Lone Impala Framed

Loan Impala Framed_2015_08_22_9399

An Impala (Aepyceros melampus) ram, protecting his patch, is framed on the flood plain, with the haze saturating through the trees, giving off a misty aura, in the beauty of an early Mana Pools morning. It does not get better.
(Canon EOS 5D Mark III / EF100-400mm IS II USM +1.4x III; 1/160 sec; f/9; ISO 640; 560mm)

Picture ©2015 Andrew Field – Simply Wild Photography

A-Z of Photography
Zoom lenses, also known as parfocal lenses, maintain focus when the focal length is changed, giving rise to the term zoom-creep in some lenses when the lens is pointed up or downwards (overcome by some manufacturers with zoom ring resistance adjustments). Some lenses are varifocal, losing focus during zooming, so zoom creep can be a serious annoyance. Zoom lenses suffer loss of image resolution at the extremes of their focal length.

“One glibly despises the photographer who zooms in on the starving child or the dying soldier without offering help. Writing is not different.”

– Alan Bennett – 2006

This image, and others of your selection, can be acquired from the author printed on fine art canvas of photographic paper for wall mounting.
Please be encouraged to click on the ‘Comments’ link below and rate the photograph 1 to 5 stars. This feedback is invaluable to the photographer. If you are feeling awfully kind you could Tweet it or share the link too!

Stuck in darkest Africa, lost in the wild and loving it! Don’t let me out of here…

Copyright: Be Aware of its Limitations

Photographers, and indeed all artists and creative people, have rights to the protection of their work in terms of international copyright laws. No matter how much you may claim your right to a copyright or however well notified the public is of your rights, this does not mean all you believe is protected by copyright is actually protected.  There is vast opinion on the subject of what splits an idea or concept from a protectable, fixed and tangible medium of expression, the idea–expression dichotomy.

It is generally accepted that photographic images are automatically protected by copyright.  Thus no third party may infringe this copyright by copying the image, or publishing your art work.  The image is sacrosanct in that respect.  Unless permission is granted by the author, the image may not be copied in its exact form, verbatim, or altered; or published for gain or otherwise.  It would be a gross plagiarism to copy another’s photograph and represent it as your own.

Take a hypothetical case in point.  A photographer snaps an image of a model standing under the Eiffel Tower at an aesthetically pleasing, perhaps unique angel, or, maybe, a bunch of grapes next to a wine glass with a cork-screw arranged in a clever or peculiar way.  Both images would be copyright protected.  Another photographer comes along and takes almost the identical images but with subtle differences.  Both sets of images are similar, the ideas or concepts are the same, but the expression, or the images themselves, are unique to the photographer that took them.  The idea behind the creative expression could have been co-incidental or otherwise.

A section of the United Kingdom act on copyright is actually quite specific as to the rights to an abstract idea or a concept.  It states, inter alia,

“in no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work…”

It is evident that copyright law is excogitated to protect the manifestation of concepts or protectable expression rather than the fundamental ideas themselves. Copyright, thus, does not protect ideas, only their material expression and in law the idea-expression divide is a legal doctrine which limits the scope of copyright protection.  Ideas, of course may be patented, thus conferring proprietary rights in relation to general ideas and concepts per se, but very few photographers would have either the time or the funding to patent the ideas behind their images.

In the United States there is a school of thought referred to as the merger doctrine.  The principle here is that if the idea or concept underlying the work can only be expressed in one single way, or they are so tied together, then the work’s idea and expression thereof merge.  This is being utilized frequently in the courts and its application fails even to save apparently protected expression from infringement.

Likewise, with the related doctrine of scenes a faire (a term that refers to characters or places that are standard to some general theme or topic), the courts will not protect a copyrighted work from infringement if the expression embodied in the work originates from a commonplace idea.  Where there is no other way of photographing a concept, the courts prevent the monopolisation of that idea through the application of the doctrine, and thus scenes a faire is not capable of being protected by copyright.

Returning to our hypothetical examples, it is considered that where claims might be made by the first photographer for infringement of copyright, then the court would probably go on to find firstly that the infringement was to the unprotected idea and not the expression.  Given that the later photographs were not virtually identical, being differences in light and shadows, colours and angles one might expect the merger or scenes a faire doctrines may be applied and the more previous photographs would not be held to be infringements.

These principles, probably the most basic of copyright law, originating from common law, have beaten their often repeated paths through diverse Supreme Courts around the globe over the years and the idea–expression doctrine remains the same that ideas and concepts go into the public domain while the specific expression of the author is protected and remains under his or her control.  Photographers, and indeed artists and writers, should understand these concepts before venturing claims for their abstract ideas rather than their truly protectable expressions.
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Sources:
http://wikipedia.com – various
http://www.photoattorney.com
The Idea-Expression Dichotomy in Copyright Law – Edward Samuels – 56 Tenn. L. Rev. 321 (1989)

Criticism – It should be open Season

If you struggle reading white on black…go here…

For those who venture into poetry, writing and various art forms, in my case it is photography, there comes a time when your work is subjected to some form of critique.
   Most open forums I know of suffer the ‘positive critique syndrome’, where anyone can offer a favourable, sometimes gushing, comment about how good your work is, clearly without offending you in any way.  The ‘good old like’ button comes to mind in social networks.   The problem with positive critique, aside from encouraging you to continue along the same route you have travelled, is that the artist or writer never learns anything from this.

Criticism in some way must be part of the creative process, in my opinion.  I am no expert at all, it is just that offering my work for criticism provides responses which encourage or discourage.  There comes a time of course, when critique is negative… basically somebody does not like your work and chooses to comment about it.  The more mature and perhaps less sensitive may well take negative critique in their stride as part of the learning curve to betterment.  I certainly do, but it does raise the question ‘what qualifies a person to offer critique?’

The first response to a poor critique is often that the critic just didn’t know what he or she was talking about.  Artists and authors frequently revert to this defence rather than attempting to learn from the experience.  The question is, should they accept criticism from just any Tom, Dick or Harry or should this be confined to somebody well qualified to give it.  Well the answer to that, in my opinion, is accept it from anyone!  How well qualified do you have to be to appreciate an image or a book?  Artists will present their work to a generally cultured and discerning  public which is both appreciative and disproving.  Why should only the appreciative view be heard?

Soup Mix – by Andrew Field – Love it or hate it, tell me why?

Of course criticism can be both constructive and destructive, it may be weak (emotional  or inductive) or strong, the latter being substantiated with rules, mathematical  proof or formal logic.  Clearly, in the latter case, some formal understanding of the rules, the proofs and the logic may be appropriate.

As a photographer, I generally take images to provide work which will please my peer group and accept that when placed in the public domain, as it is, that there will be somebody out there who just doesn’t like the work.  Remember, a wondrously good image comes from a thousand snap shots, no matter how good you are.  The taboos in our society about unqualified negative critique seem to suppress valuable input from those who have such critique to offer.  We should be encouraging negative criticism and learning from the experience, but the best critique of all is that of self criticism.  We should all do that occasionally.

Composition: The Niggling Rules

If you struggle reading white on black…go here…

We frequently hear reference to the rule of thirds in our exploits with competitive photography, but rarely do we hear about the other rules of composition in the visual arts.  Rules denote the need for conformity, so perhaps we should refer to them as principles.  Some of these principles, which have evolved over centuries of art, are just as important as the thirds principle.  These rules or principles can be broken, of course, in your originative desires to creative images with impact, but for most of us, we mere mortal, leisure photographers, perhaps it may be useful to know the principles of composition before we break them.

Some say that one principle for success in the visual arts is to ‘keep it simple’ by eliminating clutter from the image, which generally distracts the eye.  This is so important, yet we all end up with some clutter in our images, as we first set out. Know what your subject is and take a photograph of the subject using appropriate techniques.  We all know, for example, that narrowing the depth of field (widening your aperture settings) will throw most clutter out of focus and place your subject in pin sharp prominence in the image.  Do not allow clutter to creep in from the side of your image, either in the background or the foreground, it will draw the eye away from the subject.

Close Call_August 2011
Rule of thirds applied but the chimney and roof on the right are ‘clutter’… nice diagonals give
perspective, curved lines of the craft perceive flow

Having said that, never forget the power of lines, actual or perceived by the viewer, which may attract ones eye to the subject.  A flower stem from the close proximity of an image corner provides a strong lead into the subject and, hopefully, a diagonal which is always pleasing.  Beware lines which do not lead into the subject nor compliment it, they tend to clutter.   Curved lines create flow and straight lines mood and perspective.  Prefer oblique lines to those which are perpendicular, horizontal or parallel.  The latter lines have their place, in say landscape or architectural work, but set them on the thirds, and never show water levels in the oblique!

As a bonsai enthusiast, one will learn one of the fundamentals of composition, geometry and asymmetry.  One learns that triangles are the most aesthetically pleasing shape to the eye and that parallels or symmetry both detract from the way nature intended… both have negative impact on your image.  Triangular formations in an image are powerful.  Square and circular formations are symmetrical.   Avoid symmetry, where you have an even number of subjects in an image, compose them asymmetrically within the frame.

This leads us onto the ‘rule of odds’, another cardinal principle which is just not pushed enough in amateur photography.  Frame your principal subject with an even number of background subjects or complements, making an odd number in total.  Thus, one flower as the principal subject should be accompanied by two or perhaps four other flowers or objects, say leaves.  A single flower alone fits the rule, but when framed by the other two items it may be perceived as being more pleasing to the eye.  Work in odd numbers and you cannot go too far wrong.

Fruit Glasses and Wine_September 2011
Odd number glasses, but even fruit and bottles… would a third bottle help?

The principle of space is so important in portraiture.  Never restrict the space into which your subject’s eyes are looking, which is why one encourages portrayed people (even animals) to look into or near the camera.  That opens up the space.  This principle applies equally to other forms of photography. It is so basic and gives a perception of movement in, for example, action photography… a jumping antelope should have space in front of it, a racing motorcycle must have somewhere to go in the image.  In design this is often referred to as white space.

So we come back to our notoriously repeated rule of thirds, for good reason.  It is probably the most profound of them all, since, in a very obvious way, the thirds principle actually opens you up to all the other rules.  All visual arts are subjective… your images are praised or decried in the eyes of the beholder.  Allowing your images to take on any natural proportions can only enhance them in the eyes of your critics or devotees and you would do well to understand the embedded rules that achieve this.

Privacy Rights and Photography

If you struggle reading white on black…go here…

France has very strict privacy laws, so much so that it is actually an infringement of ones rights to publish or commercialise an image of a person without his authority. This may not be the general trend in Europe (where there are contradictions between human rights to privacy and rights to expression) and certainly the laws pertaining in the United Kingdom are at best rather vague on the point. In Zimbabwe, there is hardly any restriction and what you capture on camera may be published.

One only has to review Zimbabwe’s chronicles of unlawful arrest and detention of photographers to understand that discretion is the better part of valour in certain circumstances. The law, as it stands, does not deny the photographer to take any image of any subject in any public place. Restrictions may be imposed upon photographers taking photographs in private places, by the owners of those places; and the State has legislation in place in terms of the Defence Act, Electoral Regulations, the Official Secrets Act, Prisons Act, and Protected Places and Areas Act, amongst others.

Zimbabwe’s Access to Information and Privacy law are mute on the point of privacy rights outside those restrictions on disseminating information by a “public body”, as clearly defined and scheduled in the Act. This legislation was introduced, principally, to control the local and international media, rather than protect the privacy rights of people. However, reading between the lines of that legislation, there are snippets of moral consideration for the taking.

Queuing_Monochrome

In this context the onus is upon individual photographers to police themselves, although there has been no attempt to introduce any code in Zimbabwe as such. Here we are at the mercy of standards of society and good old common sense. If we draw from the legislation we can see that in certain circumstances it is illegal for a public body (and a breach of journalistic privilege) to publish material which impairs one’s dignity, invades his or her privacy, injurious to reputation or amounts to criminal insult.

We do not need to revert to legislation for moral judgement. Taking images of scantily clad children is not criminal, but publishing them, even if not compromising, is perhaps very much against the grain of our moral obligation. Our moral perspective should be that of never seeking to impair the rights of others and protecting those who cannot protect themselves, but within reason. No harm is done by politely seeking authority from your subject and where possible using ‘model release’ to prevent future dispute.

To those who would rush at you demanding you respect their privacy, it should be understood that the act of taking a photograph is no violation, it’s the publishing which does the damage, if at all. Clearly, this leads the photographer into unnecessary conflict with the self-opinionated few, and withdrawal may be prudent. The photographer risks committing a criminal breach of the peace in defending himself and his rights; accused of being a journalist (which is a controlled profession); or may cross the boundaries of harassment by pursuing the take. That is where most photographers fall foul of the law.

Photographers need to adopt their own moral codes but must know their rights, and the rights of others, within the communities they work. They should also understand the techniques of tactical withdrawal in privacy sensitive and hostile communities. Be polite and co-operative, the image is never worth the hassle or loss of freedom.