Weekly Photo Challenge – Object

…with most of my photographs, the subject appears as a found object, something discovered, not arranged by me. I usually have an immediate recognition of the potential image, and I have found that too much concern about matters such as conventional composition may take the edge off the first inclusive reaction. – Ansel Adams

Weekly Photo Challenge: Object

How I wish I could have said that about this photograph. I found the tool further down the hill lying abandoned in a ditch. I wanted to use the rocks in the foreground but thought there was something missing. So I moved the tool. What do you think? Does it add anything to the photograph?

Whether you agree or disagree that the tool adds something to the photograph also consider the ethical standpoint.

If I move something into or out of the scene I am about to photograph is it ethical? Granted it may make the photograph aesthetically pleasing but is it really a true representation of that time and place.

the camera machine cannot evade the objects which are in front of it. No more can the photographer. He can choose these objects, arrange and exclude, before exposure, but not afterwards… Your photography is a record of your living, for any one who really sees. – Paul Strand

Nowadays with digital cameras it is easy to capture a photograph and later manipulate it, in Photoshop or similar, to add or remove elements. Is that any different from me doing the same prior to pressing the shutter.

Retouching had become controversial ever since Franz Hanfstaengl of Munich showed at the 1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris a retouched negative with a print made from it before and after retouching. It was, Nadar recollected, the beginning of a new era in photography. – Beaumont Newhall

If you shoot in RAW it is inevitable that you will carry out some alterations to your photograph. Maybe boost the colour or sharpening? What about exposure, highlights, shadows? All are candidates for adjustment, in some way. But is it any less ethical than adding or removing something from your photograph?

Now you might say that a colour adjustment was fine and well within the bounds of ethical practice. But colours can be changed in software like Topaz Restyle so as to render the new photograph quite unlike the original. The content will be the same but the context will not. For example, you can make a photograph look like it was taken at sunset when in reality it was midday when the shutter button was pressed.

In the end ethical policies may be down to where the photograph is used. The fashion industry and the editors of fashion magazines may think it is permissible to alter photographs used in magazines,  but news editors more often than not would deem it unacceptable for anything to be changed from the original scene, including colours.

How did you answer at the beginning of this post? Did you think it was OK for me to add the tool into the scene prior to pressing the shutter button?

Consider this. Nowadays many media outlets rely on us, the public, to become journalists and help them capture the news. How often have you seen appeals for photographs on your local TV station, or in our case SKY News, when some big news event has happened? Or what about the Weather Man, sorry Person. They’re always asking for sunset/sunrise photographs to use as backdrops. Could I in all honesty send in my photograph knowing it had been altered?



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35 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge – Object

  1. First, I’m with you all the way on moving the object 🙂 Second we had a big discussion about this in our Photography Club and most everyone agreed there’s no issue with helping mother nature along when necessary 🙂 Interesting post!


  2. Certainly a pleasing image. I see nothing wrong at all in moving the pick, why not, it was somewhere close. Now, if you had brought it from home, perhaps that would be a bit dubious…but only perhaps!

    With regards to image manipulation, we could discuss this until next year. As someone who has done much judging I never mark a person because I don’t like a certain manipulation. For example, I am not keen on HDR as you know unless it’s sensitively done (very sensitively). One should remember that creators of art, be they classical artists or photographers, have always pushed the boundaries. For example many famous paintings have false backgrounds, it’s no less a painting for it. So, the sunset in the middle of the day is acceptable. In fact, anything is as long as there is an original base image. That leads me to composite images which I openly detest. These, in my view belong to a separate category and certainly not photography, more like graphics.

    Now, what do I think of your resultant image. Well, if I was judging I would applaud what you have done, but I would also like to see the original as to my eye it would probably satisfy me more than your presentation. You do what your comfortable with, don’t listen to others and most of all have fun.



    1. I would tend to agree with you on the composites Richard, although I’ve done a few in my time when I was teaching myself PhotoChop. I have seen a bit of a growing trend there though….

      As usual, thank you for your comment. it gives me something to think about.


  3. If it wasn’t for you, Mike, I would never think about such things! Not much, anyway. As for moving the tool/setting up a scene, I guess it depends whether you want to “create an image”, in which case, whatever serves for the desired result, or if you want to “record the scene/moment”, then you leave it as is. Even then, you are choosing how to frame your shot, and therefore manipulating the image to some degree.


    1. When I did a series of churches last year, which were for publication, we had to move things around for a more aesthetically pleasing photograph. Sometimes it was just moving a cushion or two, or placing candlesticks symmetrically. But in one case we moved a small organ to make it be highlighted by beams of sunlight streaming through the windows and opened the lid so we could see the keys.


  4. Love the photo. The “grubbing hoe” with a pick on the other end looks like one that I use that was my husband’s tool that often went on his truck. Yes, it adds to the rocky terrain. Very nice with emphasis on the foreground.


    1. Hi Yvonne. The foreground was everything for this photograph. Finding the tool was a bonus and it just had to be added, in my opinion, to make a good photograph better.


  5. We used to call that a grubbing axe. Handy for removing unwanted turf and tree roots! I like the composition and where’s the harm in moving a tool a few feet? As for altering the photo afterwards that’s the whole blurred area between digital art and photography!

    In a vaguely related way I’m writing a post with photos about men and their musical axes!


    1. Hello Barbara, Nathaniel puts forward an interesting argument and in many ways I tend to agree with. I’m not really a nature photographer but when I dust off that big lens it’s usually down to our local salt marshes I go.


  6. Interesting post…great discussion premise…I think most people would say manipulating the photo is part of the creation of art. That being said, I try not to move “found” objects because that is part of what is exciting about going out to see what I can see and capture a moment. Won’t say I’ve never done it though…:-)


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