The Offending Pickup Truck

A photographer’s dilemma.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might be aware that I’ve been fooling around with panoramas. Last night, I created a panorama from 11 vertical images shot at Monument Valley:

Monument Valley Panorama

The ability of Panorama Maker 5 to stitch these together so perfectly sold me on the product. I bought it as soon as the stitched image appeared on my laptop screen so I could save my latest creation at full-size. The resulting image is a whopping 16,724 × 3,485 pixels in size and weighs in at 37MB — as a JPEG file.

Silver Pickup TruckOn close examination of the photo, however, I realized that there was one thing that marred it: a silver pickup truck dead center of the image (see red box above and blowup right). It wouldn’t be so bad, but the darn truck is shiny and really does stand out when you look at the image in full resolution.

So the question is: Do I Photoshop it out?

I experimented with this and did a reasonably good job with the cloning tool. But then I got to thinking about it. To me, a photograph represents reality. The reality of this image is that a silver pickup truck driven by what looks like a Navajo man was there when the image was shot. Removing the truck removes part of the reality of the image.

Or am I over analyzing this? Putting ethics where they don’t belong?

Are you a photographer? If so, how do you feel about modifying images to remove unsightly elements? If you’re not a photographer and just like to look at photos, how do you feel about a photographer’s honesty when creating and sharing photographic images?

8 thoughts on “The Offending Pickup Truck

  1. Depends entirely on usage. Since you made several photos, you could have waited until the driver passed through each frame. It’s not a single instance in time, and I’ll bet you have other images that you could use in the montage. So for art, you can remove it if you prefer-it’s your art. But if it were for straight reporting, it would have to stay in.

    Bet you bring binocs next time!

    • Ann: What I learned from my trials in Sedona earlier in the week is that when it’s partly cloudy out, you need to shoot all the component shots of a panorama quickly: click, click, click. Otherwise, the light changes or a shadow moves or something else comes along to screw up the continuity. I simply didn’t see the truck, although I was aware there was traffic down there. Not sure if waiting would have helped. The other vehicles in the shot — mostly the ones on the right side — don’t bother me at all. Just the darn truck.

      I’ll definitely bring binoculars on the next trip. And not really for use at Monument Valley — I could have really used them at the Grand Canyon.

  2. To coin an old phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. What you do or don’t do to a photograph depends on your vision for that photograph. I’m new to photography but it seems to me that today’s photography is as much about art as it it about reality. As I’m sure you’re aware there are lots of plug-in filters from different companies that can be used to enhance a photo or let you produce your own work of art. I would do whatever is aesthetically pleasing to you. Here are a couple of photo blogs I recommend, http://web.me.com/johnbarclayphoto/John_Barclay_Photo/Blog/Blog.html and http://bkilephoto.wordpress.com/ .

    • Jim: To me, photography is more reality than art. The art part is how the photographer captures the scene: light, composition, focus, and depth of field. I’m a purist when it comes to photography. I don’t believe in “improving” photographs or making them more artistic through the use of tools such as Photoshop. It’s one thing to use Photoshop to fix spots on an image caused by dirt on the lens; it’s another to add or remove elements, change colors, etc. I want to be a photographer, not a Photoshop jockey. I’m convinced that a good photographer can make incredible art inside his camera — without the aid of software.

      But that’s just me. As time passes, I think I’m becoming part of an ever-shrinking minority.

  3. If what you want to do is record for posterity the reality of what was about when you took the photo then I guess you’d leave the truck in the shot. Or if it was being used in a courtroom to prove some point.

    However, generally what one is doing is making an image that reflects the sights and feelings and impressions of a place. The truck was not present in the image you *made* – ie when you were looking at the landscape. It wasn’t present in the sense that you didn’t consciously include it in the image. You only found the truck after close examination in Photoshop.

    I think you should remove it. The purpose of the photo is surely to reflect *your* view of that place at that time. You are in control of the image; it does not control you. If you *had* seen the truck at the time you may well have removed it from the image by waiting until it had moved out of shot.

    And after all, reality is only what we make of it. :-)

    • Miraz: I think you nailed it. I didn’t see the truck until after I stitched the images. I wasn’t thinking of the truck when I made the picture. I was thinking of a scene that didn’t include a truck right smack dab in the middle of it. And I think that’s why I find the truck so annoying.

      The picture covers an enormous scene. The distance from the monument on the left to the mesas on the right is at least 20 miles. The truck is just a tiny speck. What other things are in the photo that I didn’t see or expect? Probably dozens of them.

      Your comments make me feel better about removing the truck — if I eventually decide to. But at this point, I think I will leave it in.

What do you think?