Monday, August 10, 2009

Photo(shop) by Jim Brandenburg?

A few months back, I was browsing various blogs and came across renowned photographer Jim Brandenburg's site. If you're a photographer from Minnesota (or nearly anyplace else) you know of Brandenburg's outstanding collection of images and his long history as an editorial shooter for National Geographic and other top publications. On this particular day, he had just posted an image from Crow-Hassen Park Reserve near Rogers, Minnesota. You can see the posting here.

Here's Jim's image. It's an outstanding picture of rolling hills, wildflower covered prairies, and a lone tree in the distance. So outstanding that I had to see this landscape for myself.

I waited until the day I thought the flowers would be in bloom (too early I found out) and made the 1-hour trip from my house. It didn't take long for me to realize that finding a lone tree on the prairie would be difficult. The day was pleasant as I headed down the sandy trail. Before long I came across a scene that looked like it could be the spot. Problem was, the hills weren't high enough and there were small bushy trees nearby the large tree.

Here's my image. Something seemed out of place. I considered my surroundings a moment. Jim mentioned that the photo was from a recent trip, so the image is at least a year old. I hiked up to the trees and inspected the smaller ones. In my novice opinion, they were at least 5-10 years old. Since this is an active prairie restoration area, its unlikely that they would have been allowed to grow there unchecked.

Here's an overlay of the two images. By rotating my picture slightly and scaling it to match the tree's height, we can see that the horizon line has been changed, wetlands removed, and trees and other types of plants have been removed.

Now, to be fair, Jim never claims that this is an editorial, untouched image and I have yet to find any statements by him regarding his use of Photoshop. I was just surprised and frankly a bit disappointed to see such an extreme amount of alteration to the image.

So, is it still as good? Would you be as disappointed as I was to reach the destination and find it's different than presented?