Monday, June 21, 2010

A Photographic Challenge

On a recent workshop in Cape Cod, my students and I had just parked our cars at a beach wayside parking lot and excitement filled the air! All of us would soon be facing one of several challenges that this weekend workshop presented.

When we think of a lighthouse, images of the lone sentinel are often associated with bluffs, cliffs or beach or a rocky out-cropping, often surrounded by pounding ocean surf.

Well, as you can clearly see in the first photograph, this particular lighthouse was nowhere near any beach or pounding surf. In fact, I remember commenting to myself upon seeing this particular lighthouse "Whose idea was it to build a lighthouse in the woods?"

Most of the students walked ahead of me, proceeding across the street and up the small trail to the lighthouse. I and one other student stayed behind, as I felt the ONLY real shot worth taking here would be from the grassy area, where you can see a lone tea cup rose bush-(note the area that I have boxed).

Combining my Nikkor 12-24mm lens with the Canon 500D close-up filter, I was able to move in really close to a single rose bloom and frame up the scene you see here.

My initial reaction to this particular composition was fairly positive, BUT try as I might, I could not find a point of view that would allow me to 'lose' the roadway that is visible in the background. I did choose to shoot at a wide-open aperture, but even at wide open, (f/4) I was still unable to blur out the "unsightly" road in the background.

I did play around a bit with the Clone Tool in PS but that did nothing more than reveal a composition that now looked like I was trying to hide something. What's a photographer to do at a time like this?

At that moment I was struck with an idea as I recalled taking a number of beach landscapes the previous afternoon at a different location. You can see one of those beach landscapes here.

This particular image was also shot with my 12-24mm but at an aperture of f/16 and not surprising, unlike the wide-angle shot of the tea rose above, this image is super sharp, from front to back due to the use of the smaller aperture of f/16.

It was then that I got the idea! What if I were to combine the beachscape image with that of the lighthouse and tea rose? I would of course need to 'blur' the beachscape image so it would 'match' the natural blur of the lighthouse/tea rose image and once that was done, (using Gaussian Blur Tool in PhotoShop) I could then combine them and with the aid of a layer mask, "paint" this blurry beachscape into the lighthouse/tea rose scene and voila-that's exactly what I did!

Here is that image for all to see (If you don't know a thing about LAYERS, get signed up for Jon Canfeld's class-NOW!)

Assuming you have the knowledge on how to do a layer mask and assuming this was your shot, do you feel your viewing audience has the right to know that this image is a composite OR do you feel that it's nobody's business and unless someone asks, no one needs to know? If you have time comment here and let's get the discussion going!


McKaso said...

Great post Bryan. I'm sure this could really stir up a lot of debate. I really think it depends on the use of the photo. If it is reporting news or use to draw tourists absolutely not, but an artist does have the ability to create his or her vision. Personally I believe honesty is the best policy. If asked I would be honest. I guess you could even debate the cloning out of unwanted elements (trash cans, wires, etc.) that most of us have done at one time or another. I feel it is a personal decision artists will have to make for themselves.

Tucumano in London said...

Excellent post Bryan and great idea !
It is always difficult to remove unwanted elements from a picture !

Nice one !


Cynthia said...

Yuck! You totally blew this one IMO. The sand looks like a furrowed field to me. Anyone who knows the Cape knows this lighthouse and there's no sand like this anywhere near this lighthouse. To my eyes it looks way too fake.

Calico said...

Lovely job on this! I, having never been to a cape of any sort would not know the sand didn't belong and wouldn't give it a second thought!
I personally always let the viewers of my photos in on it when I do any major post processing like your example.
A. I feel way to guilty letting people believe I'm THAT good of a photographer for fear they may ask me to shoot a wedding or family portraits or something.
B. I like to show off my Photoshop skills therefore I love to show people the before and after.

As far as what other people do, I love to know if something's been "photoshopped" but it doesn't really bother me not to know.

vaphotog2010 said...

I've never been to Cape Cod, but I've never seen a tea cup rose growing in that much sand. I actually find the small road less distracting than the big patch of light colored sand.

John's Life said...

Love the idea your presenting. A photo can be art or factual. I would lean more toward factual on this shot and say it has a fabricated look and feel to it. This image would have been better off staying away from the composition manipulation. I find it very refreshing at times, to look at a photo that represents the actual scene. With that said, I find it real hard not to tweak the levels. If it keeps the viewer looking and thinking, the image for me is a winner. I vote against image manipulation for this one (barring levels) unless you burned and blurred the edges and called it art.