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04/13/2016 09:26:06 AM · #1
spectacular grand Tetons shot

So this is a truly incredible shot. With lots of time and effort. But I've always gone back and forth on this.

Do you consider camera traps/laser triggers photography?

A wildlife contest that I entered for many years, frequently had owl shots that were captured because the photographer used a laser trigger. This shot in the link was a camera trap.

The photographer spent a huge amount of time checking through it. And obviously had to think through the setting of it. Yet it seems like wildlife photography is knowing the animals/birds, and getting the timing down. When I find an osprey nest, I'll spend hours watching it to get that perfect shot. And the majority of the time I miss it. It makes the good shots even more impressive when I know the difficulty behind it.

Yet I borrowed someone's laser trigger to do a splashing liquid shot and it was fun. But then again, I was there actively doing it -- not letting it sit until something flew into it.

I'm curious as to other people's opinions.
04/13/2016 09:36:53 AM · #2
Absolutely. If you've ever worked with them they can be a handful to get set up, stabilized and oriented so that they achieve both focus and compositional accuracy. I look at it this way, if I have a camera that will do 10 fps and I can shoot for 10-12 seconds while a bird flies by in hope of capturing one perfect image and call that "photography" then I have no problem with calling this the same thing.

Camera traps have revealed things that could not possibly be captured with a human present. If they had it set up so that they could monitor it and wirelessly trigger it from afar would it be any different? I say it wouldn't.

If I take issue with any of it it's that he dragged the carcass out there to set up that particular shot. The rest? Perfectly fine.

Message edited by author 2016-04-13 09:38:36.
04/13/2016 10:42:34 AM · #3
So if someone mounts a camera on a car and another person drives around as it shoots, and then another person selects the photo out of milliions of choices, does a bear poop in the woods? ;) ? ;)

Message edited by author 2016-04-13 10:44:25.
04/13/2016 11:07:26 AM · #4
Frankly, I used to not consider photography to be much of an art at all.
Is it not the most passive artform?
Is this a wonderful photo? of course.
Is it worth a magazine spread or front page of a web site? Sure.
But perhaps the process does further beg the 'what is art?" question.
04/13/2016 11:35:08 AM · #5
Originally posted by tate:

Frankly, I used to not consider photography to be much of an art at all.
Is it not the most passive artform?
Is this a wonderful photo? of course.
Is it worth a magazine spread or front page of a web site? Sure.
But perhaps the process does further beg the 'what is art?" question.


Would not using a trap and setting up a photo like this be the opposite of passivity?
04/13/2016 11:58:26 AM · #6
By passive I mean; a painter uses a brush and paint; a sculptor uses wood or metal or clay;
while we may manipulate the lens, film/sensor, enlarger / computer - the media (light) is there regardless of whether we document it with a camera or not.
In this case, maybe the photograph is more like a trophy than art. Since he was essentially hunting with a robot.

Originally posted by JakeKurdsjuk:


Would not using a trap and setting up a photo like this be the opposite of passivity?
04/13/2016 12:14:35 PM · #7
Originally posted by tate:

...In this case, maybe the photograph is more like a trophy than art. Since he was essentially hunting with a robot.


I think this is not entirely dissimilar to the debate over when a found object, or a collection of same, becomes art. In essence, any scene that is not a set-up is a "found object," and the photograph is a record of same.
IMO, both the photographer's choice of camera set-up and image acquisition settings, as well as the manner in which the resulting image is processed, are what make it art. I can't imagine how the example image is not art.

Message edited by author 2016-04-13 12:16:04.
04/13/2016 01:52:31 PM · #8
I view this kind of "art" the same way I view deer hunting in a tree stand as "sport".

Neither requires the "artist" or "hunter" to really do anything except create an environment where it's a given that the preferred action will happen. In both cases, the "action" isn't really legitimately caught. It's something more or less inevitable (bears/birds feeding on a carcass or deer wandering through the woods under a deer stand).

The hunter hides, waits, shoots. No real effort or skill involved. Same with the camera setup here...camera is triggered by "action". Photographer need not be anywhere. I think the article said he/she simply checked once a week to see if something had been captured.

I've always felt "art" is an expression of the soul. So, no....this kind of photography doesn't count.
04/13/2016 03:15:20 PM · #9
Hell of a shot! Incredible!

Of COURSE it's "photography", the image was made with a camera-and-lens. Is it "art"? As far as I'm concerned, that's an absolutely irrelevant question. As far as my own personal definition of "art" goes, it's definitely not art, but if YOU think it's art then more power to you :-)
04/13/2016 04:52:48 PM · #10
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

Hell of a shot! Incredible!

Of COURSE it's "photography", the image was made with a camera-and-lens. Is it "art"? As far as I'm concerned, that's an absolutely irrelevant question. As far as my own personal definition of "art" goes, it's definitely not art, but if YOU think it's art then more power to you :-)


Not picking at your opinion as much as I'm using your statement as a catalyst for mine.

In one expert challenge after another gyaban shows us his "art" and is suitably rewarded by the folks here. Had the carrion been added in post would that have made it "art"? Comments on his images certainly suggest that many here believe it would be.

This is no more or less worthy of the term than any other capture of nature in all its glory, single shutter click or composite. If anyone wants to stand by the idea that all nature photography is anything but art, I accept that - but I also disagree with it in no uncertain terms. Was Ansel Adams not an artist? That you stand with camera (or trigger) in hand at the moment of capture or construct a scenario by which a moment can be captured without your physical presence in proximity to the machine that captures it matters not. A trigger is a tool, as is a filter, a tripod, and an assistant holding a reflector or strobe on a pole. None of these other things disqualify an image as worthy of the term so why should a trigger? I see no difference. It's still the photographer's vision executed by all means necessary.

Message edited by author 2016-04-13 16:56:18.
04/13/2016 05:14:28 PM · #11
Originally posted by Luciemac:

I view this kind of "art" the same way I view deer hunting in a tree stand as "sport".

Neither requires the "artist" or "hunter" to really do anything except create an environment where it's a given that the preferred action will happen. In both cases, the "action" isn't really legitimately caught. It's something more or less inevitable (bears/birds feeding on a carcass or deer wandering through the woods under a deer stand).

The hunter hides, waits, shoots. No real effort or skill involved. Same with the camera setup here...camera is triggered by "action". Photographer need not be anywhere. I think the article said he/she simply checked once a week to see if something had been captured.

I've always felt "art" is an expression of the soul. So, no....this kind of photography doesn't count.


I'm going to invert your logic here... as a thought exercise, let's compare the effort required to capture what was captured here, versus the effort required to capture a typical street photo. Street photography is all about putting yourself in the right place, pointing, and shooting. SO much great street photography results from completely unpredictable events. I can argue that very little actual effort is involved, although the level of skill required to "see the shot" is substantial. Back to our current shot, I can argue that it takes much more skill to create the set-up to capture something like this autonomously, compared to actually being there, seeing it and physically pushing the button. That is, of course if being there wouldn't automatically get you killed :-)
The amount of effort required, does not, IMO, correlate to whether something is "art."
04/13/2016 05:37:57 PM · #12
Originally posted by Luciemac:

I view this kind of "art" the same way I view deer hunting in a tree stand as "sport".

Neither requires the "artist" or "hunter" to really do anything except create an environment where it's a given that the preferred action will happen. In both cases, the "action" isn't really legitimately caught. It's something more or less inevitable (bears/birds feeding on a carcass or deer wandering through the woods under a deer stand).

The hunter hides, waits, shoots. No real effort or skill involved. Same with the camera setup here...camera is triggered by "action". Photographer need not be anywhere. I think the article said he/she simply checked once a week to see if something had been captured.

I've always felt "art" is an expression of the soul. So, no....this kind of photography doesn't count.


I don't really agree with this comparison.

In the case of this photo you said that the "artist" creates the environment required to get the shot, and art is about creativity. To me it's art.

When it comes to hunting on the other hand, sport is supposed to be a contest in which both players stand a chance of winning, so how can this type of hunting qualify as sport?
04/13/2016 05:45:46 PM · #13
We need "like" buttons here so I can give an "Amen!" to Fritz and Gina. LOL

As for the "sport" analogy, there are sport hunters and subsistence hunters. I know more than a few folks who hunt to stock their freezers with alternatives to supermarket beef and chicken for most of the year. In fact, most of my hunting friends would say that they find a challenge but no "sport" in the activity. They realize that to eat game is to take a life, and they mourn the price paid for their dinner table. I do not say that to judge, only to say that this non-hunter knows that a difference exists among those who walk into the woods with rifle and/or bow in hand.

Message edited by author 2016-04-13 17:50:52.
04/13/2016 08:12:56 PM · #14
" I borrowed someone's laser trigger to do a splashing liquid shot and it was fun. "

May I please borrow your friend's laser trigger? I've never done splash stuff.

04/14/2016 01:36:08 AM · #15
Without light-sensitive media of some kind, usually contained within a camera, there is no photography. Without people, there is no camera. We invented it, we named it, we figured out every way possible to operate it, from the ocean deeps to outer space. We send the camera to places we cannot go, events we cannot attend, it gets pictures for us. Some are more interesting than others.
04/14/2016 08:18:17 AM · #16
Regardless of how you get there, the end result is an image that people react to. It's just a matter of what floats your boat, both in terms of capturing an image and viewing images.

As for me, I'm conflicted...

Conflicted between doing gadget/effect photography vs natural moment photography. While I truly appreciate the art and effort that goes into setup shots, it's just never been my bent. Kinda like the difference between the homerun hitter and the guy that you can count on to get on base and move some runners most of the time. While I can appreciate the stuff that Shannon used to do (I guess he still does ;-) ), and that others do in expert editing, I much prefer the old school, catch-as-catch-can, hoping for the best.

Kinda like these
04/14/2016 08:20:45 AM · #17
I think it's funny that photography is equated with pressing a button. You call yourself a photographer but are you a true button presser??

The best part of photography is its zen like humility. Every art form is also a metaphor for art, and photography is such an elegant, humble metaphor. I didn't make anything. I simply saw something and I want you to see it.
04/14/2016 10:28:26 AM · #18
He signs a urinal (with a pseudonym) and moves it into a gallery - it becomes art.
She finds a Google streetview image and shares it - art.
A cave yet to be found reveals primitive drawings of prehistoric life - art.
A child's scribbled crayon creates marks crossing from the paper onto the table - art.

Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.
Paul Klee
04/16/2016 04:41:09 AM · #19
I believe it depends on what YOU think the purpose of photography is.

In MY opinion, photography has many reasons/uses:

Art (whatever exactly THAT entails) for the sake of art
Decoration - maybe not truly artistic, but pretty/matching/suitable for the space
Commercial - product photography, advertising, catalogues, etc
Fun - just for the sheer enjoyment of something, no need to be amazing
Records & sharing - insurance/warranty purposes, sharing of information, etc
Memory aid - I rely on my photos to help my soggy brain remember my awesome trips, vacations, occasions

Im sure there are many more, but you get my drift.

So if you allow for the idea that photography has MANY purposes, then any kind of photography is totally valid, as long as the image achieves its purpose.
04/16/2016 05:34:45 AM · #20
Two things come to mind here. On the figurative brink of singularity, computer androids will have autonomy, and perhaps be the "perfectly technical" photographers we have always dreamed of... will they create "art?"If security cam images of shootings in convenience stores are edited and framed and slapped up in a gallery, art?

I am the biggest proponent of random photography ever, but there has to be some human spark closely attached behind it, or it is simply too remote "intelligent design" photography, well engineered craft, not so much art of button pushing it seems to me.

04/16/2016 09:23:01 AM · #21
Well, hypothetically, we're moving ever further across the border from where "art" lived in the act of creation to a different country where "art" lies in the act of singling-out-for-display. We've had travelers venture there before, of course (the urinal comes immediately to mind) but as far as "photography" is concerned, leaving aside the willful creations of the select (relatively) few, the mass of photography totally involves personally-driven documentation, and the "art" evolves from the act of displaying same. (Or something like that, he mused randomly)
04/16/2016 10:24:55 AM · #22
A camera trap might be the ultimate expression of photography at its best. Leaving it up to chance is a perfect expression of not getting involved in the scene, especially with wild animals, because a human in the scene anywhere always either changes it or destroys it (the animals never show, or are baited).


Message edited by author 2016-04-17 07:38:21.
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