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Thursday, 16 August 2007


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Hi Mike,
I've seen this too and according to Snopes, it is real. How do you think the guy in the back is feeling??!!

Sorry Mike, somewhere along the line this shot was "enhanced to improve visibility". It was color balance only, but still "enhancement". Here is a link to the shot in its original state. Are JEPG's out of the camera the only "pure" digital images?


I'm curious as to how he thought it was a WEAK photoshop job. If that had been a photoshop job, I think it could have been classified as an awesome one.

This is fake, digital manipulation. Definitely. :p

Dear Vance,

That's a most peculiar definition of "enhancement." By that stretch, any attempt to correctly match paper contrast and exposure (for B&W) or color-correct (for color) a photographic print in the darkroom constitutes "enhancement."

It renders the term meaningless.

Further, it suffers from a known fallacy, which is that somehow the 'raw' photo, as seen by film or sensor, is a correct and unenhanced portrayal of the scene. Both assertions are patently false; they are not even a useful approximation of how the photographic (or human visual) systems perform.

By any plausible interpretation, the adjusted version simply portrays the photo much more like the human eye would see it. That's in no way an enhancement unless you believe the function of photography is to portray the deficiencies and idiosyncrasies of the capture medium.

pax / Ctein

P.S. Mike, this photo intrigues me because it *could* be created in Photoshop without extraordinary work. Most complex, real-world scenes are far too visually-complicated and compositionally "dirty" to be easily simulated. The world is a much messier and more disordered place than humans can readily imagine and create out of whole cloth. This photo is aberrantly clean that way-- the jets of water are very symmetric and self contained; there's little overlap of compositional elements. It just inherently looks unreal, despite being real. That's very unusual.

You guys are kidding, right? Certainly anybody who's ever either dropped something into the water (and paid attention to what it looks like) OR anyone who's ever been around boats being lifted by slings would immediately know this photo is a total fake.

Get out your rubber ducky and drop it into your bath tub a couple of times. Observe a real splash. Then go to your nearest boat yard and take a look at how they lift yachts. They certainly don't do it with a couple of dock lines.

You guys have been watching too many Hollywood movies. In case you don't know it, much of what you see on screen is the result of special effects, normally WAY overdone. Car gas tanks rarely blow up, men can't dodge bullets, HAL the computer can't carry on a conversation, and Superman can't really fly. Just thought you'd like to know.


"Regardless of your theoretical position, you've got to admit it's more impressive once you know it's not a weak PS job, isn't it?"

I would say that the *story* is more impressive, not the photograph. The photo, as an artifact in itself, is nothing great. It is the story that it records that is interesting. If there was no story, the photograph would simply be an amusing visual statement.

Hmmm. The timing is just too perfect. The boys here at the office (we're newspaper snappers) agree that it would have been tough to get that shot even if you knew it was going to happen. Shooting 8 frames per second, often the best shot is the one between frames. But hey, we can always fix THAT with Photoshop!
But I trust the Snopes site... I think.

@Dion van Huyssteen:
I guess I would have considered it a weak photoshop job because of how quickly I wanted to write if off as a fake, given its dramatic and unreal look. If it were actually a photoshop job, then yeah, technically it would be a perfect representation of reality, given that it actually is reality.

...That's sort of my point, which Ctein touches on at the end of his comment. Because of our knowledge of tools like photoshop and their capabilities, our brains assume this is a fake, but it isn't -- which is unusual. The current state of imaging technology (and your understanding of it) will always influence our perception of how an image came to be. Typically the result of this influence is that we look at an image and think the exact opposite: "It looks real, but it's probably fake" -- and that's part of what gives digital imaging a bad rap. In this example, "It looks fake, but it's real". This is a counterintuitive example of the notion that "everything is not always as it seems."

It doesn't look real to me either - seems like the splash is too large given how little of the boat has entered the water. Which would be consistent with a fake - you want people be able to see the size of the boat and you want the drama provided by a large splash. But I could be wrong - I've never dropped a yacht into the water before...

I recently read an interview from 2004 with director Errol Morris that I found apropos to this whole debate about what's real and what isn't, and the nature of meaning and how we interpret it in photography. The bulk of the interview is about his approach to documentaries-- and the bit about imagery and photography is about halfway through-- but the whole interview is pretty good and as much applicable to photography as it is to filmmaking.


@John & Bob:
The splash looks weird because you assume the boat is 'spearing' the water given it's orientation. If that were the case, the splash would be substantially less -- like that of a diver who nails his entry to the water. The front end of the boat's hull actually 'slaps' the water because only the front strap broke while the rear strap kept the rear end of the boat in the air. The boat was rotating when it hit the water. This is certainly one of the main reasons it comes off as fake -- the boat's position implies that it's spearing the water, but the splash indicates otherwise.

Right, that's how I read it too, and that also explains why the photographer was able to capture the "right" moment. If the boat had been free-falling vertically it would have been traveling very fast and it would have been difficult to nail this shot, as a couple of people have noted. But actually the front sling broke, the front of the boat rotates towards the water, then the back sling drags the propellers and rudders off the back end of the boat as its weight pulls it into the water.

Part of the reason the splash looks odd is that the part of the boat hitting the water is the bow, which is designed to cut through the water, forming a wake that throws water up and away from the boat. It's not like a randomly shaped object hitting the water.

A fascinating shot to "read," in my view. Thanks again for sending it my way.


Pedro Meyer (zonezero.com) who has taken many interesting positions on digital manipulation, complained that with the advent of Photoshop, straight pictures of weird things are readily dismissed as manipulations. His example, was a chair in Washington DC that served as an advertisment. It was much larger than life size. And when people saw Pedro's straight shot of the giant chair they always assumed that he created the image in Photoshop - especially since he was a proponent of digital manipulation arriving at truth rather than transcription. So the phenomena of viewers dismissing some of the odder aspects of our world as digital creations is a common problem.

I believe what made me think the boat was dropping vertically is the line trailing straight back over the top of, and apparently parallel with, the deck of the boat, if the boat had more or less pivoted downward while still partially attached to or resting on something at the stern end, I guess I would expect this line to be angled up and toward the camera (and whatever it was attached to. But maybe i'm not picturing the situation correctly. I did consider the possibility that the bow might have "slapped" the water but that didn't appear to be entirely consistent with the details of the scene. But I have to admit, if this picture is indeed real, that is the plausible explanation.

Go to the site that the photo originated from. If it is a fake, there are several more to go with it and it was a whole lot of work for a ruse.

Actually the site is full of all kinds of interesting naval and ship(ping) related disasters.


Wow, what a great photo of the Yacht!

Very impressive phot whether it's fake or not. It's probably fake though.

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