My Photo of Four Bikers, and the Power of Photography to Connect Us

While visiting Yosemite in June, I took this photo of 4 riders on the road. A couple of days later, I posted the photo on Reddit’s /r/pics. It made it to the Reddit front page with more than 40k upvotes and almost 600 comments.

I saw that location many times on the Internet, and I wanted to add it to my portfolio. I drove up to Glacier Point, parked my car, and walked back a few turns to the place I had seen so many times in pictures.

After setting up the tripod with my favorite composition, I started waiting for an interesting subject to show up. I was hoping for a nice car, a Mustang, a Corvette, or something like that. It was early in the morning, and the sun was nicely filtering through the clouds and trees lighting up the center of the frame.

Unexpectedly, 4 bike riders showed up and slowed down right in the center of my frame. I was able to freeze that incredible moment in the photo you can see above. I took 16 shots of the entire passage and selected my favorite one.

I didn’t have the chance to connect or talk with the riders, even though I would have loved to. After posting the photo on Reddit, some people at /r/motorcycles tried to help me to find the riders in my photo, but with no luck.

So it was pretty amazing when one of them contacted me through my personal website a couple of weeks after, asking for a print of the photo. That was one of the most incredible moments I have ever experienced as a photographer, and I was amazed by the possibility to connect with people that I had never met before. All thanks to a photo!

Here are some excerpts of the e-mail that Jeff (the third rider in the picture) sent me that day. Jeff wrote:

Your photo kind of blows my mind. A random person (YOU) on a twisty road in Yosemite Park at 10:45am 6-3-17 was set up on a once in a lifetime shot exactly when my motorbike group rolls through your camera lens and you take the shot. Then someone unknown to me/us tells us they thought they seen our group on the internet. Crazy cool.

The group of four all reside in the greater Seattle area. We rode 2,800 miles on that trip, sunny all 8 days on the road. NO performance awards (tickets). We feel blessed to have so much fun riding together in/on Gods canvas. YOU just put the icing on the cake by taking that photo. Can’t say enough fantastic things about that brilliant picture. Kudos, bravo and cheers to YOU Andrea. After my daughter-in-law, also an amateur photographer suggested I do a Google reverse photo search to find the photographer, to obtain the best resolution for larger prints, the internet just amazed me again. Allowed me to find you.

He also sent me a few photos of their trip, including a shot they took that same day in Glacier Point!

So I sent them 4 prints of the photo. I asked them if I could get a photo of them holding the shot in exchange. I was amazed by the connection that we just created, and by the incredible situation that taking a photo had created.

A few days ago, I received this set of photos in my inbox:

Together with the photos, I also received one of the most touching messages I have ever received. I decided to keep it as it is, and you can find it copied and pasted in this google document.

For the lazy people out there, this is my favorite part of the email:

I don’t remember the exact date, Dave told us someone from the group of 70 we met in Mariposa thought they had seen someone from our large group on the internet. Dave looked at the photo in question only to realize it was our group of four. The photo was mesmerizing. Seriously one of the most epic motorbike photos I have ever seen. And we were in it! Dave printed some low quality photos and handed them out to us. I showed my amateur photographer daughter-in-law. She said it would be cool to have this enlarged. I told her this was a low pixel photo and a quality enlargement wasn’t possible. That was when Sarah tells me why don’t you do a reverse photo Google search for the original author I was surprised, never heard of it. Went home and jumped on the internet. After finding the photo on-line from Dave’s link I found a dude on the reddit site. I had to join the site in order to ask the person if we could possibly obtain a high resolution file of the Yosemite photo. The reply back stated he was not the original photographer, but he sent me a link to Andrea’s home page. I began emailing with you and the rest is history.

Photography can be frustrating, but sometimes it can give incredible emotions I just wanted to share this story.

About the author: Andrea Fanelli was born and raised in Italy and is now a Boston-based MIT researcher who loves photography. You can find more of his work on his website, Instagram, and Facebook.

Is This Eclipse Photo #FakeNews?

Much ado about nothing or a serious ethical breach of photojournalistic norms? A debate emerged on Facebook when freelancer and Pulitzer Prize winner Ken Geiger‘s image appeared in the National Geographic Instagram feed and in a slideshow on the NatGeo website. The image was a composite of multiple images created in-camera that resulted in an photo that never existed because the eclipse was never positioned against the Tetons as depicted.


Geiger meticulously planned his image in advance using a technique similar to one he used during a previous lunar eclipse taken for The Dallas Morning News, tracking the progression of the eclipse and where he wanted it to appear in the frame, then reframing the camera to capture a terrestrial foreground.

Photo by Ken Geiger

The image was posted to his personal account with no caption, and auto-published to his Facebook account. Geiger later posted the image to the @natgeo Instagram account with the following caption:

As the sun rose over Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, thousands of people and their vehicles were jockeying for prime eclipse viewing positions. Hours later they were rewarded with a total eclipse of the sun. This image is an illustration, a composite of two frames, the morning sunrise of the Tetons and a timed multiple exposure of today’s eclipse.

Follow @kengeiger for more eclipse images. #eclipse #eclipse2017

Geiger’s aforementioned lunar eclipse image appeared on the front page of The Dallas Morning News with the following caption,

The progression of the lunar eclipse over Dallas on Wednesday night is illustrated through a series of five exposures. The first exposure, of the skyline, was made at dusk with an 85mm lens. Then, after the camera was repositioned, a 600mm lens was used to capture the four close-up shots of the moon as it moved through stages of the eclipse.

As the @natgeo account has grown to its over 80 million followers, engagement (as measured by the number of likes and comments) has declined as with most mega-influencers. But Geiger’s image bucked the trend, garnering over 2 million likes compared to the typical 250-500,000 likes for most images.

A number of veteran photojournalists and photo editors raised questions in Facebook threads about the ethics of the image that fell into a few categories:

1. The image wasn’t sufficiently captioned

2. Should the image have appeared under the National Geographic umbrella?

3. Composite of a scene that never existed

How Visually Sophisticated is the Audience?

Any viewer looking at the image knows it is a composite since the Solar System only has one sun. But are people being fooled into believing that this scene unfolded from a single vantage point? Does the image derive its popularity from a belief that it was captured from a single vantage point?

The Denver Post‘s Senior Editor for Photography and Multimedia Ken D. Lyons said, I was seeing an image glorified and applauded by people that I greatly respect. It was being called the greatest image of the day. Lyons explained that even some professional photographers arguably some of the most visually sophisticated people were being fooled into believing this was a real scene, and they hadn’t captured it. Lyons said, The advice I provided was they simply can’t compete with a manufactured work of art, which is what I feel it is.

A Photo Editor‘s Rob Haggart was more blunt about the perceived deception. On Facebook, Haggart wrote, Manufactured images only have value because people think they are real or they look real. You are lying to yourself if you think it’s artistry that drives the likes.

Photographer Alex Garcia’s admiration for the photo diminished once he found that it was a false scene. I lose all sense of awe when I know that a photo is a composite and doesn’t reflect reality, he said on Facebook. More than half the awe is that our natural world produced this and can be experienced by everyone.

Is National Geographic Journalism or Eye Candy?

Does National Geographic magazine hold itself to those [photojournalism] standards?, asked NPPA President Melissa Lyttle in an official statement. Or, is it merely a magazine with pretty pictures and illustrations? Does it intend to promote high-quality visual journalism or does it vacillate somewhere between the two worlds?

One National Geographic photographer told me that Instagram is a different beast from the print magazine world where a team of photographers and editors can ponder how an image can illustrate a story. He went further to say, To think that you can make Instagram conform to that level of thoughtfulness and earnest consideration is wishful thinking.

It’s not an unrealistic point, even if unpalatable. We are, for better or worse, slaves to the social media algorithms that drive likes. And in the rush to be first or garner the most likes on social media, society-at-large has tacitly accepted a wide range of manipulation from social engineering to post-processing.

National Geographic responded to my inquiry with the following: National Geographic does not condone the manipulation of documentary photography. In instances where we publish composite photos, we aim to clearly indicate how the photo is created. In the case of this particular photo, we have updated the caption on our website to more clearly define the technique used in creating the image.

When Technology Bends Ethics

Geiger referred to an imaginary ethical bar on Facebook and Lyttle mentioned an industry bound by self-imposed ethics. There is no doubt that the industry has developed its own ethical norms. Some are obvious (e.g. Don’t influence the scene), while others are more ambiguous (e.g. My newspaper allows composites if they are labeled vs My paper would never run a composite).

Geiger told me that he made the image for myself, indicating that it was never intended to be journalistic. But at least part of the problem is one of cognitive dissonance. Many photojournalists see Geiger as a prize-winning, stalwart of the news industry. The controversy around this single image has caused some to unfairly question Geiger’s entire career. Longtime National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson cautioned such an extrapolation, Ken Geiger has shown himself to be decent, honest and devoted photojournalist over decades of work.

Cognitive dissonance ensues when Geiger steps out of the photojournalism box. Geiger can certainly create any image he wants, but even he seems to have trouble straddling the line sometimes defending the image as conforming to ethical norms on a long, multi-threaded discussion on Facebook.

Former Dallas Morning News photographer Gerry McCarthy supports Geiger’s foray into more artistic photography but thinks it’s naive for photographers who make such shifts to not expect scrutiny based on their careers. McCarthy said, We don’t live in a vacuum, and if the bulk of their career at least the part that made them, or their work, well known was done so in photojournalism, they probably should be prepared to do a lot of explaining. I’m sure it’s super annoying, but it comes with the territory.

As more and more photojournalists turn to freelance work, they’ve had to diversify their income streams, relying on niches like commercial, wedding or art photography. Many photojournalists I follow on Instagram have been playing with technologies like Cinemagraph and Plotagraph. Is a hashtag enough to delineate truth from fiction? Does the public read captions? Even in the face of evidence, will people still doubt the veracity of an image?

It’s hard enough in this age of ‘fake news’ to suss out what is real, said Lyttle. Without a forthcoming explanation, actions such as these continue to erode the public’s trust in images. Being open and honest about the process, and transparent from the get-go, could also have made this a nonissue.

But like many ethical issues, there is nuance and competing claims. One could argue that there’s not even a consensus on what the issue really is. But as contentious as the discussion has been online, the rift has revealed that it’s a discussion that needs to happen within the industry. Technology in all forms continues to outpace our ability to understand and contend with all of the ethical issues. And we shouldn’t wait for the next eclipse to tackle them.

About the author: Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter, which regularly publishes resources for photographers. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Allen is a graduate of Yale University, and flosses daily. This article was also published here.

Nikon D850 Has Same Image Quality at Double the ISO as the D810: Report

The Nikon D850 has generated a considerable amount of excitement among photographers today after its announcement, and here’s a new fact that will add even more fuel to the frenzy: Nikon says the D850 should have the same image quality at double the ISO as the D810.

That’s what Imaging Resource learned after meeting with top Nikon personnel at the company’s headquarters in Japan.

Nikon told us that the D850 should produce the same image quality (both JPEG and RAW) at twice the ISOs as the D810, a full-stop improvement, Imaging Resource writes. That is, the D850 at its top ‘native’ ISO of 25,600 should deliver the same image quality as the D810 did at ISO 12,800. If true, that’s a pretty significant improvement.

Nikon says dynamic range will be as good or better than that of the D810, despite the higher pixel count.

Only tests will be able to determine if these claims are true, but if they are, this is a huge boon for photographers who often work in low-light environments.

Nikon also revealed to Imaging Resource that the new backside-illuminated (BSI) sensor design in the D850 – the first in a Nikon DSLR – isn’t primarily for low-light performance but rather for speedier shooting speed by providing more flexibility in the chip’s wiring.

And if you’ve been wondering about the origins of this new sensor, you’ll be interested to know that Nikon designed it themselves rather than use an off-the-shelf sensor from a sensor manufacturer (e.g. Sony).

While Nikon contracts with a silicon foundry to actually manufacture the chips, Nikon confirmed that the D850’s sensor is entirely their own design, Imaging Resource reports.

This Potter Creates Working Cameras Out of Clay

Steve Irvine is a Canadian potter who has had a lifelong interest in photography. Some years ago, Irvine decided to combine his two passions by creating ceramic cameras. Each beautiful and unique creation is fully functional as a pinhole camera.

The cameras have no lens, light meter, viewfinder, or automatic shutter, and yet they can produce gallery quality images, Irvine writes. I use black and white photo paper in them for the negatives. The negatives are either 4 x 5 inches, or 5 x 8 inches.

Here are some of Irvine’s ceramic cameras, with each one followed by a sample photo shot using it:

Made of stoneware, and fired to cone 10 with a bronzy glaze on the outside, and a matte black glaze on the inside. Copper tubing, brass fittings, and 24K gold leaf were added, plus some parts from an antique anesthetic machine, and the foot valve of a water well.

Made of stoneware, and fired to cone 10 (roughly 1,300 deg. C) with a copper blue glaze on the outside, and a matte black glaze on the inside. Aluminum leaf, and 24K gold leaf were added after the camera came out of the kiln.

Made of stoneware, fired to cone 10, with a bronzy glaze on the outside, plus a post firing addition of 24K gold leaf, and found objects.

This is another ceramic box camera which uses a 4 x 5 inch negative. It has a combination of sprayed glazes on the outside.

Made of stoneware, fired to cone 10, with a bronzy glaze on the outside, plus a post firing addition of 24K gold leaf.

Made of stoneware, fired to cone 10, with a post firing addition of steel leaves.

Made of stoneware, and fired to cone 10 with a matte copper glaze on the outside.

Mmade of stoneware, fired to cone 10, with copper glazes on the outside. The same black glaze has been used on the inside as has been used on the feet and knobs. A thin sheet of copper metal has been used for the pinhole disk.

You can find more of Irvine’s ceramic camera creations his website. He also has a page on his ceramic camera pinhole photos and one on how to make a ceramic camera.

If you’re interested in purchasing one of Irvine’s ceramic cameras, the pieces are available for sale through the Jonathon Bancroft-Snell Gallery in London, Ontario.

(via Steve Irvine via Reddit)

Image credits: Photographs by Steve Irvine and used with permission