Landscape Photographer of the Year 2012 Stripped of Title for Too Much ‘Shoppin

Lindisfarne Boats by David Byrne, the disqualified photo

The winner of this year’s Landscape Photographer of the Year contest, photographer David Byrne, has been disqualified and stripped of his title for violating contest rules regarding digital manipulation. His winning image, titled “Lindisfarne Boats” and shown above, is a black-and-white photo showing beached fishing boats with Lindisfarne Castle in the background.

Contest founder Charlie Waite of Take a View writes in an announcement that although a certain degree of digital editing is allowed, “the extent of the changes” to Byrne’s image caused it to violate the contest’s rules. Waite does note that it doesn’t not appear that Byrne was trying to deceive the judges.

Tenement Buildings at Port Glasgow, Inverclyde by Simon Butterworth, the new winning image.

Photographer Tim Parkin was one of the people who first spotted something fishy about Byrne’s image. Since Tuesday of this week, he has been doing impressive detective work and updating a post on his blog with evidence that Byrne’s image broke contest rules.

After the disqualification was handed down today, Parkin received an email from Byrne saying,

I have to inform you after a conversation with Charlie Waite I have been disqualified from the Landscape Photographer of the year awards, unfortunately I didn’t read the regulations and certain editing like adding clouds and cloning out small details are not allowed, while I don’t think what I have done to the photo is wrong in any way, I do understand it’s against the regulations so accept the decision whole heartily.

I have never passed off my photographs as record shots and the only reason this has come about has been due to my openness about how and what I do to my images. The changes I made were not major and if you go to the locations you will see everything is there as presented

In addition to forfeiting his title, Byrne also misses out on the £10,000 (~$16,000) prize that comes with it.

(via Take a View via Digital Camera World)

Thanks for sending in the tip, Craig!

  • J. Rae Chipera

    Ok so how exactly is Butterworth’s image a landscape?

  • Tim

    It’s an urban landscape

  • Tim

    What’s your definition of “photoshopping”? because the moment you record an image on the sensor, the camera’s processor chooses the colours. Before you even get a chance to put it into photoshop. Sharpening, colour correction, curve adjustment, WB manipulation were all allowed under the Classic View category of the competition but not adding or removing components. He didn’t read the rules before he submitted the photos, which is why the image was disqualified.

  • Tim

    I agree . I use HDR to bring detail back into skies in landscape shots but i don’t like what it does to the foreground all that much. The trouble is, a camera sensor doesn’t have the dynamic range that the eye has, so capturing the landscape as you see it without some kind of trickery is pretty much impossible. What are we supposed to do about that?


    My final word on the matter: editors should only accept RAW files or film, and photographers submitting or showcasing their work have an ethical obligation to full disclosure of any and all manipulation. Because frankly, I just think it’s lame when photogs try to pass off a processed image as real…and let people believe it.

  • Peter Walker

    It’s funny how we see things, which is why competitions like this are too subjective to actually expect to win anything. It seems to be pure luck on the day with how the judges are feeling. I hate the first image, its just so over-processed it’s bordering on ridiculous. The second image’s low saturation makes it. I really like the composition and the mood. I can’t imagine it’s the best photo entered in the competition, but i can’t understand how the first one got anywhere near the shortlist.

  • Tim

    For the last time he did not deliberately try and mislead the judges, he simply forgot to read the rules. So there was nothing lame about it!

  • Daniel Austin Hoherd

    Or Lightroom. I’m amazed at how much talk there is in the photo community about Photoshop when Lightroom is leaps and bounds better for digital photo development.

  • Dave

    I have heard otherwise.

  • Dave

    How is it not?

  • Jacqui Dee

    The Australian Professional Photography Awards (APPA’s) have split categories for landscape photography. Composite and non-composite (from memory). One allows more editing in the other. It’s difficult to know how clear the boundaries are and how much has been done without seeing the original and their PSD or processed raw file.

  • Tomasz Kulbowski

    Good decision! There are many Photoshop/CGI competitions to choose from by Mr Byrne – but this was something else: a *photography* competition!

  • qob

    i thought photography was some kind of art.

  • Ric Vieira

    Why nowadays too many make a photograph, but very few take a photograph?

  • Dude

    I am being led to believe that one of the prerequisites of being a photographer is passive-aggressive message board posting.

    Holy crap. I will absolutely, without any doubt, never show my work online to anyone but clients and friends. It’s a wonder anyone ever puts anything out.

  • harumph

    I’ve never seen or read evidence of it. And if he did, he would’ve been disqualified from this contest too. That’s why the whole AA defense doesn’t really make sense in this case. It’s about the contest rules. What Adams did or did not do is immaterial.

  • Mike Penney

    How ironic… the MASTER at compositing and crazy image construction expressing disdain for an easier way to do it….

  • Mike Penney

    As a marketing strategy the best thing is to WIN the contest and make a controversy out of removing a piece of dirt or a lousy bird in the sky and get a million dollars worth of free press…. good move for him!

  • Mike Penney

    His (AA) two famous photos “1/2 dome” and “moonrise hernandez” both look like junior high school quality garbage when they are printed “straight”. Moonrise is so under exposed as to require grade 5 paper. 1/2 dome unless printed 3 stops too dark looks like a contemporary cell phone junk snapshot….

  • Tim Parkin

    Oh please… rules of photography and composition? No tones? Perhaps your knowledge of what makes a great photograph could do with updating. Yes the photograph may not be the ‘wow’ image people expect with landscape photography today but it is a very well crafted composition and is one that has more interest that just a casual glance will provide.

  • Tim Parkin

    Oh dear .. fortunately photography isn’t defined by what you find interesting..

  • YouBarfBrain

    lol? Really, did you just “lol” at his comment? Did you even think of the ramifications of the ability to falsify a raw file with respect to the contest rules? Given the disqualification due to “adding clouds” for example – having a modified raw file to include said “false” clouds would be an important piece of evidence that raw files are not to be trusted as sources of proof for disqualifications. And don’t blithely compare “a book” to this competition – it’s a weak argument.

  • NoNameBrandCommenter

    I think the line was drawn clearly in the contest rules. In general it really depends on what the competition was made for. It’s therefore up to the competition’s judges to enforce the vision of the competition. In of itself, modifying a photograph is meaningless.

  • guest

    I wish they could have let him re-enter an image that followed the guidelines.. because I’m sure it would have still won.

  • guest

    burning and dodging isn’t really photomanipulation, just a some intense post-processing. Most people don’t consider post-processing outright photomanipulation, right? I mean,

    When you ADD elements that weren’t in the original, I would consider that photoshopping. Didn’t he get disqualified for like, adding clouds or something?

  • Adam Lipstadt

    It is. It’s also a shame most photographers aren’t artists.

  • Adam Lipstadt

    Why should the definition of photography be limited to the bounds of silver gelatin?

  • Adam Lipstadt

    I love the anti HDR people. As a rule, when someone hates a tool (HDR, cell phone photography) and not a style or idea, or something you *do* with the tool, they suck in that field.

    HDR is no different than masking and switching filters on VC papers.
    (Actually, I’m going to use that line from now on. Good litmus test as to whether the person is worth talking to if they get it.) Combining multiple exposures a problem? Hell, since Maxwell used color separation and multiple exposures, I guess the first color photograph is HDR’ed but not photography..

  • Adam Lipstadt

    How about using a film writer to make a slide after photoshop and submit that?

  • Adam Lipstadt

    Leave the contest aside. They had rules, everything worked as it should (though their panel should never judge again).

    What about spotting? Or removing the thumb in Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother?” Is the WSJ is unethical for using illustrations? And every periodical which used a courtroom illustration as well? I once believed in straight photography; then I turned 17. They should brag about what they’ve done – it requires more skills than what a PJ has.

  • JbC

    Aaarrgh! I really HATE questions/discussions like this! It enters into the same realm as arguing politics and religion! It increases antagonisms and resolves nothing.

  • David Gvozdenovic

    If I even wanted to edit an image, for $16,000 I’d spend weeks getting it perfect.

  • Andres Trujillo

    “Waite does note that it doesn’t not appear”
    Which one is it?

  • Babs

    still great photos-well done

  • John Nathaniel Calvara

    By defining artists, you meant photographers that make hard work just to get the shot.
    and the other “non-artists” are the ones who just “shoot-to-kill” and “blast away”, am I right?

  • Cookiepus

    Surley the last straw was when the found another photographer’s image incredibly similar:

  • Adam Lipstadt

    Actually, because it’s not about “the shot.” It’s about choice and control, to be sure in the taking process, but more importantly in the creative – literally creating – the object, print, plate, whatever. And he or she should not be satisfied – I’ll admit I have my baseline for who is a photographer (Taking side, camera movements, creation side, some manual color chemistry printing process, I have reasons for both, but am open to other standards, to be sure spotting and handcoloring have good claims).

    Blasting away isn’t a problem if the material is going to be used for compositing – and frankly, if the print matters, then I suppose it doesn’t matter. But I know by feel the shutter lag on my cameras – and if I’m to place a real world moving object in my intended location I need exact choice of the time frame of exposure, something that can’t be done with a motor drive. Art (not sales) is something you fail at – your vision isn’t big enough, your craft isn’t sufficient to realize your vision, the traditions of your craft puts blinders on your vision.

    The public at large is right to denigrate photographers as button pressers and not artists on the whole – and tacitly, despite objections – the first vote on my above comment was a downvote – photographers agree. Consider the debates, adjectives, and divisions that are thrown around which are absent from other visual arts – no one’s first question to a painter is “Pro or. Hobby” – financial adjectives – nor do you hear “Digital vs. Film” where “X is dead” and “Y has more soul.” (I have an argument for digital being more artistic than film, but it’s besides the point. Film is fine. My freezer has 250 rolls of Astia 120, not to mention a selection of 4×5, 5×7, and 8×10 stuff.) Even the oil vs. acrylic thing isn’t really a thing – most of the painters I know have used both – watercolor too. And if they want, they go for gouache. They use the medium they want without justification. You don’t see these insufferable arguments of sampling medium or camera brand – CAMERA BRAND, for fucks sake and I’m speaking as someone with 50+ cameras and 250+ lenses from 110 to 8×10, so when I use my iPhone I meant to use it, it is a choice – when I see these arguments, they just tell me that the person doesn’t know his own tools and medium, but the one he’s denigrating. Artists don’t denigrate tools, they choose and make art.

    To fix this, basically three things have to happen

    1)photographers have to lose the inferiority complex they use as a crutch

    2)they have to recognize that the commercial influence on photography (…pros worry about sales…) has limited its artistic vision. Just because Capa said “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough,” does not mean you need to fill the frame with subject – that’s the concern of a photo editor or someone looking to sell to stock as poster or postcard or stamp. As a result, (as an example) the pastoral is an Western art tradition largely ignored in the West. Doesn’t have to be.

    3)”that’s too technical” needs to be erased from the vocabulary of anyone looking to call themselves a photographer. Art is not defined by beauty (nature is pretty) or emotion (why can’t art evoke ideas?) but rather human choice in a physical medium. That requires technique. It needs to be harder. Maybe we need another word; to call the takers shooters and the makers photographers. The more technique you have the more your choice means something. This is virtually unlimited – other media, art history, optics, chemistry, information theory-

    -photography should be the most comprehensive and demanding of all the arts. To me, it’s a mode of inquiry that never ceases to humble you with awareness of ignorance. Being better than others – perhaps another commercial influence (better=more salable) – is no great thing when so much possibility remains untapped.

  • Darthpfuhl

    Sorry about your loss David! I am a professional videographer, but I hate black and white photography, video and film. However, I guarantee you that your black & white picture “Lindisfarne Boats” is the most beautiful B&W that I have ever seen and I would buy a large size version of it in a heartbeat and hang it on my wall. Because of the disqualification, your picture will actually be worth much more now than what the first prize was – Get it to market because many will buy it.

    P.S. – Hollywood needs more guys like you! Maybe someday you could shoot a movie outside the “Tenement Buildings at Port Glasgow,” using your creativity.

    Richard P.

  • Olaf

    I like the new winner image.

  • Dan

    This has nothing to do with what Ansel Adams did or didn’t do in the lab to create his images. If he were going to enter this or any other contest I have no doubt he would of completely read and adhered to the rules regarding the entry. I do love Byrne’s image as art though, and hope he enters it again in a more appropriate photography contest.

  • Blindedbythesh*te

    After spending my precious time reading this thread (I’m a fairly busy photographer…!!), I think you can all talk ’til you’re blue in the face but you will NOT convince each other (YAAAWN !!)…(which is the right car to buy ?…a Ferrari or a BMW??…on the face of it, a reasonably straight-forward question.) “Different horses…” springs to mind…the finished (ex-winning) image is terrific…it was outside the rules…to his great credit the guy’s been open, taken it on the chin and moved on…maybe this is the main thing to learn for ALL of us !!!!

  • ChrisM

    Shame that this happened, it’s a nice image but rules be rules. Really don’t think much of the runner up though. Having that win instead is even more of a shame. There were so many better entries.

  • mic

    seems to me that Parkin could have simply asked Byrne what precisely he had done to the image,and therefore saved himself a lot of work investigating the image.