards:)

Mike
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Old June 11th, 2010, 05:08 PM
Mike Shimwell Mike Shimwell is offline
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Originally Posted by Asher Kelman View Post
...the object of documentary photography (and the technique to make it meet our criteria for usefulness to purpose) is to deal with facts as objectively as that level of technique allows. Emotions are not a consideration. Art, however, deals with "perceptions" as much as fact and in that, ability to evoke feelings and thought are paramount. In this purpose, there's no absolute requirement, per se to be constrained to any particular extent by the facts of the matter photographed. The extent to which facts are indeed represented as an observer might experience from that same point of view, helps define the style of the photographer but not the quality of the work. The quality of experience evoked by the work, however, does indeed define the art.

Asher

Asher, agreed, but the point you make is that thequality of the art is defined by the viewers' experience. I think it appropriate that you are now talking about art, much as Alain describes himself as an artist rather than a photographer iirc.

MIke
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Old June 11th, 2010, 05:26 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Finally, and not addressed to any individual. I think that a lot of budding photographers lose their way in today's media infested worl as they are constantly encouraged to work photos to extremes and to clone/other PP techniques images when they would benefit far more from making some pictures, printing them and looking at them. This can be done with a disposable camera from WalMart...
Mike,

This last point you make is worth emphasizing. Somehow, it seems to have drifted into the pursuit of photography the need to be proficient in photoshop and now in HDR derivations.

I would argue that we must resist the temptation to have workflows that standardize changes we make to everything we shoot. In my own work, I try not to polish or "perfect" the faces of women. I do not value legs 10% longer, eyes exactly even and skin made of porcelain. Rather, I'd like to see what we are. Vogue pictures, OTOH, are for fantasy, and the style is to get folk to see what they cannot see in the mirror. So, unless shooting to earn a living in that industry, avoid these commonly espoused conceits.

I would encourage folk to ask, "What is required for my purpose intent?" and, if applicable, vision too. So, of it's required to emphasize, add or remove certain aspects of what exists or might exist, go ahead, make such changes and so engrave your imagination into the picture. This is what art is, using some physical means to conjure up an external rendering of one's imagination or thoughts. In attempting this, protect your ideas from the fashions of post processing.

There's no need, per se, for your images to be sharp, in color, velvia, B&W, evenly lit, free of distortion or to have no poles going through your subject's head. All that's required is that the delivered image meets your own requirements to evoke emotions, feelings and deliver some such experience that others will value and seek more of.

So whether you remove leaves or add a mouse is of no consequence to me as long as it represents some commanding notion and or works to deliver an agreeable experience to you, (and hopefully others so your work will draw interest to itself).

Asher
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Old June 11th, 2010, 05:46 PM
Doug Kerr Doug Kerr is offline
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Hi, Asher,

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Originally Posted by Asher Kelman View Post
This last point you make is worth emphasizing. Somehow, it seems to have drifted into the pursuit of photography the need to be proficient in photoshop and now in HDR derivations.
<snip>
So whether you remove leaves or add a mouse is of no consequence to me as long as it represents some commanding notion and or works to deliver an agreeable experience to you, (and hopefully others so your work will draw interest to itself).
A very nice and succinct essay.

Now if we could just stop using the term "HDR" in such peculiar ways!

Best regards,

Doug
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Old June 11th, 2010, 05:49 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Asher, agreed, but the point you make is that the quality of the art is defined by the viewers' experience. I think it appropriate that you are now talking about art, much as Alain describes himself as an artist rather than a photographer iirc.

MIke
Mike,

I use "Photographer" to mean the artist, whether "Artistic" like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, more like Robert Capa with his photographs of the Spanish Civil War or else Julian Shulman and his architectural images. Each have completed a journey and marked their work with their minds.

Here's my use of the word. The word "Photographer" implies not only one who produces work we value, but also one who has a journey to that end. It's to me a "gestalt" condition, like the yiddish word "mensch", "a person of integrity and honor"- "someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being “a real mensch” is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous".source. For photography, to me, in idealized form might be described as follows:

"A Photographer would be a person, on a journey of expression, using photography to deliver impressive and entertaining images, beautiful or not, technically marvelous or not, that might serve as mirrors to the human condition, what we value and our values themselves and or stimulate us to use our own imagination and or critical thinking."

Of course, one can use the word photographer for the folk who take pictures for a Sears catalog, but that is likely a different pursuit and profession. The difference is similar between the man that builds a sculpture and the man rivets a ship's hull. One is instructed by his imagination, the other must do the work only as specified in the work order. In each case, the integrity of both is in the obedience to their respective instructions. So, to the extent that we take photographs guided by our imagination, we might be on a "Photographers Journey". Often, one can tell only by looking back.

Asher
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Old June 11th, 2010, 06:41 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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So Nick, back to Galen, what do we really know about his use of his negatives? Has there been a critical study of how simple the printing of them has been?

Famously he attacked Seattle "Nature" Photographer, Art Wolf, marking his book of photographs to show which animals were cloned in, so falsifying biology! Source. Wolf responded that wanted to challenge his work with the advantage of modern technology. Galen Rowel declared,

"We've shown digitally altered photographs to people who are involved in the photographic world and people who aren't," says California-based photographer Galen Rowell, a rival in the highly competitive nature photography market. "When they figure out what's going on, they feel like they've been deceived. They feel a breach of trust. They have trouble looking at a photograph the same way again."


Actually, only the tiniest portion of Wolf's works are digitally altered and his success seem to be the major reason for criticizing him. For biology, one should go to a biology text. Still, it's good when we know that 80 zebra with the same face are clones of just one. I'd not like my grandson to believe that all zebras share one face! But then, do the cartoons of talking zebras do any harm either?

Asher
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Last edited by Asher Kelman; June 12th, 2010 at 12:31 AM.
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Old June 11th, 2010, 07:11 PM
Ken Tanaka Ken Tanaka is offline
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Not really a question worthe debating, Nick. Use whatever methods and tweaks please you. Maintaining chemical or digital fidelity to "reality" is a silly notion. Devote your energy to learning to use photography to get beyond the sentimental, the romantic, the precious, the pretty, the cliche, and most of all...the over-cranked Flickr-style junk.

Some of the images on your site indicate that you're on your way. Invest your energies and time DOING, not debating.
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Old June 11th, 2010, 07:46 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Use whatever methods and tweaks please you.
Essential!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Tanaka View Post
Maintaining chemical or digital fidelity to "reality" is a silly notion.
Succinct!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Tanaka View Post
Devote your energy to learning to use photography to get beyond the sentimental, the romantic, the precious, the pretty, the cliche, and most of all...the over-cranked Flickr-style junk.
Arguable; I'd not want to banish sentimentality but agree on the rest!

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Originally Posted by Ken Tanaka View Post
Some of the images on your site indicate that you're on your way. Invest your energies and time DOING, not debating.
If this thread serves to get folks to avoid the cliche, the HDR junk and beautified faces, then the journey is going to be better for all!

Asher
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  #20  
Old June 11th, 2010, 09:03 PM
Nick Masson Nick Masson is offline
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When I decided to start this thread I had photography with nature as a subject in mind. It seems that some people feel there is some degree of mutual exclusiveness between degrees of manipulation and photography as "art". That wasn't my intention or implication at all. Rather, I think that at a certain point the art OF photography looses some of it's "magic" when excessive manipulation or adjustments are used, at least in the context of nature photography.
I also referenced Rowell specifically because of HOW he argued against manipulation of photographs. Indeed, he manipulated his scenes with filters, film (Mike, Rowell actually ditched Kodachrome later on, at least for the most part, in favor of Velvia). He would also occasionally duplicate slides on different types of film to alter the contrast in thin negatives etc...

The devil in manipulation wasn't necessarily how you manipulated, but the result it had on the viewer and the "magic" of the photograph. I think Mike captured Rowell's thoughts on the subject nicely when he said:

"As a rsult, few people believe in photographs today. Perhaps that's wise, but it is a loss when pictures really can help tell important stories."

As for photography as art, digital tools like LR are just that, a tool to help express oneself artistically. If you do studio shooting and you decide to heavily photoshop your image so that your model's hair is on fire, fine! If that is what you are getting at then that is alright. And if images you shoot of natural scenes are just another medium to sculpt through digital manipulation to achieve some end then that is alright too. You're the artist. But when you're passing off images of nature as nature photography, then manipulation can be deceiving, and that is what Rowell avoided. He wanted to retain the viewer's confidence in the photo. Certainly pasting in a snow leopard into a blank landscape is one thing at an extreme, but how about the following:

A sunset is a very cliche image, at least one that relies entirely on form (vivid colors) and not content (composition, foreground) etc... What if I were to take an image of a sunset, a very bland one, and shift all the hues and increase saturation and drop the shadows to make a very potent image. Sure, it isn't really art unless I claim it is a projection of some image, some vision, of mine. But it is still deceiving, no?

And my last point concerns perhaps a more subtle issue. Doing such things take away from the... nobility? of photography. I'm not quite sure how to phrase it. It just seems that it used to be so much more difficult to get the "money" shots. You had to have an even more thorough understanding of light and nature in order to have your slide accurately portray what YOU see. I can almost imagine old-timer nature photographers looking condescendingly on the newbies who don't need to think really deaply about proper exposure, temperature and filtration, preserving high-lights etc... because so much of that can be corrected for after the fact. It is so much easier to sit for an hour tweeking in LR than to think coherently and cover all the bases when you're in the field, exhausted and light-headed at altitude, and working quickly to catch the image before the light shifts. Perhaps that is why I value the dedication that Rowell has put into his work -- I know that for myself, my photos decrease in quality when i'm tired, dehydrated, exhausted physically & mentally, etc... yet I have an upper hand because I can often rescue images because of what can be done now with post-processing. Sometimes it feels a little like cheating, perhaps less "noble" -- technology certainly makes things easier...

I know most is this is hog-wash. But when you've spent enough time around climbers and die-hard hippies who philisophize as much about the "purity" of an action as its "result", these kind of thoughts tend to creap up. And Ken, I do already know what I accept and what methods please me, but it is nice to hear the opinions of photographers who focus across the spectrum -- from forensics to studio to wildlife.

Cheers.
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  #21  
Old June 11th, 2010, 09:51 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Masson View Post

... Doing such things [referring to post processing of digital photographs] take away from the... nobility? of photography. I'm not quite sure how to phrase it. It just seems that it used to be so much more difficult to get the "money" shots. You had to have an even more thorough understanding of light and nature in order to have your slide accurately portray what YOU see. .......... Sometimes it feels a little like cheating, perhaps less "noble" -- technology certainly makes things easier...
Ideas of some imagined nobility or purity are delusional nonsense. One can value the contemplative nature of manual photography and I do, but it's not more noble. Only the resulting effect on us should count! Use whatever it takes to get your ideas into reality. Make things happen as you wish by any legal and respectful means! So for me, the intent and purpose of the project should define the tools used and the less dogmatic we are about that, the better!

Of course, if you show me a fine albumin, platinum or gold print, I know what extra skills that takes and will respect you as an artist even more. But that's just me. I admire the craftsman. Still, I don't demand that, just that the print should move me and make me want to treasure it and bring my friends to see it too.

Now, returning to your question about manipulating and representing "truth in Nature", as Galen Rowell might claim, I'd say nonsense too! His choice of film already changed the impression of things, so all we are talking about from then on is of degree. He sought to glorify nature though his work. He succeeded! However Fry did even better, perhaps, notwithstanding some Escher-like exaggerations and repeats of motifs in a tiny percent of his work.



Galen Rowell: Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape
Tenth-Anniversary Edition at Amazon.com

Galen Rowell's mountains of well crafted images stand the test of time, admired and followed as a leader in skilled modern, (especially color), photography of nature. His book, Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape should be in every landscape photographer's library. However, that's his photography, he didi it and it's done! Our job is not to redo his or anyone else's work or make his books into religious treatises of natural perfection and honesty. Inspiration is fine and there's tons there!

As Ken advises, go out an photograph. From my perspective, have a purpose and do what works for you to get something that delights your senses. Chances are then, we'll like it too!

Asher
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  #22  
Old June 14th, 2010, 08:26 AM
Dwayne Oakes Dwayne Oakes is offline
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Shooting 15 years purist style SOOC with zero editing and now doing full RAW digital editing
I have been on both sides of the fence and this is what I have come to learn.

1-The viewing public does not mind if you manipulate your photos as long as you don't lie about
it or there is not a misperception to your work etc you pass off wolves as wild from a captive
wolve place. So only you care about the notion and nobody else does.

2-Photo editing "wet or digital darkroom" work in concert with your field work, meaning they
go together very well and bounce off "complement" each other. What you learn "see" in
the darkroom will help you see better in the field and vise versa.

3-This topic is very subjective and there is no wrong or right answer.

4-SOOC is a great approach to photography as it teaches you discipline and
accuracy in the field. But if at a point it is holding you back creatively meaning you have
a vision for your work you might want to let go of the notion and try digital darkroom editing.

5-This is not editing related but I read somewhere that everything has been photographed. BS !
Yes true the iconic landscape places and national parks have all been photographed but in the nautral world we are not even scratching the surface not even close !

As far Galen Rowell work a great master for sure but his work never really did anything for
me. Infact no photgrapher really got my attention not even AA and he was a great master for sure. Robert Bateman the wildlife artist was my hero. But thats just me.

So the only question I have for the group is how did this manupilation notion start in society
the first place ? As photo manuiplation has being going on since the beginning of photography
1806. Is it because of the journalism side of our craft ?

Take care,
Dwayne Oakes
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Last edited by Dwayne Oakes; June 14th, 2010 at 01:12 PM.
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  #23  
Old June 14th, 2010, 11:15 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dwayne Oakes View Post
So the only question I have for the group is how did this manupilation notion start in society
the first place ? As photo manuiplation has being going on since the beginning of photography
1806. Is it because of the journalism side of our craft ?
Dwayne,

"how did this manupilation notion start in society the first place ?" What's the notion? That manipulation exists separate from pure photography?

Asher
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  #24  
Old June 14th, 2010, 01:03 PM
Dwayne Oakes Dwayne Oakes is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asher Kelman View Post
Dwayne,

"how did this manupilation notion start in society the first place ?" What's the notion? That manipulation exists separate from pure photography?

Asher
I think I mean the notion that if a photo is manipulated it is wrong, fake, cheating,
it' shopped etc and it is not photography, more like digital art. In the poster's thread title "the line between" why is there a line to begin with ?

Take care,
Dwayne Oakes
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  #25  
Old June 14th, 2010, 03:23 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dwayne Oakes View Post
I think I mean the notion that if a photo is manipulated it is wrong, fake, cheating,
it' shopped etc and it is not photography, more like digital art. In the poster's thread title "the line between" why is there a line to begin with ?

Take care,
Dwayne Oakes
Hi Dwayne,

It's a semantic struggle with technical "purists" who feel they are the priests of some sanctity of values that need to be preserved. What is worth maintaining of this is the technical mastery of the various means to make photographs. I have a special joy seeing fine, original albumin or platinum-gold prints. I don't want to see such high quality work disappear. However, these methods are not any absolute standards against which everything must be judged! The modern view gives credit for workmanship but more for new ways of expression in a picture of esthetics, values, feelings and ideas the work contains or generates within us.

The only holdback I have to "manipulation", (how I hate that word with the meaning of altering perception often for negative controlling reasons), is that perhaps,

Manipulation to images shouldn't be applied equally to every work and each part of that work unless there's a purpose demanding such uniformity.
Asher
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  #26  
Old June 14th, 2010, 03:35 PM
Doug Kerr Doug Kerr is offline
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Hi, Asher,

The first manipulation of a photographic image came when an early worker took the exposed film out of the camera and realized that he couldn't see anything on it.

Best regards,

Doug
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  #27  
Old June 14th, 2010, 04:36 PM
John Angulat John Angulat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Kerr View Post
The first manipulation of a photographic image came when an early worker took the exposed film out of the camera and realized that he couldn't see anything on it.
Doug, that's priceless!
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  #28  
Old June 14th, 2010, 05:19 PM
Dwayne Oakes Dwayne Oakes is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asher Kelman View Post
Hi Dwayne,

It's a semantic struggle with technical "purists" who feel they are the priests of some sanctity of values that need to be preserved. What is worth maintaining of this is the technical mastery of the various means to make photographs. I have a special joy seeing fine, original albumin or platinum-gold prints. I don't want to see such high quality work disappear. However, these methods are not any absolute standards against which everything must be judged! The modern view gives credit for workmanship but more for new ways of expression in a picture of esthetics, values, feelings and ideas the work contains or generates within us.

The only holdback I have to "manipulation", (how I hate that word with the meaning of altering perception often for negative controlling reasons), is that perhaps,

Manipulation to images shouldn't be applied equally to every work and each part of that work unless there's a purpose demanding such uniformity.
Asher
Well said Asher !

Take care,
Dwayne Oakes
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