1140 – Something In The Night

This is an image from yesterday afternoon, taken shortly before 5pm. No sun, bright colors nevertheless.

Regarding our discussion about composite photographs, Techfan wrote an interesting comment to the last post:

Photography is a creative medium but because of its technical possibilities it can also be a vehicle for some version of the truth. It is and has always been the responsibility of the photographer to tread that line between creativity and what passes for truth.

This “can also be a vehicle for some version of the truth” may be one reason why people so often get passionate about “manipulated photography”, Basically it is also the tenor of Paul Maxim’s reply:

Manipulation is OK when the manipulator does it openly. And I might say, I have no problem with that at all. Normally I disclose such things whenever I feel they are essential. Thus I may remove some dirt on the ground without notice, but I won’t change major elements of the image.

For the image in question, the one in “1138 – The Man That Got Away“, I have not properly disclosed it, instead I have hinted at it in form of a question. I was interested in the general question of how these things are received.

It’s exactly as I wrote: I have made a series of images, none of them was good enough, either the left or the right background was obstructed, and I have combined the image from two exposures. Thus this is not equivalent to the “sunset that has never happened”, all parts of this image “happened” within about 30 seconds, but still, I would not have been able to make the image in one exposure. It is fiction in a very restricted kind of way.

One of the reasons why I asked, was that I did not feel entirely comfortable with it. It was fairly clear to me that I had to disclose it, but as I said, there are things that I clone out in many images, and I really wanted to find out to what extent disclosure is expected by my visitors.

Just to give you another example for reference, there is one image, “542 – The Show Is Over, Say Good-Bye“, one of my Photoshop tutorials, where I have taken the image of an empty stair and added a person. I had taken the image of the person just a minute before (or after, I can’t remember), and I had taken the image from a slightly different perspective with a different focal length. To make the person match, I had to apply some perspective distortions. Of course I had disclosed it, yes, I had even explained the process in detail, making it a tutorial. And I’m pretty proud of the image, I might say 🙂

In any case, that is about as far as I might go. I don’t replace skies. It’s not that I condemn it, it just that it does not interest me enough to make it worth the effort, and, besides, I just can’t do it as well as my friend Ted Byrne 🙂

I plan to add another static page to the menu, a page where I explain what I do regularly, why I do it, and what you can expect of my images when I don’t explicitly describe the process. Basically I’ll re-use some content of this post and make it easily accessible. This could as well go into the “About” page, but I feel it is important enough to warrant a page of its own. Does anybody have an idea for a short title, preferably a single word? I have thought of “Process” or maybe simply “Disclosure“, but I am not sure if that properly communicates the intention.

The Song of the Day is “Something In The Night” from Bruce Springsteen’s 1978 album “Darkness on the Edge of Town”. Hear it on YouTube.

6 thoughts on “1140 – Something In The Night”

  1. I love the colors in this image! Along with that perfect line of the handlebars (enhanced by the pedal), stabilizing against the tilt.

    “One of the reasons why I asked, was that I did not feel entirely comfortable with it. It was fairly clear to me that I had to disclose it”

    Ah, I think that is the key. If there’s a little voice whispering within, then absolutely disclose the process and let the viewers make of that whatever they will.

  2. i love the colours … so vivid … love the bicycle found, alone propped against the wall. i dont think one needs to disclose anything unless asked or its a requirement of submission or something … its ALL about the final image – how you get there doesnt matter. >>> Gina

  3. Andreas, I agree with April. But we also would benefit by remembering that painters do exclude or include elements that they think will add to or distract from the finished scene as they “see” it in their mind’s eye. So if people accept that painters do it, then why can they not accept that photographers do it, too?

    If a photograph is supposed to convey a story of an event and the photographer’s intent is to render it exactly as he/she experienced it happening – then of course there should be no compositing, adding or subtracting – otherwise as evidence in a court of law, this photo would not stand up.

    But if the intention is to convey an emotion, then – much of the time, it may be necessary to do some “diddling.”

  4. Oops, didn’t remember to comment on the image! I love your use of the Dutch angle here. It makes i seem that were it not for the bicycle, the building might fall over. It makes the bike even more important as a subject than if you’d shot it horizontally straight.

    And those yummy colors! I can hardly stop looking away from them long enough to comment!

  5. Hi Andre, I enjoy looking at your images and do wonder sometimes at the level of post-processing (more in awe than disapproval 🙂 ).

    I agree with Paul Maxim and what I think Techfan is saying. In fact, I’ll take Techfan’s comment a little further and say that one of photography’s unique abilities is that it can capture something closer to reality than any other medium. Given this ability, one photographic pursuit would be to capture images that say something about the real world.

    I believe many people expect this of photography and don’t like to be fooled by an image that “looks real enough” but is a fiction.

    As a [amateur] photographer I look at an image from two points of view. Firstly the art and skill required to capture the image with a camera and secondly the art and skill of post-processing.

    If the image is 99% camera work then it’s a photograph. Otherwise it’s a photo-illustration. The “99%” is a contrived number but I use it to make the point that a “true” photograph has minimal post-processing.

    Each photographer has to decide where the 99% line is for their work and even on a per image basis. One of the key questions for positioning the “line” is this: does the editing change the meaning of photograph?

    [There’s a similar issue when taking the shot in the first place, but that’s another story 🙂 ]

    If an image has been edited and it’s meaning has changed (“The Man that Got Away” is an example) then I would prefer this is disclosed. Even a discrete tag that says “photo-illustration” would suffice.

    There’s another reason for disclosing the nature of an image. Perversely, I have friends who look at my “true” photographs and ask if they are real — when they were present when I took the photograph! People can look at a true image and not be convinced [in their own mind] it’s the real thing. Part of the problem here is their photograph is poorly composed and so they regard my well composed image with suspicion.

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