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Archive 2013 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.
  
 
David Baldwin
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


I am not trying to be controversial, nor am I picking on any particular image or photographer.

And I realise I am asking a question nearly as old as photography itself but but I do wonder if some photographic genres are being image manipulated to a point waaaaaaaaaaay beyond any relationship to a real scene (does that matter btw). In particular:

On FM I am seeing more and more "night" photos made up of composite exposures, partly based on day or twilight images, and partly based at night. The results are spectacular, and are very, very difficult (read impossible) to achieve with one exposure taken at night.

This bothers me, and I wonder if I am being unreasonable. In photography, does anything go? Do the digital ends justify the digital means? Am I being unfair wondering if we should all stay at home and just channel mask out different landscape elements from our archives and composite together entire new landscapes digitally, landscapes which never really exist, because that seems to me very close to a lot of the more fashionable composite "night" work.

Am I being nostalgic for the old "one shot" photographic mentality, or should I embrace the cut n paste and mask it all together in post new world?



Jun 16, 2013 at 01:23 PM
Sneakyracer
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


I am very for single image captures but I am not against using multiple captures to make an image but:

If it is an exposure blend it should be noted.
If it is a focus stack, would be good to have it specified but not essential.
If it is a blend where elements, like a sky, from another moment in time or place is composited, the it should definitely be noted.



Jun 16, 2013 at 01:45 PM
Milan Hutera
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


There's one exposure and one exposure...

You can crank up ISO to 3200 or 6400, open your aperture to f2,8 do some light painting and capture your subject in one, less quality exposure.
Or you can shoot your subject at lower ISO, stopped down, do the light painting and immediately after that you can capture the stars at high iso, max aperture and blend the photos together to create a photo of a much higher quality. Visually, the results are nearly always indistingueshable.

I'm not a fan of creating "impossible" photos. But I'm a fan of creating high quality night photos.



Jun 16, 2013 at 01:58 PM
David Baldwin
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


Well Milan, I've looked at the night photos on your website, and my comments were not directed at the kind of technique you are using which is more "old school" than the extreme comp work I am referring to.

What I was referring to were comps mixing day and night, achieving very striking results because the DR obtained is ordinarily, both visually and photographically, impossible. Sort of like HDR really.

Perhaps I should just get used to the day/night photo mixes in the same way that I am used to seeing fisheye/tobacco filters/infra red photos.

This really goes to the meaning of photography. Nothing wrong with comping up two exposures of the same scene taken in the same conditions because in a way all you are doing is dealing with current sensors lack of DR. You are not "faking" a scene. Now I am aware that my use of the word "faking" is controversial as extreme comping goes back to victorian times, but I am uncomfortable with the whole topic.

BTW there is no link between the quality of photography and what ISO is used. IMHO some of the best photos ever taken are grainy. If fine grain is your bag that is great, but there is no presumption that good photography is free of noise/grain, or even totally in focus for that matter:













Allowing myself to be distracted from my main point, seems to me that great photography can easily be unrealistic, noisy and "soft" Some night images of what I mean, as examples of great images, dealing specifically with Milan's point:

http://www.sanneart.com/portfolio/nightholga/
http://www.thenocturnes.com/gallery/sanne.html

I really like Susanne's images, none of these great photos are the result of extreme comping!


Edited on Jun 16, 2013 at 11:04 PM · View previous versions



Jun 16, 2013 at 02:04 PM
Phrasikleia
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


David Baldwin wroteAm I being unfair wondering if we should all stay at home and just channel mask out different landscape elements from our archives and composite together entire new landscapes digitally, landscapes which never really exist, because that seems to me very close to a lot of the more fashionable composite "night" work.

There is a difference between producing an idealized view versus a complete fabrication. I'm sure you're aware that the human eye sees night scenes utterly differently than a camera does. We humans also do not experience a place in single, frozen, documentary frames. As the light dims, we intuitively remember the shapes we could see more clearly just minutes ago. 'Seeing' in reality is a complicated and personal process that involves light, space, and time all 'composited' by the brain into something meaningful. It's an artist's job to find a way to translate that experience into the flat, frozen space of a photograph. Conversely, finding a way to record light levels equally across a given span of space is the job of a technician.

Perhaps Goethe put it best: "Die Kunst ist die Vermittlerin des Unaussprechlichen." (Art is the mediator of the inexpressible.)



Jun 16, 2013 at 03:07 PM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


David Baldwin wrote:
I am not trying to be controversial, nor am I picking on any particular image or photographer.

And I realise I am asking a question nearly as old as photography itself but but I do wonder if some photographic genres are being image manipulated to a point waaaaaaaaaaay beyond any relationship to a real scene (does that matter btw). In particular:

On FM I am seeing more and more "night" photos made up of composite exposures, partly based on day or twilight images, and partly based at night. The results are spectacular, and are very, very difficult (read impossible) to achieve
...Show more

This is a perennial question, and I'm positive that no one here, including myself, will have the last word on the subject. In the end, it comes down to a matter of personal perspective, values, and what you are hoping to find in photographs.

For me, an important question has to do with how the photographer presents such images. If there is an intent, either explicit or implicit, that the viewer regard them as somehow representing the "real," then my response includes disappointment regarding the deception. (Stick with me, though - I'll temper that remark in a moment.) One aesthetic approach to the landscape and similar subjects is based on the notion that the landscape itself offers up astonishing wonders that can stop you in your tracks, and that a talented landscape photographer can find those wonders, see how to make photographers of them, and cause you to look at and see such wonders that you might otherwise not have noticed or had the chance to experience.

So, many people begin by looking at so-called landscape photography as being something that, while in cannot be a perfect analog, is an honest and believable portrayal of the subject. This is most certainly not to say that a landscape photograph is a literally objective identical version of the landscape - it cannot be that - nor that no post processing is allowed, or any of that other silliness. Often the modifications simply compensate for the fact that other portions of the real experience are missing and that we must, in a photograph, rely entirely on a two-dimensional visual experience that does not include other cues. (This is something like the necessity in audio recording to balance sounds in ways that are not identical to how they are balanced in a live performance, but I digress...) The photograph cannot be the same as the thing, but it is possible to make a photograph that is both effective and faithful to the experience of the original subject, while also optimized for viewing in an idealized form as a photograph.

So, what about those impossible images? I saw one recently that included a very bright Milky Way sky stopped dead in its tracks above a waterfall and cove in which the water had been obviously blurred by an exposure that was several minutes long. My response was complex. On one hand, I was impressed by the thought process that had no doubt led to the visualization of this composite image - consisting of a large aperture shorter exposure of the sky in combination with a smaller-aperture and much longer exposure of the other elements - and could regard it as an interesting and attractive "fantasy landscape" of the sort that we might find, perhaps, in the CGI constructed environment of the movies. If it is OK to construct some an image in the CGI world or paint such an image, then why would it be wrong to use photographic imaging techniques to create something that is far less "unreal" than, say, Van Gogh's "Starry Night?"

The tricky thing is that "burden of the real" that photographs carry. All (or at least virtually all) photographic images begin with "captures" of the images of real things. Since the beginning, photography has carried the burden of being attached to the real world. Unlike painting, in which (at least in most cases) every element of the image is constructed and "known" by the person whose hand created it, the photograph begins by "capturing" (in most cases) the world, cannot be fully "seen" at that time, and only reveals what it contains (even to the photographer) over time. So when we look at a photograph, we start with the presumption that we are discovering something about the real world that the camera captured, but then we go on to understand that we are really looking at something about how the photographer viewed the world whose capture was the initial point of departure for creating the image.

So, back to those overtly impossible images... If the photographer, again explicitly or implicitly, invites us to consider it as a fantasy that cannot possibly be, then it is hard to criticize it for diverging to uncomfortably far from the real. Jerry Uelsmann's work is a great starting point for thinking about how photographs might work in this way, and he is by no means the first or the only person to go (effectively) down this path. One can hardly criticize his landscapes (or other work) for not being real or for being manipulated since that is the obvious intention and point of his work!

But things get fuzzy, for me anyway, when the image is presented in a way that does not acknowledge its fantastical nature or which even explicitly allows or even urges the viewer to make the mistake of thinking that it represents the real. My response goes in the direction of thinking that the work is "cheap" and deceptive and dishonest and unbelievable. While I don't think "unbelievable" when I look at Uelsmann - since it is supposed to be unbelievable - that is my first thought when I look a work that is obviously impossible but not acknowledged as such: gigantic full moons, skies full of stars that never look remotely like that in reality, colors that are patently false, the marriage of land and skies from different times and places, shorebirds inserted into desert skies, and more.

Now, don't get me wrong. I believe in post-processing as in integral part of the process of producing photographic images. I use compositing and stitching on occasion. I use the clone tool. I alter color balance and I dodge and burn. I use exposure and focus blending techniques on occasion - though you would probably not know this if you saw the photos. Sometimes I create photographs that are obviously the result of significant modification in post, and which make no pretense of being "real."

For me, the ultimate test is one of honesty and believability. Is this image what it purports to be?

Dan








Jun 16, 2013 at 03:23 PM
uintaangler
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


I "liked" the OP for the thread he started here because even though as gdanmitchell stated above there really is no last word on this subject - it is still a topic worthy of continued consideration by all of us practicing the art of landscape photography

Isn't it interesting that this topic comes up repeatedly for Landscape/Nature Photographers and I wonder how often it comes up in the realm of People/Fashion Photography?
Every time I come across one of those ads for software designed to transform an attractive face into a movie star's face with no blemishes and perfect skin - I wonder about that dichotomy

Bob



Jun 16, 2013 at 03:44 PM
MikeW
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


that first link for holga night photos doesn't really show anything blatant. The moon gives off alot of light & they don't look overly unnatural to me.

To me, I define blended images, hdr etc as an art piece rather than a photograph.



Jun 16, 2013 at 03:51 PM
RichFisher
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


David Baldwin wrote:
In photography, does anything go? Do the digital ends justify the digital means?

Am I being nostalgic for the old "one shot" photographic mentality, or should I embrace the cut n paste and mask it all together in post new world?


This is your decision unless you are doing work for hire and then the boss decides the rules.

You need to decide how much alternation, either before or after, the capture is allowed.

Is there a difference between removing a piece of trash from the scene before you take the picture or after (what if a child follows you and gets hurt)? What if physically removing the trash meant cross a safety barrier or disturbing a some wildlife (so that their lives are endangered)?

The question is important but in the end there is no correct answer - you need to decide for yourself.



Jun 16, 2013 at 03:57 PM
ckcarr
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


I don't really have a comment - yet, on the original poster's (partial) quote below... More, a question.

David Baldwin wrote:
... articular:

On FM I am seeing more and more "night" photos made up of composite exposures, partly based on day or twilight images, and partly based at night. The results are spectacular, and are very, very difficult (read impossible) to achieve with one exposure taken at night.


So my question is... The OP is stating that he is seeing more and more manipulation on FM, yet then posts links to outside photographers who don't post on FM. I would like more specifics related to this landscape board.

I think a few people here might experiment with the technique, however by far, most photographs posted here on FM are single shots. If not, the original photographer generally will describe their technique as to how they achieved the photograph. If they don't state this, they generally will get called on it here sooner rather than later. Because most photographers following this board are fairly astute and don't like having the wool pulled over their eyes.

So, what I would like to see, are specifics... or is this a general photography question with no relationship to this particular board? If so, throwing the FM Landscape board into the mix isn't quite appropriate, IMO. (We can be guilty of a lot of things however).

Also, with cameras such as the D800e, what was impossible just a few short years ago, now seems much more plausible today.



Jun 16, 2013 at 04:02 PM
 

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MikeW
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


I assume he is referring to images like this: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1217235

But, the OP explains the process on taking the image & doesn't try to pass it off as 1 image. It is a work of art & I believe people will look at it & love it no matter what was involved in taking it.

As I said, I don't see it as a photograph, just art, lovely art at that. That is my opinion anyways



Jun 16, 2013 at 04:15 PM
Camperjim
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


To me it seems very evident, that lots of very impressive landscape images have been heavily manipulated. The manipulation might be minor with only enhancements for white balance, saturation, and sharpening. It could be more extensive with curves, contrast enhancements, and dodging/burning. The enhancements might be even more extensive and include Nik/Topaz filters, HDR, or blending and compositing techniques. By compositing I mean techniques such as substituting a sky or adding features such as a moon or animal. Carefully done, it can be really difficult to determine the amount of PP that has been performed. I think some carefully examination of the featured threads or other popular images will show lots of processing. I will NOT point out all the examples of compositing that I have noted in recent images.

I made this comment on a previous thread and Jim Fox jumped all over me for being negative and accusing other photographers of "Photoshop trickery." I want to make several points clear. First, I prefer simpler processing. I don't need to see every image as spectacular with nuclear colors and skies. In that regard I am very definitely in the minority. Second, I accept the idea that most images have been enhanced. I have no line in mind as to what should be acceptable and what is over the line. I don't see any of these manipulations as being trickery. Maybe the heavy processing is not my style, but I can appreciate the skill others display. Finally, I also think those with some of the best processing skills are also photographers who have lots of experience and put lots of work into their photography. They also get to the right places at the best times but then their processing takes the images beyond what many of us are able to do (or want to do).



Jun 16, 2013 at 04:23 PM
ckcarr
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


But is he?
Or, did he just stumble across something. I'd like to know his answer.
I don't think you can answer for him

However, Since Matt did win the picture of the week, should he have? And should Hakka have won the prior week?? But Matt also had a picture of the day in Outdoor Photographer On-line recently. So, perhaps that's what the audience accepts. Don't take this wrong... I really liked Matt's shot, and his photography in general... I'm only posing a question as relates to this question...

I don't know the answer to that question...

Edited on Jun 16, 2013 at 04:33 PM · View previous versions



Jun 16, 2013 at 04:24 PM
camboman
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


Legitimate? Yes, provided full disclosure is given.

Anytime one blends, composites, pastes, or stacks, just tell the truth and state that you did. The only time I see it as illegitimate is when one blatantly lies about how their image was achieved.

Now wether or not everyone considers these highly manipulated images tasteful depends on where you personally draw the line. Everyone has their own opinion there.



Jun 16, 2013 at 04:26 PM
Sneakyracer
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


All of the images I sell and have on my site are made from a single RAW file. I also do quite a bit of post-processing in regards to color and tonality but the source is always a single file. That is the way I like to work. I only use multiple files for some panoramas but only to stitch the files to create a wider angle of view. Some people value it, some do not care. Everyone is different. I know they look great in print and there is some "honesty" in the work.

I also have seen a LOT of images that look great on the web and forums but when you see a print if ever, even one that is not huge, they look well, let's just say, not so good.

Regarding Outdoor Photographer, let's just say they sometimes (not always!) like a VERY saturated color palette, and leave it at that.



Jun 16, 2013 at 04:34 PM
phlegmon
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


I find some of the blended photos to be very pretty and nice to look at. But some of them also look a bit extreme and unrealistic.


Jun 16, 2013 at 04:39 PM
Phrasikleia
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


gdanmitchell wrote:
I saw one recently that included a very bright Milky Way sky stopped dead in its tracks above a waterfall and cove in which the water had been obviously blurred by an exposure that was several minutes long. My response was complex. On one hand, I was impressed by the thought process that had no doubt led to the visualization of this composite image - consisting of a large aperture shorter exposure of the sky in combination with a smaller-aperture and much longer exposure of the other elements - and could regard it as an interesting and attractive "fantasy landscape"
...Show more

So a view where the stars appear static and the water dynamic: it's interesting that you would associate such a scene with the realm of fantasy.

gdanmitchell wrote:
The tricky thing is that "burden of the real" that photographs carry.


I've often wondered why film (i.e. cinema) does not seem to share this burden.

MikeW wrote:
To me, I define blended images, hdr etc as an art piece rather than a photograph.


You might want to rephrase your point. It sounds as though you're saying that art and photography are mutually exclusive categories, but I doubt that's what you mean.

ckcarr wrote:
Also, with cameras such as the D800e, what was impossible just a few short years ago, now seems much more plausible today.


Yes, an important point. The problem with letting technology be the deciding factor in what is proper "photography" is that you're then drawing your boundary lines on a perpetually expanding surface.



Jun 16, 2013 at 04:49 PM
Ben Horne
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


Whether you're shooting digital or film, a certain amount of post processing is necessary to bring an image to life. That being said, my preference with landscape photography is an image that is true to the scene.

I would much rather look at an unembellished photo of an awe-inspiring moment in nature, than one of average conditions that has been heavily manipulated to make it seem more special than it really was. There are some photographers who work very hard to find these special moments, and capture them with absolute grace -- then there are those who visit during non ideal conditions, and try to force a scene to be something it wasn't. I definitely admire and respect the photographers who put in the effort, choose to visit locations during just the right conditions, and make truly outstanding photos --- not those who "make" them in software.

I have no problem with manual blending or focus stacking --- these methods simply make up for the inabilities of our cameras. I'm not a big fan of moon crimes, sky replacement, or very heavy handed editing that dramatically alters an image in a dishonest manner.

On the note of heavy handed manipulation, I've seen some excellent work out there from photographers with a very defined style. That is fine with me because it's the artist's own interpretation of the scene. They are not trying to pass it off as "real" though, and I find that to be the difference.



Jun 16, 2013 at 05:01 PM
Travis Rhoads
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


Sometimes to get a shot that is true to the scene as we see it...can't be done in a single RAW file...a camera can't capture that...

For me, I have zero acceptance for composites, those images that area created from images taken at different times and even places...I don't consider that photography, and it is what made me stop going to my two photo club meetings in my area...composites were becoming all the rage...

Blending exposures from the same time and place, taken less than a second apart, I have no problem with that, because to me it captures what we see as humans, and can be true to the scene, but not within the realm of what the camera can capture...full moons are one that comes to mind...



Jun 16, 2013 at 05:36 PM
cohibaron
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Blended landscape images - legitimate or not.


We are dealing in art and the photographer's vision. Today's tools allow for a lot more manipulation. Adam's Moonrise over Hernandez shot was heavily manipulated in the darkroom did that make it wrong or was it a master's craft to achieve his vision?


Jun 16, 2013 at 05:36 PM
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