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  #1  
Old September 28th, 2007, 12:10 PM
leonardobarreto.com leonardobarreto.com is offline
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Default Which is it ON or OFF?

This is a must see (I posted at the Braking News sub-forum, first because it is published by New York Times, so "news" and because I want posters to help solve the mystery sooner than later)

The story is long and fascinating, but your mission if you decide to take, is to point out -- as photographers -- just by looking at this two images which was shot first, the one called ON because it has canon balls on the road, or the one with same missing... good luck and have fun...

http://morris.blogs.nytimes.com/2007...one/index.html




THIS IS THE "OFF IMAGE"



THIS WOULD BE THE "ON IMGE" (all credit to Mr. Errol Morris of course and to Roger Fenton that risked -- supposedly -- his life to cover this singular battle scene)
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  #2  
Old September 28th, 2007, 05:47 PM
Charles L Webster Charles L Webster is offline
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The article cited is quite long, and I've read only the first 1/4, but there seems to be no accurate basis for assuming that Fenton moved the cannon balls.

I think I'll leave it to the art historians to decide in this case, but I believe that it is the duty of the photojournalist to present the facts as he/she sees them, not as he/she wants them to appear to improve the impact.

My $0.02 worth,
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  #3  
Old September 28th, 2007, 06:20 PM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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I read the article and found it fascinating on a number of levels.

Looking at the two versions here side by side, it strikes me that if Fenton were guilty as charged of altering the scene to make it more compelling — i.e., by having cannonballs moved into the road — then there ought to be less balls in the ditch in the shot where they're in the road. But it appears to me that there are in fact perhaps fewer in the ditch in the shot where the road is clear. This would be consistent with the alternative explanation that the second image is the one where the road is clear, and that it was made after soldiers came through scavenging the balls to recycle and fling back at the enemy.

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Old September 28th, 2007, 09:23 PM
Charles L Webster Charles L Webster is offline
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Good point Nill! I hadn't seen that until you mentioned it.

But it matters little except to the academics.
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  #5  
Old September 29th, 2007, 07:25 AM
Mickey Mickey is offline
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Think about it, how it is that a canon ball landing on a road would just be sitting there without without embedding itself into the road?
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  #6  
Old September 29th, 2007, 10:15 AM
leonardobarreto.com leonardobarreto.com is offline
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Think in terms of photographer and look carefully at the differences in the light.

The ON image has some 20 spheres in first plane (that is another reason to say that this was the capture No.1, because Fenton would have to move or make move the ammunition from an unidentified place which is very unlikely) that can be examined.

Imagine that a canon ball is the moon with the one side dark and the other lit by the sky. In this particular take we see a "half moon" while in the other we can say that it is a 1/3 of a moon.

In other words, the source of light (the sun) is more perpendicular in the ON image than the OFF, so it was taken closer to noon time.

This proves that the chronologic order is: Image with lots of canon balls on road and everywhere firs./ Image with less canon balls second.

What we can learn from this "who do'n'it" or "did he do it" story is that things are not always what they seam at first, and if we want to go after the reputation of --in this case a colleague photographer-- you have to be ready to ruin yours.
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  #7  
Old September 29th, 2007, 10:21 AM
leonardobarreto.com leonardobarreto.com is offline
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"Think about it, how it is that a canon ball landing on a road would just be sitting there without without embedding itself into the road?"

Mickey:
I think that this balls where falling there all the time -- incredible, no?-- and that in the same afternoon soldiers "harvested" them to bombard the enemy, and there was probably no traffic to push the in to the ground.,,
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  #8  
Old September 29th, 2007, 11:31 AM
Ray West Ray West is offline
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I think he arrived in the morning, took the 'off' photo, thought it wasn't interesting enough, and got some balls added. Note that he has some placed near the foreground, not on the road. Then it was near mid-day, when he took the 'on' photo. Afterwards, he went to lunch.

Looking at it another way, if he came upon the 'on' situation first, it is unlikely he would have had the balls removed, just to make a more boring image. If it were troops who removed the balls, then I think a whole area would have been cleared, and if any were left, due to damage, or whatever, I expect they would have been moved from their original positions. I suspect he would have photographed the collection, too, but it could not have been so, since he would have missed his lunch, waiting for them to be collected.

He should have stayed at home, and used photoshop.

Best wishes,

Ray
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  #9  
Old September 29th, 2007, 12:51 PM
leonardobarreto.com leonardobarreto.com is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray West View Post
I think he arrived in the morning, took the 'off' photo, thought it wasn't interesting enough, and got some balls added. Note that he has some placed near the foreground, not on the road. Then it was near mid-day, when he took the 'on' photo. Afterwards, he went to lunch.

Looking at it another way, if he came upon the 'on' situation first, it is unlikely he would have had the balls removed, just to make a more boring image. If it were troops who removed the balls, then I think a whole area would have been cleared, and if any were left, due to damage, or whatever, I expect they would have been moved from their original positions. I suspect he would have photographed the collection, too, but it could not have been so, since he would have missed his lunch, waiting for them to be collected.

He should have stayed at home, and used photoshop.

Best wishes,

Ray
Ray, you say: "I think he arrived in the morning..." but, in his letters, the photographer wrote that: "we arrived about 3pm and stayed about an hour and a half"....

So, the images where taken from about 3pm to about 5pm...

So, Ray, your photographers eye is correct, the ON image was taken closer to noon -- 3 hours -- but your judgment may be mistaken because you are assuming things and concluding bad faith on the side of your fellow photographer.

"it is unlikely he would have had the balls removed" you say, but... that is what may have happened in the end, not exactly that, but something to that effect.

Interesting no? All the unlikely things that end up happening.
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  #10  
Old September 30th, 2007, 07:43 AM
Ben Rubinstein Ben Rubinstein is offline
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A couple of observations. There are numerous new cannon balls in the ditches as well as those on the road. Could it not have been the case that there was a barrage in between, in which case the order would have been OFF then ON? The disturbance of the ground in the bottom centre forground where a canon ball appears in the 2nd photo would fit with such a theory, you can see the ridge in the ground where it has plowed through, I can't see that he went to the extent of faking that!

Certainly the foliage in the 1st photo at the bottom is far more intact than later. The focus is also different as is the positioning of the camera. To my eye there is no doubt that these were two seperate photographs not two plates shot with a static camera. Something has been done to the ground in between and a barrage during rain would make a lot of sense.
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  #11  
Old September 30th, 2007, 08:09 AM
ron_hiner ron_hiner is offline
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It seems to me that there is a tool in photoshop that will align, merge, level adjust, then subtract the difference between two images and produce a third on based on the differences. I saw that demoed once, but never thought it would be useful until now! Anyone familiar with that want to have a ago at it?

Ron
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  #12  
Old September 30th, 2007, 04:56 PM
leonardobarreto.com leonardobarreto.com is offline
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I am amazed at all that Ben Rubinstein can see and I can't, the foliage in the images looks different, but probably because of lighting and I think that this where wet glass plates that had to be shot "al fresco" before the emulation dried. (Does anyone know what process was Roger Fenton using at this point in time?)

Image one semas to have less depth of field so it may have been shot at a shorter f.stop because of available light conditions. This following the conjecture that ON was shot latter in the afternoon whit less direct sun exposure.

Let me do a crop of this for better observation...
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  #13  
Old September 30th, 2007, 05:34 PM
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Here is a little photoshop "PowerPoint" to illustrate my point.

The photo on top is OFF (when cannon balls are absent of OFF the main road)
The photo on bottom is ON(when cannon balls are seen ON the main road)

Crops of cannon munition are copy/pasted at the foot of the tow images, look at the difference in highlight on top of the two. The Off has much less reflection of sky than the one on the ON image.

Look at the difference in contrast and ilumination of the ground of something that is basically the same ground from the same view point. (you can see two stones that are the same in the top wright and bottom of the two images)

This proves that the OFF image was taken more towards 3PM and the ON image colose to 5PM...

I think...

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Old September 30th, 2007, 06:10 PM
Don Lashier Don Lashier is offline
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I tried to determine the sequence by the lighting but imo this is not possible. The two images were obviously processed and/or printed differently and even with compensating curves in PS I couldn't reliable determine a lighting difference. I noticed the ball in the previous post but note the difference in the soil tonality. The difference in exposure and/or processing is going to shift the shadow line quite a bit by itself.

However it seems clear to me that the "on" shot was taken after the "off" shot. It makes no sense that he threw cannonballs from the ditch onto the road as the "on" shot has even more balls in the ditch than the other. If he threw the cannonballs on the road where did they come from and did he also throw a bunch more in the ditch and the one that displaced a rock on the left? I don't think so. What's the reason for discounting Fenton's account that they landed while they were there? The two images seem to support this story.

- DL
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  #15  
Old September 30th, 2007, 08:33 PM
leonardobarreto.com leonardobarreto.com is offline
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Don, I disagree. I think that there is a difference in the process of, I don´t know, the emulsion, development, exposure etc etc. But... the way the light is illuminating the balls tells the story. As photographer I usually check the eye of a model to see what type of illumination was used, and generally you can see the Chimera light back, available light or specular illumination reflected.

In this case the ON image has a light source almost on top of the cannon balls and in the other one there is a perceived movement of the sun away from the camera.

You can tell how the two images are more or less well exposed and printed, but in the OFF one the ground is closer to zone I and zone V on the ON frame. This is because the sun is setting in the ON first OFF second sequence.

At the beginning there was a field full of cannon balls and Fenton made the first shot, after some time, there was some more cannonade and balls continued to fall but the soldiers harvested a lot of them. The second image is taken.

Now, if I was the photographer and had the camera ready while soldiers are harvesting cannon balls while under fire, I would have wanted to shoot the second with a soldier "infragnti " //.. with the added value of preemptively end a blog about the subject many years latter...
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  #16  
Old October 1st, 2007, 07:55 PM
leonardobarreto.com leonardobarreto.com is offline
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some more entertaining elements in the saga of Fenton in The Valley of The Shadow of Death...

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  #17  
Old October 2nd, 2007, 04:34 AM
John_Nevill John_Nevill is offline
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I've pondered over this for few days and here's a few Qs to throw into the melting pot.

Was the photographer facing north or south?

If it were taken facing due south, could the film have be reversed at the print stage?
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  #18  
Old October 2nd, 2007, 05:37 AM
Bart_van_der_Wolf Bart_van_der_Wolf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John_Nevill View Post
I've pondered over this for few days and here's a few Qs to throw into the melting pot.

Was the photographer facing north or south?

If it were taken facing due south, could the film have be reversed at the print stage?
I've only read the story once, but did it mention film, or were glass plates used?

To me, if I had to guess, only based on some loose rock displacements (and assuming rocks roll down due to gravity), the On version seems to be taken at a later moment in time.
That would also be consistent with the light angle shift as mentioned by Leonardo.

Bart
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  #19  
Old October 2nd, 2007, 06:51 AM
leonardobarreto.com leonardobarreto.com is offline
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Somebody on the blog post section noticed a very objective clue:

On the ON image there is a very defined stone on the left bottom corner. This is clearly not a cannon ball, but it is about the size -- but different shape -- of one, so it may be relatively heavy.

In the other image that rock is not there.

Why would Fenton want to do landscape remodeling while on a busy photography schedule under cannon fire?

(Have you noticed that the highlights in the ON image are gray. Is as if he moved the top shoulder of the CURVES tool in Photoshop just a bit too much, or the printer fogged the paper before exposing the glass plate negative)

... i have to go to work, this is addictive
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  #20  
Old October 2nd, 2007, 03:52 PM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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Leonardo I think your animated overlay of the two images is virtually dispositive of the question. Clearly in the "off" image there are more than a few balls missing from the ground off the road, in addition to all the ones missing from the road itself. If Fenton had balls moved onto the road, surely they would have been taken from nearby, meaning that there should be fewer balls visible off the road in the "on" image, rather than vice versa.

If I were a member of Fenton's jury on this charge, I'd vote not guilty. Have you by any chance corresponded with Errol Morris about this? If not, you should.

Nill
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  #21  
Old October 2nd, 2007, 07:02 PM
leonardobarreto.com leonardobarreto.com is offline
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Nill, I found the animation, can't take credit for making the animated gif.

But it is revealing. I would say that Fenton is not guilty, no reasonable doubt about it.

Errol Morris has a enormous column of posters giving one or another opinion about it, -- I posted there myself--.

I don't know what happens from here, if someone will write a book indicting Susan Sontag of false accusations...
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  #22  
Old October 5th, 2007, 02:42 PM
Nill Toulme Nill Toulme is offline
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Morris Part 2, and there's a Part 3 coming. Wonderful stuff.

Nill
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  #23  
Old October 28th, 2007, 03:17 PM
leonardobarreto.com leonardobarreto.com is offline
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I have opinions regarding many issues, in the city I go telling people how to do their jobs better and my family knows this and make fun of me. My wife says that I "think different", like the Apple phrase. Sometimes I have good ideas that make sense and solves problems,, and some times I'm wrong.

What I want to say is that I may have been totally wrong with this Queen Victoria "who-done-it". After reading three very long blogs and learning about canon ammunition, the Ottoman empire and the first war to be covered photographically, yes, the colleague probably moved the canon balls from one place to the other to "improve" the world as he was getting ready to photograph. --After all, studio painters did it all the time--.

So, I apologize for twisting the arm of posters that wrote that the order was: canon-balls-OFF-first and after heir and make up on the part of the photographers "staff", canon-balls-ON-the-road was captured.

Well, that seams to be the case according to very detail study of a multitude of small rocks that moved in one direction --down hill-- from one exposure to the next. Since the law of gravity makes unlikely that this small rocks move up hill, the order of the images can be determined chronologically.

Fantastic !
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