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A perfectly acceptable treatment applied to a perfectly good photograph. I think the HDR treatment heightens the drama and only adds to the photo's impact. 

 

A superb photo and a worthy winner.

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The photo is incredibly powerful - one of those images that will live long in the memory - and that is a lot due to the technique used. The image will certainly draw further attention to the plight of the people in Gaza and surely that is what is intended here.

 

I think a lot of the fuss is because many people do not understand the background to digital image capture. A very similar result could be obtained without HDR with many newer cameras, simply by some adept raw processing of a single image. If he had done that, then there would be no fuss. The Guardian didn't help with their original headline about to shop or not to shop although that seems to have been changed now.

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There was a decent analysis a while back on the Photoshelter Blog about why it might matter... Also includes a side-by-side of the two versions.

 

Editorial 'standards' aside, personal preference: I prefer the more natural version than the World Press Photo winner. 

 

The following quote from the above link sums up my feelings perfectly, putting it better than I could:

 

"The more salient question is whether or not the original would have won. If the answer is “yes,” then why did the photographer feel the need to manipulate it for the awards? If the answer is “no,” then the judges need to examine what they are actually responding to in the image. The fact is that he felt that retoning the image was necessary and/or justified for the specific purpose of entering the contest. [...] But why does it matter? He didn’t move elements around in the photo, nor burn elements out of existence.It matters because we are essentially saying as a society that reality isn’t real enough to garner our attention. The photo wasn’t intended as a factual statement."

 

-Jason

Edited by Reciprocity Images

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Methinks that Alamy likes the photo (or at least the controversy!): they began a thread on exactly the same subject on the old forum a few months ago, no?

 

There are of course several issues here:

  1. Is it a good photo? Yes, without doubt.
  2. For technical reasons, should heavy processing of images be allowed in this category of photography for competition purposes? That's probably up to those organising the competition and those judging to decide.
  3. But...given the moral issues which arise here (see Philippe's comments above), should the comp. organisers allow anything but 'straight' photography (if that can be defined)?  And is that their responsibility or the original picture editor's?  That's where it get's tricky.

To my mind, a photograph per se is already a manipulated version of real life.  Press the button and you have already determined your view of the scene by virtue of the framing, timing, position, etc. etc.  So I personally feel that that a certain latitude should be given in order to reproduce the essence of the situation experienced at the time.

 

However, we are all aware of the power of a picture. That power in situations of high drama (war, poverty, emergency) is increased dramatically, and the press photographer in those situations surely has a certain responsibility to portray images of conflict in a dispassionate way.  It is too easy to coerce the viewer into believing that your view of events was/is the only view.  He/she should really try to 'sit on the fence'.

 

In this particular example, I don't feel that the photographer has attempted to alter events by his manipulation of the image.  I can't say for sure, after all I wasn't there, but that goes for most events.  I think that what he has done is acceptable.  I empathise with Philippe regarding exploitation of a situation, but I don't necessarily think that is what has been done in this case.  On the contrary, it could be said that the photographer was trying to exaggerate the scene because of his sympathies for those involved in the scene.  Which, actually, would be equally unacceptable.

 

EDIT: I have just re-read the original Photoshelter article linked to by Jason (above).  I didn't realise that the submitted photo for the awards was different to the original photo published, (in fact, I was under the impression that photos were selected from published material, not submitted after the fact - I'm so naive!).  OK, so after all my spiel, I'm agin it!  The original photo should have been submitted - and likely would have won anyway.

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It is not an image I would have felt comfortable working on so I guess I agree with Philippe above.

Having said that,and putting aside the subject matter, I much prefer the contrasty look of the original (maybe that's why I'm not an award winning photographer).

 

Could the photographer have not got something similar with a grad filter on the front of the lens? Would there have been the same issues? Is it more acceptable to manipulate the image before it reaches the sensor?

 

What is reality anyway? The eye doesn't see a whole scene at once. It jumps about in that scene and optimises itself for the small bit that happens to be in focus so perhaps HDR and extended DOF images could be argued closer to reality.

 

...just trying to extend the argument.

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It's a powerful image of something that has world attention. The fact that the photographer used post processing to enhance the impact of the image in no way makes this an exploitation or cheating on photojournalism in my opinion.

 

As to exploitation of the war ravaged, extreme poverty or other unfortunate circumstances in our world go, I would have thought that media or photojournalism that shows us what us actually happening in more unfortunate parts of the world is a good thing, and about as far from exploitation as you can get.

 

Who can forget the Vietnam War image of a young girl escaping a napalm attack - that one image could arguably be considered to be an image that forever changed public opinion on the futility of war. I'm old enough to remember that of course and the effect it had on my outlook on war. And I was in the military at the time.

 

I can clearly see why this image won the prestigious photojournalism award that it did. It is so powerful an image, enhanced or not.

 

Ken

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A very similar result could be obtained without HDR with many newer cameras, simply by some adept raw processing of a single image. If he had done that, then there would be no fuss.

 

According to the article that's exactly what he did. Combine versions of the same RAW file:

 

Using just the one frame he used software which produced several versions of the image with varying tonal ranges, some with more contrast, some with less, which when combined made a picture that overall had a much higher tonal range than the unprocessed "raw" image.

 

Looking at the two together there's also some colour grading that's been applied in post.

 

It used to be that 'manipulation' problems were all to do with compositing or cropping. Now we're in the realms of whether any toning should be allowed. An interesting conundrum :)

 

J

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A very similar result could be obtained without HDR with many newer cameras, simply by some adept raw processing of a single image. If he had done that, then there would be no fuss.

 

According to the article that's exactly what he did. Combine versions of the same RAW file:

 

That is the only way HDR could be used on an action image as he couldn't have fired off three or more identical shots.

 

No the point I was trying to make is that he could have achieved a very similar effect in a single conversion in the latest version of ACR, for example, simply by moving the highlight slider to the left and the shadow slider to the right. I can  only speak in relation to the cameras I've used - with a Nikon D700 or D800, the dynamic range is so high that it would be a fairly trivial matter to produce a HDR-like effect in a single conversion with a few strokes on the sliders - no need to do HDR. This would surely negate any claims of manipulation. 

 

At the heart of all this is the notion of an original image as captured by the camera. There is really no such thing beyond the spatial relationships of the pixels. The image as seen on the camera LCD screen is just one of a virtually infinite number of possible interpretations of the image. Similarly the default raw image as seen in ACR is just something that Adobe has chosen as appropriate for that lens and camera combination. If I want, I can set a default with really low contrast rather than what Adobe or Nikon decide I should be seeing. There is no original - just a pile of 1s and 0s on a memory card, which can be interpreted in a single conversion into anything I like. As long as it does not alter the content or the meaning of the scene, it is not manipulation.

Edited by MDM

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Going through all this trouble of combining multiple variations of the same shot makes me wonder if he's more concerned about what's happening in Gaza or is he more interested in winning the World Press Photo competition.

Sorry, but I have no sympathy for photographers exploiting other people's suffering for their own sake. The same goes for tourists having a good time photographing "photogenic" poverty scenes in India or Africa.

 

Cheers,

Philippe

Can't say much, but I am 100% agree with Philippe, exposing others pain/suffering just don't work for me... I can get tons of this picture, since I live in "third world country", though my picture won't win any reward but at least I pay respect to others feel... just my 2 cent

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Nis, I agree with you in some respects - showing poverty in an ad-hoc way is inappropriate. But the world is what it is. And any image that so powerfully exposes those in unfortunate or sad circumstances is needed IMO to get the rest of us who often whine about trivial matters, thinking about those less fortunate than ourselves.

 

We in the western world (for want of a better term) so often whine about the trivia of life, when so much of the world is so much worse off than ourselves. I'm sorry if this goes against long-standing thoughts or values, but I've seen so much of it first hand that I thank my stars for the lottery of my birth every day.

 

My view is that any appropriate exposure of the misfortune of birth of the majority of the world can only be for the greater good. It makes us think about such things.

 

Ken

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But it's NOT HDR, is it? It's just a very good piece of dodging and shading from a single neg, sorry file.

Remember John Downing's picture of Joe Gormly, Derek Ezra and the miner's lamp? The contact was as flat as a pancake. It was superbly printed, but there was nothing on the print that wasn't in the neg. Same here.

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Setting aside the emotional aspects of the photograph, the World Press Photo judging panel obviously felt that it was a worthy winner. As with all judging, the issue is subjective and "one mans' meat............" means that for every judging panel that you assemble, you are likely to get a difference of views.

 

To me the image has a strong impact and while I'm personally not a fan of HDR, finding the result almost too realistic, often more akin to chocolate box pictures, the photographer has complied with the rules and the panel have judged it the winner.

 

It is a harrowing image but the category is photo-journalism and censoring images because we don't like the subject matter could be a dangerous road to go down. I have my own views about spending hours at the PC post-processing an image to manipulate the original, but it's just my view.

 

Richard

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It is a very powerful shot; it got the worlds attention even though more than half of the world wouldn't know what HDR is anyway.

It won the award and I think, quite fairly so!

Did the first press photographer who put a filter on the end of his lens to maybe increase contrast get scrutinised?

I don't know, but I do know that if I was standing next to Paul Hansen when he shot the image then I might have to right to criticise his decision, but I wasn't there I was in Afghanistan.

The only people who were there were the people in the image and the photographer, the rest of the armchair critiques who watch wars from the comfort of their sofas with a nice cup of tea, were all at home surfing the internet for their latest piece of camera equipment for their ever growing collection of toys that will never be put to the use that Paul Hansen puts his gear through.

So yes, he won fairly as far as I am concerned, were he not there then the world wouldn't know how these things look, as a jpeg. RAW or HDR image.

I am happy for him and his sucess :)

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Perhaps the critics have forgotten about dodging and burning in they way we old timers ( for goodness' sake, I'm only 52, but haven't made a b/w print for 17 years!) learned it in short trousers, luxury, shoebox in  middle o't'road, etc.

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Paul Hansen is a staff photog at Swedens leading daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter. He was in Gaza on an assignment for his paper, not to make personal financial gain off other peoples trouble. He was there to do what journalists do, report the news. Over the years he has won more awards for his photography, in Sweden and internationally,  than I have fingers (and I have a full set)

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A powerful image is a powerful image and there is no point at discussing whether Paul went too far with HDR retouching. Paul's retouching didn't turn a weak image into a masterpiece. Powerful photograph was captured initially and HDR is just an embellishment. For those who want more natural look in photojournalism I would suggest going back to film cameras and publishing images as negatives, it would be the most natural look.

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Going through all this trouble of combining multiple variations of the same shot makes me wonder if he's more concerned about what's happening in Gaza or is he more interested in winning the World Press Photo competition.

Sorry, but I have no sympathy for photographers exploiting other people's suffering for their own sake. The same goes for tourists having a good time photographing "photogenic" poverty scenes in India or Africa.

 

Cheers,

Philippe

 

I agree. It turns a tragedy into a cartoon IMO.

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So taking time & effort to make photo best possible is red flag about photographer's priorities & compassion?

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A news photograph should convey the feeling that “this event actually happened”. When photographic technique is the talking point - rather than the event the picture portrays - then something’s gone wrong...

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I recently watched a Sir Michael Parkinson Masterclass where he interviewed British war photographer Don McCullin who is now in his late seventies and it was a fascinating insight into the war photographer.  Here is a piece from the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/video/2012/dec/20/don-mccullin-documentary-video

 

If it were not for photographers like McCullin, Australian Neil Davis who was killed in Thailand after surviving the fall of Vietnam and many other photographers who have died over the past fifty years covering wars, the world would be ignorant of what really goes on and would have to accept the sanitized reporting of various governments around the world.  

 

The debate on various other forums seems to centre on whether he Photoshopped the image and overlooking the two dead children which surely is  what this image is all about - that the completely innocent are always the victims of war.  Are we all to be ostriches with our heads in the sand and not publish images which upset our comfortable lives?  I take a lot of images of street people but I treat them with the same dignity as I would my friends and family.  

 

Here is a quote from Don McCullin:  "Photography for me is not looking, it's feeling. If you can't feel what you're looking at, then you're never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your picture.  You do not go away from here without carrying a huge burden, if you are a decent human being and you have a conscience.  I photograph the humble, the anonymous, who are spontaneous and mirror all of us".  Don McCullin Sleeping with Ghosts:  A Life's Work in Photography.

 

Sheila

Edited by Sheila Smart
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So taking time & effort to make photo best possible is red flag about photographer's priorities & compassion?

 

How did using HDR make this photo the best possible?

 

Personally, I think that HDR is best left for interpretive/artistic photography. I am not a big fan of HDR, but I have seen some results that I like.

 

Using techniques like HDR to increase the emotional impact of documentary/news images is a form of editorializing IMO. It isn't "pure," unbiased reporting.

Edited by John Mitchell

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I'll say it again.

He did no more than the dodging and shading we all used to do in the darkroom and there is nothing there that wasn't in the original file.

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