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!

  • Jeffrey Remick

    I’m sorry but adding clouds is a pretty big detail to change in a photo.

  • Chris faust

    I’m glad I use a negative. I can always point to that.

  • John Doe

    Adding anything that isn’t there is a big no no for contest like this. The second image is the worst I’ve seen. Shocked it even placed.

  • Claud Verbanski

    The guy who won is a gigantic baby, at least the shopped one is interesting.

  • Albert Zablit

    Pretty darn impressive composites nonetheless, and a good read on Tim Parkin’s blog. Thanks.

  • Mansgame

    In my opinion you should be allowed to change the white balance, contrast, exposure (weather it’s graduated or universal), clone out dirt on your sensor, crop, etc. You should never be allowed to add new detail because at that point it’s not a true representation anymore and is crossing over to graphic art.

    Nothing wrong with art, but it’s a different category.

  • Sharon bishop

    I don’t know why everyone is so shocked. Not that I have a problem with the image at all, but a mere glance at this pic tells you that this image has been heavily photoshopped.

  • kyoshinikon

    We always did that in the darkroom days and got away with it…

  • kyoshinikon

    too bad some contests wont accept film anymore :(

  • Bill Kearns

    LOUSY new winning photo … in terms of the alleged “prestige” of the contest. Sheet, ‘mon; give me a break !

  • Jay Javier

    Not “adding anything” makes a record shot? So all unaltered images are simply ‘record’ shots? This guy has to go back to photography 101.

  • Ray Chavez

    A photography contest is about what captures your eye and how you applied darkroom techniques -burning, dodging and cropping-. An illustration contest is about adding/removing elements in an artistic flavor, just like the disqualified photo.

  • delalyedflight

    The new ‘winning’ image looks pretty average…
    Correct me if I’m wrong but from what I remember Ansel Adams also composited skies into some of his works.

  • Jay Javier

    Ansel Adams ‘burned’ the skies into the pictures. Or used filters to bring out the clouds, And exposed the negatives and developed them into a certain ‘zone’ so that the picture would print nicely on a certain grade of paper. But he never, AFAIK ‘composited’ clouds into his photographs.

  • Rory McLean

    I’d much prefer the original #1, complete with manipulation, over the new “winning image” any day. I.e. I’d pay for a print of one vs the other.

  • stanimir stoyanov

    Would this work with a RAW file? i.e. can a RAW file be falsified?

  • Dave

    He has added a moon to improve how dramatic an image is.

  • AW

    Both those winning images are pretty crappy. And the first looks like the shadow angles are wrong.

  • Dave

    And if you are going to manipulate an image, try to at least match the direction of the light source in all of the elements of the composite.

  • Bruce

    A photograph that has been Photoshopped is photo based art and not photography. Such images have no place whatsoever in photography contests.

  • James Davidson

    Clearly those running and judging the competition are are fault here, discrediting the whole farcical competition.

  • Bruno Willian

    I think that the actual winner is much better then the first one.

  • guest

    They should REAAALLY be more thorough when there’s say, ~$16,000 at stake. Feel a little bad for the guy.

  • John R

    Maybe competition entries should only be ‘out of camera’ JPG or TIFF? (joke)

    I only shoot RAW and I know that the mere act of opening it in different converters produces wildly different tones. So then adjustments need to be made. As others have said; adjustments that are basically compatible with darkroom processes seem reasonable, including spot removal, but adding/removing (beyond cropping) is no longer photography. My main worry these days is with sharpening, I use varying amounts over an image, and varying amounts of noise reduction. These are non darkroom tools, am I bad?

  • jusuff12

    good move!!!!
    it annoys me that when you open a photography magazine you won´t find a unretouched landscape photo anymore.

  • jusuff12

    no…. ansel adams did not do that.

  • Erwin

    jusuff12 Ansel Adams was a master of Darkroom photo dodge and burning! if he was alive to day, he would be a photo wizard! Look up his work!

  • Ben Pottinger

    Where do we draw the line? If a photo is only a record of the location you pointed the camera at then what about DOF? What about filters that modify the light entering the camera? What about different types of sensor filters or algorithms used? I used to think like this, that only unmodified images were “true” photographs, yet when you stop and look at it from the outside you see that no photo is truly “untouched”. They get modified by how much DOF is used, if VR is used to create a neat blurring panned shot, if a CP is used or a GND filter is used. They all modify the image from the way it looks to the human eye. Beyond all that though I think its funny how we are now all supposed to be able to judge a photo’s merits when its presented to us inline on a blog/web page at a pathetically small resolution. Hopefully the PPI race among tablet and phone makers spills over into the PC monitor space and we start seeing affordable retina+ rez monitors (10mp or more)

  • Fabio

    I can’t understand the surprise; I just had a brief look at Byrne’s website (I didn’t know about him until today) and it looks very clear he usually does a lot of postproduction changes to his images. Whether this can be considered right or not I can’t tell, but what really surprise me is that his winning image has been able to go through all selection process without raising any suspicion about an issue that is considered discriminating by prize examiners.

  • quickpick

    use silkypix, not photoshop to avoid temptation to create too artificial pictures. silkypix is pure and fast raw editing, while photoshop is all about tricks and gimmicks in order to fake.


    The photo industry is friggin’ FINALLY coming around to my way of thinking: Photoshop and HDR is not “real” photography. That’s great if you can sell your ‘shopped images to travel magazine and guidebooks (because they too are trying to market an ILLUSION, rather than the reality, of a place), but there’s a point when you must stop calling yourself a photographer – a photographer being someone who captures life AS IT IS through his lens – and instead start referring to yourself a “digital artist.”

  • Keiran Blackwell

    “ You don’t take a photograph, you make it. – Ansel Adams

    LOL Yeah, Adams was candid about the edits he made in the darkroom.

  • Fabio

    And I think the new winning image is just flat, dull and trivial

  • Diddybond

    Simple, just enter a competition that allows that kind of photo manipulation!

  • Kokoro Kimochi

    I my opinion digital photographs have no place in a competition. Slide film should be used and a slide submitted to the judges. Same rule for everyone.

  • V

    He should have read the rules.

  • Tim

    That’s just your opinion, and many people here would disagree with you. For example, what about using a 10 stop filter? Nobody says Charlie Waite isn’t a photographer because he uses ND filters. And what about studio lighting? surely that’s placed by the photographer to manufacture a certain look?

    I also think that HDR is allowed in the LPOTY competition.

    I understand where you’re coming from but you’re logic is flawed in that many early photographers like Ansel Adams used post processing techniques with film in the darkroom, and composites can be done with film too so what would you call them? Artists? Photography is an art form isn’t it? There are all sorts of manipulations that can be done in camera to make the photograph appear very different to how we see things with the eye. Maybe the definitions of “photographer” are changing but the roots are obvious – some kind of camera has to be used to record light onto some kind of media over time, be it digital or film. So by that interpretation, maybe you need to change your definition to someone who captures life AT THE TIME the shutter is pressed, because life “as it is” is very much open to interpretation.

  • Tim

    How about just submitting a RAW file?

  • chattering teeth

    So Ansel Adams never burned, dodged, bleached or intensified?

  • chattering teeth

    I remember seeing an interview with Jerry Eulsmann expressing disdain for digital imaging and Photoshop…next interview I saw was him selling Photoshop.

  • harumph

    Look up the difference between dodging and compositing. Adams didn’t do what this guy did.

  • harumph

    He never did composite photos like this one.


    Just had this *exact* same debate with someone on Facebook who also brought up the tired “AA defense” as a way of justifying digital manipulation, and what I said there is: My argument is based on the larger issue of fraud that is being perpetuated across the industry by photographers who heavily manipulate their images and then pass them off as “real” without any disclosure. Nor am I competing with Ansel Adams for assignments and sales. I’m competing with “digital artists” who are getting the lions share of gigs because their fake images are “prettier”. Adapt or perish? Perhaps, but I think an anti-Photoshop climate is finally coming around, and I stand by my opinion.

  • Photman

    Hey if you could do it in a dark room why not do it in Photoshop

  • Ryan

    I don’t see the integrity of the photograph ruined by what he added or took away. I understand the rules and the decision, and I think Byrne is taking it well and with much more grace than many others seem to. I do think though, the replacement is a MUCH poorer image.

    I think even larger in the discussion is what retouching is too far. When looking at landscape photography, it seems any image not taken with an grad-ND filter (thus only using given dynamic range limits of a camera) is not realistic, since what we see and what the camera can capture are two different things in just about every instance. HDR and retouching seem to make sense in something like landscape photography, as long as the HDR isn’t overcooked to make the photo seem unrealistic (believe it or not, that’s actually possible).

    If we focus on photography to only reproduce what the eye can see, then we have other issues to deal with, because cameras, without aid, can’t do it completely. That’s why I am thankful for the “digital darkroom” and why I think we affectionately refer to Photoshop as a darkroom.

    Sorry, I know my two cents was more like a dollar in terms of length.

  • harumph

    The guy who won had absolutely nothing to do with the original winner being disqualified. I can understand not liking his shot, but why in the world is he a “gigantic baby” for winning?

  • chris ebbley

    OMG, what is the score with the new winning image. This new one is so bland and not a touch on the level you would expect of this sort of comp. This new one is a poor image with little of following the rules of photography and the composition is dreadful, no tones, or interest. Rule of thirds (at least)
    What about the dreary colours? or the poor foreground interest?
    What were the judges thinking when they rated this 2nd. Dear oh dear.
    Think I will give up photography immediately if this is the sort of dross that these ‘leading judges’ look for.
    Tut, tut, tut! Poor show.

  • autumnbringer

    Same here. At the same time though, it was a contest with specific rules laid down. Disqualifying it isn’t saying anything about the photograph’s merits, just that it doesn’t fit those specific rules.

  • Haufmann51

    lol. you guys need to realize that there is no such thing as truth: is using ultra-high ISO falsification? what about shooting the same scene with a fisheye compared to a tele? what about black and white? there are literally endless possibilities to turn channels into b&w and none of them is more true than the next one? what about literature? Is a book “fake” because the author proofread it?

  • Maxwell

    Maybe you should just try to produce better photography? Not blame your competition.