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Author Topic: Is This What It's Come To?  (Read 10191 times)
RFPhotography
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« on: February 13, 2011, 09:54:36 AM »
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I met with a gallery owner recently about having the gallery rep some of my photography.  Took in some framed and unframed pieces, including the one attached.

The gallery owner quite liked it but the first question he asked wasn't where it was taken or what it was but rather if the lighter area in the water was real or if I'd digitally created it.

So is this what it's come to?  Where everything people look at is considered 'fake' or a digital creation?

For the record, the lighter area in the water is real.

Details -
Where:  The Grotto, Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario, Canada
What:  The Grotto is in a part of the park that is on the shores of Georgian Bay.  There's a tunnel in the rock wall that goes from The Grotto out into the bay.  The lighter area of water is from sunlight on the bay refracted and shining through into The Grotto. 
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Rob C
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« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2011, 10:32:41 AM »
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A very nice picture, and the highlighted blue is exactly what you do get in shots within caverns or sea grottos; there's a nice one on southern Malta and Capri has them too, I think, though I've only seen the latter island from the peninsula. That underwater illumination is the whole point about them!

As you ask, what's it comng to?

Rob C
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2011, 11:09:56 AM »
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... So is this what it's come to?  Where everything people look at is considered 'fake' or a digital creation?...

Yes, unfortunately.

Presumption of innocence does not apply here, and you would have to go to great lengths to proactively demonstrate that your workflow does not involve digital creation or manipulation. If you care what others think, of course.

P.S. I often introduce myself, and only half-jokingly, as a photoshopographer Smiley
 
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Slobodan

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RFPhotography
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« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2011, 11:41:28 AM »
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Well, Slobodan, I do have the unretouched RAW file, of course.

Rob, it's the combination of the 'water window' and the colours in the rocks that make these spots so appealing, agreed. 

It's just unfortunate that such a high degree of skepticism is in force today. 
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wolfnowl
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« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2011, 01:27:52 PM »
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Somewhere on the main Lula site is an excellent article by Alain Briot titled, "Just Say Yes".

FWIW, images have 'always' been manipulated: http://weburbanist.com/2010/10/27/politics-of-photoshop-15-shady-edits-for-political-purposes/

Mike.
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« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2011, 01:53:22 PM »
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When asked a question like that, my initial response will usually be simply, "No, it really looks like that." If something in a photo looks unreal, even if it is real, I see no problem clarifying the issue a little.

But it is true that current fashions in photography do seem to tend to a sense of exaggeration and fantasy, especially in the use of colors, so I think we need to expect questions like this more and more.

Ironically, you seldom get such questions about B&W work, which is almost always totally transformed from reality.

Eric
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« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2011, 02:49:45 PM »
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Bob, Are you sure the guy wasn't just aghast at the color saturation? I'll accept that the colors are reasonably accurate because that's what's what you see in that kind of grotto, but on first glance it looks as if the color saturation has been pushed hard. Give the guy a break; maybe he's been going to "art fairs" where almost all the photography clearly has been Photoshopped to the Marlboro ad level. Eric's right. There's too much color saturation hanky panky going on.

So is your stuff hanging in the guy's gallery?
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« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2011, 02:54:45 PM »
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Somewhere on the main Lula site is an excellent article by Alain Briot titled, "Just Say Yes".

FWIW, images have 'always' been manipulated: http://weburbanist.com/2010/10/27/politics-of-photoshop-15-shady-edits-for-political-purposes/

Mike.

Mike, Thanks for the link. It's been a long time since I've seen Trotsky disappear like that. That series ought to be a lesson to those who think it wasn't possible to manipulate a photograph until Photoshop came along. People who've never worked in a darkroom tend to believe that.
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RFPhotography
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« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2011, 03:08:34 PM »
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Oh, I definitely agree, Mike.  Photos have always been manipulated in some way or other.  I think the difference is that now, in the digital age, a lot of people just assume everything is manipulated.  While I haven't read Alain's article from reading the title, my guess is it's somewhat similar in tone to a recent article Guy Tal published on his blog titled "Lie Like You Mean It".

RSL, no, he specifically mentioned the 'water window'.  The saturation has been pushed, but not as much as you may be implying.  Given the darkness of the space, you're never going to get really rich colours.  We need light, after all, to see colour.  I'd have to go back and look at the exact settings but I do know that I also pulled down on the luminance of some of the colours because I felt they were too bright.  To answer your other question:  It will be.
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LKaven
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« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2011, 11:10:28 AM »
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That's a lovely shot Bob!

I can see one side to the question that was put to you.  The gallery owner is doing due diligence on a new acquisition, and also attending to its selling points.  I could see any prospective buyer asking "what's that" while pointing to the bright spot in the water, and the gallery owner proudly telling them that "this is the results of refraction from etc, etc, and is a natural phenomenon."  Then I can see the prospective buyer taking out their wallet, because that's a good selling point. 

I can't remember the name of the Aussie nature photographer with a 3 letter name who has stores in Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, and NY.  But when I walked into his NY store, I was assured that all the images I saw were shot as they were.  Then I kinda went "huh" (that's the sound of being slightly impressed), I guess there is something to making the effort to find these things as they are and record them.  Not an easy kind of photography by any stretch. 

I think your image would be a good sell to anyone who doesn't have outright HDR prejudice.
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RFPhotography
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« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2011, 02:01:02 PM »
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I think that's a good point, Luke.  I think it's more the way the question was posed than anything else that struck me. 

Are you thinking of Peter Lik?  Who recently sold a print for $1 million.
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Rob C
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« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2011, 04:07:55 PM »
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Are you thinking of Peter Lik?  Who recently sold a print for $1 million.


Where do they find these people?

Rob C
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RFPhotography
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« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2011, 04:27:05 PM »
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Well, reputedly, Lik has sold over $150 million in prints over the years. 
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JeffKohn
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« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2011, 05:58:41 PM »
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Quote
I can't remember the name of the Aussie nature photographer with a 3 letter name who has stores in Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, and NY.  But when I walked into his NY store, I was assured that all the images I saw were shot as they were.  Then I kinda went "huh" (that's the sound of being slightly impressed), I guess there is something to making the effort to find these things as they are and record them.  Not an easy kind of photography by any stretch. 
IMHO that's a load of BS, just like it is when Michael Fatali says the same thing about his 8x10 film work. The fact that the image is not enhanced in Photoshop doesn't mean it's not an enhanced representation of the actual scene. Shooting Velvia (often with grad filters and/or polarizers) and printing Cibachromes results in prints that have much more contrast and saturation than the original scene, not to mention the color shifts inherent in these high-saturation slide films. The argument that this process is more realistic or "honest" just because no computer work was done is laughable.
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Gordon Buck
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« Reply #14 on: February 21, 2011, 07:48:35 PM »
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what if the light were not so good on the day that I visited the same place so I took five shots, combined them to HDR and used some heavy duty tone mapping plus a little artful dodging to effect nearly the same image?  Would my image be fake? Worth less?  Worthless?
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #15 on: February 21, 2011, 08:15:27 PM »
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what if the light were not so good on the day that I visited the same place so I took five shots, combined them to HDR and used some heavy duty tone mapping plus a little artful dodging to effect nearly the same image?  Would my image be fake? Worth less?  Worthless?


Although the image (i.e., end result) might be the same, it is the knowledge of the process involved that would make a difference. And to illustrate what i mean, I have to resort to a gross metaphor: it would be the same as the difference between a waiter spitting into your soup in the kitchen and doing it right in front of you. Wink In other words, knowing that a major manipulation took place would always make it worth less than the one with no manipulation.
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Slobodan

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LKaven
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« Reply #16 on: February 21, 2011, 10:27:27 PM »
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One would really look at the rest of the art market to understand how buyers perceive these things.  We might have our own philosophical take on the issue.  But there are market forces that are indifferent to us.  The entire process of the piece coming into being, and ultimately the path that it took to get into the gallery owner's hands, can be grounds for discernment among collectors. 

I was actually intrigued by Bob's picture, and mostly for the fact that it contained a good representation of an unusual natural phenomenon.  I might have liked it had that not been the case, but it would have left an open question.  Surely, anyone who looks at that pictures wonders what the bright spot is.  Of two possible answers -- that it is either natural, or painted in let's say -- I would be left scratching my head as to why it was painted in on aesthetic grounds.  If Bob then said "yes, I painted it in, but it represents a natural phenomenon accurately" then I would have been slightly more interested.  So it's aesthetic value is a function of some of these things. 

Not to suggest that Peter Lik or anyone else is more naturalistic, or that any use of the camera is really naturalistic in the final measure, with its artificial white and black points.  But the word "veridical" comes to mind here as the right one.  Some pictures /conform/ to the truth more than others.  There is a difference between a composite and a full scene capture, no matter how stylized.  I think this veridicality counts in the nature photography business, because part of the perceived value of the pictures involves whether the photographer stalked the ends of the earth to find the thing that happened once in a century.  Otherwise, you can construct beautiful landscapes that don't exist anywhere in the real world ad infinitum, but they wouldn't sell as nature photography.  You'd take that skill to Hollywood. 
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PhillyPhotographer
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« Reply #17 on: February 21, 2011, 11:40:05 PM »
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What ever happened to the image itself being the most important part of photography, the end result, the reason why we take photographs ? Now there is such an emphasis on work flow that the image itself is secondary.
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LKaven
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« Reply #18 on: February 22, 2011, 12:37:04 AM »
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What ever happened to the image itself being the most important part of photography, the end result, the reason why we take photographs ? Now there is such an emphasis on work flow that the image itself is secondary.
Wouldn't you agree though that two identical images depicting -- let's say -- the murder of Jimmy Hoffa, one entirely faked, and the other entirely real, would be treated as having different value?  And when I say "value" I don't mean just news value, or historical value, but also aesthetic value.  It is part of the aesthetic value of the work whether or not it depicts a true or false event. 
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Rob C
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« Reply #19 on: February 22, 2011, 04:30:44 AM »
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What ever happened to the image itself being the most important part of photography, the end result, the reason why we take photographs ? Now there is such an emphasis on work flow that the image itself is secondary.



You are absolutely right: the hell with the 'how', just settle for the image. To do otherwise is a nonsense. Does anyone ask how many drafts to write Hamlet? How many takes to get 'Psycho' right? How long and how convoluted was the production of 'Pet Sounds' or 'Stg. Pepper'?

These concerns shown in the photo business are bullshit drummed up to create false values where, frankly, few real ones have ever existed.

Rob C
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