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The Landscape Photographer of the Year

So What's the Controversy?

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Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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This year’s Landscape Photographer of the Year competition not only drew some great photographic entries but also raised some controversy. I wrote about this controversy at length on my blog but the length of the article by the time we had all of the updates and comments got a bit out of hand for more than a cursory glance.

So, for the benefit of those who didn’t hear about it, what was the controversy? Well initially it was raised by Alex Nail that the winner’s image was a ‘copy’ of an old photo from another photographer from the same camera club (as admitted on the photographers website). “So what”, I hear you say, “there are so many photographed places that it’s difficult to be original”. We’d agree - but for someone to be declared “Photographer of the Year” in any genre they should really be doing something original.

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  • Giles

    Ok, to get the ball rolling… I have no problem with the first 2 since they are obviously not real, and indeed the Nikon ad is deliberately making a joke with the 2 suns thing. I begin to have problems with the 3rd image though, because it is not immediately obvious that it is a comp. Though, note that i say ‘begin’, because i have nothing against comps, apart from when they are passed of as straight. Without getting too graphic, it is a bit like cosmetic surgery giving young people an unreal expectation of how their bodies should look. I know that some people would argue that anyone can have cosmetic surgery if they are not happy with their body, just as some would argue that the days of ‘real’ photography passed a long long time ago (about the time that the darkroom was invented)… but for me, I like to know when i look at something whether it is based on fact… or not.

  • Scott A Murray

    3D enviroments are rather convinving nowadays and something I have experience with (As part of my job, not related to my photography) and there are several programs Terragen 2, Vue d’Esprit, etc that can produce relatively convincing(although never totally convincing in my eyes) results.

    I think to submit something built in a 3D program where the textures are made from photographs or use a photograph to project a texture on to geometry would be totally unacceptable as far as Photography competitions go in my opinion.

    Composites are a tricky subject and I am of the opinion that they shouldn’t be allowed in a Landscape photography competition, I feel they would probably be more suited in a Photoshop competition or something similar.

    • Projecting an image onto a 3D surface – which is what 3D software does as texture mapping if simplified (a lot) – is something that is only really an extension of using the types of reprojection and warp tools in photoshop and other programmes.

      I agree that these images have no place in a photography competition but how do you write down rules that stop this happening. If warping a photograph extensively, pasting in things from different areas and compositing is allowed – where do you set the limits? This is what I was trying to get at.

      Should the image represent something that looks ‘real’ – i.e. no double suns, no miniature people etc. If we allow ‘anything goes’ it really is anything goes…

      • Scott A Murray

        It’s certainly a difficult one, I guess when you allow an “Anything Goes” I suppose you are going to get images that are pretty far removed from reality by using composite pieces, warping, moving stuff around etc.
        I’d suggest it’s down to the judges discretion to decide what has gone “too far” but after seeing some of the images that have been commended etc in the Take-A-View competition over the years maybe that’s not the best idea.
        I think this highlights a problem with competitions on the whole, they are a pretty poor judge of a good photographer. Don’t get me wrong there are some very worthy photographers that come out of it, but there is also a lot of “One hit wonder” images. Surely to judge a Photographer of the Year it should be portfolio based and not just one image. I guess with everything art related It’s very subjective and everyone has their different ideas on how it should be judged.

        Although I am sure this subject has been covered before so I’m going to stop typing or I’ll just start incoherently rambling (even more…)

      • Giles

        I think there are several ways to go, but that depend on people being sufficiently thoughtful about what they are asking to see in the first place; I think photography can truly have been said to have come of age now that it has spawned its own sub-media. Competition setters should be careful to specifically ask whether they want to see photography, in which case nothing has really changed and basic darkroom techniques should be allowed and the RAW file should be supplied (I have no idea whether competitions in the old days used to stipulate what constituted allowable darkroom technique… if they didn’t they should have). If they want to see photography used in visual art in the broader sense, then they should say so and anything goes.

        I am aware that many things (cloning, moving objects, combining perspectives…), were not generally faesable in the old days but are much easier to do now, and thus fall into a grey area. Personally, I would say that they are allowable though it would be a shame if ONLY people in possession of Photoshop and the skills to use it ended up winning photography competitions.

        I wonder whether one could apply building regulations (i.e. what constitues a new build vs an extension): maybe ‘at least 90% of the image pixels must remain spacially where they were captured in camera’? This would allow for some modest touching out of unwanted artifacts, the odd little move (each move would change 2x its surface area in the original), and unlimited changes to density and colouration… all standard stuff from the film era.

  • bernard piercy

    Hi All

    Its all down to context isn’t it? If you enter a photo competition, where the rules state that manipulation is not allowed, then clearly this is not acceptable (whether the error was deliberate or not). However, a picture intended for viewing at home or on the web (or even in an art gallery!) is not held to any ‘reality’ standard, it is held to an artistic standard. All photographs are an interpretation of reality no matter how ‘straight’.

  • Custard

    In my view it was a mistake to change the original decision on the grounds of excessive manipulation. The Photoshop genie is out of the bottle and it can’t be put back.

    However, if this forum could reach a consensus on the precise rules for “no manipulation” and also suggest a practical method for policing those rules, then I’d be happy to change my opinion.

    In reality the new nature of photo competitions is likely to be the winner will be that photograph that is most manipulated…without actually getting caught in the act!

    • The rules are quite clear and the judges were perfectly correct in disqualifying the affected images, once the issues were pointed out:

      “Digital adjustments, including High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging techniques and the joining together of multiple frames, are allowed in all categories. However, for images entered in Classic view, Living the view and Urban view, the integrity of the subject must be maintained and the making of physical changes to the landscape is not permitted (removing fences, moving trees, stripping in sky from another image etc). The organisers reserve the right to disqualify any image that they feel lacks authenticity due to over-manipulation.”

      This is what everyone who enters the competition must abide by. If people contravene the stated rules, whether by accident or design, they should expect consequences. That’s life.

  • digital_davem

    For many people, landscape photography has always been about expressing what you felt rather than literally what you saw (eg Ansel). But key to this has been plausibility: the end result needs to be believable, even if it manipulated.

    In the case of the Lindisfarne boats superficially it seems a good photo to me, improved by the manipulation that helped achieve a visualisation that would have been less attractive without it. I can’t see how adding back a patch of scruffy grass or an unwanted box would make the image better or more realistic. It’s an artistic interpretation and quite a good one.

    However, when submitted in the unmanipulated category, the dual light sources rather give it away. It’s unfortunate that it broke the rules and the disqualification had to come in the name of fairness to other competitors. But what’s really unfortunate about this affair is the laxness of the organisers. You pay a hefty fee to enter and IMO that obliges the organisers to perform due diligence – at least with the finalist entries. LPOTY may have the prestige at the moment but I wonder whether it is deserved – certainly doubts have been widely expressed about the merit of the competition. Perhaps one solution would be to ask photographers to formally declare their manipulations (where it is permitted) and confirm that entries have not been manipulated where it is not?

    Back to the wider question, the shot of the tree and power station raised an intersting question. If the real world presents you with a great potential shot but puts some inconvenient impeditment in the way that spoils the composition and there is no obvious way around it, are you justified in mashing the pixels to solve the problem. Many are uncomfortable with this idea even in private work but is it really that different from completely altering the tonal relationships for artistic effect (something readlily accepted). There was example on the LuLa website a while back that caused a lot of debate.

  • Simon Miles

    Personally I have always been very uneasy about the whole business of submitting something as personal and subjective as art to this sort of winner takes all competition. To adapt a well-known phrase, you won’t please most of the people most of the time. I also have a lot of sympathy with Scott’s complaint about one hit wonders. This is another problem as competitions, by their nature, are not good at valuing a body of work.

    But putting all that aside, this is surely down to a pretty basic failure to set clear rules and check and enforce them. As far as the individual is concerned, yes, anything goes. Why not? I’m not going to be the one to impose my tastes and preferences on anyone else. As to copying someone else’s image, I don’t think that really stands up to scrutiny as a valid objection. You would end up disqualifying hundreds of images of Bryce Canyon, Skye’s Old Man of Storr and countless other much photographed locations. That’s a matter for the judges, who should know enough about landscape photography to enable them to come to an informed view as to the originality of the photographs before them.

    As far as the rules are concerned, it’s surely up to the organisers to decide what exactly about photography they are supposed to be celebrating and set the rules accordingly. As Giles has mentioned, this can easily be enforced, for example, by requiring contestants to supply Raw image files. This already happens, I believe, for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

    Sadly, that rules out my classic (and utterly original) Twin Suns and Moonrise over Hernandez for next year’s competition.

  • TheFlyingPig

    I personally think the rules at the very least give you a pretty good hint what to enter or not to enter – don’t remove things that are there (fences etc), don’t move things that are there to somewhere else in the picture, don’t swap skies – it gives me an idea what they are after anyway. Not that you’d notice by my not getting anywhere…

    For me though, it’s the last bit – “The organisers reserve the right to disqualify any image that they feel lacks authenticity due to over-manipulation” that makes me see – “You can try it and may get away with it if we don’t notice”.

    Having said that, to have those rules and then have a whole category when it seems to be a “go for it” scenario does puzzle me a bit, I mean, the tree shot I saw on Tims blog with the ‘flood’ plug-in was 50% software and (to me at least) not authentic looking at all.

    With the amount of entries, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Or sooner AND later if you include the whole hermit crab thing…

    For me, and my possibly over-simplified way of looking at things, there’s a difference between photography and photography based digital art…and stripping in a sky with a different lighting source than the foreground, or a tree with it’s shadow on the other side than that of the chimneys, while both very striking, are photography based digital art, as is the use of the flood plug-in.

    The competition needs to decide what it wants to be.

  • ian.scholey

    “People have rightly said that the original photographer has suffered enough so I hope we can keep his name out of the comments.” But you provide a link to your blog that does name him ? I really hope the storm created to an unnecessary extent doesn’t adversely affect this individual. He wasn’t a MP fiddling his expenses or celebrity accused of a dreadful crime. I sense its probably been milked enough B&W conversion’s by their nature don’t reflect reality and anybody who’s played around with converting them in PS or Lightroom know the entire mood can be altered. LPOTY isn’t the front page of a newspaper or evidential reporting, its art !

    • As far as I am aware My blog is one of the only places on the Internet reporting the story that has actually removed the photographers name from the original post and not mentioned it in this news item (until you comment that is). The discussion is about how far we should competitions let people go with their manipulationd. Thoughts?

  • Alex Nail

    What I find worrying about the whole thing is the he was only found out because he didn’t cover his tracks well. It would have been difficult to tell conclusively without the other images to compare against or without the two different light sources in one of the images.
    The fact is I suspect I, like many photographers who are competent with photoshop, could fake my images and make them Unrecognisable as composites even at full resolution (and it’s especially easy with black and white)
    That raises the question of just how many ‘faked’ images there are out there.
    I can’t see how anything can be done about it, particularly when so many people view photography as an art form entirely open to manipulation.

    • ian.scholey


      A couple of quotes from your blog

      “For my part I have no interest in David being ‘stripped’ of his award”
      “I am sure we can all now put this behind us”

      But you seem to have real angst and can’t seem to put it behind you.

      Photography is a creative process, and in a digital world perhaps that creativity extends past where you thought it did. I wonder deep down why following the disqualification you felt you couldnt let go!

      Consider that its about telling a story and creating an emotional feeling through the image rather than arguing about whether an instant in time is perfectly and scientifically recorded

      • Alex Nail

        I’m sure you know that your misrepresenting me if you’ve read the blog. I’m not going to argue, sorry

    • Well you could buy a large format camera & only do contact prints and enlargements directly from the slides, removing digital from the entire process from shutter to print. That’s worked very well for Michael Fatali who’s built his whole reputation and marketing around this ‘ideal’. At his gallery in Springdale, his prints are astonishing in the flesh… But of course those in the know know that there’s a reason why photoshop is nicknamed ‘the digital darkroom ‘ and the origin of the names of tools such as dodging and burning and contrast masking… some even accuse him of composites (ie double exposures) too. So even in the film age before digital I suspect these concerns about photographic integrity were around!

      • Giles

        Seen Michael Fatali’s stuff in Springdale when i was co leading a tour there… and was horrified to see that things like various moons had been rather obviously manipulated (you could even see the ragged edge of the cardboard used to make the mask), and that only what we coud see. Again, it was not that the manipulation had been done, but that he stated as part of his sales blurb that the images were not manipulated.

        It is also worth noting that he was actually convicted and sentenced for setting a fire underneath a rock arch within the park… which created a nice warm evening light-like glow to the photographs. Thus proving that manipulations can happen at any time in the creative process.

        • Jason Theaker

          “Setting a fire underneath a rock arch” isn’t manipulation, its art! He he. Omg, what a guy!

  • The only winners in this competition are the organisers, publishers and the associated media. Lots of people seem to be chuffed to bits to get their image commended or in the book, whereas all that’s actually happened is that they’ve paid to have it included into a book and exhibition which serve simply to make money for the associated organizations. If you get commended I think I’m right in thinking you don’t even get a copy of the book or your entry fees back. Giving your hard work away for free in this digital age is what’s eroded the profession of landscape photography, this competition is worse though because you have actually paid to give it away!

    • JT


  • digital_davem

    Given that Tim has a connection with the organiser and given that Joe is a major part of this publication, I would imagine that these discussions might well have taken place privately with the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

    It would be very interesting to know what the horse’s mouth thinks about all this, shame we will never get to know….

  • Roger Voller

    I have praise for Tim Parkin who analyzes the integrity of images that were in question with intentional deception or not. He should be on the panel next year to define the categories more clearly and assemble what’s what, and what a chore that would be. Take a view charged up this monster of competition, they are responsible of not being able to control it. My personal view on landscape photography is for me it stands for natural beauty presented from mother nature herself (that’s the category in my heart not what I’m telling you to do). I have no less respect (though less interest) for an artist constructing an image in photoshop and creating an ‘artificial’ mood and I was disappointed Take a view do not categorize these more clearly not just for the submitter but for the viewer. There are so many people slagging each other off in forums it has tarnished my enjoyment a little of my first entry and commendations. I paid to get in, do I expect money in return no, do I care? no!, should I? well I would go somewhere else wouldn’t I. Though I do my hobby because I enjoy the outdoors, chasing the light, reassuringly people still say and If someone enjoys viewing my work of the natural landscape that will give me enjoyment too!!! especially being a new photographer under the radar, and extra motivation to enter next year with some of the problems learnt and hopefully solved and with less upsets…Is that asking to much? haha

  • Robin Sinton

    There are some very interesting and mature comments in this thread. At the end of the day two decisions have to be made. Is the image photography or illustration? and, Has the photographer been true to themselves and to the landscape that they are photographing? There are too many photographers who think that anything goes, and that Photoshop is the be all and end all of all photography. Despite this apparent popular approach, do photographers not stop to consider that there is still a place for personal integrity in this wicked world? Apparently not.

    • Jason Theaker

      Ironically when the camera was invented the very same argument was made about the photograph signalling the end of art! People should stop and smell the creative roses! It doesn’t matter about ‘truth’ it doesn’t exists, it’s created out of your own personal perception anyway!!! Come on people; let’s stop this ‘but it not real’ debate!!!

      • JT

        Ah, the photographer can mask/eliminate undesirable objects from a scene, in the field, with the choice of lens and view point, it’s a skill known as composition. Having the anticipation, patience and good fortune, for weather and lighting to illuminate the scene, I’ll call this dedication to the craft of Landscape photography, although blind optimism comes to mind at times. Using software to remove undesirable and/or add desirable elements to an image is a graphic arts technique called retouching and misrepresents reality.

        So, getting everything right in the field is the craft of Landscape photography and a RAW file does reflect the photographers technique, vision and integrity to the craft. Using software to create an illusion might be art, but passing it off as Landscape photography, IMHO is untruthful.

  • Custard

    Here’s a point that seems to be getting lost in this discussion. The manipulated image won…twice! The original opinion of the judges were that these manipulated images were better than all the others in their respective categories. So barring manipulated images means, in the declared opinion of the judges, restricting the competition to less able images.

    A competition for unmanipulated images is in effect the Paralympics of the photographic world.

    • Giles

      But the manipulation is not photography. These competitions do not marked themselves as retouching competitions.

      Maybe they should.

      • Jason Theaker

        Come on Giles, what is photography anyway!!! I think custard has a good point (did I just say that!) although I’m not comfortable with the Paralympics reference…but apart from that, yep good point.

        • Giles

          i’ve already stated that i don’t have a problem with manipulated images… except for when they are being passed off as unmanipulated.

          what I object to is lack of honesty in the competitor and lack of rigour in the competition. And an ex amateur racing cyclist this does strike deep (think Tour de France)

          Incidentally, I was once a judge of a national photo competition and rejected an image because it had some rather poorly done manipulation… not because it had been manipulated, but because it had been done badly. Once I had pointed out the flaws, the other judges agreed with me. The same image was subsequently placed highly in another competition. What can you do?

    • Charles Twist

      More like doped atheletes winning the Olympics and the undoped ones not having a chance.

      • That implies that….

        1. You consider that an image that has been digitally changed or ‘manipulated’ (to use the word I don’t like) is almost always going to be better than one that hasn’t (though I am pretty sure most images these days are digitally processed in some way so I am not sure how relevant the comment is anyway)

        2. You also consider images that are digitally changed are a cheat and underhand in the same way doping at the Olympics.

        Surely not to both ?

        • Charles Twist

          If an image would be perfect except for the presence or absence of that branch/human/cloud/etc, then manipulation gives you an advantage. It removes limitations. It means you can take the picture even when it’s not perfect. You can then send more pics to the competition than somebody who doesn’t manipulate.

          If I work hard to stay within the limitations of the brief but lose out to somebody who doesn’t, then I would feel cheated. I didn’t enter the competition, so I am easy about it. But I can see why some would be aggrieved.


  • Adam Long

    No it isn’t. A competition for unmanipulated images is the same as the Olympics, ie strict rules and testing on artificially enhanced performances. As far as I’m aware the Olympics doesn’t involve everyone getting whacked up on steroids and amphetamines first to ensure they beat any ‘less able’ athletes.

    • Ian

      That’s what you’d hope, isn’t it?

      But in sports I wonder how many still get away with with it for each that is caught?

      The higher the stakes, the more pressure there is to cheat. Now I’m not saying that the pressures on those entering Landscape Composite of the Year are anything like those experienced by Olympic athletes, but human nature is what it is and you can’t simply rely on everyone being open, honest and sporting in their approach.

      Rigorous rule enforcement has to be a fundamental requirement to ensure a “level playing field” in all forms of competition.

  • jennym

    I personally find Custard’s comment that ‘A competition for unmanipulated images is in effect the Paralympics of the photographic world’ in poor taste and potentially offensive (mainly to Paralympians). A response of ‘Rhubarb’ may also be in poor taste but rather less offensive.

    On a more serious note, I have no problem with a competition for ‘Digitally manipulated landscape image of the Year’ or ‘Warts-an’-all Landscape Photographer of the Year’ as long as the rules are clear and adhered to. Neither is ‘better’ and both would produce strong and different images. I do think that for competitions with significant entry fees, the judges should respect their own competition rules. Having said that, my understanding is that for all shortlisted entries the amount of digital manipulation that had been applied to the image was declared, so it should be there for the judges to see.

    The question of originality is more tricky, but perhaps you could apply the principle of intent, just as in the distinction between manslaughter and murder. For me it is pertinent that the original, disqualified winner set out to copy and ‘do justice to’ an image of ‘a friend’ in his camera club who also happens to be an FRPS of 20 years specializing in monochrome images, and a club, national, and international judge…. not just the bloke next door who showed me his holiday pics of Northumberland and it looked a pretty spot for a photograph.

    Overall this type of controversy doesn’t benefit anyone and my overall feeling is one of sadness.

    • Robin Sinton

      I agree completely with jennym. More so because of the comment about copying the image of a friend. This sums up the attitude of a number of photographers that I have met. It’s akin to me saying, “I’ve seen a photograph by Joe Cornish and I know where he was when he took it. I can go there and take it again, then I’ll put a better sky into it and change this and change that ….” What arrogance! To set out deliberately to copy someone else’s work is as near to plagiarism as it is possible to get. Produce something similar – alright, but to copy – no. I too feel sadness and want no part of this. Yes, I’ve been to the same places as some great photographers and, being honest, all it proved was how much better they are than us normal mortals.

  • Jason Theaker

    Making photographs in any way represents manipulation, adding contrast, changing the tonal range, setting white balance, choosing which lens, what time of day, which particular type of not so popular cliché to focus on! I could go on, but it’s going to get even sillier… Thing is, people naively feel betrayed by this practice, ‘it’s not truth’ I hear them shouting from their preconceived limitations, (not even sure you can do that, but I hope you get my point). Anyway, most people that have thought past the obvious pitfalls here will accept that unless you get robots to follow a downloadable set of orders, with set gps coordinates, predefined instructions and popular subject cliché then you’re not going to get around this problem. The competition is only as good as the judges and highlights their motivations, be it popular, commercial or creative. Anyway, I better stop before I get myself into any more trouble by upsetting even more people…

  • Custard

    I take your point…but Lance Armstrong kept on winning until he was caught, and it’ll be the same with photo competitions. The fact that needs to be dealt with is that digital manipulation makes more attractive photographs.

    • That, of course, is a matter of opinion! If you like over-saturated alien-looking landscapes that bear only a tangential relationship with the landscape as we see it with our own eyes then yes, unrestrained digital editing does make more attractive photographs.

      • Simon Miles

        Like you, Julian, I favour a light touch with post-processing and a ‘straight’ look for my own images. But in the interests of balance, there are plenty of superb photographers whose work relies on some quite dramatic intervention between capture and print. Some of Doug Chinnery’s work with Intentional Camera Movement Springs to mind for example. I also quite like this quote (and the photographs) from black and white photographer Joel Tjintjelaar (www.bwvision.com):

        “I don’t believe in straight out of the camera shots. I believe in the artistic result and in the visualization of the artist of how he/she sees the world. A camera is just a piece of hardware with no mind, no soul, no artistry, just an object that records a situation, unbiased and emotionless. I’m not interested in the vision of a piece of hardware, I’m only interested in the vision of the artist with a mind and soul, who will alter the image to his reality. It’s the difference between photography and art.”

        I know you prefer film cameras, but they are just ‘hardware’ too, even the wooden ones! Just a thought. :)

  • Simon Miles

    Well, the argument has heated up a bit since I last looked… I can’t help feeling we need to keep some perspective and proportionality here. Whether you like it or not, digital manipulation/adjustment has become part of the mainstream photographic process. The real question is how much is acceptable. As the comments here show, that’s a huge other debate in the general context of photography (and one we’ve had before and no doubt will have again). But we seem to be agreed that the competition rules are actually quite clear. Let’s hope the organisers have learned the lesson that they need to ensure they also enforce them. I have to admit I’m not entirely comfortable with some of the Olympic/Paralympic comments, but insofar as any competition needs a level playing field, the point is well made.

  • kevin-allan

    One sad feature of this controversy is that the value of the other photographs included in the book has been devalued, I think, because the reputation of the competition has suffered. There are many excellent images in the book; I know that because I spent 15 minutes looking through it in Waterstones without buying it …

    Another sad thing is that neither Charlie Waite, David Noton, or Damien Demolder could recognise a photo with two light sources !

    • Charles Twist

      So we couldn’t shoot landscapes with fill-in flash?

      • Cheeky! ;-)

        • Charles Twist

          Someone who helps to run this mag has even admitted to waving a torch at their foreground…
          How amateurish! ;)

  • David OBrien

    Any debate about how far is too far is inevitably subjective. Provided the product has “clear labelling” and there is somebody competent that can check “that it does what it says on the tin”, then everybody should be happy. You then enter into the category which best describes your photographic bent. I have no truck with those who ditially manipulate and create the “photographically impossible”……..some of the results can be breathtaking. It just wouldn’t be the category that I would enter and vice versa.

    I do think that TAV is not clear on labelling and perhaps this is part of the problem. In the “How to enter” section, it says of the “Your View” section:

    “What does the UK landscape mean to you? A stream rushing over pebbles, a foggy day in the Peak District, fish & chips on a deserted beach, you and your friends on your first big summit. Pretty much anything goes, as long as it is in the UK and in the outdoors. Use your imagination, as you have the scope for a very conceptual and personal approach.”

    Most people as they go through the “how to enter” section might have only seen the above. No mention here of extent of manipulation. It is only when/if you read the Terms and Conditions (separate section) that there is mention of extent of digital manipulation. I suspect that there was a box somewhere which, upon final application, punter had to tick…that he had read the T&Cs. But, not very clear I think.

    This mixed message also means that those people who’s images focus on e.g. intricate detail (there aren’t many of these in TAV!) and which are not manipulated, will be up against – in the same category – other images which can be entirely composite and/or digitally created.

    There should, in my view, be consistent labelling and categories should perhaps be more carefully delineated. It is debatable therefore whether one should lump into a single category, as Your View does, images which one would say are traditional photographs and those which are “computer-made”. This doesn’t seem right as this is the type of distinction that many people seem to care about.

    Create clear and carefully defined categories. Enforce those catagories. Perfom better due diligence. And if you are going to win LPOTY, it must be made clear from which sub-categories the winner can be chosen. The LPOTY winner is then defined and obtains merit based on a clear understanding of process.

    • Create clear and carefully defined categories. Enforce those catagories. Perfom better due diligence. And if you are going to win LPOTY, it must be made clear from which sub-categories the winner can be chosen. The LPOTY winner is then defined and obtains merit based on a clear understanding of process.


    • milouvision

      ““What does the UK landscape mean to you? /snip.”

      As the category winner, I saw this as a ‘what does the landscape mean to you?” aspect as opposed to how I thought the landscape should look. It was only after I ascertained that the category allowed all manner of interpretation.

  • The conversation has veered a little bit so that we’re arguing between “no manipulation at all”, “typical manipulation – delete minimal, add nothing”, “composites allowed but result should look like a photograph of reality”, “composites/graphic art allowed without restriction”.

    I think most people think that the first category isn’t really possible – even a film such as velvia is a ‘canned’ manipulation and most people I know who use film still work on the result in order to create a print.

    So we have a stress between the last three. Although having shown the images above we have seen that ‘no holds barred’ becomes a farce (well I think most people would agree).

    Does anybody any comments about the two remaining categories ‘delete minimal, add nothing’ and ‘composites allowed but it must remain a plausible photograph of a real location’?

    • Simon Miles

      Seems like a fair summary. Delete minimal, add nothing sounds reasonable except that there would probably be arguments about what exactly is minimal deletion. At least the current rule about not making physical changes is unambiguous. Personally, I think if composites are going to be allowed they should have their own separate category, or even a different competition!

    • Giles

      Yes… The lack of precise terms would cause probs (i.e. minimal)… Which is why I suggested percentiles in the first response on this thread… Easy to check against a raw file by flicking from one to another and so pretty easy to calculate approx areas.

      If you can delete but not add, can you move?

      “composites allowed” I don’t really like (apart from panoramas, and stripping in a darker exposure of the same sky (same as using a grad filter but more effective around lumpy horizons)) but that is personal taste and there is a place for it.

    • digital_davem

      If we set aside this LPOTY business and debates about integrity and deceit for a moment, the answer to the question of how much manipulation is permissable is quite simple: it depends on the taste of the viewer.

      Some kinds of work simply cannot be achieved merely with the aid of the zone system, a ND grad and 2 degrees of forward tilt and require more complex techniques. In my view, from the perspective of the photographer anything ought to be allowed; it’s the viewer who makes the judgement of what is acceptable to them – a question of personal taste. I certainly don’t believe any 3rd party (including Tim) should be attempting to define what is good taste and what other people should find acceptable.

      There is a well known photographer whose name I forget (Jerry something) who specialises in composite landscapes with mountains hanging in mid air, giant eyes looking out of the clouds etc). I can’t stand this kind of work but lots of people like it and who is anyone (including me) to be an arbiter of what people are allowed to like and by implication produce. Photographers should produce the work that moves them and it’s up to the audience to decide whether it’s any good.

      I’m quite fond of the work of Marc Adamus – I found his work by chance on photo.net without any idea he was well known so claim to have independently discovered him. He doesn’t have any floating mountains or watcher skies but his work is extremely stylised and heavily (and cleverly) processed. Looking at his work, it is obvious that there is a tremendous vision at work and tremendous craft involved. This shot, for example, I find breathtaking: http://1x.com/photo/48107/portfolio/99579 but Joe Cornish is ain’t.

      If what stirs your soul is something more literal, with no more than wafting and waving with a card on a wire allowed, then I guess you won’t accept the 12 shot blends etc Adamus does to get the look he wants.

      In the end we aren’t debating crucial social policy here, it’s just personal taste and everyone is entitled to have the personal taste they have.

      I can’t escape the feeling that there is some kind of subtext attached to this whole debate: frustration that the rest of the world has such bad taste it doesn’t recognise real landscape photography like wot we do….

      • Firstly, this is far from a conversation about what is ‘proper’ photography and what should be ‘rejected’. No one person gets to dictate what another should do at all. And no one person should tell people what opinions people can have. OK – with that out of the way…

        I personally really like Marc Adamus’ work and although there is a lot of manipulation it does hold to a connection with photograph truth even if it is far from ‘straight out of camera’. I also like Jerry Uelsmann (http://www.uelsmann.net/). I also like the photograph from the original winner of the competition. Beyond that I love photography of some artist who build ‘creations’ using computers and photography. Yao Lu in particular but try these for examples..

        Yao Lu

        Holger Lipmann

        Andreas Gursky, Bahrein

        Of course what anyone does with their photography is personal taste but as soon as we create something with a label, whether it be a magazine or a competition, we need to find some concensus on what this means.

        There is a great tradition in photography (especially in landscape photography) of a connection with the ‘real, photographed’, however you define this. Using photographic material to produce art is equally valid but it’s “different” within the general consensus as far as I perceive it and hence, perhaps, there should be a differentiation.

        • digital_davem

          This is quite an interesting discussion although I’m not completely confident I’m following the argument (which has wandered across topics a little).

          It sounds to me like you are saying you think that there is some kind of moral duty or obligation incumbent on competition organisers to use terms like “photograph” or “landscape picture” in “the right way” or “for the good of the people”. And that TAV (as an example) have deviated from this and are therefore doing something wrong and that it needs to be fought.

          If this is what you mean, I can’t agree. In my view, TAV or any other organiser/business is completely free to set up a competition any way they want, use whatever criteria they choose (within the law of course!) and use or misuse any terms as they wish. We might regret that they might choose to do so, but it’s not really our business.

          Good governance of the competition is a different matter. As consumers we have a stake in whether a competition is properly run and we are getting the value for our entry fee that we contracted for. I’ve paid TAV about £75 in entry fees over the years and I’m quite keen that they follow and enforce their rules properly in the name of fairness, but I don’t actually expect to get to influence those rules.

          I wonder if this is all about anxiety. Anxiety that TAV’s success means it is seen as de facto the arbiter of the genre in the minds of the general public. And that the view it represents isn’t necessarily that of the fine art photography community?

          • Nope, merely expressing my opinion of what sort of guidelines I think would make sense and also soliciting other people’s opinions. I have no control over TAV but I think I’m free to express my thoughts on the matter. Aren’t I? In my opinion, any sufficiently broadly expressed media coverage *will* affect public opinion. Sometimes for good, sometimes for bad – i think we can all hold opinions on that. My personal opinion on the way TAV represents landscape photography is that it could do better.

            Also mass consumer opinion can and does affect busines regularly. It’s one of the key drivers of modern capitalism. Social media has made this influence even more fine grained so that actions beyond ‘take part’ and ‘dont take part’ are possible.

            • digital_davem

              Good point about social media and influencing companies.

              Going beyond questions of due diligence and standards of administration, what direction would you personally like to see a influential organisation (TAV or others) steer public perception of the field?

      • Simon Miles

        I think the image above from Marc Adamus is a great example of a photograph that has been heavily processed to achieve what most people would still find very acceptable, particularly in black and white. It’s in no sense a straight shot (few black and white photographs are) but you really get a feel for the drama and excitement the photographer must have felt and, presumably, is seeking to communicate in the processed image. That to me means it has integrity. In a nutshell, isn’t that what we’re after, manipulation by all means if that suits the photographer’s vision and style, but with integrity.

        In saying all this, I’m assuming the photographer did not make significant physical changes, although I would not be surprised to find that maybe the foreground was ‘cleaned up’ by removing small distracting elements such as stones or pebbles. Which makes it doubly interesting, as it brings us back to the tricky question of ‘minimal deletion,’ what is it and how far is too far in terms of the competition rules.

        • Simon Miles

          As a light-hearted aside, I couldn’t help but smile on reading the comment that some kinds of work simply cannot be achieved merely with the aid of the zone system, a ND grad and 2 degrees of forward tilt and require more complex techniques. It’s the word ‘merely’ that stopped me for a moment, as I spent many, many hours working to learn these ‘simple’ techniques!

    • JT

      @ Tim Parkin, in the category of ‘typical manipulation, delete minimal, add nothing’ – just to clarify what had you in mind for ‘delete minimal’ – only ephemeral elements in the image view i.e footprints, car light trails, aircraft contrails etc?

      I’m assuming the second category of composites, are stitched images for a panoramic view and HDR/exposure blends of a view to faithfully reproduce a view under sensor challenging lighting, taken over a very brief duration?

      • “delete minimal add nothing” would allow HDR, panorama stitch and blending within a time limit which is typical for the cameras involved. I would say delete minimal means nothing that would have been obvious to a typical individual standing alongside you at the time.

        The second category allows a lot of manipulation, swapping skies, blending images, etc This is really ‘graphic art’ such as the type I mentioned in a few links e.g. Gursky, Lu, etc.

        • JT

          Ah, thanks for clarifying. Probably best to keep things simple and stick to just the one category for Landscape photography of “typical manipulation, delete minimal and add nothing”.

  • Hancock

    If photography is an art form, which I think most photographers would like to think, then I am not aware of any rules which fellow artists Constable and Turner had to adhere to. Said slightly tongue in cheek.

    • Well not quite true – they limited themselves to painting and with typical painting materials – they didn’t submit sculptures or stained glass. They also worked to some fairly strong unwritten rules on acceptable subject matter.

      But we have to remember that we are not only talking about definitions of what ‘photography’ is and what ‘landscape’ is.

      There seems to be a fairly reasonable thought that comparing images that have been captures mostly ‘photographically’ with pictures that are captured through the obvious use of computer graphical techniques isn’t particularly fair – just as it wouldn’t be fair to submit photographs to a painting competition.

      • Giles

        Here here

      • digital_davem

        With respect, Tim, I find this an odd debate (assuming I’m reading it right).

        For any competition, the competition rules determine what’s acceptable as a photographic entry for that competition. Competition rules can be almost anything they want to be, there is nothing that obliges organisers to stick to some kind of universal “artistic” criteria. For a commercial competition like Take-a-view, that’s purely a business decision and theirs to make.

        TAV is a Big Competition and perhaps that inclines some people to behave as if were democratically run and should be accountable to the people but it isn’t really, it’s a business. Some people may fear its influence on landscape photography as a whole but that’s just the way things are. If a competition is not to someone’s taste, they are free to choose not to enter.

        This year’s debacle seemed to me (from reading back through various forum debates) to start out as criticism of the winner’s entry on the grounds of lack of originality (which is fair comment but did seem to get too personal), only later morphing into an expose of its breach of the rules (which seemed like a witch hunt to me). I’m still not particularly comfortable with the way the whole thing turned into “trial by internet” and with what happened. It may have seemed a similar outcome to the wildlife “wolfgate” affair but my impression was that this one was a little more innocent.

        IMO, it was the job of the TAV team to police the competition (and they could have done better) not unconnected pundits. Some may think that there are governance questions to look at and consumer rights to consider given the hefty entry fees but this has more to do with the sale of goods act and little to do with the artistic direction of landscape photography in the 21st century….

        • We can talk about the concept of a landscape competition without having to refer directly to lpoty though. Having said that, given it’s name is it any surprise it attracts more attention than the Countryfile calendar competition? As for ‘witch hunt’, I can’t comment. I just presented what i saw as the facts – if other people took things too far them that is not particularly nice but sadly that’s the way of the world – there are some unthoughtful people out there (i’m surprised you think that pursuing the photographer for plagiarism is more justified than for what amounts to fraud though). You should do a search on wolfgate and read how ‘big’ that witch hunt was. This was a tiny affair in comparison.

          • digital_davem

            If there is a lesson to be learnt for commercial competition organisers, it’s that they need to be very careful about due diligence; the bigger things get, the more chance there is for things to go pear shaped.

            Regarding the witch hunt, I wasn’t blaming any individual (least of all you or Mr N for what happened), it’s the way the internet works. More and more people join in and these things take on a life of their own. Sometimes it works out well, other times it doesn’t. When it works out well, justice seems to have been achieved but other times the outcome can seem disproportionate.

            Perhaps I was unclear about wolfgate – I was merely reflecting upon two examples of internet power being exercised. The two breaches were very different and I certainly wouldn’t defend fraud.

  • valdab

    Although I have little constructive to add to what has been a fascinating debate, I would like to say what great value for money this magazine is. It’s a refreshing change to see intelligently written articles – this one discussion has given me much to ponder and thrown up links to a handful of photographers I was not hitherto familiar with so thank you for that.

  • Jeremy Moore


    I would like to express my thanks to you (and Alex) for your dogged detective work in the defence of photographic integrity. I’m sure you both must have had your doubts about whether it was the right thing to do but I think you have been vindicated.

    In my opinion there is a gulf – a yawning chasm, almost – between what has traditionally been understood as “processing” images and what is now easily achievable, for those with the skills, in Photoshop. The original competition winner was clearly working on one side of the chasm, while the rules stated that he should have been on the other side.

    It must be difficult for younger photographers to understand this because they developed their skills entirely within the Photoshop era. Perhaps the current controversy will result in the LPOTY organisers making it more clear that image manipulation is not acceptable in the competition, unless a separate category is introduced for manipulated images.

    Photography has always had (with a few exceptions) an umbilical link with reality. I am surprised that some photographers cannot see that this link is broken when one image is put together from selections of one or more others.

    I anticipate objections to this statement, and I do not deny that there are grey areas where arguments will always occur. But that does not deflect me from my identification of a quantum difference between processing and manipulation.


    • digital_davem

      One interesting (to me) wrinkle on this is the little comparison at the top of this blog of real life vs the manipulated tree in a field with cooling towers. Intergrity notwithstanding, the faked picture is a powerful and striking image, the real image is rather less interesting. This makes me struggle with this whole question. Looking deep within myself I have to say that I really like the fake picture and this must mean – that for me – the end result is what matters, not how you get there. This isn’t a philosphical position, just an emotional response to viewing a very good photo, fake or not.

      • But I like some paintings more than some straight out of camera photographs – that doesn’t mean paintings should be allowed in photography competitions. I agree that many strongly manipulated images can be very beautiful but I don’t think this is really relevant beyond the fact that some art can be perceived better than other art regardless of genre.

      • Jeremy Moore


        In my opinion the faked picture you are talking about, while attractive, is no longer a photograph.

        That is my point.


        • digital_davem

          But it’s a subjective point. To you it isn’t and perhaps to many of the Onlandscape subscribers, but no one has a right to define something like this for other people.

          I fully understand why you might feel like this but I don’t, really. I like the image. I think I’d prefer it to be real but the fakery isn’t a complete fantasy and I still think it represents a vision. It could be viewed as correcting flawed nature which wasn’t allowing that shot as visualised. Using a shift lens to “create” an idealised perspective when the camera/viewpoint/lens doesn’t allow it is pretty much in the spirit of the same thing.

          To my mind, it isn’t a straight case of literal or real, it’s a continuum and every individual viewer and photographer has to decide for themself where they sit; it can’t be imposed on others.

          This is a different issue from deceit of course. If the photographer lies about the literalness, that’s a whole different ballgame.

          • Robin Sinton

            I think that we’re starting to go sideways a little with this. Whilst the subjective concept of images can’t be imposed on others, we basically started with a competition in which the rules of that competition imposed some “honesty for some, restrictions for others”. Those rules were broken. As I said in an earlier post, this is a problem that has been looming for a while and it needs to be sorted out. After all, is it a Photography competition or a Photoshop competition? The really good photographers use the skills and craft that they have learnt to provide stunning photographs. I can’t somehow imagine David Ward spending hours at the computer cloning and moving things around. One of the problems is that there are too many kiddies with keyboards who don’t want to spend the time to learn the craft. End of rant.

            • Jeremy Moore

              ….but it was a good rant though…..

              I’m going off on a tangent here that is just as much a surprise to me as anyone else, but definitions do count.

              Maybe it is time to define a photograph as a single image ….. and not a composite of several others…..

            • digital_davem

              Like it or not, Photoshop is part of the craft these days (although I don’t use it myself, never got on with the program). There really isn’t much (spiritual) difference between waving a piece of cardboard on a stick under an enlarger and blending with a luminosity mask in PS, it’s still craft.

              This tutorial from the amazing Joel Tjintjelaar http://www.bwvision.com/2012/post-processing-sunday-%E2%80%93-part-1/ is a perfect example. Pure keyboard bashing but absolutely photographic craftsmanship of the highest order. Too difficult for me but if Ansel were around today aged 30, it’s what he’d be doing.

              Your point about TAV/LPOTY rules is absolutely correct, they published rules and (rather tardily) enforced them.

            • Alex Nail

              I’m just going to correct your last generalisation a little….whilst kiddies might in general be slightly more competent with computers on occasion, I dont think that manipulation is associated with age particularly. The nature of social networking is that it provides a degree of policing. Personally I have always been surprised to see these composite images because I don’t know anyone who does it!

  • Robin Sinton

    It’s about time that somebody thought about this as it’s a problem that has been looming for some time. It’s also impressive that there has been so much considered opinion from OnLandscape readers. I can’t imagine comments like these in any print magazine. It’s turned into a very good thread.
    I saw some “photographs” recently where the majority of the image had been made exclusively on a computer with a minority of photographic input. This was being put forward in a photography competition.

    So, how about three categories, Digital photography, Digital Art and for extremes, pure Illustration. You enter in the one that best fits your image and there are strict delineations between them. I can see the possibilities for overlap between the last two but we have to start somewhere.

    • digital_davem

      Out of interest, I looked up “CGI” and found this wikipedia article with an example of a fractal generated landscape still that looks pretty convincing to me.


      I guess that going forward in the digital age will will get closer and closer to the point where CGI effects can completely invent any image you can imagine with no way to tell it’s not real. When that day comes, traditional photography may be considered obsolete by some.

      I do anticipate in future a retro backlash where integrity to the origina scene could become a protected minority art form in its own right and the warts and limitations of this positively sought after…

      • Jason Theaker

        “CGI effects can completely invent any image you can imagine with no way to tell it’s not real” that day is already here, but its very time consuming and expensive at the moment…

  • David Higgs

    I think most viewpoints have been covered.

    If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

    For a competition that is supposed to show off a) excellent photography and b) the GB Landscape at its best, there must be some truth in the image – it must be ‘literal’. Where that line is, is up to the organisers, their rules were quite clear when I entered. I suspect the problem is more that they didn’t recognise the manipulation until too late, its less the rules they need to tidy up, more the judging process.

    I went to the exhibition last week and was quite disappointed. The venue was poor, people were sitting on the floor eating sandwiches from a nearby snack bar, there was loud music being played just around the corner and noone was really paying any attention to the images, it was a loitering space in the National Theatre. The printing was inconsistent with some images enlarged well beyond their capability. Blacks were brown in places, sharpening artifacts from 10 feet away etc.

    That day I had been to WLPOTY, Kenna exhibition at Chris Beetles and World Press Photo at Royal Festival Hall and the LSPOTY really looked like amateur hour in compatison. I’m not sure why we needed to know the camera used, lens used etc in the title cards for the images, made it feel very AP.

    I appear to have gone off topic, but I feel LPOTY could be so much more, it seems well below its potential.
    Alex Nail’s image was my standout favourite, in that it was an original view (to me at least) displaying the drama in the GP landscape.

    • I think that the whole concept of the competition is just a little confused.

      On the face of it, you have ‘Take a View’ which sounds like it might be a bright ‘n’ breezy inclusive competition for everyone from happy-snappers right up to D4-wielding pros and may the best ‘view’ win. However, the winner also gets to bandy about the seemingly prestigious title of ‘Landscape Photographer of the Year’ – which sounds like it ought to be part of a far more serious and weighty competition altogether. And this is where the problems creep in.

      You might hope that the winner of such a title would be someone who really excels at the craft and art of photography; someone with an impressive body of work to back up such an appellation (as is indeed the case with the eventual winner, Simon Butterworth). But the sad reality is that the title is simply conferred on the photographer who has produced an image that most pleases a majority of a judging panel on which respected landscape photographers are in the minority and on which the interests of sponsors take priority – if the make-up of the panel is any guide.

      If it’s going to be a competition for all-comers, where the work of seasoned pros is judged on its merits along with that of Mr and Mrs Average-Snapper (and their kids too, let’s not forget), then perhaps it’s time to lose the LPotY pretensions, since it is this that causes a lot of the friction – or so it seems to me. In my opinion, photographers claiming the title ‘Landscape Photographer of the Year’ should be held to a much higher standard than it would appear they are and the judging should be of a similar high level.

      • David Higgs

        I think your last paragraph hits the nail on the head. This isn’t a competition worthy of the title in the same was as Wildlife Photographer of the Year is.

      • +1 Julian you echo my own feelings entirely about this competition.

  • Hello Tim and all,
    Well here we are in another debate about manipulation of photography. The big problem with this debate (and the many other like it over the years) is that it is a matter of personal taste as to what should and should not be done to a photograph (and I am not talking about competition rules, yet) and I have always found it demoralising to hear what people say about what is or is not acceptable. My personal feeling that these views are a outward expression of some sort of guilt that all this digital software stuff is cheating and/or make it easy to produce a ‘winner’ , even the word we use ( ‘manipulation’) carries with it many overtones of being underhand, devious, deceptive etc. I prefer to use the phrase ‘Digital Adjustments’.

    I also find it demoralising that this sort of argument abounds. For example the same people that would argue that taking two images of a scene, one exposed for the sky and another for the land and then merging them together in Photoshop with a mask, is wrong and yet they would happily use a ND Grad on the camera achieve the same result. In my view they are the same, it’s just that one is an adjustment done in front of the lens and another is done in post production. One is an established technique the other is a newer technique, but why would they be viewed so differently. Which leads me onto the LPOTY completion and the fact that the technique I just outlined would not be allowed as it would be adding in a sky from another image, they should also outlaw ND Grad filters (and other filters) as well then the playing field would be level.

    Finaly I would like to say that I think its safe to say that photography is now firmly in the digital era, this is a different time to the darkroom era, but I think we are still going through a time of adjustment. Photographers have always worked within their on personal boundaries of what adjustments were acceptable. Some pretty amazing stuff could be done in the darkroom including blending more than one negative into a final print. So a lot of this debate is perhaps based around a lack of understanding, a fear that its cheating, an assumption that Photoshop and its like do everything for you, the thought that somehow ‘doing it in camera’ is more noble and skilful than ‘doing it on the computer’ and probably many more reasons that I cant think of at present. Well I don’t think its any of these, we have to accept times are changing and photographic technique is moving in new and different ways and we need to embrace that.

    If competitions have rules then we should indeed adhere to those rules, but what I am saying is that perhaps its silly to have rules as to a large degree they turn out to be worthless anyway and, as in my example, they are perhaps even unreasonable as they rule out using a modern ND Grad technique. Just let the judges decide if its ‘to much’ rather that have them try and analyse what has been done, if we go this route its my experience (from photography club competitions some years ago) that they will run the risk of ruling out an image that has not broken the rules because it ‘looks like it has’ and that to my mind would be very sad indeed.

    • Alex Nail

      I exposure blend because I believe it produces better results than grads (sometimes). I don’t think that the rules do preclude that kind of process because they talk about the integrity of the subject. Taking a few photos a second apart produces images that are almost identical to if they hadx been captured in an instant. There is no advantaged to be gained, nor intent to manipulate the ‘truth” from taking the images moments apart. The same can not be said if you take skies from completely different images or at radically different time, like last years London nightscape. That’s the way I understand it anyway!

      • Jeremy Moore

        Alex, I think you’re quite right about this. If I had the skills to blend exposures, I sometimes probably would do it.

        I don’t know if you saw my suggestion for a definition of a photograph (above), which is a single image and NOT a composite of two or more others, there would need to be exception made for exposure blending.

        Thinks…..I can see the definition falling apart already…..

        • Alex Nail

          Well the way I see it the judges should be capable of deciding whether subject integrity is maintained by looking at the raw files. People who process their photos more would obviously run a greater risk of rejection.

        • Yes it does fall apart a bit :)
          thats one of the problems of trying to impose ‘old?’ rules on where photography is now, its hard to do and perhaps just not worth it, the worlds changed.

  • Hi Peter – the regulations allow what you mention in all categories.

    “Digital adjustments, including High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging techniques and the joining together of multiple frames, are allowed in all categories. ”

    So where would you draw the lines that would preclude fantasy landscapes and multiple suns?

    • Okay, I thought that could of fallen foul of the rule ‘stripping in sky from another image etc’ not being allowed, which highlights the difficulty of having rules as to whats allowed and what isn’t and making that clear to everyone. One interpretation of ‘joining together of multiple frames’ could mean that the image that was disqualified was clear, as the rule does not say how far apart those two frames should be ? Your saying that my example was okay but the disqualified image was not and yet they both have a blend of two frames! its confusing.

      I don’t know the answer to your second point. I could say that the judges could decide if its valid but as you have to pay to enter you do need some rules to guide you. But as I just indicated the rules can be hard to interpret (though I think fantasy images and twin suns are easy to interpret :) )

      The rules for this years Outdoor Photography Magazine were I think better, in so much as they did not seem to have any at all in relation to what you could or could not do to an image, which I have to say was quite refreshing (and you do have to pay for entry to that as well).

      • On ‘joining together of multiple frames’ i don’t find this confusing, to me this is quite clear that they’re referring to a mosaic of images joined together by their edges to create a single image. Implying the camera does not move a significant position laterally between each exposure. so e.g. a stitched panoramic. But perhaps they could word it 100% explicitly.

        • Hmm there’d also have to be some rule about lapse of time between exposures otherwise you could leave the tripod up until nightfall and then stitch some nighttime photos onto the end of daytime photos and it would be a valid entry… although it would look a bit silly! I think I’ll close this can of worms and back away… ;)

    • So do you think that photos such as those at the end of the article should be allowed?

      • If they decide to have rules and the rules allow for them then the clear answer is yes.
        Its up to the judges then to decide if they are worthy or not, entering them is not the same as being selected or winning after all, that’s the judges decision.

      • But if you were to vote on a set of rules – where do you think they should be?

        • Well Tim your now asking somebody who said that he thought it was perhaps silly to have any rules to define a set of rules so I am not going to indulge you on that one :)
          However I feel that most competitions, and certainly LPOTY, should have a fairly clear manifesto that makes it clear that ‘Twin Suns’ or computer art would not be considered. If people still wanted to enter that sort of image then you cant stop them but the judges would decide if it meets that manifesto or not. As soon as you start trying to say ‘this technique’ is allowed but ‘that technique’ isn’t then you have to be pretty damn sure you are able to enforce it and if your not then you should not make rules you cant enforce. In the LPOTY case it seems they could not enforce their own rules which is a pity as I think without them (rules) the original winner would perhaps still have won and its, dare I say, a more deserving photograph (but thats just my opinion)

    • digital_davem

      I wonder whether it is necessary to draw a line explicitly. Generally, such images would look gimmicky and not appeal to landscape fans, so presumably not to judges either? I imagine TAV gets a lot of really, really bad pictures submitted anyway, digitally adjusted or otherwise, and they seem to deal with most of those (although one or two seem get to the book every year!).

      • It would be a poor show if they didn’t say anything and then just ignored any images that had manipulation. I think some guidelines are important so people don’t waste money (a lot of money for some people) submitting pictures that aren’t appropriate.

        • digital_davem

          I’m not suggesting they should ignore them under the current rules, I’m saying that one way to proceed would be to allow digital adjustments but ignore the bad ones as they ignore bad un-manipulated images i.e. you can include floating castles in the sky if you want but it won’t win.

          To be honest I’m more worried about other aspects of the competition. I’ve just looked at this year’s finalists for the first time. Pleased to see that one of the commended is someone I know slightly but I’m once again surprised to see so many winners and runners up that have (to my mind) little to do with The British Landscape.

          Even if they are good shots, there are far too many urban and street scenes and images that seem to defy categorisation but aren’t remotely what I’d think of as landscape. It beats me how an air sea rescue counts as landscape. It’s got a bit of sea but this is journalism. As a paying competitor I’d like to see a much narrower definition of landscape. I love urban images as a subject but it should be a separate competition and I personally wouldn’t have allowed the (new) winning image in my definition of landscape photography. It seems to me that almost any shot could be shoe horned into the competition under the current interpretation. That worries my hard earned, more than falling prey to cut&paste images.

  • Jeremy Moore

    It seems to be quite difficult to find a definition of a photograph, but here’s one…..

    “a picture made using a camera, in which an image is focused on to light-sensitive material and then made visible and permanent by chemical treatment, or stored digitally”

    Here’s another

    “a picture of a person or scene in the form of a print or transparent slide; recorded by a camera on light-sensitive material”

    It may be that what definitions do exist date back to a pre-digital age, and, some people might argue, need updating. On the other hand, according to these definitions composite images may not be photographs at all…..

    As far as competition rules are concerned, it looks to me as if the organisers of LPOTY had their hearts in the right place. Where they fell down was in not defining where manipulation might be allowed more clearly, and then not asking to see the RAW files of all the short-listed images.

    I suggest that there is quite clearly defined category for manipulated (or composite) images. That way those whose skills tend towards the keyboard end of the process could fight it out amongst themselves!


  • David O’Brien

    It seems clear to me that LPOTY is pretty much a monopoly and what all good monopolies need is competition. TAV has grown too quickly, become errant and may have become the problem-child of the landscape generation. There’s nothing like a bit of competition to sharpen up your act. Now that you have provided us with an excellent new website, perhaps we could impose on you, Mr Editor, to take the above advice and give us a new competition. I would like to add a smiley face at this point but am crap at that (and so won’t be entering the “manipulated image” category!).

  • Jeremy Moore

    It might be worth mentioning here that a few years ago (three??) LPOTY operated a copyright grab whereby any entry could be used for any purpose by any of the sponsors free of charge. Following an outcry by photographers this was dropped the following year, but its funny how principles can be compromised when income might be involved……

  • Charles Twist

    I see this year’s LPOTY debate is in full flow. Joining the party a bit late, but here are a few more thoughts.

    The judges’ decision is meant to be final; yet it seems they can be swayed. Seems very unfair that the losers have more influence than the winners.

    If a landscape shot & printed with Victorian techniques were to win, the winner would weather a lot of flack. Low contrast, low resolution, aberrations & distortions: which would you allow? There would certainly be a lot of accusations. And what would the winner have submitted: the print or an image/scan of it? The latter would not convey the texture and feel of the original. So you’d be comparing apples and pears.
    What would you say if the b&w print were hand-tinted?
    What would you say if the winner had drawn or painted in detail by hand? It’s not just a digital debate.

    On the evidence of previous winners, older techniques have very little chance in this competition. Should a Photographer of the Year be using only the latest techniques then? In which case, we should embrace digital capture and accept the associated processing.

    Then we enter the realm of how much is too much. Comparing pixels is fraught with difficulty. Case 1: A physical negative created from the RAW file could be hand-printed through cheap and old glass to introduce aberrations & distortions. Case 2: Would you ban an image because you removed barrel distortion or converging verticals in post? (As an aside, perspective can be corrected in the darkroom by tilting the enlarger head.)
    Should the organisers be purists and say that any photographer who is unable to remove barrel distortion or converging verticals before processing is clearly not using equipment good enough for the top prize? Or should we say that Photoshop is “equipment good enough for the top prize”?

    Tim wanted to start a competition of his own a year or two ago. Clearly that was too difficult to implement. TAV have some courage. Let’s give them that. There will be mistakes though. Sorry to hear the results look amateurish (in the pejorative sense of the word).

    I haven’t entered this competition beyond the first one, so this is not sour grapes.

    All the best, Charles

  • I have been thinking about this more since posting my original comment on this thread and I still cannot think of a way of defining rules that are not fraught with confusion and being almost impossible to enforce. The following are my thoughts on why this is the case.

    You could go to the length of saying ‘No adjustments or manipulation at all’ and just submit the RAW file (or piece of film) and leave it at that – that would be the purest photograph, untouched by software etc. But that I think almost everyone would not be happy with that at all.

    The next step is to say only adjustments made to a single image are allowed, no removal of pixels, no addition of pixels in any way. Supported by the original RAW file (or piece of Film) for verification. This would be reasonably possible to achieve though it would need some high level of forensic study of the two files (or file and film – even harder) to check for anything outside of the rules, if cropping was allowed then this investigation would get even harder.

    Going beyond that the problems really start…

    Say you allow HDR or Exposure Blending, how many images are allowed, what is the max time between frames, and you would still need all the Raw files or film to check nothing else outside of the rules had been done to all the files involved before the HDR or Exposure Blending process took place.

    Starting to get a bit absurd, well we haven’t really started yet..

    Say you also allow removal of some objects in the frame, such as Pylons or telephone wires, you would need to draw up a complete list as just saying you can remove only man made objects would allow removal of whole buildings, dams, castles etc. and then think of the checking required with the original RAW file or film, and how much harder that would be if you also allowed HDR/Exposure Blending!

    I could go on and on….

    Starting to see how mad the whole debate is.

    As I said in my previous post, times have changed, photography is in a new place now and there is no going back. Fighting it is a bit like trying to stop the tide, you could build a coffer dam around you and you would keep dry but the tide is just going to sweep on around you and off into the distance.

    The only way I see competitions like LPOTY working is to forget ‘Rules’ and have a category description along with a statement such as this ‘The Judges will be looking for images that do not distort the natural integrity of the scene or subject’. It would then be completely up to the judges to come to an opinion on the matter, just as they do with all the other aspects of finding a winning image in a competition. This should stop anyone wasting their money submitting fantasy or over processed images etc. and if they want to chance it then its up to them. These sort of images could equally be allowed in some competitions and that could be made clear in the judges statement.
    Surely this is a better way handling it.

    • Alex Nail

      I think even as the rules stood they were clear, they just weren’t enforced until later. As long as the intent of the rules are clear then it could come down to judges discretion, which naturally happens in competitions anyway.

  • Jeremy Moore

    I honestly believe that they more or less got the rules right. Where they fell down was in not making it totally clear in which category(s) manipulation would be allowed, and in which not. Then they seemed to have omited to check the RAW files of the original winner.

    Manipulation would have to be defined, and as far as I am concerned they almost got this right as well. With the exception of HDR and panoramic stitching, manipulation would be defined as the use of more than one image to create the final photograph. Everything else could come under the category of “processing”. (Although it’s possible there may be more amendments needed here…..)

    To please those who prefer to make composite images, there could be an additional category for these as well.

    • I think the rules were clear, my point is that’s its very hard to enforce the rules and to me that’s the problem, its only by some in depth analysis outside of the competition that this situation arose, how many other images broke the rules but have not been picked up because they are not so ‘obvious’ , that’s the problem. And its a problem that gets worse to enforce with every year.

      I also feel that unless the original winning image used a sky from a completely unconnected image then it may not have even fallen foul of the rules at all, it the ‘problem’ areas were from the same scene and camera position but just with a time difference between them, then it should have been okay as Exposure Blending was allowed and no max time delay between frames was stated. If this is the case I would feel hard done by if I were the photographer of the original winner, but I don’t know the exact details but its something to think about and perhaps the organisers were to hasty in reversing their decision.

      • I perhaps should have said…
        ‘I think the rules were reasonably clear,my point……’

        • Jeremy Moore

          I’m not sure if this answers your point don’t know all the background to this, but analysis of the position of the sun showed that the sky had been photographed several hours after the boats, or it may have been a different location altogether.

          Neither could possibly fit into a non-manipulated category.

          • If its a different location then fair enough, but if its the same location but several hours apart then they did not seem to state this was not allowed. Exposure blending was allowed but no time limit between frames was stated and therefore I would say it was within the rules as they were given and its perhaps a bit unfair to have disqualified it. (but I think by now my views on rules are clear :)) But as you said I don’t know all the background either, perhaps Tim can shed some light on it?

            • If its a different location then fair enough, but if its the same location but several hours apart then they did not seem to state this was not allowed.

              This is going further than mere hair-splitting. Now we are separating out individual molecules of keratin… ;)

              The sky is the sky and it’s pretty much the same wherever you are. What’s different is the weather. So how are two shots of the sky at the same location, taken hours apart, different from two shots from separate locations (assuming no land is included in the frame!)??

              Once again, the rules are quite clear:

              the integrity of the subject must be maintained and the making of physical changes to the landscape is not permitted (removing fences, moving trees, stripping in sky from another image etc).

              Are you a lawyer, by any chance? :D

              • Hi Think Julian is right here – the integrity of the ‘subject’. It’s quite a clever phrase and would work well if implemented.

              • No I am not a lawyer, I do disagree that the rules ‘quite clear’.
                I am just making a point, how long between frames is acceptable, where does the integrity break down, its not clear. Thats my opinion anyway.

                • Charles Twist

                  The interval depends on the integrity and that is in the eye of the beholder. At first, the judges thought the picture’s elements hung together well. Then folk grumbled online. Then the judges thought differently. It’s all about subjective perception. The positions are indefensible in the absolute. The rules are guidelines, as much for the photographer as for the judges. For me, the main sham is that the judges’ decision was not final. That stinks.


                  • I agree with much of what you say and I think it is sad that the judges decision was not final, thats why I feel without specific rules and having a sort of judges statement of what they are seeking in the entries then they are free to decide and could stand by their decision without comeback.

  • Robin Sinton

    I made this point four days ago. I quote, “Has the photographer been true to themselves and to the landscape that they are photographing? Do photographers not stop to consider that there is still a place for personal integrity in this wicked world?” BTW Julian, the sky photographically speaking is the container for the weather, and it does change considerably as this little rock that we photograph turns on its axis. This difference can clearly be seen in the failed winner’s photgraph which is why we are having this discussion after all.

  • Regarding the “Anything Goes” section how does this sound?

    “The result should be predominantly constructed from photographs taken by the photographer and recognisable as being sourced from the landscape.”

    • JT

      “The result should be predominantly constructed from photographs taken by the photographer and recognisable as being sourced from the landscape.” AKA “Anything Goes” sounds like a Frankenstein category or as appetising as a GM Turkey Twizzler.

      Given T-a-V’s treatment of the British Landscape, wouldn’t it be refreshing, if there was a Landscape photography competition that differentiated itself by simply concentrating on an individuals talent and vision with a camera to capture a scene in a natural environment, rather than graphic arts ability with software? Or am I just being incredibly naive?

      • Not being naive but that would preclude some images from the greats like Gustav Le Grey, Minor White, Andreas Gursky, Yao Lu, and many more. There is a place for photography like this but there should also be a place for ‘classic’ landscape photography.

        Hence why two categories.

        • JT

          Can I ask you what your definition of Landscape photography is?

          • do a search for “what is landscape photography” in the archives :-) but in short the images should have a strong connection with the natural landscape either through topology, processes or content (i.e. a cityscape where the contours of the land are obvious becomes a landscape in my eyes).

        • Jon Tainton

          OK, I’ve taken time to look at some of the images from the greats you’ve mentioned and in doing so, came across a fascinating text that gives an historical perspective on photography. The title is a UK publication – The Year-Book of Photography and Photographic News Almanac for 1869

          Search the above title on http://archive.org and read online or in a PDF version.

          Some selected extracts from the Guides to Practice.

          A Word on Moral Influence in Photography
          “I HAVE always held that the distinctive difference between fine art and photography consisted in this ; that whereas, in the productions of fine art, the design went from the object through the artist’s mind to the ultimate picture, in photography the design went from the artist’s mind through the object to the same end.”

          Out-Door Photography
          “I fear our notions are excessively mechanical when we go out sometimes, and instead of having the ideas and taste of an artist, we go in for taking celebrities, or something that some one else has previously taken ; consequently our folios are stocked with pictures having little or no artistic merit.”

          Intensifying Negatives by Means of Uranium
          “No absolute rules can be laid down for effects in photography ; the artist will show himself under all circumstances, and it is, unfortunately, the characteristic of mediocrity to believe that beautiful pictures are always the result of some secret process!”

          Other articles of note in the Guides to Practice section are :

          The Truth of Photography and Retouched Negatives
          On the Best Light for Taking Photographs
          Practical Hints on Retouching Negatives
          On Dust

          • That’s really quite interesting, it perhaps highlights that in the ‘digital age’ we have perhaps got a bit to ‘precious’ with our take on what we can do with photography, perhaps we need to relax a bit and stop feeling like its cheating in some way! (I am sure I have been down that route a bit already in these posts ;) )

            • Jon Tainton

              Ah, but there’s also suggestions from this era, that Victorian purists (or masochists given the photographic equipment and development processes then available) stated that a Landscape photograph should be pure (no retouching) in form. So, the case could be made ; that with the photographic equipment available in the ‘digital age’ there should be no requirement for adding skies or similar retouching to an image.

  • Jeremy Moore

    I think that adding a “Manipulated image” or “Composite” category to the competition could be very useful and do a valuable service for photography generally. It would make the point that there is a clear difference between a single photograph and a composite image. This distinction might then begin to seep further into photographers’ consciousness.

    Or is this just wishful thinking……?

    As for your suggestion, Tim, it looks to me just a litle bit prescriptive; how about substituting “may be” for “should be predominantly”. Otherwise…great! The “My view” category or whatever it was called could be retained, but manipulation forbidden. It suggests a more personal interpretation of the landscape and there is plenty of room for this.

    But is anybody listening? Do you have Charlie Waite’s ear on this?


    • Hmm… if it maybe constructed from photographs taken by the photographer doesn’t that allow anything in?

      • Jeremy Moore

        “…may be constructed only from……”

        A quick look at my thesaurus suggests the following as possible alternatives to “constructed”…

        composed of
        consist of
        formed of/from
        assembled from
        created of/from/with
        put together from/with

        I’m not sure which sounds best.

  • All these new categories may sound good but it still leaves the thorny issue of how far do you go in checking the unadulterated categories and defining what unadulterated means. How much time and effort can judges put into forensically (for want of a better word)checking images comply, and if they don’t do much checking they could find themselves back where we are now.

    But it seems to me that everyone here thinks rules need to exist for competitions so it would seem I am in a minority with my thoughts, its just seems we cant all agree on how those rules are worded and how they are enforced. So perhaps someone can change my view by suggesting answers on wording and the effort judges should go to in checking compliance to those rules.

    I think most of us here have the same internal values to our photography and we all want landscape photography to be natural and representative of what we saw, with a bit of artistic licence for minor adjustments and tweeks. And I suspect we all have a similar boundary how far is to far.

    In the end its only a competition, I did enter it this year for the first time, and yes my images all complied with the rules, as indeed would pretty much all of the images I have ever taken, but its still only a competition. I think in light of that perhaps Charles Twist was right when he posted that the judges decision should have been final.

    • I think some common sense is involved here. If you ask for raw files and have someone who knows a little bit about digital images then I don’t see a problem. There are serious issues with doping in sport but they don’t say “ah well, anything goes then”.

      The main issue is differentiating between photography and photographic art. The guidelines I suggested are

      “delete minimal, add even less. The objects in the scene shouldn’t look far from what a typical observer would have seen had they been there” – so fixing a bright spot using spot heal or removing the odd bit of grass are fine. Cloning out a small tree on the horizon is borderline. Let the judges decide based on what they see in the raw file.

      The other category is as I mentioned above.

      ““The result should be predominantly constructed from photographs taken by the photographer and looking and recognizable as being sourced from these photographs”

      This allows pretty much anything but it has to be created from landscape photographs and the connection between the photographs and the final product should be visible from the raw files.

      Obviously the final choice is the judges which is why you don’t need to get too anal. At the end of the day the job of the entrants is to work out where the borderline is. If they get it wrong then tough.

      As for the decision in the TaV – the photograph didn’t meet the explicit terms and conditions so they made the right choice. This was pretty much black and white.

      • Yes those categories could work, though I am not sure I would want to submit my RAW file simply based on once someone has that they could claim ownership of your image, and you would possibly have a ‘who do you believe’ situation. I am not saying that would happen with most respected competitions but who know who might get hold of the data. Is it just me? How many of us would be happy sending of the original RAW file(s)?

        • I’d rather they had the raw file than my fully processed master. Ownership can’t be confirmed through a raw file – if you really want to prove ownership you can send an encrypted copy of your image to a third party timestamping authority (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trusted_timestamping)

      • I also think that perhaps putting a Landscape Photography competition in quite the same level as doping in the Olympics is pushing it a bit for me ;) Its important yes, but not I think on the same level of importance (perhaps not even in the same building :) )

      • I guess the other good thing with your suggestion (if we are having to have rules that is) is that the original overall winner could still be the overall winner, which would be a good thing. Assuming you allow the overall winner to come from any of the categories, as you said earlier you liked it as a photograph.
        Your choice of wording though for the first category still throws up issues though. It would not allow for any long exposure images as they distort reality to the extent of being well removed from “what a typical observer would have seen had they been there” (I am thinking of long big stopper exposures here). To me (if your having rules) that would be fair anyway as long exposures are a fairly big distortion or ‘manipulation’:( of time done in the camera.

        It would also not allow for any painting of light with say a torch or flash during an exposure as that would look quite different to “what what a typical observer would have seen” etc. again if your having rules, excluding this type of image from the first category would also be fair.
        I cant immediately think of any more, but I am sure they are lurking somewhere.
        Now its not a problem as those two examples would be put in the second category, I am just not sure everyone would be happy with that, especially if you are not going to pick the overall winner from that second category.
        I am not trying to split any hairs or any material or atoms ;) just giving two examples of accepted photographic practice that would have to be excluded from the first category.

        Also from organiser point of view you would double your category list as you would really have to have the two distinctions for each category, so for TAV that would go from 5 to 10, and to be fair you would have to give the second option of having more latitude in what you can do to all the categories. Having 10 or more categories may be a problem in that its too many to manage, I don’t know, and cutting down the number of categories would exclude a lot of possible entries.

        I take it you don’t go for the idea I had in an earlier post which was to “have a category description along with a statement such as this ‘The Judges will be looking for images that do not distort the natural integrity of the scene or subject’. It would then be completely up to the judges to come to an opinion on the matter, just as they do with all the other aspects of finding a winning image in a competition.” If thats the case can I ask why, I realise it may have more holes than a cheese grater, but it seems like it could work to me and it would make this whole problem very much easier.

        • Yes you’re right that long exposures do distort the scene but isn’t that the case with your statement too? I think if we remove the word ‘scene’ then we might be onto something.

          As for the ‘overall winner’, I wouldn’t pick one… Why can’t we just just pick photographers that deserve recognition from each category, There doesn’t really have to be an overarching winner does there?

          • Yes it is also true of my statement and I was not implying that it wasn’t, it was only meant as a suggested phrase (preceded with ‘such as’), so wording changes are welcomed, I mean it as phrase that gets across the general ethos of the competition rather than becoming a rule in itself. Then the judges decide and they would have at heart the ethos of the competition and would pick the images based on that ethos. I think it would work. It seems to work okay for Outdoor Photography POTY competition, they don’t have any rules on what technique is allowed or not and the standard of that seems not dissimilar to TAV, so it can and does work.

            I still maintain my belief that having rules on what processing techniques are allowed or not, be in camera or post processing, in the current era of photography is the wrong way to approach it for all the reasons I have given before. I haven’t yet heard any major objections here to my suggestion so perhaps its worth considering as an option.

            As for an ‘overall winner’ then that does not have to be a feature of any competition. TAV have always picked winners and commended entries from all the categories, I guess they have an overall winner because it makes a nice announcement/award and probably entrants like to enter with the possibility of getting that crown, I don’t know.

            • Well my major objection would be that it allows the photographs at the bottom of the article to compete directly with photographs from the ‘classic’ category ala TaV. I find the Deutsche Börse prize a difficult competition because the winner this year didn’t even take the photographs themselves – should this be allowed in our supposed landscape competition?

              Yes the overall winner has to exist to allow them to give the prize money to somebody rather than spreading it around – 10,000 sounds better than 1,000 x 10.

              • No it doesn’t allow for that because the judges would not consider them because they would outside the ethos of the competition. I thought I had explained it clearly but perhaps I failed.

                I think its a given that you have to be the taker of the photographs, I am not sure why you brought that up.

                • Ermm… why not – the Deutsche Borse prize allows it so it’s not obviously a ‘given’ in that case. And you can only say it’s outside the ethos of the competition if you state that..

                  • Well I was taking many things for granted as we were talking about the TAV completion and the fact that we are discussing this at OnLandscape where I was sort of assuming that we all shared the same sort of values at least when it comes to the ownership of a photograph that is entered to a competition. There are also many many other points that would need to be discussed if we were actually compiling a complete terms and conditions for a competition, one of these would be ownership. But as I was not aware we were creating a full terms and conditions I did not really think it was necessary to include it in my proposed Competition ethos statement.

                    The Statement that would convey the whole ethos of the completion would work like this. Lets say Network Rail had their own competition that had a statement that they were seeking active parts of the network within the British landscape. Now someone enters a photograph of a rail bridge in the landscape but it’s part of an old disused line no longer owned by Network Rail and no longer active. The judges would say it does not meet the brief and into the ‘No’ pile it goes. Now in our Landscape competition, lets say the brief goes something like ‘The judges will be looking for entries that encompass the wider landscape and be recognisable to a viewer standing at the same location, and follow a naturalistic approach’ (that’s not a definitive brief before you start :) ). Now someone makes an entry that has an island floating above Durdle Door, with a CGI castle on the island. Behind the island two suns rise into the sky and Saturn floats like a moon high in the sky. So the judges take one look at it and into the ‘No’ pile it goes. Now I used that over the top example because it was thought that my suggested thoughts on rules etc. would not stop that sort of image getting accepted, well yes it would, unless completely incompetent judges were employed and in that case we would be in trouble whatever system we had :).

                    Now back in the real world another entry is made and it’s a portrait with a mountain in the background, the photographer thought it would qualify but its clearly a portrait taken outside, the judges look at it and its into the ‘No’ pile again. Now say the original winner of TAV entered our competition and the judges spot the problem, they really like the image they discuss the issue and they can arrive at there own decision. The difference is they can stand by that decision if they let it win as they came to a decision that it fulfilled the brief.

                    Really its not rocket science and it can and indeed does work like this in some competitions. There is really not much more I think I can say or add, if we still disagree and you feel the rules approach is better then we will have to disagree on it. Rules do work and have worked, and I would still enter a competition with rules and stick to them, but it does not mean I think it’s the best approach to the issue.

                    • I’m not disagreeing – both of are statements are as close as makes pretty much no difference and they’re both rules at the end of the day – whether they are tight or loose or whatever they’re called doesn’t make much difference.

                      What you’re saying is the judges have the freedom to break the rules if they like and that’s fine as long as people entering have a clue what it means.

                      A good descriptive set of guidelines/rules/whatever that warns people not to enter cgi durdle doors and can be supplied to the judges so they know what is ‘no’ and what is ‘yes’ are all that is needed and being as we agree then I can’t see a problem?

                      Would you still want to see the raw file in order to check whether people are not distorting the natural integrity of the subject’? If not then we’re back to ‘do whatever you like as long as you can get it past the judges’?

            • Giles

              Within the terms of a competition, then I do disagree with the “no holds barred” approach.

              Imagine those olympics again: what would people think if i showed up for the 400m on rollerskates, and then veered off the course and took a shortcut across the centre, thus avoiding all those nasty bends?

              I know i am being facetious… but if you are competing, you want to know on what basis.

              But people will also expect to ‘win’ (or not).

              • Yes you are :)
                Was I proposing a no holes bared competition, No.
                Why the comparison with Olympics again, the 400m etc. is a who can RUN the fastest competition. Not a judged event about who runs in the most stylish way etc. If your going to follow your train of thought we should start a debate on including paintings into TAV as well!

                • Giles

                  Re your last sentence… that is effectively what we are doing, because an image comprised entirely of retouching and additions from other images cannot really be considered “a photograph”, and we might choose to describe extensive use of photoshop as the high tech equivalent of painting.

                  Re the 400m: so you are defining what the race is all about. Starting with ‘running’ (which should itself be defined as putting one foot infront of the other without using external apparatus… apart from shoes (and goodness knows, Zola Bud caused a bit of a stir)), but are you including ‘along the marked track’, ‘in an anticlockwise direction’ (there are often wind advantages to doing it one way round or the other)?

                  And a race is no different to any other competition, other than the fact that instead of pleasing the judges, the goal is to cross the finishing line first, though i admit that who the winner is is usually pretty unambiguous (though if I want to split some more hairs, i could wonder what part of a person should cross the line first).

                  I was always taught to choose to answer structured exam questions (and exams are competitions) because they had precise, unambiguous answers… that didn’t mean that “Define landscape photography” was any less valid as an exam question… just more difficult to know what the ‘right’ answer was. What we are trying to do it remove the ambiguity from what a photographic competition might be looking for, in such a way as to minimise pointless entries.

                  • Giles , my post here http://www.onlandscape.co.uk/2012/11/the-landscape-photographer-of-the-year/#comment-8909 may help explain my thoughts, if not then I don’t feel I can add any more.

                    I am not sure we were all trying to remove ambiguity, some things in life such as art or photography cannot be defined in neat precise unambiguous ways (thank goodness), its not maths or physics.

                    • Giles

                      This thread has spawned responses so quickly that I am having to read them in spare moments on my phone… which means that I don’t necessarily get to read the replies next to the coments they are replies to, so sorry if it looks like I am not listening.

                      I do understand your point, but personally, I would prefer to enter a competition with rules. I don’t think I can asssume that judges will be able to spot images that do not follow the ethos any more than I can trust all the contributers to be ethical. With rules, if it is subsequently found out that a person has behaved contrary to the spirit of the competition, then the results of that are clear. Also, if (for example) I am happy to exposure blend skies, but unhappy to use skies that were not present at the time of shooting, i want to enter comps where i know the other submissions will be comparable.

                      If there are rules, then I would like them to sufficiently precise that people can’t find loopholes. This does not mean that the results wouldn’t be judged on ambiguous artistic merits.

                    • digital_davem

                      One possible way to have your cake and eat it and to avoid painful and embarrassing disqualifications (that weaken the competition) would be to aim for flexibility in the rules but that made it clear what the judges preferred. So you could say something like:

                      “There is no restriction upon the techniques permitted but the judges will strongly prefer images without obvious signs of digital manipulation. The competition is about the UK landscape and the images must portray real UK locations i.e. a fantasy image of Durdle Dor with the Eiffel Tower would be unlikely to be favoured”.

                      That way the judges get to choose what they want, applying good taste or bad and no one gets stupidly disqualified.

                • Giles

                  What about those times when (normally when the camera is at home) one is heard to mutter… “if I shot that sky, nobody would believe it was real”. I still go for the submit the RAW file option, though i like the ‘judges will favour…’ statment.

      • Giles

        I know that it is going to sound like i’m splitting hairs here… but it is something i am particularly good at, and in this case, for absolute clarity, the hair should be split:

        “The result should be predominantly constructed from photographs taken by the photographer”

        should read

        “The result should be predominantly constructed from photographs, which are themselves entirely the work of the photographer”

        Otherwise it would permit the entirely legal use of a certain amount of sampling from other photographers’ work (copyright free or otherwise) to create a piece which would then legally be considered the work of the photographer (think Dali’s lobster phone… Dali designed or manufactured neither the lobster or the phone).

        • No that’s a good point..

          • Jeremy Moore

            Ownership of the images used to create a composite would come in general terms and conditions applicable to all categories, wouldn’t it?

            Were you agreeing with Peter’s suggestion that there should be two sub-categories in each category, Tim? Personally I really don’t think it’s necessary – just add a “composite” category and forbid composites from all the others!

            My own opinion would be for the overall winner to come from the non-manipulated categories.

            • Don’t have an overall winner. Just recognise great photography. If a picture is particularly stunning you can describe it as that in any associated judges comments.

  • Tim I cant seem to reply to your actual entry above http://www.onlandscape.co.uk/2012/11/the-landscape-photographer-of-the-year/#comment-8910 Not sure why so I am doing it here.

    I am not saying they have freedom to break the rules because I see a difference between a rule and a brief or ethos statement, which means that I disagree with you on your first paragraph as well.

    On the last bit of the paragraph because of the strong way you have phrased it I will disagree with that as well.

    On RAW file I am not sure.

    I started posts on this topic as I wanted to take part in a relaxed general debate and not have to sit down and spend time coming up with exactly what I would have as guidelines and terms and conditions for a competition. I would happily have a serious discussion with you if you wanted input to formulate these for an OnLandscape competition (which would be a good thing to have by the way :) and you know how to get in touch if you did) but to be honest I am not sure of of the validity of continuing the discussion in this reply session format.

    • No problem :-) I just wanted to get past the issue with rules vs ethos – in effect I don’t see a huge difference. Unless the ‘rules’ are black and white there will always be room for the judges to make their own mind up. That’s fine if the person judging it is known as you have an idea on what that means but if you don’t know who will be judging it it becomes more difficult.

      As a final question – and I think it’s pretty important if we’re going to get anywhere – if a judge decided that a ‘dropped in sky’ was OK even after given the ethos statement that you came up with, should the judge be able to choose the picture or be bound by the ethos statement?

      As for the reply session format – we’ll have forums soon hopefully so that will make it easier. As for potential On Landscape award, I’ll give you a shout if/when.

      • Thats okay, I do see a difference so we will agree to disagree :)
        I would hope that the judges chosen would be chosen because they support the ethos of the competition, in TAV’s case there were 8 judges in the final panel and 4 in the pre-selection panel, the idea of having so many would mean (I presume) you would need 5 or more to agree, so if only one or even three thought an image was okay but the others felt it went to far then the democracy of numbers would prevail, if the decision went the other way then again the judges democracy would prevail, just as it does in all other aspects of picking the winners. Why not let them do the same for this and allow them to decide based on the ethos of any particular competition. You pick informed knowledgeable judges and trust that they are capable of doing the job.

        • Sounds fine to me :-) In our case the judges would be known so it wouldn’t be too much of an issue.

          • Yes I think all competitions (like TAV do) should state who makes up the judging panel. Interestingly as an aside in this months Outdoor Photography there is an interview with David Noton (one of the judges) and from memory he seemed to imply they only had a day for judging – if that’s right is that enough for a big competition like this? then again perhaps lets not start up another debate on that :)

            • jennym

              My understanding is that the TAV judges didn’t get together at all, but scored the photos individually, and then the scores are added up to produce the winners. If that is the case, then perhpas that getting together to review the shortlisted images to provide a consensus on the winners might strengthen the competition.

              • Thats interesting. I must read David Noton’s article again when I get home, but from memory it sounded like they got together. I will let you know after a re-read.
                If your right then yes that is a failing I think.

                • Having read David Noton’s article in this months OP magazine again, it does seem as though all the judges don’t get together, he says “Actually, as I write this I have no idea which images have won or who has earned the coveted title of Landscape Photographer of the Year 2012. That is as it should be…..” and “Talking to Charlie Waite after the event we both agreed how we spent the morning questioning the quality of our own work….”

                  These two extracts suggest that 1.The judges do not all get together and come to a decision, which I do find a little disturbing. He says he does not know the winner, that is as it should be, and I am not sure why other than its felt that the judges should come to an independent decision. Its certainly different to how I imagined it working, and for the suggested ramblings I have been having with Tim to work they would need to all be in one place to discuss matters.
                  and 2.He only spent a morning on judging, is that enough, well I guess we don’t know how many images we in the final judging session, but being fair I think we will have to assume it was.

                  • Sorry, I also meant to add that David also talks about post processing and how far is too far for competitions. Its written in David’s usual witty and slightly tongue-in-cheek manner and makes a good read.

                  • Also a possibly final thought on this :) (having just been out with the dog which always gives you time to think) It is possible that if all the judges did get together rather than judge individually (if that’s indeed what they did) then the problems with the original winner may have come to light. Its my experience that a group in discussion behave differently to an individual and perhaps if they were all together one of them might have said “is it me or does the light look a bit odd in this one” and the ensuing discussion might have revealed the issue. Who knows but its food for thought perhaps if the organisers read this or get to hear about it.

          • digital_davem

            This comments section is getting huge. None of this is talk about TAV is of the slightest use (ie it is a complete waste of everybody’s time) unless there is some chance that the discussion might influence the governance of the competition.

            Tim, you’ve have some connection with the players, is there any chance any of this will result in changes in the competition?


            • It’s of use if it gets people thinking and also if anyone else was interested in starting a competition. I can’t tell whether the organisers read this or not but someone starting a competition might. And whats the problem with just chatting about something – does it have to have use? :-)

              • digital_davem


                I have over 16,000 posts on the dpreview forums, I know all about how to waste time…

                Chatting and exchanging information is one thing but 200 posts of lawyerly debate on proposed changes to the wording of the rules of a competition that have zero chance of ever being implemented gets close to futility in my book! Reading your article on managing low contrast scenes on the other hand is a worthwhile expenditure of time. Although you’ll find it difficult to convince me that techniques that convert a fuzzy hazy mess into crystal clear sharpness are any less heinous than pasting in a sky. It’s all manipulation.

                • Still you have just added your own bits just to show you do indeed know how to waste your time ;)

                • I have to say Dave that your behaviour does seem a bit dpreview. ;-) Not trolly yet but close… Like I’ve said previously we’ll have a forum at some point and I would change that ‘zero chance’ unless you like eating words..

                  • p.s. that was a joke about dpreview… just in case the smiley winky thingy didn’t work as it should..

                  • digital_davem

                    Eating my words? No problem, lots of practice.If the discussion changes things, couldn’t be more pleased.

                    Now, trollish is another matter. Never my intention. Time to be quiet, I think.

                    • Thanks for taking it in the manner it was intended… I hope as much as you do that something will change – I’ll do what I can..

  • jennym

    BTW there is an interesting interview with Charlie Waite in the new issue of Outdoor Photography that has just dropped through my door, which must have been given before the TAV fiasco. ‘The 64GB card and “importing a different sky” type of post-processing does the artistic process a disservice’ is but one comment that caught my attention…… Another is ‘With landscape photography the word that comes to my mind always is “integrity”. It is too easy to sex up a picture when you get back home’. Now those are comments with which I whole-heartedly agree!

  • Jeremy Moore

    Now that might be a good reason to buy O.P, bearing in mind the recent events…..

    As far as judging goes I imagine most of it is done by a pre-judging panel; I wonder if they are given any “guidance” on the type of image to select? The name judges probably only see a short-listed selection, in which case the panel exerts a huge amount of control over the final results.

    If I’m wrong I’d love to know how it actually does work!

    • Just thought, does Tim allow us to mention other photography magazines, or are we being added to a black list as we speak ! :)

      • Quite happy for you to mention anybody you like :-)

  • colinsbell

    Late to the party I see. Just a couple of points if I may. I looked with interest at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012 article in the latest issue and marvelled at some of the winning entries. The hare in a field photograph really caught my eye because it is just not what we think of when envisioning wildlife photography. That would be pretty easy to composite (I know that it isn’t btw), even I could do it (and that IS saying something, believe me). If I did create an image such as that and then showed it to 50 wildlife enthusiasts (not photographers) without disclosing the composite technique asking them to give a score out of 10 for the image, then I compared that aggregate score to showing a similar demographic the image with disclosure that it was made up of two photographs combined I would wager that the latter would score significantly less.

    The problem we have as photographers is that we all have vested interests in our own techniques (very evident from reading the above comments – and even this one), I’d far rather hear the views of real people (not that we photographers are not real people – you know what I mean) as to how an photographic image is regarded.

    I asked folks on my Facebook page to give opinions on composite landscape photography – I gave a simple case in point and asked what their thoughts would be if it was a composite. I attempted not to lead the witness and also asked photographers not to contribute. What ensued was very interesting. A mix of comments ranging from ‘the image is all that counts’ to ‘100% natural only’. Just as an exercise for myself I then scored the comments 1 to 5, 1 for ‘anything goes’ to 5 for ‘no edits it has to be 100% reality’.

    Result was that the aggregate swing-ometer needle was around 75% indicating to me that folks, in general, do want to see something that has a strong relation to the scene photographed. You could easily define that as being ‘the integrity of the subject should be maintained’. Very unscientific and it of course relates predominantly to people who like looking at Lake District photographs. If I were compositing my images I would have felt the need to disclose it.

    Of course the arbitrary scoring and interpretation was done by a photographer with a vested interest so arguably it means nothing anyway :)

    • Very interesting comment Colin – appreciate the input and it matches my general feedback from non-photographers. Generally they don’t mind obvious manipulation but if a picture looks ‘straight’ they feel uncomfortable if it has been ‘made up’ in any way.

      • colinsbell

        Yes that’s exactly it Tim. As an aside although I cast doubt on photographers’ ability to debate this issue objectively, I don’t really mean that. I think what I really mean to say is that in relation to my own photography I prefer to know the opinions of those who view it. The important relationship that demands honesty / integrity (imo) is that between the photographer and the viewer. Anyway very good article and summary and the comments (as always) are a very interesting read.

      • Seamuscamp

        I’m not clear what is demonstrated here. Probably just that people don’t like the idea of being fooled. There is probably an unintended hidden bias in the question – there usually is with a hypothetical “simple” question about a complex real issue. A bit like Richard Dawkins pontificating about ethics.

        • digital_davem

          I suspect Richard is perfectly qualified to talk about ethics as he has a much better understanding of the origin of ethics than most of the world does…

        • colinsbell

          I agree entirely that the question had unintended bias and the resulting comments and interpretation were entirely unscientific. Nevertheless a conclusion that ‘people don’t like the idea of being fooled’ was of value to me and my relationship with those who view my photographs. As for any comparison to Richard Dawkins, well that’s a first :)

  • Ian Thompson

    Even later to the party…and with tired eyes from reading all that stuff above. Some folk might remember my article and subsequent firestorm of comment in this Hallowed Forum (issue 30) on the subject of truth in photography, particularly the landscape variety, in which I showed and discussed a composite of a big wave and debated teh extent to which we might fiddle with an image. Some sub-set of that readership might also have noticed ‘November’ in the BBC Countryfile Calendar 2013, which happens to be mine (the photograph, not the calendar!). When I entered that competition I was particularly careful to read the rules and interpret them so that I fell well on the right side. The ‘November’ image is one of the same set from which I built my OnLandscape composite but for the purpose of the BBC comp, it was submitted without modification, other than the contrast/colour tweaks definitively allowed by the competition rules. Prior – yes, PRIOR to being confirmed as a BBC finalist, I had to verify that my image was indeed a single, un-cloned, un-composited, un-modified frame. This I was able to do easily by submitting the RAW original file. As an aside, I’m not sure how the veracity of my image might have been confirmed if I had offered a JPEG as my only evidence, but that’s for others to discuss.

    So, leaving aside personal preferences regarding the purism of the beholder, from a competition standpoint doesn’t this whole thing distil down to (a) a clear set of rules and (b) absolute adherence to them? If the LPOTY whatsisname had read the rules and had the teeniest doubt about his approach to them and then still entered a composite, then he deserves all he gets. Or doesn’t get, as in this case. If the rules didn’t make it obvious that he had wandered to the Dark Side, then they need clarifying. I must say that I was absolutely staggered to see that it had all got to the announcement stage before they pulled the prize. What a god-almighty cock-up. What a lamentable indictment of the competition, its adminstration and its judges (who became the patsies in this, by my guess)

    The rules of LPOTY state: (apologies if this is repeated elsewhere)
    “Digital adjustments, including High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging techniques and the joining together of multiple frames, are allowed in all categories. However, for images entered in Classic view, Living the view and Urban view, the integrity of the subject must be maintained and the making of physical changes to the landscape is not permitted (removing fences, moving trees, stripping in sky from another image etc). The organisers reserve the right to disqualify any image that they feel lacks authenticity due to over-manipulation. The judges will allow more latitude in the ‘Your view’ category, which aims to encourage originality and conceptual thinking. ”

    Now, I think that section of text is designed to be confusing and defies logic. So, the very first sentence gives licence in that manipulation is allowed in all categories. The second sentence modifies this – der, I think – in some categories, keep it real, but not too real if that fits your guess as to what the judges might think. What a load of tosh. Which primary schoolchild concocted that pile of poo? How the hell can anyone decide ‘what the judges feel’, let alone the poor judges at decision time? And why is it that the judges consider that they can ‘feel’ something else after announcing the winner(s)? Rule 18 stated that the judges’ decision shall be final, so how can they be persuaded to backtrack, or even why should they?

    A right mess. I really hope that our Tim is drafted in either as a judge or an advisor next year…….

    • Ian,

      Gald to see you entered the original image and not the composite…..and well done!

      But this is quite straightforward, isn’t it………

      “……for images entered in Classic view, Living the View and Urban view, the integrity of the subject must be maintained and the making of physical changes to the landscape is not permitted (removing fences, moving trees, stripping in sky from another image etc). The organisers reserve the right to disqualify any image that they feel lacks authenticity due to over-manipulation.”

      Agreed that “Your View” apparently allows some room to maneouvre as far as manipulation is concerned, and that really needs to be clarified for next year. In my opinion “Your View” exists to allow personal interpretations of the landscape, and personal relationships with the land, to be entered, when they would not be appropriate in other categories.

      I have already suggested that a separate category could be introduced which is specifically for digitally manipulated images. The organisers need to make it quite clear where processing ends and manipulation begins and I feel that the various discussions here have gone a long way to deciding where that boundary lies. If this were done I believe it would do all (landscape) photographers a service. They would be able to decide which side of the line their images stood.

      To add an analogy it would be a bit like banning smokers from inside the pub but providing them with an area outside where they could indulge.


  • christheoldfarmhouse

    Lots of comments, lots of interest, that has to be a positive thing?
    I am delighted that a high profile, well funded competition of this sort exists, I would like to see it continue. If however I were a major sponsor? I would be fuming right now.
    You spend a lot of money on positive spin, then end up with mired in controversy, ? a no brainer
    if it is to continue, the rules have to be ones that can be implemented, and complacency dealt with.

  • wytchwood

    I know it might seem daft to be commenting on this debate so long after the event but the passage of a few weeks will perhaps allow a different perspective. Entering LPOTY changed my perspective on processing for the better. Bear with me if it sounds like I’m blowing a trumpet here as I should mention that 2 of my images are on the commended list this year. Both images were reprocessed from scratch from single RAW files for the competition to comply with the rules. The images ended up less “in your face” and processed but yet were, I think, much better due to the subtle nature of the reprocessing.

    There has been a trend towards heavy processing which I would suggest is due to the volume of images now being produced by photographers. As image-makers compete to make their images stand out from the google-storm of similar offerings the temptation is to “make it pop” using HDR and compositing.

    In some sense I am grateful to David Byrne for reminding me that nature, not the photographer, creates the story in the landscape that we seek to capture. Sometimes a story of life and death or of immense drama but sometimes a story of subtle change or a sense of place.

    Next time I find myself struggling too hard with an image at the computer I’ll put it into the “try harder” folder and I’ll jump in the car and head for the hills!

    All the best, Omer Ahmed.

    • Jeremy Moore

      Well said, that man……..

  • Charles Twist
  • Alun
    • Seamuscamp

      Bang on! It has amazed me in reading through the various comments that many people simply ignore the point made by Julian Barkway way back on Nov 16. The original awardee (as for the Nat Geo entry) either ignored or failed to observe (it matters not which) the rules of the competition. Nothing to do with reality; or p’shopping in itself; or integrity. Moralising is pointless and the photigrapher’s intention irrelevant. Tim observed that the entry broke the rules. The organisers (who probably should themselves have noticed it)agreed. What options were there?

  • This Years TAV…..
    Its nice to see that the rules now seem to be preceded with a new statement that I don’t remember from last year which says……

    “Digital Adjustments. – Please consider the spirit of the competition when preparing your entry. We want to celebrate the very best landscape photography and allow those viewing the winning images to share the experiences that you felt when you were out in the UK landscape.”

    Perhaps the comments made here had some effect after all…. :)

    • Hi Peter – I don’t know if you know but I’m judging the competition first round this year and had a meeting with Charlie. Kudos to the competition for listening to its critics..

      • No I didn’t know that, that will be an experience for you, I hope you can take the pressure :)

        But yes perhaps our almost never ending (looking back on it now) discussions were worthwhile after all eh Tim, but Charlie is an all round good chap and I am sure he does listen, though whether or not it was from here I don’t know, I guess you have more of a handle on that Tim ;)

        • I think we can safely say that the discussions here were far from ignored..

      • Fairly toothless though. Kind of “please be a good sport”. I would not be at all surprised if there are not people out there (bad sports) who will target competitions that have no clear rules on this matter, purely because unless you actually have to supply a RAW file who is to know what experiences you felt when you were out in the landscape (as opposed to back in front of the computer afterwards)… as long as you make sure that the shadows all point the right way and there is nobody standing next to you taking another image that can be used to compare it to ;-)

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