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Photography DiscussionThe Ethics of Landscape Photography - Article for Discussion

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minniev
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Re: The Ethics of Landscape Photography - Article for Discussion

Post by minniev » Thu Nov 16, 2017 2:16 pm

Psjunkie wrote:I believe if you own the land you may do as you wish….if not then don’t harm the landscape. As for deception the only person I occasionally try to deceive is myself. Believing it’s ok to pick up litter but not move a leaf sounds like a confused mind to me. For anything other than documentation, It’s your presentation so do as you wish is my minds thought…if selling, competing, or just displaying, all questions brought up should be honestly answered……oh and that malarky about minimal edits….edits are edits period.

Thanks Frank. Agree, honest answers should always prevail. And I'm of the opinion that the photos we take are ours to do with as we please, as long as we maintain that honesty.
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Post by minniev » Thu Nov 16, 2017 2:25 pm

Matt Quinn wrote:This is some pretty heady stuff that we should discuss around a table with some beer, wine or maybe even single malt Scotch. (I am all for this last one.) Philosophers have been debating what is reality for millennia. Plato contributed the story about shadows on the wall of the cave. They are the things that we see and what we think are real but they are only suggestions, phantoms; the only real things were ideas, whatever he meant by that. The critters that walked past the fire that cast the shadows weren't "real" either. Folks still quibble about his definition of real. .....

Matt


Thanks Matt, and wouldn't it be great to have this discussion in person? Sharing these ideas with all of you here helps me clarify my own thinking and explore WHY I do what I do, consider my own standards, and challenge myself.

Photographers often fool themselves about the nature of reality, I suspect, believing that the equipment is more of a determinant of reality than it really is. What the camera determines has changed drastically over the years and will likely continue to change. For my own purposes, I'm not so much interested in conveying reality as in conveying my interpretation of reality, but everyone has to find their own comfort zone with these questions.
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by Duck » Thu Nov 16, 2017 2:39 pm

LindaShorey wrote:If the photo is posted to a photo forum, whether for critique, suggestions, or just admiration, there should absolutely be an obligation to explain if asked. That's what forums are about in my opinion. Otherwise, they are just personal websites. If I want to admire inspiring work without the opportunity to ask questions or talk about it, I can just go to my good buddy Mr Google.

True. I should have qualified my answer. My opinion, though, is even in a forum if the photographer's intention is to just showcase their image there shouldn't be an expectation for an explanation if the photographer does not want to give one. Should the photographer be willing to share, I look at that as a courtesy not the exception. In a critique it is assumed that the image is up for discussion. But, I also look at this as a conversational exchange between two people and not necessarily a part of the photographic process. I think the only time an explanation is a requisite is in photojournalism were an explanation of the photo is a part of the process. And maybe in marketing too (can't leave out commercial photography ;) )
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Post by Charles Haacker » Thu Nov 16, 2017 6:39 pm

What a terrific discussion! :yay: I very much like the fairly simple concept of "Do No Harm." It strikes me that moving something within a scene, either to include or exclude it, does no harm. Taking a folding saw to a branch (or worse) does harm (well Duh). Setting a fire under Delicate Arch does harm. Driving on the Racetrack does very long-term harm, maybe decades worth. Taking a single red leaf and placing it carefully and lovingly into a scene of a waterfall enhances the picture. There is where I definitely disagree author Spencer Cox. He only made the picture 3 years ago and now says he would not repeat this (for him) egregious "deception" again. My take on that is WTF?! :S Jeepers, pal, all ya did was make just-another-silky-water-shot amazing by the addition of that leaf. Why the heck not? What if the leaf had been there already but washed away before you got your tripod up? How do you know there wasn't a leaf there before you arrived? If you feel morally bound to fully disclose that you (GASP) placed that leaf there and promise the photo morality police never ever to do it again, well, that's you. Me, I think the leaf makes the shot! Otherwise to me it's just another cliche silky waterfall (YAWN).

I think sometimes we photographers overlook that what we produce is an art form. At the dawn of photography there were painters who were horrified that they were gonna be out of a job. Initially it was difficult to impossible to manipulate photographs. Daguerreotypes were mirror images and there was nothing you could do about it. So were tintypes (ferrotypes). There was only the original and no good way to reproduce it. The best the early practitioners could do was add a little tinting, maybe some pink in the cheeks (very commonly done). Fox Talbot figured out a way to make a negative so then it was off to the races with all sorts of imaginative manipulations. But the painters were still happily painting, and painters had a distinct advantage (not just color): they could paint what they saw rather than just what was there. Silky waterfall? No problem. Intruding branch? Leave it out. Needs a nice red leaf just there? Paint it. Who's gonna know?

Therefore, why should it be a big hairy deal if the photographer places a leaf where it makes the shot? Further, what would be so terrible the photographer decides later, Gee, a nice red leaf would go good there, so he 'shops it in. Duck has already pointed out that ya can't do that in documentary or journalism work. Guys have been fired and banned for sometimes piddling little violations (I'm thinking of the guy who cloned an extraneous camera out of a combat shot). But I'm talking art, not journalism (which is an art but of a different kind). (By the way, I had an afterthought about "reality:" I would tend to argue that reality cannot be completely expressed artistically, it can only be simulated. Reality is reality, unfiltered. The moment you put a frame around it it is no longer real. It has morphed into something else, at best a good impression of reality.)

In 2014 we were on THE Epic Road Trip and went out to Point Arena on the California coast to get the light as the sun set. But the fog rolled in, and the gulls were uncooperative at best. So I relocated a couple. Full disclosure, the third, best shot, is manipulated. Should I care? (I don't.) :yay:
(Open the first and third of these in tabs and toggle between them so you can see what I did...) :thanks:
Attachments
03.original.EMlr.jpg
Point Arena Light on the Northern California coast, a wicked hard drive on dirt that takes a long time so that by the time you arrive as the sun should be setting the !@#$!! fog has rolled in. This is the original picture. Obviously I was waiting for a gull to sail into view, which they did, but they come over your shoulder with no warning moving fast. I tripped as fast as I could but the furshlugginer gulls was never inna right place (grrrr). This one was close, but too far into the frame.
02.seagull.EMlr.jpg
This gull was almost out of frame before I hit the button! Arrrgh!
01.final-Edit.EMlr.jpg
Daphne was cold and tired of shouting HERE COMES ONE so I quit and figured, well, I'll see what I can do when we get home, and this is what I did. If I had painted this picture, surely even I would have had enough imagination to paint in a couple of gulls in what I hope is a compositionally pleasing position. So why not do it here? I moved the original gull that was too far into frame, and dragged the other one in from the middle picture. You know it's a manipulation but if you didn't would you really care?
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Post by Matt Quinn » Fri Nov 17, 2017 2:59 pm

Open the first and third of these in tabs and toggle between them so you can see what I did...) :thanks:

Chuck, Believe it or not, I much prefer the first but would like it "enhanced" somehow, not sharpened. I like the mist; it is missing from the others with the result of a "calendar" photo, if I may say it that way. The mist adds mystery; I am there. Humor this old man, and work your magic with the mist; I would enjoy seeing it.

As I reflect more on this discussion, I begin to think that intent is central to the issue of truth v deception. When I am photographing, I want to capture what I felt when I saw the scene. The feeling can't be expressed in words, only in the picture; that's why I take it instead of writing a poem.The emotional reaction is to something visual; a poem could be also be an attempt at that, but more frequently a poem conveys intellectual responses for which words, with their sounds, are more appropriate. (The word "roar" mimics the sound of the waves on the rocks and takes time to say it; a picture freezes the wave and allows us to contemplate and admire it.)

Context adds to the matter because it shapes and defines expectations. In a newspaper or news magazine, we expect that the photo represents what we would have seen had we been there. In a Hollywood magazine (are there any?) we expect the photos to be 'shopped,' and that the person would be fatter if we met them on the street.

From another angle, (with no intent to say one is better that the other) compare a photo from India by Graham with one by Ernst from his studio. Both are superlative photographers; I envy their talent and get despondent when I look at their stuff and mine. (Enough self pity of one day!) I suspect that, had I been standing next to Graham, I would have seen what is in his photo. Had I been standing next to Ernst, I would not have seen what he saw. Both show what they saw in that situation; neither sought to deceive. And that is the glorious freedom of photography. Matt
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Post by Duck » Fri Nov 17, 2017 9:23 pm

Here is a question that has me wondering how others would consider it. Share your thoughts.

When I view an image with no commentary, no expectation of a critique and no blurb to describe the scene I tend to see the image as is. To appreciate the efforts of the artist solely on the results presented. Whether I like it or hate it, I come to that conclusion based only on a visual input and gauged solely on my personal gut reactions.

When I view an image that has commentary, has an expectation for critique or even a small descriptive blurb I now balance my gut visual interpretation against the expectations of an outside influence (commentary, other expectations, etc.) and often that influence alters my reaction. Sometimes for the good, sometimes for the worse. On occasion I walk away from an image thinking, "I wish I didn't know that."

The only blurb I feel adds to the image would be labels that identify the person, location or event. Oh, and this refers to art prints, not photojournalism, to be clear.

Once I have absorbed the image for what it is that is when the curious photographer part of me comes out and I may want to know more, but not before the viewing (if that makes sense). What' has been your experience?
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Post by Psjunkie » Fri Nov 17, 2017 9:49 pm

I mostly agree Duck...I wish i didn't even have to title a presentation.....I like to know what people think about the image with no prejudice.

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Post by LindaShorey » Fri Nov 17, 2017 9:49 pm

Duck wrote:What' has been your experience?
It's often how I feel about titles!

(and there's Frank's similar comment posting mere seconds before mine, lol)
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Post by Charles Haacker » Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:04 pm

Matt Quinn wrote:Open the first and third of these in tabs and toggle between them so you can see what I did...) :thanks:

Chuck, Believe it or not, I much prefer the first but would like it "enhanced" somehow, not sharpened. I like the mist; it is missing from the others with the result of a "calendar" photo, if I may say it that way. The mist adds mystery; I am there. Humor this old man, and work your magic with the mist; I would enjoy seeing it.


As I reflect more on this discussion, I begin to think that intent is central to the issue of truth v deception. When I am photographing, I want to capture what I felt when I saw the scene. The feeling can't be expressed in words, only in the picture; that's why I take it instead of writing a poem.The emotional reaction is to something visual; a poem could be also be an attempt at that, but more frequently a poem conveys intellectual responses for which words, with their sounds, are more appropriate. (The word "roar" mimics the sound of the waves on the rocks and takes time to say it; a picture freezes the wave and allows us to contemplate and admire it.)

Context adds to the matter because it shapes and defines expectations. In a newspaper or news magazine, we expect that the photo represents what we would have seen had we been there. In a Hollywood magazine (are there any?) we expect the photos to be 'shopped,' and that the person would be fatter if we met them on the street.

From another angle, (with no intent to say one is better that the other) compare a photo from India by Graham with one by Ernst from his studio. Both are superlative photographers; I envy their talent and get despondent when I look at their stuff and mine. (Enough self pity of one day!) I suspect that, had I been standing next to Graham, I would have seen what is in his photo. Had I been standing next to Ernst, I would not have seen what he saw. Both show what they saw in that situation; neither sought to deceive. And that is the glorious freedom of photography. Matt

Okay, Matt, I went back and tried to restore the mist. I now have mixed feelings: I still like my original vision, the scene as I saw it regardless of what it actually looked like (the second picture below), but the rework to restore the mist is, yeah, probably closer to "real," as close as any picture gets anyway. I'm not sure I like one better than the other. They are two different interpretations.
Attachments
DSCN3917-2-Edit-2.EMlr.jpg
I went back to the original file and reverted it to its SOOC state (the original is a jpeg; this was 2014 before I started shooting raw). Then I set a white and black point, moved the bird, and added the second (nearer) one.
01.final-Edit.EMlr.jpg
This is the same file I originally showed in my earlier post.
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Post by Duck » Sat Nov 18, 2017 12:00 am

Charles Haacker wrote:Okay, Matt, I went back and tried to restore the mist...

This image has a lot of potential and I like what is happening, but please consider starting a new thread for that conversation. I'm sure Minnie would appreciate that.

Moderator hat comes off now. Back to the regularly scheduled program.

Thanks
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