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BIRDS AS ART ON-LINE BULLETIN #30, SEPTEMBER 20, 2000

THANKS FOR INFO AND COMMENTS ON WEB MANNERS, GREAT FILM PRICES, LINK TO BIRDS AS ART GALLERY, LINK TO FLATTERING REVIEW OF JBWR ONE-DAY FIELD SHOOT AND MUST-READ ARTICLE ON DIGITAL MANIPULATION IN NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY, & NEW CANON LENS TECHNOLOGY.

Many thanks to the well more than 100 photographers who supplied contact information as follows:

H.B. Leiserowitz Company 213 13th Street Des Moines, IA 50309 Phone: 515-244-5195

Mark Peterson was the first e-mail to reach. Joel Peres, who responded from New Delhi, India, wins the "Long-Distance InfoAward."

A word about manners on the web. I feel that it is absolutely WRONG for someone to e-mail e asking for a phone number with all the excellent Yellow Pages, search engines, etc. available on-line. Simply do a search and DON'T bother the other guy....... As far as my search for H.P. Lazerowitz or Laserowitz, I did try finding them on line and even had two computer-competent friends search for me. My poor attempt at spelling the name of the company and a problem with my internet connection--most requests came up "Page Not Available" after a five minute wait, led me to ask for help from Bulletin subscribers. As it turned out, I did get a great price on the 500 IS lens from Hunt's in Boston.

Most embarrassing was the fact that when I turned to the "L" page of my personal phone book to enter the REQUESTED INFO, the phone number for H.B. Leiserowitz was there, clearly written in my own hand........

Here are some great current film prices (good until the end of October) from Hunt's (1-800-924-8682):

Fuji Velvia 36 $4.79/roll. Provia F 100 at $4.99/roll.. Fuji Sensia 100-36 at $2.75/roll.

Also: Fuji mailers at $3.75 each.

If you would like to participate in an on-line chat (I am the guest) today, September 20 at 9 p.m. eastern time, visit:

Click Here

(You may have to cut and paste the address as it takes up more than a single line).

Sorry that I did not get this INFO out sooner. To check out many new BIRDS AS ART images, including my favorites from the Pribilofs 2000 IPT:

Click Here

You can reach the PhotoAlley home page at: www.photoalley.com.

Click on Communities to join for free and find out about their great photo contests with cash prizes of $1000 and more. Most will enjoy surfing around the rest of the site as well.

To read a wonderfully flattering review of the August 26th One-Day Field Shoot at Jamaica Wildlife Refuge by Sean T. Noonan (who drove all the way from Boston!), visit Sean's site at:

http://www.stnphotography.com/ipt.html

Here is a wonderfully written article by student Philip Yoder on the current (somewhat sad) state of digital manipulation in nature photography. It is a must read.

"Nature photography is one of the last bastions of pictures most people accept as real.. Those who lie about the reality of their photos are taking advantage of everyone else and undercutting the basis of all our success." - Gary Braasch, chairman of the North American Nature Photography Association's Environment Committee.

Nature photographers are worried, excited and in utter disagreement about what is ethical in the growing realm of digital manipulation. With heavyweights Galen Rowell, a self-proclaimed purist, and Art Wolfe, a lover of digital technology, on opposite sides of the page, nature photographers have been engaged in a heated debate for several years on the implications that digital manipulation will have on their profession.

The North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) has remained eerily silent on the subject, perhaps waiting for the dust to settle before proposing guidelines. But with some photographers embracing the artistic endeavors of digitally enhanced nature photographers and some utterly opposed to any manipulation, NANPA must propose some ethical guidelines to keep the two fields separate. An upstart group, FoundView, has already proposed a labeling system, but how far must these rules or suggestions go, and just what is considered "lying about reality"? Everyone knows that nature photographers have been manipulating photos in the dark room for decades. Ansel Adams, one of the fathers of the profession, once removed the initials "LP" from a hill in a photo of a winter sunrise over Lone Pine, California. Adams, and almost all current photographers, also routinely dodged (under-exposed) and burned (over-exposed) his images in the darkroom for particular effects. Kenneth Brower, who witnessed Adams's darkroom techniques says, "The small adjustments to reality that occurred in Ansel Adams's darkroom, if crimes at all, were misdemeanors. That photographs should be 'straightforward records of what the photographer witnessed and recorded on film in a single instant' still seems a worthy ideal, despite the fact that some of our greatest have stretched and jiggered it." Until the last ten years, these techniques were limited to experts in a darkroom. But with the advent of converting photos to enormous digital files, even amateur photographers can manipulate their photos in ways the darkroom magicians never could. One of the first and most prominent occurrences of digital manipulation was a 1982 photograph of Egypt's pyramids, in which National Geographic altered several elements to squeeze the pyramids closer for its cover shot. The magazine apologized, but editor Bill Allen says that almost twenty years later, he is nevertheless asked, "Do you guys still move pyramids? This reminds all of us just how fragile our credibility is. If you lose it, it's almost impossible to ever get it back. It's why we're such fanatics about disclosure now at National Geographic." The issue exploded again in the mid nineties when celebrated nature photographer, Art Wolfe, published a collection of photos entitled, Migrations. The collection featured herds of animals in amazing patterns, revealing what most thought to be the natural aesthetics of animals in movement. It was later discovered that about a third of the 98 images in the book were digitally manipulated. Wolfe cloned animals, such as zebras and ibises, to make the herds and flocks look more impressive and "artistic." Straggling individuals that interfered with the pattern he was trying to portray were removed from the image because they were "wandering in the wrong direction." Migrations sparked a myriad of ethical questions. What is nature after all? Kenneth Brower asked, "Whose patterns is the nature photographer supposed to celebrate - nature's or his own? In the human herd, that animal wandering in the wrong direction would be the Buddha, or Luther, or Einstein. . Animals turned in the wrong direction are a truth of nature." In a Photographic Society of America Journal essay, Colin Smith writes, "My goal as a nature photographer is to portray the beauty of nature, not to try and make it more interesting or beautiful. I'm not up to the task." But more than the essence of nature, Migrations raised the question of disclosure. How should one go about telling the viewer that an image has been manipulated, or should the viewer know at all? Wolfe included a few words about digital technology in the introduction, but made no mention of which photos he manipulated in the captions. He defended the book saying, "This is not a biology book. It's an art book based on nature. We led the way in a beautiful new technology, and I'm proud of that. I think this concern with computers is an hysterical reaction." Perhaps Wolfe didn't understand the public's relation to photographs. Because of personal use, people are accustomed to photographs portraying exactly what they saw through the viewfinder. No one wants to be deceived, even if the photo is beautiful. It is the equivalent of describing an extraordinary scene that never happened. We call that a lie, not art. Wolfe has since published another book with manipulated photos, although this time the altered photos were marked with a delta symbol. ".we figured out that people were upset less because we used the technology than because we did not always say we had." But, of course! People love to read fiction, but they don't want to read it under the label of truth. People love art, but they don't expect it in a nonfiction photographic environment, such as a book about animals in movement. (See figures 1 and 2.) Digitally altered photos can be beautiful, but the audience needs to be aware of what it is viewing. One helpful test that can key us in to why Wolfe's Migrations created a breach of trust is Tom Wheeler's "essence of the image" test that he defines in Phototruth or Photofiction?. Is the manipulation highlighting an aspect of the image, or is it the entire point of the image? In Wolfe' case, his manipulations of the patterns of traveling animals were what made many of the images so fantastic. In this case, the manipulations should have been disclosed in the captions. Period. While Wolfe may not care about the public's perception, Galen Rowell thinks quite differently. A photo of a roaring brown bear once hung in Rowell's gallery. When people would ask him how he managed to get the shot and survive, he would tell them (as did the caption under the photo) that the bear was an "actor." Rowell saw how people reacted to this disclosure, and he eventually removed the photo, fearing they would view all his work through distrusting eyes. Rowell recently had one of his favorite photos, Rainbow Over the Potala Palace, (Figure 3) blown up for sale as a poster. When the print portraying a rainbow ending at the Dalai Llama's residence didn't sell well, Rowell speculated that viewers thought the photo was a composite. It was just too stunning for an untrusting audience that had been duped before. As a testament to the divisiveness and disagreement, a three-year discussion about the issue on www.photo.net has garnered more than 85 responses from professional and semi-professional photographers. The responses run the spectrum. "Ethical? In the end, who really cares? If you like the results, it's fine," says Bob Atkins, a frequent contributor. Frederick Thurber is 180 degrees away. "The public is not discriminating enough to look at the photo credits and say, 'Hmmm, that is Arthur Morris and he does real photography', or 'Hmmm, that is Art Wolfe and he's an 'artist' so his work could have been altered.' Nope, the public now thinks all nature photography is fake." The discussion covers a myriad of subjects, and reaches no clear conclusions, but the convergence of opinions indicates that something must happen. NANPA continues to sit on its hands, perhaps not wishing to upset any of its "artistic" members. "[NANPA] could only suggest, not enforce," says Arthur Morris, a well-known bird photographer. "And several big name pros have already told them that they will caption their images the way that they want to. To me, this is a most unfortunate situation." Another professional photographer and NANPA member, Warren Williams, feels similarly. "I firmly believe that [NANPA] should set such standards, not only for the viewer of the images, but to distinguish the difference between a photographer who spent hours, days, or weeks, in the field to get that perfect shot." Some believe that if the end result of the photograph looks realistic, then what's the big deal? But photography is a process that is tied to its historical "rules." Sure, someone can run down the basketball court with the ball tucked under her arm and throw it in the basket, but she'll be called for traveling. While the end result is the same - the ball goes in the basket - the process of getting there is important. Whether one calls it the grammar of photography or simply an unwritten code, the public expects photographers to adhere to a standard. Without some clearly stated guidelines, the fate of nature photography is in definite jeopardy. With this in mind, a group of volunteer professional photographers created FoundView in 1997. It is simply "a label that helps viewers discern whether realistic-looking photographs are real or synthesized." FoundView divides manipulations into two categories: those involving light and those involving forms and shapes. Manipulating light to a degree that doesn't deceive viewers is acceptable, and manipulating shapes and forms are never acceptable. While FoundView has lengthy philosophical discussions to back up its notions, the organization asks merely two questions to discern a FoundView photo from a non-FoundView photo. "Has there been any post-shutter manipulation of any forms or shapes in the photograph? Would the typical viewer feel deceived about any aspect of the photograph?" If the answer to both questions is no, then the individual or publisher is free to use the FoundView label (Figure 4). In forming FoundView, the organizers addressed an essential problem to previous labeling systems. Although it would make more sense to label the digitally manipulated images instead of the unmanipulated images, who is going to comply? Certainly not the image maker whose goal was to deceive the public in the first place. By placing the label on the unmanipulated images, compliance would theoretically be higher. Presently, any photographer found "faking" shots can plead that he or she is an "artist," while anyone found faking photos with a clear label would have trouble resurrecting his or her career. The FoundView label is a thoughtful and appropriate response to the growing distrust among image viewers. "Too few photographers, I think," says Kenneth Brower, "appreciate how directly the new technology aims at the heart of the credibility that distinguishes this art form from others" That credibility may be retained with a label. FoundView could work for several reasons. First, it considers the viewer. "Without viewers' high expectations," the organization states, "realistic photos wouldn't have any credibility at all." While this a fairly straightforward sentence, many who believe all ethical decisions belong to the photographer would disagree. FoundView also keeps the tests extremely simple and philosophical instead of spelling out long lists of rules that no photographer would want to read or think about anyway. In the author's opinion, something must, and will, be done in the near future regarding labeling of "true" nature photographs. The argument that the end product is what matters does not hold up because photography is a process to which the public has become accustomed. The FoundView label shows great promise, but public trust will have to diminish even more (and it will) before photographers will consistently label their work. "A decade ago, when I saw a spectacular natural history image, my reaction was always, 'Wow, that is beautiful.' Today, my first reaction is, 'is that a straight shot or was it done on a computer?'" - Arthur Morris, professional bird photographer.

"Photography is at a crossroads. The fate of its trustworthiness is in the hands of its practitioners. Its integrity and unique position among the arts should not be discarded lightly." - Creators of FoundView.

You can e-mail Philip Yoder at is philyoder@hotmail.com

You can e-mail me on the road until 4 October at samsgrandpa@att.net

The FoundView web site address is www.FoundView.org

Canon will soon introduce a new 400mm f/4.0 DO-E lens with a diffractive optical element that reduces the weight of the lens by 36%. For additional INFO, click on:

http://www.canon.com/do-info/index.html

I have held the prototype in my hands. With the tripod collar and hood removed, this tiny lens will weigh in at under 4 pounds. For me, the big attraction would be the use of this new technology to produce a 600mm IS lens that weighs about 8 pounds..... The lenses using this new technology are reputed to be sharper than the current lenses (hard to believe, for me, considering how sharp the new super-tele IS lenses are). In addition, the lens using this technology should actually be CHEAPER.

I am often asked why Canon is always light-years ahead of Nikon (and others) in developing new lenses. Canon is a huge company making unimaginably large profits from a huge variety of business related products and machines including copiers and color printers among many, many others. (A recent visit to the Canon Product Expo at the Javits Center in NYC brought this home quite clearly.) The camera division is able to use some of these huge profits for research and development, thus usually leaving other camera & lens-only companies years behind (see the current line-up of both hand-holdable and tripod-mounted Canon IS lenses). The great successes and innovations made by the camera division then add luster to the Canon name.

Best and great picture making to all,

Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Listing of Archived Bulletins



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