Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Wed 10th Nov, 2010

Digital Progress

I recently had the chance to see the World Nature Photography Competition exhibition and, thinking of my brother's interest in photography, I noted two things. The first was that almost every photo was digital - I remember seeing only two photos that I could identify as being taken on actual film. As one of the photos was a black and white shot of a wolf moving the film grain was there to 'add' to the atmosphere - in other words, we're supposed to associate wilderness and motion with film grain. To me this is like 'motion blur' - we've been taught to expect the blur of a moving object exposed on celluloid film and now computers have to simulate this to make it look 'realistic'. (The eye can't track fast-moving objects well, but it doesn't see them as blurs). This is significant as my brother reports a still-strong body of 'analogue' photographers who decry the modern hocus-pocus of digital photography.

The other interesting thing was that the winning entry had been disqualified for faking it (though the photographer denied the claim). How was it faked, you ask, in this world of digital photographic manipulation? Well, the photographer is claimed to have put a stuffed, posed wolf in the scene used a trained wolf hired from a zoo (correction thanks to my brother). On the one hand I'm left wondering what other little manipulations have gone on in the other photos to 'enhance' scene and enhance the chances of winning. On the other, if faking a scene is more likely to be done by putting a prop tame animal in, then I don't think we have too much to worry about yet.

And on the gripping hand, the actual manipulation of scenes from the 'wild' wasn't confined to just that: other photographers had tacked bacon hidden on a tree branch to attract bears, scattered seed for birds and food for foxes and wolves. If this is what 'nature' photography is all about, I think a fair number of our 'nature' photographers need to get it out of their heads that the world is a kind of studio to be staged and set as they will - especially since most of the categories were looking for 'wildness'. But when you're talking about prizes, there's always going to be a bit of surreptitious 'what can I get away with' thinking - some people just end up carrying through with their thoughts.

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