Winning NSS Salon Images Now on the Web!

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Re: Winning NSS Salon Images Now on the Web!

Postby Dave Bunnell » Nov 5, 2008 11:34 pm

Figured I would weigh in, since several of the images on the Photo Salon page were mine, and I haven't seen a post from any of the other featured entrants.

Looking over all the print and photo salon entries, I don't see anything that looks like digital "trickery" to me. Things have been sharpened, tonally corrected, maybe selectively lightened or darkened in shadows or highlights, etc....all those things that just try to render it as the eye sees it. Sometimes that helps a lot in making up for poor exposure, etc. But "the line" is pretty clear between digitally manipulated and enhanced, just ask the question: Was everything in that photo really in the scene when shot? This invariably means elements of another photo were added, BUT ONE THAT WAS NOT SHOT IN THE SAME PLACE. You might add multiple exposures of the same scene, as in HDR; you might stitch a couple photos (my guess is that's what was done in Sean Robert's beautiful winning print; you might take a piece out of another frame taken at the same spot, with better lighting, expression on the model, etc. and replace part of your frame. All these are legitimate as they don't lie about what was there: they just portray it in the most optimal way.

Years ago, I believe I had the first digital composition to win a Salon Medal. It was pre-digital camera, but I combined some slide scans to put a diver into the drop of a soda straw. Then I output it on a film recorder. There were more than a few cries of foul play thrown around after that. Yet no one could contend I was trying to represent it as anything "real"...it was very obviously trickery. It was even entered in the humor category (and may be the only time a humor entry had won a medal, much to my shock). Later the "enhanced" category was rewritten to direct such trick shots into that area. But of course, only one overall medal has ever been given, not one per category. The latter is just a way of being up front about an image. BTW, cavers without clothing go in the same category...

The idea that certain manipulations should or shouldn't be allowed would be pointless and unworkable, beyond the "real or unreal" test. The same issues apply with slides as soon as you place them in a scanner: choices must be made about sharpening, color balance, etc. All these things are done, and can be variably controlled, in most digital cameras these days. So it would be pointless to say you can't modify a digital photo being entered...every camera applies some degree of settings to every photo made, and its not hard to figure out that you can really add some pizazz by turning up the saturation applied by the camera.

I prefer doing all these things myself in Photoshop, and have all the supplemental processing in the camera turned off. Shooting RAW images is even better as no processing is applied by the camera at all. Besides the increase in dynamic range, the other reason I shoot them is for control over white balance, AFTER the photo is shot. As mentioned earlier in this thread, is easy to set white balance on most any camera (usually just some fixed presets) but what wasn't really well pointed out its that its not so easy in post-processing. Say you were set on daylight and used white flashbulbs for your photo. They would be very orange looking! Photoshop has no simple "adjust white balance" button other than a crude thing that finds the lightest area and defines it as white...and adjusts the rest accordingly. You get some really entertaining results if your photo doesn't really have a white spot. But in a RAW photo, you can adjust the white balance to a new numerical value as you open it. Very handy, because you can see the effects, and then apply the same to a bunch of photos if they are off.

I've rambled on enough...happy shooting!
Last edited by Dave Bunnell on Nov 17, 2008 10:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Winning NSS Salon Images Now on the Web!

Postby rcoomer » Nov 16, 2008 10:02 pm

I'll weigh in here. I've won best of show with heavily manipulated images, such as the Enlightenment of Buddha Bob, and lightly manipulated images such as Cathedral Chasm. All of my images have been manipulated either through choice of lighting, multiple exposures, multiple stitches, dodge and burn, subtraction, cropping, extra contrast, mirroring and much more as I felt the image needed artisitically. Ask me what I did and I will tell you. Nothing hidden, though some may not recognize it. I prefer subtle surrealism at times, but usually it's pretty easy to tell when I enter one in salon, or even the fine art salon. (Referring to my below the surface series of cave / medical imagery.

All photography is a manipulation of reality by squeezing it through a distorting lens and on to 2d media. Period. Whether it is photojournalism or art, it's still manipulated. What you choose include or exclude, is the highest form of manipulation. Shoot a photo of a rough looking man with a gun and pained look and he's a villain/killer, pan back and show a second man in the same frame holding a knife to someone's neck and the first man is now a hero.

No 2d print can match what we experience in life, with manipulation we can get a closer proximity, but not a match. Consider Ansal Adams who spent 80% of his time in the darkroom perfecting his prints.

In the digital print salon, imperfect photos generally are not accepted. They will look at them and say this is the digital category, why didn't you fix them? Remember salons are supposed to be the best of the best, not the average of the so-so, so everyone can compete and win. To be accepted is an honor, to place or even win is a big complement and challenge. It is a competition.

There was a traditional print - print salon that died with few entries, and the few entries were heavily manipulated by the process of printing the prints. It wasn't typical photo prints.

It's up to the judges to decide if an image is manipulated or not, and if it is worthy of the medal. Even if we don't agree with them. That's how it works in all competitions.

In my opinion, my best image didn't even place. Grizzly Addington. I knew a portrait wouldn't when I entered, but did so anyway to show something different from the norm.
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Re: Winning NSS Salon Images Now on the Web!

Postby wyandottecaver » Nov 17, 2008 7:21 pm

I like Dave's "was it there or not" criteria.
I'm not scared of the dark, it's the things IN the dark that make me nervous. :)
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Re: Winning NSS Salon Images Now on the Web!

Postby Teresa » Nov 17, 2008 9:01 pm

wyandottecaver wrote:I like Dave's "was it there or not" criteria.


One of the photos I have gotten the most compliments on is a portrait of a older friend of mine playing with a bug. The image was great, the foreground was great, I caught him at the right moment when he was unselfconscious about what he was doing--but there was this other girl behind him, all bright colors and elbows akimbo between him and the sky. I couldn't ask her to move-- it would have destroyed the instant. I took the photo anyway, and spent about 4-5 hours editing her out, and using layering in Photoshop to replace her with more blank sky to better focus on my friend. (There already was sky in the photo, and I didn't manipulate him, or the fore and midground at all,except a little edge fussing to get rid of the paste halo.) It took that photo from a snapshot to a portrait. I gave him a copy...never dreaming that he would glom onto that image like he did. At a recent retirement event, they were doing a memory quilt for him, and a 'through the years' slide show. My husband turned the photo into a photo quilt square for him--but we were dumbfounded to find that someone else had done the same thing, and that the fellow who put together the slide show selected it as the very last slide, which stayed on the screen at least 10 minutes or more. I'm not known as an artsy photographer-- I take pictures to illustrate my writing because I have to. I was a bit embarrassed, actually.
I guess the photo fails the "was it there, or not" test -- Obviously the girl was there, and I chose to "make art" and get rid of her as a distraction. It would have been nearly impossible to do this in my old b&w darkroom without cutting negatives and sandwiching, and I doubt if it would have been possible to do it with computer precision. I didn't "add" anything-- I just subtracted the girl, imitating the way old portraits were shot against a blank or swirly background.
Art is in the mind of the beholder, and skill is in chipping away all the parts of marble which don't look like David.
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Re: Winning NSS Salon Images Now on the Web!

Postby Dave Bunnell » Nov 17, 2008 10:40 pm

Teresa raises a good point regarding the real or unreal distinction with her example of removing a person in the background. I've done that myself with cave photos, though more often it is just a flash-bearing arm or my own foot when using a really wide angle lens.

So this suggests a refinement to the real or unreal test of a manipulated photo, which is "could you have made this picture without removing whatever you took out?" In Teresa's case, she could easily have made the picture without that other person in the background, just like you can make a perfect photo in most instances without someones errant foot or hand showing up. Granted, in both cases you may take a little license by cloning in something that is not the true background hidden behind whatever you took out.

On the other hand, I think you have to call a photo digitally altered (and enter it in the appropriate Photo Salon Category of "Enhanced and Surreal" ) if you remove something that is a permanent fixture of the scene, like a formation in the background which interferes with your perfect backlit formation against a black background. One of the show caves I've shot has a signature helictite named the Dragon for its shape, but its nestled in a group of other helictites and hard to make it stand out in photos. I saw a shot from another cave photographer of it and was surprised how well they had managed to isolate it. But I realized they probably did it by simply removing the other helictites from around it (easy because it was against a black background). Not a big deal in terms of just creating art, but it was published in a book that included a section about the cave. I thought it disingenuous because it depicts something that is not real, and the caption doesn't fess up to the alteration.



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Re: Winning NSS Salon Images Now on the Web!

Postby wyandottecaver » Nov 18, 2008 7:11 pm

In teresa's case I assume she wasn't entering the photo in a contest. I manipulate non contest photos all the time.
I'm not scared of the dark, it's the things IN the dark that make me nervous. :)
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