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Category Archives: Digital photography

Sunday Night Doppelgangers

“Somewhere in the world, we all have at least one person
who looks exactly like us.”

Melissa Doyle, Sunday Night, 18 August 2019

Last night the television program Sunday Night aired an interesting segment discussing the notion that each of us isn’t the only person on the planet who looks exactly like us – something she refers to as a doppelganger.  Doppelgangers are non-biologically related ‘twins’ of ourselves, though usually a doppelganger has a negative connotation – that the doppelganger is an evil or ghostly twin. Not in this case though.

Sunday Night’s segment on dopplegangers shows how confusing similar looking people in photos can be.  There are many fascinating pairs of doppelganger in this broadcast (which you can see using the 7Plus link in the reference below).  It is captivating to see how alike people can look.  It also seemed an ideal opportunity to demonstrate simple ways to distinguish between individuals in photos and work out if they are or are not the same person.  So what can you look for?

The ‘ears’ have it

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‘Doppelgangers’ , Channel 7 ‘Sunday Night’ [1]

In this example, former President Barak Obama (right) seems to have a twin.  But in the briefest of glances an aware photo viewer can see that they are not the same person just by looking at the ears.  The man on the left has strongly attached earlobes, while Obama has completely free (unattached) earlobes.   Barring any accident or damage to the ear, ear shape is purely genetically dictated, and, since ears are complex and variable, ear shape is often different from person to person, and one of the easiest ways to rule out people in photos as matching  – it’s not the same person if their ears don’t match!

Face size matters

But what if the ears aren’t visible or don’t help you identify or rule out the identity of the person in the photo?  Look a bit more closely at the size of the face.  In these photos of John (left) and Neal (right), it is easy to see that John’s face is almost 10% longer than Neal’s face:

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Doppelgangers John and Neal [1]

Shape and Colour

But what if they seem to have similar sized heads, or you can’t see their ears as in the photo as in the photos of Niamh and Karen below? There are so many ways in which their faces look similar, especially with matching makeup and hair. How could you tell them apart?

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Doppelgangers Niamh and Karen [1]

Well, have a look at their eyes.  You’ll have to zoom in.

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Doppelgangers Niamh and Karen – Details of eyes [1]

Look at the differences: the eye colours are a bit different as Karen (right) has greener eyes than Niamh (left), and Niamh’s eyes are shaped differently (more almond shaped and sharper in the inner corners). This is easy to see if you look carefully, even though their eyebrows and lashes have been made up to look identical. The trick is to focus on and compare individual parts and aspects of a person’s face, rather than to view it as a whole.

Hopefully these simple tips will help you next time you’re trying to decide if that woman in a family photo is your Aunt Judy or your Aunt Evelyn!

References
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Doppelgangers, Sunday Night (18 August 2019) https://7plus.com.au/sunday-night Accessed 19/8/19. Images used under ‘fair use’ provisions of copyright law.
 

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That moment when …

… your photograph inexplicably comes out of the camera looking like a watercolour painting.

Peach-coloured Dahlia, Yea, New South Wales Australia

Peach Dahlia

 

I took this photo back in 1999 with my (then) brand new Sony Mavica FD-91. It wrote to 3 1/2″ floppy disks.  I still have that disk – along with the other thousand or so!

 

 

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Mid-air rescue: rare Little Eagle hunting a Rose-breasted Cockatoo foiled by a flock of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos

“If you listen to birds, every day will have a song in it.”
–Kyo Maclear-

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It was a clear Sunday afternoon in late autumn in Canberra, and the sun’s light was pouring in sideways from low in the West behind my apartment building.  In the blue skies to the East a flock of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos whirled and spun in the bright light, their feathers glowing transcendentally white against the azure sky.

As I photographed the awe-inspiring sight, I noticed their pattern was choppy and abrupt.  They bore a marked resemblance to a school of fish in water, darting together in coordinated movements.  I studied these bright white creatures more carefully with the aid of the magnification  of my modest zoom lens. The flock also contained several darker coloured birds: Rose-breasted Cockatoos, or as we fondly know them, Galahs.  Amongst them was a larger bird soaring effortlessly through the flock on its wide wings.

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In just a minute [1], the Galahs in the mixed flock were almost gone, and soon there were only two interlopers left in the flock. As I watched, I realised that I was watching an intricate flight-dance in which the larger dark bird sought the smaller bird, but never caught up with it.  The Galah was being hunted!

But the white Cockatoos almost always seemed to be between the hunter and its prey.

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After many attempts to capture the smaller bird, at some point it seems the probability of success became vanishingly small for the bird of prey. Ultimately it flew away, claws empty.

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The Galah was safe to fly another day:

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And as for the Cockatoo flock, their movements relaxed into a loosely swooping spread of birds across the sky.

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Slowly the brilliant late afternoon light faded.  I wondered as I watched the cockatoos so obviously enjoying the sky, the sun and each other, why would they help a fellow bird not of their species?  If you look at the photo  from early on in the event it is apparent they did not want to hang around a predator:

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Even if, as large birds, the Cockatoos were unlikely to be prey, they were clearly giving it a wide berth. They could have flown away, but they didn’t. Was it some form of avian solidarity?  Is there a symbiotic or even friendly relationship between the two related species? Or was it more prosaic, that the Galah itself kept flying into the middle of the Cockatoo flock for safety in numbers?  Whatever the reason, it was a special moment to be able to observe and photograph.

Little Eagle

And the larger bird? What was that? A later online search of predatory birds in Canberra revealed that the hunting bird was a Little Eagle [2], a very rare diminutive eagle in Canberra whose staple diet is middle-sized birds (of which Galahs are a prime example) and rabbits.  It can easily be identified by its markings seen from below.

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Hunting bird – markings identify it as a rare Little Eagle

 

 

Footnotes
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[1] I took a total of 57 photos between 2:58 pm and 3:02 pm.  The first photograph showed the flock of birds contained about 9-10 Galahs, several dozen Cockatoos and one Magpie. The Galahs and Magpie present at 2:58 pm were gone (other than the singled out Galah) by 2:59 pm.
[2] According to one source, there are only 4 breeding pairs in Canberra at present.  ABC, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-20/little-eagles-big-journey-from-canberra-to-daly-waters/8459040

References
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All photographs by Sabrina Caldwell, and were cropped for easier viewing online and resized for web use; no other changes have been made.
See also http://carnivoraforum.com/topic/9387068/2/ for a detailed photo of a Little Eagle.

 

 

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A photographer’s ‘fish story,’ literally

When the full moon is set to rise into a clear sky over a calm ocean at dusk, you know it is going to be a great photo opportunity.

Bring on the golden-red colours, the presaging glow, the first glimpse of the sliver of disk peeping above the watery horizon, the silver path of light on the rippling waves!

This was the moment on Tuross Head Beach last weekend, with the moon at its fullest and rising into the fading light of an early mid-winter evening.

Sedate but swift, the moon rises

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On this magic night the moonrise is a slowly moving visual feast, clinging to the ocean with a spectacular light-drop effect, then drifting upwards between the layered clouds. As I take photo after photo, the sky darkens, and the moon begins to lighten.   While it still beams with a deep russet glow, I frame up the cloud-bespeckled moon yet again, trying to keep the barely visible sea horizon level. I take the photo.

Suddenly, an eagle

A split-second later, with the sound of my camera shutter still ringing in my years,  an Australian sea eagle dives directly in front of the full moon, head down and wings spread, magnificently limned in the moon’s ruddy glow.

The eagle plunges into the sea like an arrow, to snatch one last fishy meal from the water as darkness closes in.  And I missed the perfect photo by milliseconds!

Later, reviewing my images, I did find at least photographic evidence of my story of the ‘one that got away’ – this lovely photo of the eagle making its approach from just above the moon.

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The moons sails the night sky

Soon the moon fades to silver-white, lighting the waves and heading off on its journey to illuminate the night for other entranced viewers.

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Photographs: All photos by Sabrina Caldwell. Other than resizing for web-use, no alterations have been made except that ‘Sea eagle over moon’ photo was cropped.
 

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2017 AIPP APPAs: The reality pendulum swings – but in what direction? (Part 2 of 2: Reality Rules)

2017 Australian Institute of Professional Photography
Australian Professional Photography Awards

(Also see Part 1: Category Changes .)

In 2016 current APPA Chairman Rocco Ancora emphasised that the requirements for competition entries to be ‘real’ or illustrative vary between award categories, and that this reflects different types of professional photography common in the real world. This is apparently a two-way street, because the 2016 dissension in the professional photography community over Lisa Saad’s highly photoartistic winning portfolio prompted the APPA committee to undertake a broad review of the rules for 2017, to see how faithful a real world reflection the award categories really were.  

The resulting changes, being as they were prompted by a refreshing dissatisfaction with the infiltration of photoart into photography, were an irresistible draw for my inquisitorial eye for preserving the photographical perspective in a world overrun by fantasy and fiction.

Overall, there are some positive changes for those of us who value the representative nature of photography, but the rule changes have introduced some issues as well.

 

The verdict: award organisers are beginning to say “Less digital art and more photography, please.”

In many ways the reshaped rules implemented for 2017 is part real change and part ‘awareness raising’ encouraging photographers to be more like photographers and less like digital artists.  Some of the more significant changes such as attribution requirements, and identifying the postproduction team are as much about the entrants as the entries.

However, requirements for protographic proofs to be available for all elements in all categories is a very strong message indeed.  Further, the overall effect of the new rules on the degree of illustrative freedom across all the categories is noticeable.  In the chart below you can see that the degree of illustrative freedom has been pulled back in almost every subcategory this year with the new rules, and the two newly introduced subcategories expect significant restraint.

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In most cases, there is more photographic rigour in the APPAs this year

Why is this good? It is good for two important reasons. 

First and most importantly, it influences the Australian photographic community to value the ‘real’ in their photograph, which means the photographic record is more indicative of our real world.  Don’t forget that people form opinions and take decisions based on the information in images they see; if that information is faulty, then their opinions and decisions might be too. 

Secondly, and important for the continuance of photography, it halts the helter-skelter rush towards turning this special science-based method into little more than another digital art form.

The highlights

More dual categories distinguish between the real and the faux

In my 2016 review I noted that the ‘photojournalistic’ and ‘open’ Wedding category was a good idea and could be rolled out to more categories.  I am very pleased to see that this distinction has been applied to two more categories: Portrait and Landscape.  Hopefully this trend will continue. Having photoart and photographs represented separately within a category makes it clear whether the photo reflects the real moments of the event, or an artistic impression of it.

Category recombinations recognise real vs faux

The categories themselves are expressing ideas of real vs faux. Combining Commercial, Advertising and Fashion into an overall Commercial category consolidates the more photoartistic work of Australia’s professional photographers; combining Documentary, Birth and Sport into an overall Documentary category consolidates the notion of the photograph as representing reality.

Cleaner, stricter categories

A lot of rule confusion has been sorted out. The new approach is based on a core set of rules that are consistent across the categories, augmented with specific rules and exceptions for each category.  This is much easier to understand and maintain.

Happily, this also creates a more rigourous photographic base upon which all of the awards rest: images must be 100% photographic in origin, 100% created by the photographer, photographic proofs must be available, and purchasable photos, backgrounds, skies, borders and textures are prohibited.

Casting a wider net in recognising art contributions

Entrants are now called upon to acknowledge the larger creative context of their images: they “MUST acknowledge the printer, retoucher and/or other creative contributors.” [1] This will further tease out how post-production expertise plays a part in the entry.
Furthermore, any decorative elements like borders and textures must be photos, not digital art.

The lowlights

Conventional photography demoted and misaligned

For me, the one misstep in the rule revisions is combining Illustrative and Analog and Historical Process together into an Illustrative category.  Analog and Historical Process photography is unique amongst the APPA Awards and deserving of its own place.  These types of photographic processes are steeped in chemical and light science, and backed by centuries of tradition. They are vitally connected with the objects they represent in a completely different way to digital imaging and simply do not belong in a category with digital images.

Moreover, choosing to merge this category with the Illustrative category fuses some of the most authentic photographic forms available to photographers with one of the most inauthentic.  The APPA committee should really rethink this move, which will muddy photographic waters, and dishearten the photographers struggling to keep these important techniques alive in a digital world.  The problems with this change are further exacerbated by the fact that the Analog and Historical Process photography is hidden under the single word category title “Illustrative”; alternative and historical process photographers could be forgiven for assuming there is no category for them at all.

Core rules specification

The new core rules are a great step in streamlining the rule structure, but new ambiguities have been introduced.  For example, it was less clear whether borders, textures and backgrounds were generally acceptable or not.  The idea of 3D image techniques seems to have completely exited the rules so it is unknown whether they are allowed or not (though to be honest I couldn’t figure out what that meant anyway given these awards are about static images).   There are also still some duplications of rule profiles that could be solved in the core rules.

In conclusion…

I believe the awards committee is doing a tremendous job.  From what I can see they are experienced, thoughtful, and earnest.  They are introducing change gently and in a considered way, with lots of consultation along the way.

Hopefully this discourse is not at an end.  Tony Hewitt commented in his advice regarding category changes that “It’s important that you understand that while we consider all ideas, not everything is going to be taken on board and implemented straight away.” [2]  So perhaps the changes we see now are simply the first step in steering the Australian photographic community away from the ‘photography as massive digital art productions’ precipice.  We’ll see.

I can think of a range of improvements the committee might decide to implement in future, but if I were to name only one on my wish list it would be that the Alternative and Historical Process category is urgently extracted from the Illustrative category and returned to its rightful place as a unique and to-be-encouraged aspect of Australia’s vibrant photographic community.  

I will watch with great interest how the 2017 changes impact on this year’s APPA entries and outcomes, and how the awards committee and Australian photographers embrace this opportunity to cement the relationship between the photographic craft and the real world, and build solidarity within the photographic community.  Because, as I will explore in future posts, big challenges are on the horizon for photographers, against which the notions of reality, representation and truth will be our biggest strength.

 

 

2017 Australian Institute of Professional Photography
Australian Professional Photography Awards

Entries open: 10 July 2017
Entries Close: 10 August 2017
Judging event dates: 25-27 August 2017
Venue: Melbourne Olympic Park Function Centre

References
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[1] 2017 Entry Rules & Information: The 41st AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards.  p.3
[2] A message from Tony Hewitt APPA Chair and Awards Team Manager https://vimeo.com/200337227 Accessed 31/3/17.

 

 

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