Gee, do you suppose I should have mentioned the sharpening?

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rjlittlefield
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Gee, do you suppose I should have mentioned the sharpening?

Post by rjlittlefield »

Recent discussions of what is common practice, and what needs to be disclosed, reminded me of a humorous incident from a few years back...

I received the November 2000 issue of Reader's Digest.

Turning it over, I was delighted to see that the rear cover held a photograph featuring a beautiful Lepidopteran, sitting on a hiker's boot in lovely wild terrain.

Substituting inferior local scenery and workmanship, the picture looked something like this:

Image

It was accompanied by a moving and thoughtful caption -- something about the "rugged power of the Rio Grande" contrasting with "an ephemeral butterfly" "poised for a fleeting moment".

On closer study, I cracked up laughing. Then I sent an email:
Dear Reader's Digest:

The "Rio Grande" photograph is lovely, and your words
on the back cover of the November issue are moving and sensitive.
Thanks for publishing them!

But I thought I should let you know that both the picture and your
write-up are also pretty amusing to readers with a certain background.

The key is to recognize that the "butterfly" in the photograph is
actually a moth -- specifically, a Polyphemus moth (Antheraea
polyphemus
), one of our largest and showiest native silkmoths.

Now it's not that big a mistake to call a moth a butterfly, but you
have to appreciate that Polyphemus moths simply do not fly during the
day unless disturbed, and then their goal is to find a new dark
hiding place where they can fold their wings.

The odds of finding one on a hiker's boots, with its wings spread,
in full sunshine, for long enough to take a picture, are only
slightly higher than that the Rio Grande would suddenly freeze over
at the same moment.

So the picture is fake ... uh, posed. Instead of an "ephemeral
butterfly" "poised for a fleeting moment", most likely what we really
have is a thoroughly dead moth, wings tastefully spread, probably
pinned or glued to the hiker's boot so that a stray breeze will not
dislodge it while the photographer carefully frames and exposes his
picture.

It's lovely. It's hilarious. Thank you!
Fortunately, the folks at Reader's Digest thought it was pretty hilarious too. They chatted with me, and with the photographer, and then in a high spirit of good humor they published my whole letter, a reproduction of the image, and a reply from the photographer explaining that it was a "mystery" how the moth came to be on the hiker's boot, and that this was "art, not science". I could not possibly agree more! :D

--Rik

Disclosure: The image posted above is actually a 4-frame (2x2) stitched panorama, overlaid by a carefully masked image of my legs, boots, and a pinned moth, with the pin cloned out of the moth and numerous contrails cloned out of the sky. Neither the river, the sky, the boots, nor the moth, ever actually looked quite like this. :roll:

Mike B in OKlahoma
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Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2006 10:32 pm
Location: Oklahoma City

Post by Mike B in OKlahoma »

God bless Google!

Here's the cover, plus an "analysis" of the photo....

http://www.hotairamerica.com/rd-backcover.htm

(Editor's note 10/31/2012. The preceding link is broken. Try http://web.archive.org/web/200704161009 ... kcover.htm instead.)

Thanks for pointing this out, Rik. It is amusing to see us get all worked up over USM (or whatever), and others publish whoppers like this. Of course, he DID publish his whopper on the cover of Reader's Digest.....Hey, where's my insect collection?!
Mike Broderick
Oklahoma City, OK, USA

Constructive critiques of my pictures, and reposts in this forum for purposes of critique are welcome

"I must obey the inscrutable exhortations of my soul....My mandate includes weird bugs."
--Calvin

Epidic
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Post by Epidic »

It must have been the "emotional" truth. A good catch.

My favorie past time is catching "false" moons in photos. You would be surprised how many full moons appear where they can't. I even saw one at the Pentax photo salon in Tokyo majestically floating above a seascape. It was big and clear. The photograpger just shouldn't have used an image of an overcast night in which to place it. Other impossibilities are full moons over a horizon where the sun is setting and very large full moons - the angular size of the moon is constant and does not change with the distance to the horizon.
Will

Danny
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Post by Danny »

LOL, good on you Rik. Nice to see someone actually doing something about it. Now what was that about disclosure :D 8) :wink: Could you see National Geographic having this shot :shock: . The guy would be put out in the cold for a very long time :wink:

All the best Rik, interesting reading thanks M8t.

Danny.
Worry about the image that comes out of the box, rather than the box itself.

rjlittlefield
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Post by rjlittlefield »

nzmacro wrote:Nice to see someone actually doing something about it.
Umm, yeah. There was some more follow-up that was both amusing and confusing, as well.

As background, you need to know that I've been a member of the Lepidopterists' Society since 1968 or so, and I included that fact as part of my signature in my letter to Reader's Digest.

Well... A couple of months after Reader's Digest published my letter, I got praised by the editor of the Lepidopterists' Society newsletter, for having kept Reader's Digest honest about moths versus butterflies. :?

Then in the following issue of the Lep Soc newsletter, I got chastised for inappropriate precision, by somebody who had not seen either the original Reader's Digest cover, or RD's publication of my letter, but was only responding to the third party (or was it fourth?) praise in the Lep Soc newsletter. :? :!: Fortunately, an email to that person cleared up that bit of confusion, and they joined in the amusement.

What I never did figure out, though, was the bit of misdirection provided by the Lep Soc newsletter editor:
The difference...is that a butterfly is not a moth!
I've had many different species of butterflies visit my toes
on many occasions...and even the toe of a hiking boot, but
never a moth...
In my experience, there is no problem at all with the concept of a (generic) day-flying moth seeking salt on a convenient boot.
We have here, for example, a day-flying moth working over the handle of a trekking pole:
Image

The problem was only in the details. The particular moth featured by Reader's Digest does not behave as shown, and that tipped me off that the "ephemeral butterfly" "poised for a fleeting moment" was actually a dried corpse, fastened rigidly to a boot!

I took away two lessons from the experience.
1. If you fake something, be prepared to get caught.
2. If you speak up, expect to be misunderstood.

Neither lesson has ever disappointed me. :lol:

--Rik

Danny
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Joined: Fri Feb 02, 2007 11:07 pm
Location: New Zealand

Post by Danny »

Totally agree. Full disclosure of things like that tend to keep us out of trouble :D :wink:

Interesting events Rik.

Danny.
Worry about the image that comes out of the box, rather than the box itself.

beetleman
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Post by beetleman »

I do remember reading about a National Geographic cover coming under fire years ago (I woud have to guess before digital) where the Egyptian pyramids were moved closer to each other so two of them could fit on the cover together and someone caught it, not sure what happened.
Found it :wink: http://commfaculty.fullerton.edu/lester ... s/geo.html
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/fake.shtml
Take Nothing but Pictures--Leave Nothing but Footprints.
Doug Breda

rjlittlefield
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Post by rjlittlefield »

I remember another flap involving a herd of zebras, many of whom looked too much like each other. I can't find the reference to that, however.

On the other hand, I did run into this interesting policy statement a couple of days ago:

http://www.clarkvision.com/galleries/photo-ethics.html.

What I find interesting is that Clark makes a sharp distinction between animals and everything else. "Any images with digitally placed animals will be labeled as such". On the other hand, "blurred components can be replaced with sharper images of the same thing" without comment.

This sounds completely different from opinions expressed in this forum, for example that all stacking has to be declared.

I wonder if there's some underlying principle that's the same in both cases?

--Rik

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