Truths behind fake nature photography

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orionmystery
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Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by orionmystery » March 4th, 2015, 10:35 pm

I chanced upon this page on Facebook yesterday. Just sharing it here since these involve frogs, lizards, snakes and crocs.

==============

https://www.facebook.com/notes/truths-b ... 3962271839

Frog Riding a Beetle: Bullshit or Natural?
Image

Photos of a frog riding a beetle have been flooding the internet in the past month. Looked cute and adorable? Reactions to the series of photos have been split between blind praise, and outrage over the authenticity of the photo-story and welfare of the subjects. So, did this scene really occur naturally as claimed? We don't think so, and here's why.

In compiling this article, we spoke to herpetologists (those who study amphibians and reptiles, including frogs and lizards), particularly the frog experts for their take on this photo. These are people who spent most of their lives studying frogs, and there are no better people who understand the anatomy and biology of frogs.

1. Would the frog jump onto the beetle?
Photographer Hendy Mp captured this daring frog hop a ride on a beetle and it even stuck its front leg in the air cowboy-style

This frog (Rhacophorus sp.) is nocturnal. In the day, it is not active and will not hop around, much less onto a beetle. Even if placed beside the beetle, it would remain indifferent to the beetle unless it was provoked or hurt. In which case, it should jump away rather than onto the beetle.

2. Can the frog's mouth remain open in so many of the shots?
Image

Frogs could possibly open their mouths like that but aside from when they are eating something, it is a sure sign of distress. The only time when the frog had its mouth open naturally is when a frog is incredibly distressed (ie. being eaten by a snake).

3. Are the positions of the hands natural?
The fingers on the raised hand are in a very unnatural position and not possible on the frog's own accord. It is like twisting a human's fingers to awkward positions that are impossible without external force.

4. Were the subjects discovered in the wild?
There is strong evidence posted by the photographer himself that the frogs and many of his subjects were captive animals. Those photos are not published here due to privacy reasons.

One of the quotes from a herpetologist we spoke to:

I can't stand these images. To someone very familiar with frogs, it's really sad to see the poor frog in this situation. I don't believe that these photos are of a naturally occurring situation. To me, they appear to be highly staged, and there is evidence that the frog is distressed. Frogs are so amazing without being used as props, it's upsetting that they felt it necessary.

ImageStaged photography is not prevalent only in certain countries. Sony Photography Awards 2014 shortlisted a similar and highly dubious entry from Europe. How a supposedly prestigious photography award by a well-known brand shortlisted such an entry in the "Nature and Wildlife" category is inconceivable. However, at least this was clarified to be shot in a controlled environment during a workshop.

This article is nothing personal against the photographers - each of them are talented in their own right. The purpose of this writeup is to discourage such genres of fake nature photography and educate the public on the ethics involved behind such photos. We also hope that the various news sites, platforms and camera brands would STOP promoting these fake nature photos using bullshit stories. Nature is already intriguing and beautiful on its own, that staging such unnatural scenes is an insult to mother nature herself.

The next time you see a similar photo that claims to be natural, please share this article for everyone to understand the questionable ethics involved in taking such "perfect timed shots".

More photo stories will be reviewed for their authenticity on Truths Behind Fake Nature Photography soon. If you wish to report other photo stories to be reviewed, please let us know via the comments below.

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umop apisdn
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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by umop apisdn » March 5th, 2015, 5:46 pm

Nature faux-tography.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by Rothdigga » March 5th, 2015, 7:04 pm

I get so pissed when I see these kind of images. Not only does it just reek of some a-hole with fishing wires playing these animals like they're his personal marionette dolls, but it also gives people a totally false sense of what nature photography really is. You're not going to find a damn frog riding a beetle, or a snail, or whatever they keep trying to show.
People post and repost those on instagram daily and everyone thinks they're so "cute". My stomach aches seeing them. These dudes win photo contests regularly with this kind of stuff too. Pretty weak.

That being said that weasel riding the woodpecker was pretty amazing I saw yesterday if it was actually real....and it did seem to be due to the poor photo. Ha.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by orionmystery » March 5th, 2015, 7:27 pm

I can put up with the staging, but the accompnaying BS stories are just plain ridiculous and unbearable! Misleading too, of course.

More from that FB Page:

Say NO to staged photos with bullshit stories!

Too many fake nature photos are appearing on the internet accompanied with bullshit stories claiming that they are natural.

STOP supporting such unethical nature photography and stories!

Read about the expose - or truths behind these fake/staged nature photography here:

Pseudo Nature Photographers.
http://heejennwei.blogspot.com/2013/08/ ... nesia.html
Check this one out to know the truth behind all the fake nature photography you'll see in all other links below.

Links to more fake/staged photography with accompanying bullshit stories, mainly from The Daily Mail UK:

Kungfu frogs. PUBLISHED: 23:43 GMT, 15 April 2012
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... e-Lee.html

Frog on beetle. PUBLISHED: 17:08 GMT, 13 February 2015
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... -away.html

Two male mantids, one with flower. PUBLISHED: 02:32 GMT, 19 January 2015
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... d-off.html

Dancing geckos. UPDATED: 18:59 GMT, 5 December 2011
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... floor.html

Chameleon in Batam! PUBLISHED: 12:46 GMT, 25 October 2012
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... lunch.html

Mantis tickles toad. PUBLISHED: 15:57 GMT, 22 October 2013
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... belly.html

Frog on python. PUBLISHED: 13:27 GMT, 26 June 2014
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... ython.html

Frog with umbrella. PUBLISHED: 15:06 GMT, 23 July 2013
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... nesia.html

Frog on snail
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... alone.html

Lizard strumming a leaf
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... -leaf.html

Frog on croc
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... snout.html

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by Kelly Mc » March 5th, 2015, 9:04 pm

The people who are practicing this dumbed down presentation of animals are pandering, acclaim hungry exploiters.

They are undoubtedly using manipulating artifact to position fragile taxa into anthropomorphic contortions.

Its an insidious, sneaky disregard for nature and it needs to be stopped.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by bgorum » March 5th, 2015, 10:53 pm

First of all, I'm amazed that somebody actually went to the trouble of writing an article to debunk the authenticity of these pictures. Please somebody tell me that there are not a significant number of people in this country that actually believe these to be real! They're stupid, and I suspect if something similar were done with rabbits or hamsters the animal rights groups would be all over it.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by Chaitanya » March 6th, 2015, 1:02 am

bgorum wrote:First of all, I'm amazed that somebody actually went to the trouble of writing an article to debunk the authenticity of these pictures. Please somebody tell me that there are not a significant number of people in this country that actually believe these to be real! They're stupid, and I suspect if something similar were done with rabbits or hamsters the animal rights groups would be all over it.
Sadly if you check Snakebytes TV facebook page, you find there are a lot of people who not only believe it to be true but attack anyone who points towards the facts.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by orionmystery » March 6th, 2015, 5:03 am

Chaitanya is right.

Check out the responses of the folks at snakebytes tv.... :x

https://www.facebook.com/SnakeBytesTV/p ... 84/?type=1

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by cbernz » March 6th, 2015, 6:06 am

Rothdigga wrote:That being said that weasel riding the woodpecker was pretty amazing I saw yesterday if it was actually real....and it did seem to be due to the poor photo. Ha.
That guy released some other photos supposedly showing the struggle before he got his "miracle" shot:

Image

I love the crystal-clear background with the conveniently blurry foreground superimposed on it. He would have been better off just releasing the one photo.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by orionmystery » March 6th, 2015, 6:48 am

Really not too sure about the weasel on woodpecker image:

More photo sequence pics here.
https://www.facebook.com/bbcnews/posts/ ... 2228852217

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by cbernz » March 6th, 2015, 7:48 am

Does the above photo make any sense, though? You're 100 times the photographer I am, so maybe I'm missing something, but it just doesn't compute for me. How does a camera that completely blurs or smudges the entire bottom half of a photo also take the perfectly composed shot he got? Unless I'm supposed to buy that in the above photo, the woodpecker is flying in front of a tiny hill right in front of the photographer, and that somehow the photographer just happened to be perfectly focused on the background instead? So this guy got 3 crappy, blurry photos, while the woodpecker flew in TWO different directions in front of him, then gets his "miracle" shot, and immediately stops taking photos? Where's his shot of the bird flying away? Hitting the ground? Either the weasel running off or the woodpecker flying away by itself as it supposedly did?

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by Soopaman » March 6th, 2015, 8:06 am

cbernz,


I'm not sure how that last photo looks questionable.

He's using a low aperture for low depth of field, allowing a faster shutter speed. He wasn't planning to take photos of this event, because he didn't expect it. In the tense moments of the event he pointed the camera and clicked, hoping to nail focus but instead the camera focused on the background, so naturally the foreground is blurred.

I feel like if the guy was going to fake this event, he'd at least get decent shots of it being faked. It looks to me like someone said "holy shit there's a stoat on that pecker" and started shooting the camera as fast as he could, without taking time to nail focus or change settings.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by Kelly Mc » March 6th, 2015, 8:07 am

Sadly if you check Snakebytes TV facebook page, you find there are a lot of people who not only believe it to be true but attack anyone who points towards the facts.
That figures.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by Chaitanya » March 6th, 2015, 8:25 am

orionmystery wrote:Really not too sure about the weasel on woodpecker image:

More photo sequence pics here.
https://www.facebook.com/bbcnews/posts/ ... 2228852217
That stoat and woodpecker scenario seems plausible. from the description it sounds like a hunt gone bad for one immature predator. There are times when prey strikes back and predator gets in trouble. Here is an explanation from Steve Backshall as well: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-31711446

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by regalringneck » March 6th, 2015, 9:38 am

... yes very plausible, & in fact factual, this is what we found @ the NSA when we reran the satellite feeds utilizing normal parameters, averaging of course for magnetic pulse/doppler effect ...
Theirs simply too low a level of trust in many of the above posts ...


Image

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by cbernz » March 6th, 2015, 9:52 am

You know, maybe this demonstrates one of the principles behind people believing fake or suspicious photos - that you are more likely to doubt photos of things you know about. Herpers look at pictures of frogs riding beetles and lizards leaning back with leaf guitars in their claws and just immediately get a sense that something is wrong. They don't even have to go through the process of thinking of all the reasons it doesn't make sense or couldn't happen. Regular people don't know that much (if anything) about bugs and herps, so they have no basis on which to doubt. As a birder, I look at a photo like the woodpecker one and it just screams [email protected]#$% to me. I suppose there's a small chance I could be wrong, but I feel like it's on the same level of chance that a frog would hop onto a beetle's back and open its mouth.

Here's what should really happen when a weasel jumps on a woodpecker.

A) the woodpecker turns its head completely around and pecks and scratches the living hell out of the weasel until it gives up, during which it would lose a lot of feathers

B) the weasel would succeed in injuring the bird to the point where it couldn't fly anymore.

Steve Backshall's explanation is that a woodpecker can carry a weasel because beetles and ants can carry heavy objects? That has absolutely nothing to do with a bird's ability to fly with something on its back, much less to do with the probability of it happening in nature.

I guess I'll have to take your word on that blurry photo being plausible. I have never seen a photo that had such a severly blurred bottom half contrasting with such a clearly focused top half before. It looks a lot like something that was manipulated to me. More importantly, though, a perfectly groomed woodpecker flying in a normal flying posture with a perfectly groomed weasel on its back (perfectly centered, by the way, over the course of at least 4 photos, in such a way as to allow the bird to fly) is an image that makes absolutely no sense to me.

Sorry to carry on and sidetrack, but this photo is starting to bug me as much as the frog/beetle one does, although I don't think any animals were harmed in making the photo. It's kind of like the video of the eagle carrying the kid, which got a lot of support until the kids who made it admitted it was a school project. The difference this time is that I don't think this guy is going to cop to his fakery.

edit: I replaced the photo in my post above with a closer-cropped version. Does that not look like a blurry photo superimposed on a focused photo? There are little pockets of focused grass in between tufts of blurry grass.

Ok, I'm done obsessing for now!

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by bgorum » March 6th, 2015, 10:42 am

cbernz wrote:Does the above photo make any sense, though? You're 100 times the photographer I am, so maybe I'm missing something, but it just doesn't compute for me. How does a camera that completely blurs or smudges the entire bottom half of a photo also take the perfectly composed shot he got? Unless I'm supposed to buy that in the above photo, the woodpecker is flying in front of a tiny hill right in front of the photographer, and that somehow the photographer just happened to be perfectly focused on the background instead? So this guy got 3 crappy, blurry photos, while the woodpecker flew in TWO different directions in front of him, then gets his "miracle" shot, and immediately stops taking photos? Where's his shot of the bird flying away? Hitting the ground? Either the weasel running off or the woodpecker flying away by itself as it supposedly did?
Its not uncommon to get poorly focused shots like that when shooting action with a camera set to AF-C. Its just a matter of having the focusing point over the wrong part of the scene or having the subject move faster than the camera can AF. I get those all the time, (though usually not that far off). Still not sure if the picture is real though. I haven't really looked closely at it. Too busy with work and what not.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by Antonsrkn » March 6th, 2015, 12:41 pm

I guess I'll have to take your word on that blurry photo being plausible. I have never seen a photo that had such a severly blurred bottom half contrasting with such a clearly focused top half before. It looks a lot like something that was manipulated to me. More importantly, though, a perfectly groomed woodpecker flying in a normal flying posture with a perfectly groomed weasel on its back (perfectly centered, by the way, over the course of at least 4 photos, in such a way as to allow the bird to fly) is an image that makes absolutely no sense to me.
I took some images not too different from this one the other day, no manipulation necessary. Just using autofocus trying to get some photos of birds jumping around in bushes, the autofocus missed the bird and focused on the background. As to whether the photo is fake or not, I personally dont think so but I dont know, all I can say is producing an image like that is very plausible. I would post an example but I delete such images so as not to take up valuable room on my computer.
First of all, I'm amazed that somebody actually went to the trouble of writing an article to debunk the authenticity of these pictures. Please somebody tell me that there are not a significant number of people in this country that actually believe these to be real! They're stupid, and I suspect if something similar were done with rabbits or hamsters the animal rights groups would be all over it.
Yeah i'm shocked at peoples gullibility, the first I learned of these photos was on facebook. One biologist friend from Borneo posted this on another biologists page, both have done extensive fieldwork in Borneo and have seen both the species in question. Yet somehow didnt see these photos for what they were.... What bugs me is when fake photos like this win wildlife photography competitions, presumably the judges should know a thing or two about wildlife and photography and should see through these shots in a second yet somehow they don't always.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by bgorum » March 6th, 2015, 4:13 pm

You've got to be freakin' kidding me! Photos like that have won wildlife photography competitions?

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by lateralis » March 6th, 2015, 7:59 pm

Ask him where the Rebel base is located...

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by chrish » March 6th, 2015, 8:03 pm

I totally believe the Woodpecker/weasel photo to be real.

The blurry photo is easily explained by having a shallow DOF set and the focus reading the wrong item. Those of us who take a lot of bird photos know that you walk around with camera set with a shallow DOF when looking for birds to photograph. As for the focus on the grass, a camera is more likely to focus on that grass clump in the background than the foreground because it presents the sort of contrasting linear pattern that autofocus sensors look for. If you've ever tried to photograph a bird or other animal deep in some grass or deep in a bush, you know how cameras seek this out.

Secondly, the weasel in the photo is a Least Weasel. A weasel would certainly try to take on a much bigger prey item like this. Then the populations of Least Weasel in the UK are the smaller subpecies of this already tiny mustelid and adults can weigh little more than a large mouse. A Green Woodpecker is a fairly large woodpecker and could carry this kind of weight. Small Hawks and Owls the same rough size as this woodpecker do it with regularity and no one questions that.

Third, in order to fake this series of photos, the photographer would have to come up with a plausible scenario then do a great job of photoshopping the photo that is all over the news. But then he would have to photoshop all the other frames as well, including the out of focus frames. Think about that....would you really bother photoshopping the "throw away frames" as well? Really?

I think a lot of the skepticism I have read about this photo (not necessarily here) is based on a general lack of knowledge about the European Green Woodpecker and the Least Weasel or mustelids in general.....and is a sign of our skeptical times created by the number of fakes that are constantly presented to us.

But I could be wrong? I feel pretty comfortable with the authenticity of the photo.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by jonathan » March 7th, 2015, 1:56 am

I want to believe the weasel photo is real, but it bothers me too. I really hope it's real.


There's a spectrum to "fake" photography. It's not just manipulating animals for really fake-looking shots. What about manipulating animals for 'real' shots?

When I look at a photo, I want to learn about the animal from the photo. I want to see, "Oh, that's how it behaves!" "That's where it's found!" "That's what it would be doing when you find it!"

I've learned that a lot of photographers set up the photo to make it look beautiful and interesting, and manipulate the animal into a position that "looks good", but which isn't natural at all.

That rattlesnake sitting on the edge of a beautiful view? It was actually found in a crack in a canyon.

That viper curled around the branch in the daytime? It was actually crossing a road during a rainstorm at night.

That frog sitting high on the log with the beautiful stream in the background? It actually spends its time crouched low in leaf litter in the uplands.


Photos like that, where the animal was harassed to get its body "right" for the shot, where it is sitting in a manner that exhibits behavior it wouldn't normally partake in, and where it's shown in a habitat not quite like the one it would frequent, bother me even more than the obviously fake photos.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by Soopaman » March 7th, 2015, 2:12 am

jonathan wrote: ...
The difference, in my opinion, is that the animals posed above present a false anthropomorphic view of these creatures, presenting false human-like characteristics to emotionally engage the viewer and force them to connect to the animal in a way that isn't true.


I'm all for in-situ photographs, and I love to take them when I can. I started carrying my camera out of my backpack and have it ready to go just for this. I love in situ shots.

That said, about 90% of the time it really doesn't show off the animal very well. There's grass in the way, or its obstructed somehow that doesn't allow the viewer to get an interesting view of the animal.
Photos of animals under boards, or perks of scales from between rocks, obscured in shadow doesn't appeal to a mass audience, and only really appeals to a small subset of Herpers that get excited seeing those shots because it reminds them of finding things in those situations. Your average Joe says "I can't see the animal, this photo sucks"

It's a sad reality, but to share wildlife to the world in an appealing way it often needs to be posed in habitat, or posed in a way to display the body and all its features so they can focus on the beauty of the animal, not get a natural history lesson. I think it's helpful to draw viewers in with the "beauty shots" and then if they get truly interested then they'll begin to dig deeper and want those natural history images.
For example, as a child growing up, I loved looking at the beautiful pictures of snakes in Dixon's Texas Snakes. I loved seeing the beauty shots, the posed field guide style photos.

If it was full of in situ natural history style photos, it would never have piqued my interest the way it did. I think the key is to take photos that can appeal to general viewers, as well as the natural history photos for when they dig deeper, but not go overboard in anthropomorphizing the animals like was done in the faux-tography shown above.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by jonathan » March 7th, 2015, 6:53 am

Yeah, I think that argument is valid. I'm just biased towards the natural history.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by gbin » March 7th, 2015, 7:31 am

chrish wrote:I totally believe the Woodpecker/weasel photo to be real.
I guess I lean heavily in this direction, but of course as a scientist I have a hard time believing anything "totally" ;) . Acts of predation (be they successful or only failed attempts) in the natural world are almost always amazing and not too infrequently downright hard to believe. As often as they occur we nonetheless only rarely get to witness them, let alone document them, and there's quite a difference between just reading about something and actually getting to see it. Wolves can take down a full-grown moose? Killer whales can grab seals off the beach? Etc. I know from personal experience that weasels are pretty ferocious little beasts, so I can believe one might try to take on a bird enough larger than itself that the bird could at least briefly take flight with it attached, anyway.

I quite like and am glad you brought the woodpecker/weasel internet meme to this discussion, though, John! :thumb: My personal favorite is the one with just Putin riding the weasel riding the woodpecker. My wife's favorite is the one with Miley Cyrus(?) on a stripper pole on the weasel. :D

And I'm quite appalled by whatever all they had to do to that poor tree frog to get those pictures of it on that beetle, too. I agree that's pretty clearly fake to anyone who knows anything about frogs.

And while we're on the subject, I must admit that I'm not fond of manipulated subjects or even modified photos of wildlife or scenery in general. My personal view is that the real artistry in taking such pictures should include the hard work/patience/luck of being in the right place at the right time as well as the skill to act on it. Making something (more) beautiful or amazing with one's computer after a picture is taken is a kind of artistry, too, I suppose, but I don't really think of it as wildlife or scenic photography. I'd much prefer it if manipulated subjects/modified photos were always labeled as such for everyone to know what was done to them, and competitions were held separately for them versus photos lacking same. I suppose more and more that's just me, though. Oh well, I'm OK holding an old-fashioned view of the subject, if that's all it is. :?

Gerry

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by chrish » March 7th, 2015, 9:30 am

jonathan, et al.,

I agree completely. I like a pretty photo of an animal that shows its habitat as much as anyone, but it really annoys me when they are advertised as "in situ". "in situ" means in its original place. Not photographed in a "prettier spot the next day". Among my least favorite shots are those ridiculous photos of palm vipers coiled around big showy flowers. :evil:
To me, even if you move a few branches out of the way, it is no longer "in situ". I still like the photos, but don't pretend that's how you found it.

Chris

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by cbernz » March 7th, 2015, 12:39 pm

jonathan wrote:Photos like that, where the animal was harassed to get its body "right" for the shot, where it is sitting in a manner that exhibits behavior it wouldn't normally partake in, and where it's shown in a habitat not quite like the one it would frequent, bother me even more than the obviously fake photos.
I'm not sure exactly how I feel about this. On one hand, the frog riding the beetle is an example of the goofy/unrealistic/manufactured end of the spectrum, but on the other hand, I don't know if nature photography should always strive towards the idealistic/naturalistic end of the spectrum all the time. In some situations, too, you are weighing the stress of manipulation of the animal vs. the stress of a longer photo shoot while you wait for the animal to cooperate. I'm not a visual artist or a professional photographer, so if I can get a decent shot without manipulation, I generally leave the animal alone, but when I can't, I often go with the fast, easy method to get my shots as quickly as possible, even if it means a bit of handling, or a shot that isn't quite natural. When shooting woodland salamanders, for instance, I usually pose them immediately on a relatively clean surface, moss if possible (where you'd never see them except maybe at night), rather than shoot them in the mucky crap I found them in, or sit around waiting for them to move on their own. I go for expediency over realism in that case, to maximize my field time, but also to get the animals back under cover quickly.

But no doubt philosophy varies widely about this, depending on the person and the subject he's shooting.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by Kelly Mc » March 7th, 2015, 12:46 pm

Where a snake or a lizard or a frog positions itself, of its own volition, is not a robotic accident. How it moves or arches or flushes chromatophorically when its aware of ones presence or is revealed in a parting of branches or a shadowing overhead is also an observable value. As someone who will probably never get the chance to go to far places, real shots really do speak a thousand words and its important to me to know.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by HerpMan ATL » March 7th, 2015, 6:16 pm

The weasel photos are so fake. Not for a minute do I believe they are real. The position of the weasels hand, the proportions and finally that out of focus photo. Thats not like any out of focus photo Ive seen. There's no gradual loss of focus related to depth. One half is in focus and one half isn't. Never seen that in a real photo no matter what the aperture setting is.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by chrish » March 8th, 2015, 7:04 am

Actually, the weasel/woodpecker shot is an interesting comparison to the frog/beetle shot.

In the frog/beetle shot, the more you know about frogs and beetles, the quicker you recognize this photo as a fake. In order to be fooled, you have to be pretty ignorant of the biology of the two subjects.

The weasel/woodpecker shot is exactly the opposite. The more you know about Least Weasels and Green Woodpeckers, the more likely you are to believe the photo. It is those with less undertanding of the species that seem to be the most skeptical? (I saw a criticism on a photo website where some "expert" pointed out that the weasel would have had to climb a tree to capture the woodpecker......in complete ignorance of the fact that European Green Woodpeckers frequently forage on the ground in open areas).
HerpMan ATL wrote:The weasel photos are so fake. Not for a minute do I believe they are real. The position of the weasels hand, the proportions and finally that out of focus photo. Thats not like any out of focus photo Ive seen. There's no gradual loss of focus related to depth. One half is in focus and one half isn't. Never seen that in a real photo no matter what the aperture setting is.
Herpman,

The proportions are right on. The European Green Woodpecker has a body length of 210-215mm. Least Weasels vary a lot across their range, but they range from 114 - 260mm. The subspecies in the UK is at the smaller end of that range. So a Least Weasel in the UK would be smaller than a Green Woodpecker as seen in the photos.

The position of the weasel's front leg? Where would you expect it to be if the weasel is trying not to hang on to its "prey"?

In regard to the out of focus shot you are making an incorrect assumption. You are assuming the ground is completely level. But it fact it wasn't. The ground clearly dips down a bit right where the OOF region ends and then comes back into view where the focused area begins. You can confirm this by looking at the relative height of the grass blades at the zone of transition. Notice that the OOF grass blades look longer than the sharper ones immediately behind them. Why? Because they are not immediately behind them and this is the result of the compressed perspective created by a long focal length lens like the ones a bird photographer would be using!

Here's another shot from the series -

Image

For your fake hypothesis to be correct, this person must be one of the greatest all-time photoshop wizards! Not only did he fake the same scene, but he managed to keep the ratios exactly the same. Furthermore, he managed to orient the weasel and woodpecker towards the photographer at exactly the same angle. If it was fake, he would have had to to find two separate groups of images of the woodpecker and the weasel in exactly the same position, each of which was shot from exactly the same two angles.

And again, if you were going to fake it, why would you:
1. Put the weasel's head on the back side out of view. (It would be much more interesting if you could see it clamping down")
2. Create a series of badly focused and composed versions.

Unfortunately, I think all the skepticism about these photos is a result of the fact that people have faked photos in the past and fooled people. So we are forced to examine any "unbelievable" photos with skeptical eye.

But these photos pass my test of decades of experience with photography, bird and mammal photography, and experience in the natural world. This could have happened, and is easily explained by understanding the behavior of the two species involved.

I feel bad for the guy who managed to see this once-in-a-lifetime event and to get photos. He decided to share them with the world, and he has been lampooned by people who don't know what they are talking about.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by bgorum » March 8th, 2015, 7:22 am

I have to agree 100% with what Jonathan said above. Although I do acknowledge that there is a time and place for posed, field guide type shots. Like Soopaman my interest in herp photography started by looking at filed guide shots, (not in books, but during slide shows given by some more seasoned herpetologist). If all you want to communicate in your photo is what an animal looks like, then the field guide type shots are the way to go. I'm less tolerant of the posed "Grismeresque" photos. Placing an animal in front of the most spectacular background you can find may make for a picture that will appeal to lots of people, but it is faking nature. Again, there may be a time and place for it, but you need to be really careful about what wrong ideas that picture might communicate to others about the natural history of the subject.

in my opinion if you really want to communicate what is so special about herps to the public then I think good natural history photos (in situ) are the best way to go. The problem with in situ, in my opinion, is the way that most herpers approach it. Its always seen as the quick, "get a shot of it here before we grab it for the real photos later", sort of thing. Good in situ photography requires a lot of time, effort, patience, intuition, and technical prowess. They are never just "grab shots"!

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by gbin » March 8th, 2015, 7:45 am

chrish wrote:Unfortunately, I think all the skepticism about these photos is a result of the fact that people have faked photos in the past and fooled people. So we are forced to examine any "unbelievable" photos with skeptical eye.

. . .

I feel bad for the guy who managed to see this once-in-a-lifetime event and to get photos. He decided to share them with the world, and he has been lampooned by people who don't know what they are talking about.
This is an unfortunate effect of the modern ability and current popularity of photo modification, to be sure. I feel even worse for those people who have put however many years of time, effort and expense into honing their skills as commercial wildlife and/or scenic photographers, in some cases developing real artistry in the process, only to have it all undermined by this electronic phenomenon. My wife and I love displaying art in our home, and with our strong lifelong orientations toward wildlife and wild lands, we always thought we'd eventually have a few high-end wildlife/scenic photographs hanging on our walls no matter the expense. But now that we can finally afford such we're no longer interested. Genuine depictions of nature were what appealed to us, not examples of computer wizardry - and when the latter is well done it's simply too hard to tell these apart. I feel sure that we can't be the only people who are no longer willing to spend much if any money on these photographs as a result.

Very good analysis of the woodpecker/weasel photo, Chris. :thumb:

Gerry

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by Kelly Mc » March 8th, 2015, 8:24 am

I'm more concerned with how to get Hendy Lie to keep his diabolical, stubby little fingers off of small animals.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by gbin » March 8th, 2015, 9:11 am

I assume he's doing it for acclaim, so maybe the opposite - a campaign of public criticism, maybe waged via Twitter? - would bring him around. I don't know, there isn't really much anyone can do. The authorities don't care about animal cruelty done to anything but (some) mammals, even when it can be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Might be hard to enlist much public participation on behalf of an animal such as a tree frog, too.

Gerry

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by cbernz » March 8th, 2015, 10:56 am

Le-May: "As I swapped from the binoculars to the camera, it took off towards us. I started taking some photographs....it landed in front of us, maybe 30 meters, 20, 30 meters from us..."

Here is the sequence of three blurry photographs Le-May took, in order:

1) A photo of the woodpecker flying low over a grassy field towards the left foreground.
Image

2) Another photo of the woodpecker flying low over a grassy field towards the left foreground. I marked some notable landmarks in the photo:
Image

3) The third photo - the one I posted a cropped version of above. This is where the weasel was supposedly landing, just before Martin and his wife walked towards the bird, scaring the weasel.
Image
Note the exact same grass clump and dead leaf, shot from a different angle.

At some point in the middle of this sequence, Martin took a clear photo of the bird flying in front of what looks like about midway up a conifer tree:
Image
It's some sort of tree, in any case, and one with greenery, not the grass the bird was flying in front of in all the other photos.

This bird apparently flew low over a grassy field towards Martin, during which he shot a series of photos entirely in front of grass, then the bird suddenly appeared in front of a green tree, then landed somehow in front of the same clump of grass he started from?

Let's give Martin a bit of benefit of the doubt and assume that someone screwed with his order, and the last photo in the sequence was not of the bird landing, but of the bird taking off, and that the order of the above photos is 3, 2, and 1. Why is Martin walking to his left as he shoots? And how could he get so far left while this flying woodpecker barely makes any headway? Also, he says in the interview that the bird starts flying as he is swapping from binoculars to camera. How could he have gotten that shot of the bird just leaving the ground if that is true?

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by orionmystery » March 9th, 2015, 12:17 am

And what about this? I haven't found a snake with prey yet after more than a year of herping! And as if it wasn't lucky enough to have found a snake eating a frog, it was drizzling too!

Image

Does the rain look real to you?

Reminds of this staged Nut Geo shot:
Image

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by chrish » March 9th, 2015, 5:44 am

orionmystery wrote:And what about this? I haven't found a snake with prey yet after more than a year of herping! And as if it wasn't lucky enough to have found a snake eating a frog, it was drizzling too!

Image

Does the rain look real to you?
This photo looks totally staged.

The red flower just happens to be supporting the snake because snakes usually feed from flower clumps. I know Bothriechis schlegelii do this - I see it all the time online!

I suspect if you zoomed out, you would see someone holding that flower in front of the snake. It is probably the same person holding the watering can.

And if that snake had been feeding in the rain for more than a few seconds, water would be collecting on and dripping from its lowest point which would be the chin here. No water drop?

And if you look in the reflection on the snake's eye, you see a photographer crouched down on what appears to be a lawn and they don't look like they are in the rain? Maybe it was only raining where the snake was?

Not impossible, just not probable.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by Kelly Mc » March 9th, 2015, 7:27 am

It is also very possible the frog was pushed down into the snakes throat before quickly positioning it with the flower. This would be easy if there were no regard for the snakes distress or well being, though who knows how many fails there were with the snake immediently regurgitating and thrashing unphotographically.

Knowing what had to have happened to get frogs to wave and yell, it isnt a far stretch, and even seems more likely then stealthing on an alert snake who was eating in the rain by a red flower.

To me this is the same as rattlesnake round ups, or swerving to run over herps in the road.

It is the same, but eerier, creepier.

Deception for reward at an innocents expense is especially evil and should not be allowed to prosper.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by Rothdigga » March 9th, 2015, 8:36 am

bgorum wrote:You've got to be freakin' kidding me! Photos like that have won wildlife photography competitions?

Yeah, unfortunately I was referring to the dragonfly photo above BG. In his "original" photo that he posted to the competition, he said that he was walking in a sudden torrential downpour and snapped this photo of a dragonfly trying to hang onto the branch. He won the Grand Prize for National Geographic Nature Photo of the Year. Disgusting. They later changed the caption to read that as he has shot this photo before just like that, on this occasion his friend helped him by spraying the dragonfly with a spray bottle. Conveniently he left out the fact that this dragonfly is dead no doubt and glued to the stick. How many of us have been able to just walk up to a dragonfly perched on a stick and spray it with water while shooting photos? Not that we would ever want to mind you, but I can guess that would be difficult to do as well.
After seeing all the woodpecker shots, I'm pretty sure those are real now. It's just too much trouble to fake all those photos and to do it that well. The blurred out one looks just like a crappy photo where the AF hit that bunchgrass in the background instead of the foreground. I've done that enough times and deleted hundreds of those photos off my camera.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by Kelly Mc » March 9th, 2015, 10:16 am

I used to feel a little self conscious about my little photo taking pursuits. Mostly it was to record events and aspects of my herpetoculture.

Then I was peeped to how things really go down sometimes, and what the goals are in taking a photo.

I no longer feel the same, because those aren't my goals. And though my subjects may be captive they are never moved or touched before I take their picture on my meager device. Pictures of the animals I cherish may be naively shot or not in best resolution but at least the moment is raw.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by cbernz » March 9th, 2015, 4:29 pm

Rothdigga wrote:Conveniently he left out the fact that this dragonfly is dead no doubt and glued to the stick. How many of us have been able to just walk up to a dragonfly perched on a stick and spray it with water while shooting photos? Not that we would ever want to mind you, but I can guess that would be difficult to do as well.
I have some experience with shooting dragons. It is possible to walk right up to, and sometimes even handle and manipulate, a dragonfly that is not properly warmed up yet (on a cool morning, for instance). You wouldn't usually see them out at the tip of a stick under those conditions, though. They will be deep in the grass hiding from the birds until the sun warms them up enough to take off.

Because dragons can be so difficult to approach, it is extremely common to pose them for photos. Field guides will often include "posed" in the caption to indicate which photos are not natural. There are several different techniques used to get dragons to sit still for a photo. Most involve either chilling, disorienting, or tiring the dragon so that it can be posed for a while (several seconds to several minutes) before it takes off again. Simply holding the animal by the wings or placing it in an envelope for a few minutes will usually tire it enough to get a series of photos, and placing it in a cooler or dunking it briefly in cold water (their exoskeletons are essentially waterproof) will chill them down enough to get them to sit. A chilled or tired dragon can be easily manipulated onto an ideal perch, where they will usually sit in an odd, unnatural-looking posture for a while, until the sun starts to energize them again. There will be a window of time when they will assume a more natural pose before they take off.

Judging from the posture in this photo (rear legs not quite grasping the branch, wings angled up), I would guess that this bug was held or chilled for a while, posed on the stick, and then shot before it assumed a more natural posture. The angled wings and akimbo legs are very typical of a bug that has been manipulated. I doubt the bug is dead, and unless the guy was really careless, the animal probably flew away a short time later. Nevertheless, the guy should have been honest about the shot being posed. They do include posed animal shots in "Your Shot" from time to time, but they always give a brief explanation of how the shot was achieved.

Here's an example of a dragon I netted, held gently by the wings for a couple minutes, and posed on a stick. You can see some of the telltale signs of a posed bug: rear feet off, wings up, and a slight sheen of finger grease on the wings also!

Image

I might have been able to get a better shot had I waited slightly longer before shooting (or he may have flown off before I got any shot at all).

Is this "fake" nature photography? I'm not sure. I definitely think it needs to be properly labeled when published in a field guide or magazine, if only for the sake of pure honesty. Posed photos aren't natural photos, but at their best they can simulate a pose you would see in nature, without having to spend days, get extremely lucky, or in some cases climb a tree or ford a river. I also feel very strongly that there is a big distinction between a dragonfly posed on a stick and a frog posed on a beetle (again, not in defense of the dragonfly guy: he should have been honest). I feel that posed photos displaying (or simulating) essentially natural behavior can perform a function that posed photos in goofy, unrealistic situations can't.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by BillMcGighan » March 10th, 2015, 6:51 am

Just another unsolicited oppinion:
I feel that posed photos displaying (or simulating) essentially natural behavior can perform a function that posed photos in goofy, unrealistic situations can't.
For me, personally, I don't mind "staged" pics that truly show the natural behavior of our creatures, but have to chuckle at pics, even common here on our forum, that poses a herp in great view and lighting, in a totally unnatural environment, posture, or even micro habitat.
The exception to this is a very tight shot for a "field guide" type pic.


Years ago, pre-crash, one of our own excellent forum photographers admitted to harmlessly attaching a Velcro patch to the plastron of a hatchling turtle, then "sticking" it momentarily on a branch over a body of water. The resultant pic was totally natural, educational to folks new to herpetology, and the animal was not harmed.

Bird photographers and ornithologists, especially pre-digital; have for years taken natural shots inside studio aviaries.
Of course, this was a big jump from Audubon’s illustration generation in that they just shot the bird and posed it with wire. :lol:

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by Kelly Mc » March 10th, 2015, 7:39 am

A person can overestimate their own knowledge and think they are posing or placing an animal on a topological detail or in a way they think will show a natural aspect. Almost everyone on earth thinks they know more than they know.

Its totally dependent on what is seen by the person w camera , or considered by them to even be a behavior or an important detail.

It also depends on what the viewer is wanting to learn by looking at photos.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by gbin » March 10th, 2015, 7:52 am

Many years ago while I was fortunate enough to be living and studying in the Chiricahuas, Oxford Scientific Films spent some time there getting southwestern desert footage (e.g. of a tarantula hawk wasp parasitizing a tarantula) for some purpose I no longer recall. I was amazed at both their ability to fake things and their reliance on such fakery. For some of the shots they were after they spent considerable time and effort developing very detailed, partially or wholly enclosed dioramas, miniature but quite naturalistic stages on which various creatures were compelled to play their parts in front of various cameras and under proper lighting for same. And of course so far as I'm aware they never make any disclaimers about this kind of thing when they present their work.

I was certainly impressed, and I can certainly recognize the educational and entertainment value of their work, too, but I've had a hard time thinking of them as natural history film makers ever since. If the subject was manipulated in order to take a photo and/or the photo was modified after being taken, then I don't think of it as nature photography no matter how good a mimic of nature it might be. I don't know, though, maybe educational film makers should be given more leeway than still photographers. I think they should include relevant disclaimers with their work so everyone knows what they did, in any event.

Gerry

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by chris_mcmartin » March 10th, 2015, 8:53 am

gbin wrote:I was certainly impressed, and I can certainly recognize the educational and entertainment value of their work, too, but I've had a hard time thinking of them as natural history film makers ever since.
It's the same with the old Disney True-Life Adventures series (remember the lemmings?), Marty Stouffer's Wild America series (forced predator-prey interactions in fenced areas), and probably many more.


Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure every single Bigfoot photo I've ever seen has been staged/faked!

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by Kelly Mc » March 10th, 2015, 10:38 am

On that iconic 70's footage, including breasts on that one Bigfoot was really thinking out of the box though.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by jonathan » March 10th, 2015, 11:27 am

chris_mcmartin wrote:
gbin wrote:I was certainly impressed, and I can certainly recognize the educational and entertainment value of their work, too, but I've had a hard time thinking of them as natural history film makers ever since.
It's the same with the old Disney True-Life Adventures series (remember the lemmings?), Marty Stouffer's Wild America series (forced predator-prey interactions in fenced areas), and probably many more.
I remember watching a raccoon on Wild America as a kid, and my dad's disgust as he pointed out to me that the raccoon appeared to be displaying signs of having been injured while trapping.

Of course, having now met people directly involved in such shoots, I've pretty much given up on anything other than the Planet Earth series as being the slightest bit real. Perhaps we could start a list of "natural history filmmakers that have filmed actual natural history"?


chris_mcmartin wrote:Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure every single Bigfoot photo I've ever seen has been staged/faked!
I have to give them some leeway on that - Bigfoot is extremely secretive in its natural environment, and filming unstaged shots could be considered illegal voyeurism of a humanoid. The squads of stage Bigfoot willing to be employed to recreate natural shots for photographers and videographers are the only reason those of us who aren't lucky enough to have encountered Bigfoot in the wild are able to observe their behavior at all.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by Kelly Mc » March 10th, 2015, 12:43 pm

A few years ago I had a dream I got to go on an expedition to study tarantulas with Mikhail Bagaturov and long story short we found out that the California Black Tarantula and Bigfoot were actually the same shape shifting entity, which is why Bigfoot had eluded discovery. We were all shocked at this finding but also very pleased.

More on the topic is that it seems people get somewhat defensive when this placement/posing subject is brought up - but I don't think anyone doubts the beauty and value of those type of shots and the hard work that goes into them. But they don't include things that may have good value too, as a few fleeting seconds frozen in an image can be zoomed in and studied in a way that is awesome but something can be missed, if we involve our perception of how its better presented.

There was a large viper high up in the canopy that was [unexplained] removed from its position. An exciting shot was scored of its strike.

But I wanted to see what it was in, how high, its musculature, and position of repose in heavy or light foliage, bough, or branches. I never got to learn. It was unimportant to the person who found the viper, or they were familiar with the biome already. But I wanted to see the first sighting, I like to look at the environment and topical relationships of surfaces and spaces to the animals.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by chris_mcmartin » March 10th, 2015, 2:14 pm

A little more herp-specific: bear in mind I'm retelling a tale, part of which I heard second-hand, so I'm paraphrasing.

I like collared lizards. One species, the reticulated collared lizard (Crotaphytus reticulatus) is found only in south Texas in the US. In researching how best to go about finding one, I found a photograph by one Dr. Richard Montanucci (from, I believe, the 1970s) depicting a specimen holding on to the top part of a round wooden fence post. I struck off boldly into the back roads of the Tamaulipan scrub, searching the fence lines along the rights-of-way, scrutinizing every wooden fence post in hopes of seeing one of these lizards.

A few years later, when herping the same area with a more experienced reticulatus devotee, I lamented my lack of success despite looking at pretty much every fence post. The more experienced herper, who is conducting a long-term study of the species, had corresponded with Dr. Montanucci, including a discussing regarding that very photograph. Turns out the good doctor had merely placed the lizard there in an effort to get it to sit still for a decent shot! It was not quite the depiction of natural history I had assumed upon first viewing it.

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Re: Truths behind fake nature photography

Post by cbernz » March 10th, 2015, 3:36 pm

Just for fun, here are two photos of Plethodon yonahlossee. One of them is posed, and the other is photographed as found. Can you guess which is which?

Image
Image

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