[Tweeters] Current Issue of Audubon Magazine-Photoghahy awards and Disqualification Discusion

Marc Hoffman tweeters at dartfrogmedia.com
Sat Jan 25 19:45:14 PST 2014

I want to share a perspective that is mostly (not entirely) separate
from ethics and aesthetics.

To begin, I think that a photograph is at best an abstraction. It's
not real. Even what we think we see "with our own eyes" is not real.
Our brain notices some details and ignores others, to creating a
picture we commonly accept as reality.

The camera is a whole big step removed from this eye-to-brain
process. For one thing, a camera is not a human eye, and cannot
replicate what the eye sees. Excellent cameras may approach the
acuity of the human eye--but probably not!)--and in the end you'll be
looking at a print or a video monitor, not a bird in nature.

Another wrinkle in the discussion of whether it's okay to alter
digital photos: Digital cameras necessitate post-processing of the
image. For example, they require sharpening the edges of shapes. If
you shoot jpeg images with your camera, it automatically sharpens
them. If you shoot RAW images (storing the data just as it was
received by the camera sensor), some sharpening is still required or
the image will look unnaturally blurry.

The same goes for levels of light. The last I heard, no camera in the
world can resolve, in a single exposure, the range of dark-to-light
that the human eye can discern. If you want your photo to look
"natural," you almost always must adjust the levels of darks, lights,
and mid values.

Furthermore, every lens design includes compromises that distort
shapes and colors. Some post-shot correction makes the image more accurate.

My goal in bird photography is to convey a human experience, not
replicate nature. For the above reasons (and others), I always adjust
my "keeper" images. For example:
- I usually crop them, because the camera is a fixed frame, whereas
the brain chooses what to pay attention to.
- I adjust the overall exposure, as well as the light levels and
contrast in different parts of the image. As pointed out above, I can
rarely get a single exposure that shows off details in both shaded
and highly-lit areas. So I may need to subtly lighten a bird's face
it's in shadow.
- Occasionally, I remove background objects. What's the point in
presenting a shockingly beautiful photo of a Belted Kingfisher with a
stick protruding from the top of its head? Should I have waited
another 3 hours in hopes of getting the same splendid shot but
without the stick being there? I guess some would say "yes." I would
rather move on and look for the next surprise.

This is a good conversation to be having. I think that, for myself,
the primary consideration is whether the photo helps people connect
with the subject. If it looks contrived, it will fail in that regard,
even if there was no digital manipulation. If it carries impact but
still feels natural, I'm not so concerned about digital enhancement.

Except, of course, for the Jackalope post cards (see
http://tinyurl.com/mczx58). That's where I draw the line :)

Marc Hoffman
Kirkland, WA
tweeters at dartfrogmedia.com

At 05:16 PM 1/25/2014, ELIZABETH THOMPSON wrote:

>Oh how I debate this with myself. I love photographing birds. I have

>had some really nice shots and some really bad ones. Mostly focus.

>I do crop my pics sometimes but that is all i have ever done. I

>recall last summer taking photos with a similar camera and lens as

>some other birder/photographers and my pics looked not so nice as

>theirs. We were at a birding outing at the same time.

>I can only assume a couple things. Better at stabilization, better

>camera equipment or better at photoshopping.

>More than likely the first two options.


>Either way, I still take pictures of birds and every once in a

>while, I get a nice shot.

>Happily birding,

>Beth Thompson

>Arlington, WA



>On Jan 25, 2014, at 9:04 AM, ck park

><<mailto:travelgirl.fics at gmail.com>travelgirl.fics at gmail.com> wrote:


>>I suppose it depends on your definition of "photograph" versus

>>"digital image".


>>mine definition? if i clone away dust bunnies, crop, or maybe

>>apply a bit of sharpness, to me it's still a photograph. the image

>>is as i saw it.

>>if, however, i alter the shape(s) of something, alter colours

>>(obvious saturation, HDR, etc) and/or clone away distracting poles,

>>buildings, trees, etc, what you would see is no longer as i saw it,

>>and therefore, while it may be beautiful, interesting, etc, it is a

>>digital image, an interpretation that is no longer a photograph.


>>this definition is mine, and while shared by many, is not a

>>universal definition. as well, some folks today believe

>>"photograph" == "digital image", that there may be no inherent

>>difference between the two.


>>your mileage may vary.


>>00 caren


>>george davis creek, north fork



>>On 25 January 2014 03:04,

>><<mailto:notcalm at comcast.net>notcalm at comcast.net> wrote:

>>Hello Fellow Tweeters,


>>There is an interesting discussion regarding alteration of bird

>>photographs and rules for the Annual Photo Contest in the current

>>issue (January, 2014) of Audubon magazine. A great image was

>>disqualified. I am interested in what Tweeter's community members

>>think. I think it is an interesting question.


>>Many of our best single images of birds and humans are now modified

>>and enhanced to varying degrees. This a now a routine practice for

>>images of female models in fashion magazines. The controversies in

>>many fields, including bird photography include: when should it be

>>disclosed; at what level of change, including enhancement; and what

>>image enhancements should be considered in photo contests. The

>>Audubon Editor asks for feedback.



>>Dan Reiff

>>Mercer Island



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>><mailto:Tweeters at u.washington.edu>Tweeters at u.washington.edu





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