Digital manipulation – What is and what isn’t

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Digital manipulation – what is and what isn’t?

Beyond ethics, what can we really consider as acceptable nowadays?

Before we speak about manipulation let’s not forget pure and plain lies. Many photographers have been caught lying about location, context, subject manipulation on their photographs – beforehand this is about ethics, has nothing to do with digital post processing.

In spite of the natural grey area this issue implicates I believe that to make matters simpler and easier there is a perspective we must consider, as long as we are familiar with the analogue/film process.

Plenty of times I read or engage in conversations where it is affirmed that almost everything one can do with Photoshop or with any other imaging editing software is digital manipulation. Well, it is not. For those that have no idea of what is possible within the analogue realm it is hard to realise that plenty of what we can achieve with Photoshop nowadays was also achievable using film development and/or enlarging techniques during the film era.

Just a glimpse of what was possible with film development: using different chemical solutions, altering dilution ratios, changing temperature of the diluted chemicals, increasing or decreasing development time resulted in changes in the shadow and highlight areas of the negative. Furthermore, the fine silver halide particles “changed” when exposed to different chemical combinations/brands, the output changing accordingly. But, even prior to this step we could expose a film one or two EV’s below or above its nominal sensitivity (ISO) changing dynamic range and therefore the shadow/highlight relationship and rendering. We could compensate for this in the development stage or increase the desired effect changing recommended development times.

Once the negative was ready to be enlarged a whole new frontier opened up: more or less sharpness could be achieved changing the aperture in the enlarger’s lens, cropping, recomposing, correction of converging/diverging lines, enhancing shadow or highlight areas using masks or overexposing certain parts of the image. This was a very long process, trial and error, undo was not possible. I spent hours and hours of my life locked inside the darkroom experimenting, enhancing and fine tuning my images. I have to confess that we’ve gained a lot with the digital process, our life being much easier today. Undo is probably the best command the digital era invented.

Last but not the least, print development was the last frontier. And again, different papers combined with different chemicals, temperatures and timing provided exceptionally different results. Selenium toning was just one of the final touches available, changing a print’s colour and making the image more permanent by bonding selenium particles directly to the metallic silver in the emulsion. There were a few different toners usable to finish the prints, all of them providing dissimilar results. The output of fibre-based or resin coated papers was also substantially distinctive.

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Ansel Adams book trilogy “The Camera”, “The Negative”, “The Print” is mandatory if you want to get to know (and learn) about the extraordinary potential of the analogue process. Ansel Adams was a master, second to none when it comes to exposure, development and printing techniques. “Manipulation” of the original image using analogue processes was absolutely mind blogging.

In my opinion, all that we could do to enhance and improve the original image back in those days was acceptable and therefore, my opinion again, acceptable nowadays within the digital medium. I do not consider digital manipulation everything that one can do to improve, enhance and potentiate the final result, starting from a RAW file (JPEG SOOC already have a considerable amount of manipulation/enhancement). I prefer to tag this process as “digital enhancement”, not manipulation. Jerry Uelsmann’s entire photographic carreer was based upon image manipulation using analogue techniques and his work demonstrates what was possible using analogue techniques to heavily manipulate one, or a set of photographs by creating a new reality, a completely new interpretation of a scene, clearly manipulated.

So before adding “digital” to this conversation I believe we must discern enhancement from manipulation. Putting this openly, Adams’ work is the epitome of enhancement and Uelsmann’s work is the embodiment of manipulation.

Of course, being unaware of the history, complexity and potential of the analogue process doesn’t help. Roots are always important, if not critical, for a better understanding of the present.

If you’re not adding or subtracting objects, subjects or any other items to the image or altering those that were present when the shutter was released I do not think you’ll be manipulating. If you’re using image editing software to crop, reframe, for perspective correction, to enhance shadows or recover highlights, to sharpen, to saturate or desaturate you’ll be enhancing the RAW file (the “negative”) and this is not manipulation.

John Gallo

 

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Guantanamo – If the light goes out Edmund Clark

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“When you are suspended by a rope you can recover, but every time I see a rope I remember. If the light goes out unexpectedly in a room, I am back in my cell.” Binyam Mohamed, Prisoner #1458.

For eight years the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba has been home to hundreds of men, all Muslim, all detained in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on suspicion of varying degrees of complicity or intent to carry out acts of terror against American interests. Labelled “the worst of the worst”, most of these men were guilty of nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many fell prey to the US military policy of paying bounty money for anyone that the Pakistani secret service, border guards or village leaders on both sides of the blurred Afghan–Pakistan border considered a possible or potential “suspect”, thereby becoming currency in the newly defined “War on Terror”.

Held in legal limbo for years and repeatedly interrogated, almost all have been released without charge, and only a very few have been tried in the special military commissions set up for the purpose. Guantanamo: If the Light Goes Out illustrates three experiences of home: at the Guantanamo naval base, home to the American community; in the camp complex where the detainees have been held; and in the homes where former detainees, never charged with any crime, find themselves trying to rebuild lives. These notions of home are brought together in an unsettling narrative, which evokes the process of disorientation central to the Guantanamo interrogation and incarceration techniques. It also explores the legacy of disturbance that such experiences have in the minds and memories of these men.

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More here: https://www.edmundclark.com/works/guantanamo/#1

 

Review of the Profoto A1 – The Future in Mobile Flash? By Tina Eisen, Lens Rentals blog

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A couple of months ago I got my hands on the newest addition to the Profoto family, the Profoto A1. The first on-camera flash of the Swedish brand, which can be doubled up as an off-camera flash and as an air remote with built-in TTL for triggering additional A1 units, as well as the other models of the Profoto universe.

As one could imagine, this announcement came as a surprise to many, as Profoto is known for creating premium studio strobes, particularly their Pro Pack systems, which outclass (and out price) much of the competition.

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Being 99% studio photographer, I had my reservations. A speedlight? Oh, no way, speedlights make everything look so artificial! But then, Profoto is known for their superb quality of light, so I might just give it a shot in the hope to have my prejudice proven wrong.

More here:https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2017/11/review-of-the-profoto-a1-the-future-in-mobile-flash/

What’s in a photo?

Terror

Terror é algo a que nos habituámos nos últimos anos. Sabemos que nenhum lugar é seguro, nenhuma cidade está a salvo. Esta fotografia retrata, de forma teatral, a potencial ameaça que todos enfrentamos nas nossas ruas, aeroportos, teatros, ciclovias. A postura do esqueleto, misto de admiração e terror, parece contrastar com a calma impassível dos muçulmanos que assistem aos movimentos da marioneta com crítica atenção. Os muçulmanos não são todos terroristas, longe disso – sabemos que a maioria do povo muçulmano não subscreve o terrorismo – mas a associação dos elementos nesta imagem parece querer levar-nos a tirar conclusões simplistas, imediatas.

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No mesmo cenário, momentos antes: uma criança crescida demais aninha-se como pode num carrinho de bebé, escondendo-se atrás de um saco gigante de M&M’s, olhando de forma medrosa, desconfiada até, para o esqueleto. Será este um sinal dos tempos? Assimetrias galopantes entre cidadãos do mesmo país, miséria, quase fome e excessos convivendo lado a lado?

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 70-200 F4 L USM. Leicester Square, London.

 

Floresta Negra – Workshops de sensibilização

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Temos realizado dezenas de workshops de sensibilização, por todo o país, desde que há ano e meio fundámos o Movimento Floresta Negra. Temos levado aos portugueses mais jovens a floresta. A nossa floresta. Acções de sensibilização que visam os mais pequenos, a sua relação com a floresta, a importância extrema de conservação deste recurso, as vantagens para o meio-ambiente e para todos nós quando assumidamente nos orientamos para a conservação da natureza.

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Atitudes preventivas na relação com a floresta são igualmente abordadas – muitos “recados” para levar para casa, especialmente em zonas de incidência rural.

Já chegámos a centenas de crianças e jovens, sempre fora da época dos incêndios – para nós, é no Inverno que se apagam os incêndios e os mais novos parecem concordar.

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O Movimento Floresta Negra tem o patrocínio da McDonalds, o apoio da ANPC e da Liga de Bombeiros Portugueses e o Jornal Público como media partner.