Digital Salons - ColdSnap Photography

Digital Salons

Digital Salons

Discovery on the banks of the Mississippi River

Last week I had a chance to spend a couple of days with Bill Kingsbury (Grafton North Dakota) and Tom Alves (Farmington Minnesota.) We were in Wabasha looking for eagles to photograph along the Mississippi River. Unfortunately for us unseasonably warm weather opened most of the river and the birds has dispersed making for difficult eagle photography. We spent our days driving the shores of the river looking for whatever subjects attracted our eye. The above houseboat was good for about an hour’s diversion. Bill showed me some great B&W’s he made there.

Tom Alves is an active member of the Minnesota Nature Photography Club. Our discussion turned to club competition and salon judging. This is always a controversial topic and indeed it was good for several hours of animated conversation.  The Minnesota Nature Club adheres to the PSA rules for submitting image for salon judging. The rules are reprinted here:All digital images used in PSA Nature Division approved competitions or for competitions or for competitions governed by PSA Nature Division rules must be considered “Digital Realism”.“Makers may perform any enhancements and modifications that improve the presentation of the image that could have been done at the time the image was taken but that does not change the truth of the original nature story. Cropping and horizontal flipping (equivalent to reversing a slide) are acceptable modifications. Addition of elements, removal of elements other than by cropping, combining elements from separate images, rearranging elements or cloning elements are not acceptable.”

I would offer the following advice to the rules committee for the MN Nature Club or any photography club. Why not take the above rules one step further. State that the photographer must make any adjustments to the photograph in camera prior to making the image. All major brand DSLR’s have “picture style” settings that control: color, contrast, sharpness, and saturation. The photographer can adjust these as they see fit to achieve the look and feel of the final image.

Images would be shot and saved as JPEGs. If the photographer wanted to adjust the image or have a copy for print making purposes they could simply set the camera to save a Raw+JPEG version. 

This slight alteration in the rules draws a very clear and clean line. Camera Raw converters are becoming more and more sophisticated. Photoshop CS4 now offers a “localized adjustment brush” in the converter process. Under the current rules a photographer is left wondering how much alteration in the Raw converter is equal to an improvement that could have been done at the time the image was taken. By only accepting JPEG images with picture styles set prior to making the image there is no ambiguity. Accepting only in-camera images, I believe, gets closer to the tried and true standards of film days when Color Slide Film was; what you see is what you get.

I would further urge MN Nature, or any other club, to open a second category. This category could be called the “Digital Open Imaging Category.” The purpose of this category would be to allow photographers who enjoy post processing their images an avenue to work the image prior to judging. Again this judging format is not far from the film days when photographers enjoyed two salons: slide judging and print competitions. Print salon competitions usually allowed the photographer to alter their image through burning dodging and even in some clubs; composite printing. Images submitted to the “Digital Open Imaging Category” would be judged purely on the merits of the content seen on the screen.

These changes would clarify the acceptable rules by which all the photographers in the club compete. They would also accommodate a variety of shooting styles and aesthetics. This process fits nicely with the goals of the Club’s mission statement: continuing education in the art, science and technique of nature photography; evaluation of members’ photography; appreciation and enjoyment of the outdoors; and fellowship.

John Gregor

February, 2009