A School-Boy Error

‘Ogmore Castle’, Ogmore-by-Sea, Glamorgan, South Wales
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L @ 24mm, 25 seconds @ f/8, ISO 200
LEE Big-Stopper and 2-stop ND-Grad filters.
Manfrotto 055CXPRO4 tripod, Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head.
Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop

“To create rules suggesting what is allowable in photography is to question the art-worthiness of photography itself.”

A School-Boy Error

Legend has it that the stepping stones leading from this 12th century castle were built to allow a love-sick girl to safely cross the treacherous river and visit her man who lived on the other side. Rather than question whether or not this story is factually correct, many of us would choose to suspend any disbelief and accept that this romantic fairy-tale actually happened; it brings us more pleasure to do so. This is not unlike the frequent quandary faced by landscape photographers about image manipulation; to Photoshop or not to Photoshop, that is the question.

If you were to visit Ogmore and stand here, the scene would look slightly different. By the magic of Photoshop I have cloned out two houses from the background; I felt they were an unnecessary distraction from the timeless feel I wanted to convey in the image. It was possible to obscure the houses by using a lower viewpoint, however this would have reduced the compositional presence of the river.

Andy Warhol embraced the idea that “Art is whatever you can get away with”. This idea underpins the concept that art has no rules and freedom of expression prevails; so to create rules suggesting what is allowable in photography is to question the art-worthiness of photography itself. When photographs are made for documentary purposes, for example in news photography, then clearly, elements of such images that are integral to the record being made should not be manipulated because to do so would be dishonest or fraudulent. In the case of landscape photography, opinions will differ, depending on the perceived positioning of landscape photography along a spectrum that spans from ‘art’ to ‘document’. Do we simply ‘take’ pictures, accepting what reality offers, or do we ‘make’ them, with an emphasis on creativity and a more artistic interpretation of ‘integrity’. The argument rages on.

I was so engrossed in creating this long exposure that I made a school-boy error. It took a while before I noticed some of the stepping stones had become submerged as this is a tidal river. My tripod became a makeshift walking stick and I waded slowly back across the stones as the water pushed against my legs. I would wager that I was as happy to get back to the car as my romantic predecessor was traversing in the opposite direction 800 years previously.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.