To rearrange or not to rearrange?

Discussion in 'Nature' started by andrew robertson, Nov 11, 2003.

  1. Let me start off by saying that this comment / question is NOT pejorative in ANY

    I am often asked why a leaf / speck of dirt / etc. is 'in the way' of subject matter which
    I shoot. I answer that I prefer to find a scene rather than create one. Does anybody
    else prefer not to move things around and photograph what is found, or do you folks
    often rearrange a scene found in nature until it suits your tastes? What is your
    rationale for moving things or leaving them alone? I only seek to understand my
    fellow photo nuts more thoroughly.
  2. I either have to rearrange things at the scene or do it with my software. I'm not all that good with the software!
  3. pvp


    I've gone both ways on this question. Initially, I refused to do any "gardening" and would take photos of streams complete with all the sticks and wads of fishing line, you get the idea... Now, I've come around to the other side: if I'm gonna spend time, gas and film to get to a location, then I'll go ahead and move extraneous crud that has blown or fallen into the wrong place. It's my time, my money and my picture! So sue me!
  4. I don't even hesitate to remove clutter etc., and will sometimes rearrange things. It's no big deal.

    Kent in SD
  5. Ah the slippery slope of "it's my photo and I'll do what it takes to get it."
    It's all well and good until people start lighting fires in national parks like Mr. Fatali did under Delicate Arch.
    Ok, so that's obviously an extreme example; moving a leaf is not the same as blackening a monument. I'm curious, though, where people draw the line? What if there are some rocks in the way? Part of tree trunk from a fallen tree? Some plants you think are weeds? I honestly don't know. I've moved a fallen leaf or two before, but I don't think I'd go beyond that. I think the principles of "Leave No Trace" are a good guideline for such a question.
  6. I certainly do some "gardening" if I have too. It's not golf, and there's no one stroke penalty. I draw the line when there will be damage to plants, etc. I'm not going to destroy nature in order to photograph it.
  7. Absolutely I'll rearrange stuff if I want. I'm not about to break a branch or rip out a plant to get it out of the way, or move a huge rock where I want it, but if there's an annoying stick laying across the waterfall or a styrofoam cup on the rocks, I'll go pick it up before I shoot the picture.
  8. When chided for moving a rock out of the way for one of his pictures, Ansel Adams allegedly replied, "it wasn't always there".
  9. One of things that inspired my to get serious about photography was a little book called "Yosemite ...the cycle of the seasons" Photos by Jeff Nicholas and Jim Wilson. In the book, there is a photo of a small swirling pool with fall color leaves floating around in a circle... motion blurred towards the center. My wife and I tried to find something like this, and did find the perfect swirling pool, but not very many leaves... they were several yards away, so I asked her to go get a few to "prop" the scene (throw into the water) I waited, ready to snap the shot (very uncomfortable... camera handheld, on my belly with my chest hugging a sloping boulder... kept sliding down) My poor wife got the leaves, but then slipped between some boulders and landed on a small tree (ouch!), with leaves still in her hand, she made it over, threw the leaves in and... "murphy's law" set in: the leaves didn't take the current right and bunched up too soon, my chest was in pain fron the scraping boulder, and I almost dropped the camera in the water! We have never tried this again (bad karma) We do prefer to shoot nature "as found" but don't mind moving something out of the way (for living plants, we use a small rope and bend the plants out of the way) Too add something that wasn't there, we want it to look believable, so we "toss" the object... or just let it fall, and avoid overdoing this... for a simple scene... not too cluttered. The bottom line is: I respect my own work more if I can say I shot that "as found".
  10. In popular national park areas, I try to not even bend anything, but in a clearcut, I will take many liberties. Just use common sense and good judgement.
  11. If I need to, I'll move dead stuff (leaves, twigs etc.) and I may gently bend branches out of the way if they can be returned to their original position with no damage, but I draw the line at removing any live stuff or breaking live branches.

    I usually shoot "as found", but occasionaly I'll go a little adjustment if it significantly improves the image.
  12. Sure; I do it all the time;has to be a minor change though-- nothing like starting a fire for lighting(!) (BTW, you can't see an obvious scar on delicate arch or near it; see pix). Really DUMB thing for Mr. Fatali to do. Use common sense and ask if it disrupts the real scheme of things; or ruins it for others. Always lean on the side of 'no' if you have any doubts. But doing things like dropping leaves onto a puddle , and so on, are common.
  13. I generally do the Boy Scout thing as well, but I have cut limbs and such on occasion. Not in parks or where they would be noticeable, but I can think of a recent example where I cut a little tree down under a power line to get a shot. It was where they have to periodically clear out anyway, so the tree was simply sacrificed earlier in life.

    Common sense.
  14. I saw this great stream shot last year but it had one branch leaning over right in the middle, not really large, but too big to hold back and shoot at the same time. Simple, I went home and got a short length of rope long enough to pull it back, took the shot, released it back to it's original position, ho harm done. It's one of my best water shots yet. Now I always bring this short piece of rope in my photo backpack and have used it again successfully. Back again this year and that same tree is growing strong and tall as ever.
  15. Hmm, maybe this depends on what you hope to achieve with your pictures. If you want to create art, powerfull images or whatever, it is obvious you'll need to rearrange.
    For myself, I shoot the way it is, WYSIWYG. I take pictures to document what I see, I have no ambition ( and am not good enough) to create art and thus accept that most of my pictures are cluttered.
  16. General wilderness rules apply well here. For example leave no traces rules:

    . Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
    . Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
    . Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.

    I'll move trash or dead things or small objects. But I don't move major objects (big rocks, live plants). Leave like you found it works - if nobody can tell you were there when you leave then why not. Even if you are not intending to make art why not improve your photo if there's no harm done or subjects yourself to the whims of nature (like a leaf that fell in a photographically undesireable spot).
  17. What about pinching off dead flower buds? Anyone have concerns there?
  18. There are probably as many places to draw the line on this continuum as there are people who think about the issue. Just as most of us wouldn't kill a living thing in a nature scene, most of us would do a little housecleaning to remove trash, or even hold a branch gently out of the way.

    I find thinking in generalizable principles to be more valuable than thinking in checklists. For nature shooting, my respect for the health of what I'm shooting must override my desire for the image. But that allows a fair amount of latitude, and certainly doesn't provide an position on the ideal of "found" images.

    Ah, well. Just musing 'coz I have the time. It is interesting to read other people's perspectives.
  19. Several years ago, I struggled with this concept. After I thought about it, I decided that I would set the following rule for myself - I would only remove manmade stuff like trash, fishing line, etc. and I would only do it if it could be done with NO CHANCE of damaging something natural.
    Then several years later, I was over in the Minneapolis area, a couple hours before a scheduled flight out. I decided to visit a nature preserve near the airport and get some pix. It was fall and I saw this little mossy pool with some gourgeous leaves laying on it. One small leaf didn't look quite the way I would have preferred, so I decided to cheat, looked over my shoulder, perched on a rock and reached down to remove the leaf - promptly slipped off the rock into the rancid pool, saturating my shoes, socks, khakis up to knee level with foul smelling standing water. Had to change clothes quickly in the back seat of my car and then find a place in my luggage for the putrid clothes. Had to wear the shoes as I had no spares along. My wife sort of both laughed hysterically and gave me the "are you some kind of moron" look. Anyway, having been appropriately punished, I have reverted back to my original rule.
  20. Personally, if someone "does no harm" I don't care too much about how much they removed from a scene. There are various extents that some go to in adding to a scene as well. As long as nothing is being hurt in the process, who is anyone to judge? Photographs are a manipulation and abstraction of reality to begin with.
  21. "What about pinching off dead flower buds? Anyone have concerns there?"
    1) Pinching off dead flower buds may prevent the plant from setting seed, or prevent the seeds from being effectively distributed. So please don't do this if the plant is rare or endangered!
    2) If the image is intended to be documentary - and most nature photography is - the subject should not be altered this way.
    But if your intention is to produce art rather than to document nature, and you're shooting a cultivated flower or a common weed, I have no concerns with it.
    Karl Lehmann Lost World Arts

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