Tag Archives: honesty

Truth And Honesty In Photography

The View From Emmons Vista, Sunrise Area of Mount Rainier National Park
The View From Glacier Overlook, Sunrise Area, Mount Rainier National Park

Yesterday, I happened to look at the National Parks Traveler’s Facebook post about my latest article on glaciers, titled “Searching For Glaciers In National Parks.” There were 5 comments for that post, one of which (a guy) accused me by name of photoshopping lakes in the two images above. Two or three others (guys) were all quick to enforce this guy’s comment that yeah, they could see it themselves. I’d photoshopped that lake into a photo. Insert exaggerated eyeroll.

I replied to that guy (who claims he knows Mount Rainier intimately, so that’s why he would see I’d photoshopped lakes into these images) that if he looked closer at the top first image, he’d see that’s not a lake but a large shadowed area since the image was captured shortly after sunrise. He’d also see the squiggly line of the river running through that shadowed area.

In the second image, there actually, truly, really is a lovely glacier-fed turquoise-blue lake there below the mountain. You can see it if you hike to Glacier Overlook in the Sunrise Area. If you go to Flickr.com and type the words “Glacier Overlook Mount Rainier” into Flickr’s search field, you’ll pull up all sorts of images – many of that same area, where you’ll see the lake there.

I stand by my photography, and so does the Traveler. I’m a pretty damned good photographer (yes, I’m tooting my own horn here), and I have no need to do something stupid like photoshop into an image something that wasn’t originally there. I don’t want my street cred ruined. If I ever did change my original image in any way – like clone out (remove) something, like a tracking collar from wildlife, then I would definitely indicate that. An honest photographer will do that.

Here’s another example for you. How many of you have seen awesome star images of the Watchman over the Virgin River in Zion National Park? You can see so clearly the mountain and the river and these amazing stars overhead. I’m here to tell you that what you are looking at is a blended image. One (or more) image(s) was/were captured of the mountain and river at an earlier time, when there was more sunlight, and then blended with the dark, starry image. Go back to Flickr.com and type in the words “night photography zion utah” and see what pulls up. Then, see how many photographers will actually tell you whether or not that star shot is a blended one. Does it make the image less lovely? No, it’s still beautiful, but the photographer should, at least, indicate that the image is a composite of one or more shots taken at different times of the day. The really good photographers do that (well, at least one of them that I happen to admire who is honest about his shots). The image below is what the place actually looks like at 2 a.m. on a February morning, when the atmospheric conditions are at their clearest.

A Starry Winter Sky Over The Watchman, Zion National Park

To that guy’s credit, he did apologize, once I replied to his comment, defending my images, he did take a look at them on a bigger monitor (I get the gist he was bragging he has a 30-inch monitor, so what, he’s a better photographer than I? I dunno.) and realized that yes, I was right about my images and no, I had not photoshopped anything into my already beautiful images (the “beautiful images” part are my words, not his). He then went on to tell me how he was intimately familiar with Mount Rainier because yadda yadda yadda. At least he apologized, so that’s something.

Another photographer with whom I am acquainted once noted that, if you are photographing for journalistic work, then you should be honest and leave your image as-is. If you are photographing for fine art purposes, then knock yourself out. I agree, to a point. Yes, you should absolutely be honest with those journalistic images. Since my imagery is used for the National Parks Traveler, you can sure bet that I not only use my best images, but I also don’t photoshop anything into or out of them. I do sharpen and use other editing tools to bring out the texture or add more color saturation or more brightness. Standard stuff. The camera captures the data, but sometimes, you have to pull the data details out with a little editing tool help.

As for fine art imagery, it’s the same thing. I’m not going to add that new sky feature Photoshop now has, where you can add a beautiful sky to your images in case the sky in your photo was blah on the day you captured the photo (as you can tell, I’m not a fan of something like that). If I photograph a beautiful close-up of wildlife, then I probably would remove the tracking collar, and would indicate I’d done that, in addition to saying the close-up was made with a telephoto lens.

It’s all about honesty and truth, and photographers who adhere to that policy fare much better than those that do not, in the end. So, if someone challenges you or accuses you of doing something fake to your image when you know you did not, you should stand up and fight back. You’ll still have plenty of naysayers just because they think they know better and are jerks about it – can’t fix that, unfortunately, but you’ll have championed your images and your talent as a photographer. Don’t stay silent and let the dickheads think they are right.

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