In addition to the previous post in this blog I also wrote NG a mail in which I noted this particular picture. To be honest I hadn’t really expected any reply to it, so I was positively surprised when I found not one, but TWO mails in my inbox this evening (GMT+2). One from Public Relations (see below) and one from Chief Researcher Marilyn Terrel (see her two comments in the previous post).
They both basically had the same content:

Hi,

I read your blog post about the National Geographic photoshop story. I work with National Geographic wanted to provide you with the official statement on the matter:

The International Photography Contest from National Geographic has sparked unparalleled interest from photographers around the world, with some 220,000 submissions this year worldwide. The rules of the competition clearly state that no altered images can be submitted. It has come to our attention that one of the Viewers’ Choice Award winners of the English-language competition might be an altered image. When we asked our panel of photography experts to review it, they believed it to be questionable. To give the photographer the benefit of the doubt, we asked him to send us the source negative, which we have not yet received. For now, we will remove the image from the Web site until the matter is resolved.

Here’s a link to Rob Covey’s blog post on the issue as well. Rob is SVP of Content Development and Design, National Geographic Digital Media.

http://ngm.typepad.com/ngmcom_feedback/2008/12/photo-contest-c.html

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Best,

Ashley

So… It’s gone… For now.
Until the photographer can dig up the original negative or the original RAW file.
Let’s see. I’m gonna be kept posted (or so they said), so maybe this will be continued.

So there I was, paging through the winners of the 2008 National Geographic photography contest and when I came across this one I started wondering…

National Geographic Places winner

National Geographic Places winner

Something just wasn’t right, but it took me a while to put my finger on it. And then it struck me: the reflection is not a reflection. The clouds continue in the water, they don’t reflect in the water!

Here’s a reputable institute like National Geographic, organizing a yearly reputable Photography contest with reputable photographers as participants and judges. And they allow a photograph made in Photoshop to win a category? How wrong is that really?

The photographer just shot a picture of a sky (I hope, at least, pictures of a sky are so easy to come by through other means these days, I surely hope he won’t be caught on both cheating AND copyright infringement…) and a picture of some water with some boats on it and combined them in Photoshop.
It’s a gorgeous image, you have to give him that, but National Geographic should never have allowed this to go through in this category. As per their rules for entry:

Minor burning, dodging and/or color correction is acceptable. Hand tinting is acceptable, as is cropping. Fish-eye lenses are acceptable. High dynamic range images (HDRI) and stitched panoramas are acceptable only if the combined parts are all made around the same time. For more information, please read Director of Photography David Griffin’s comments on image manipulation. Any changes to the original Photograph not itemized here are unacceptable and will render the Photograph ineligible for a prize.

NatMag Rodale Limited being the publisher of Men’s Health. And being annoyed can’t be good for one’s health, now, can it?

Gonna do without pictures this post, but I’ll picture you a scene…
(I, too, need to vent from time to time).

It started in June last year.
I decided to get a gift subscription for my sister’s birthday for a magazine called Country&Living. I went online, signed up and ordered the subscription.
When I got my credit card invoice, I noticed that they had charged my credit card twice for the subscription. Twice £54.
So… I contacted them, told the girl I got on the phone what happened and she told me they’d reimburse it to my credit card. That was easy, right?
Wrong.
When I got next month’s credit card invoice there wasn’t a reimbursement from the subscription I ordered. So I contacted them again. I told the girl on the phone what was going on and that I was supposed to get that money back and she said she’d look into it and call me back. I gave her my number and guess what…? She never called me back.

So I contacted them again. This time I asked straight for a supervisor, because all this was taking way too long. So the supervisor I got on the phone was really helpful and told me that they’d take care of it and reimburse the money to my credit card straight away. So everything was right in the end, right?
Wrong!

When I got next month’s credit card invoice there wasn’t a reimbursement from the subscription I ordered. So I contacted them again. And asked for the supervisor again.
And told them that this apparently wasn’t working, and that I’ve been waiting for my reimbursement now for over two months and that my patience was running out. Then, surprise surprise, this supervisor told me that unfortunately they didn’t reimburse to foreign credit card holders (foreign being non-UK, this magazine / publisher was a UK version). I asked him why his customer service staff and his colleague supervisor whom I’ve been speaking to in the past two months didn’t know this, to which he didn’t really have an answer.
He said that the only thing he could do was write me a check that I could then cash back home.
So… I figured that would be ok, even if Finland stopped using checks already way back in the previous century. But that made everything finally alright, right?
Wrong! Goddangit! WRONG!

They sent me an obscure personal check, worth £54 and there was not a single bank in Helsinki that would cash it for me without me having to pay at least € 90 administrative and coverage costs, because they had no clue whether or not the check was covered. So I would end up having to pay more for cashing the check than that it was actually worth.

So I contacted them again. Asked them why they couldn’t send me a bank check instead of a personal one, like every normal company that’s still working in the stone age, and does accept credit card payments, but refuses to reimburse to credit cards (can you sense I got a bit impatient?). I did apologize to the girl on the phone, and told her that I realized that she couldn’t help it, but this thing had been haunting me for four months now and no one seemed to be willing to co-operate (and she accepted my apology and understood, luckily). So her supervisor wasn’t in this week and she would leave a message and have him call me back if I would give her my number, which I did.
And guess what, surprise surprise, he never called me back. I was smart enough to get his name this time, so when I contacted them – again! – I told them to put him straight on the phone.
The guy was an arrogant bastard, excuse me my french, and he wasn’t at all helpful. I explained the situation to him (I don’t think I sounded impatient at that point), but he just told me sorry, company policy, I can’t help you. He didn’t even TRY to come up with a satisfying solution. I told him that the personal check didn’t work and why it didn’t work, and he just bluntly told me that it was not his problem, but mine.
I told him that he couldn’t expect me to pay more for cashing a check than the value of the check and he said again that he couldn’t help me. I asked him to send just plain GB £ cash in an envelope and he said he couldn’t do that. Company policy. Then I did get impatient and I told him that he was seriously refusing to try to solve a problem that was created by them in the first place. That I had been patient with them for close to five months now and that my phone costs were probably already as high as what they owe me.
You know what the a** did? He said “Sorry we can’t help you” and hung up.
The stupid a** hung up on me! (Dang, I get fuming still when I think back of it!).

So I blew off steam for a couple of days and called back again.
I pretended it was the second time I called (didn’t ask for a supervisor) and got a really nice guy on the phone who actually listened to what I had to say. In the end I did tell him what had gone on all the time already (except for last the conversation with the supervisor) and he, too, told me that they weren’t authorized to refund to foreign credit cards. But he ended up trying to find a solution with me, instead of just keeping on telling me that company policy didn’t allow this and that.
So then he offered me a subscription to one of their other publications (why hadn’t I thought of that myself??). It ended up being Men’s Health (not because it’s a great magazine, but because it was the best of all bad choices). I only got 9 issues, because that was what I got for £ 54, but hey… This issue seemed to be solved. So if only I could return the check that they sent me, if I still had it.
I did, as a matter of fact. I thanked the guy for his help and complimented him on his great service and I sent the check back accompanied by a letter to the supervisor in which I wrote that they all could learn something from the guy who helped me, including himself, and that this guy should get the supervisor job, because at least he had some tact in helping people (yeah, I know, I was a bit irritated ;) ).

Anyway… We’re 9 issues further now.
My “subscription” ended. And since it was basically shoved down my throat (lacking any other option of getting my money back) I had no intention of renewing my subscription.
So the first reminder came.
“Dear Men’s Health subscriber, yadeeyadeeyadee, so you can renew here, £ 70 for 11 issues.” I figured if I didn’t react to it, my subscription would end.
Then the second reminder came.
“Your subscription to Men’s Health is coming to an end and you haven’t replied to our previous reminder. Yadeeyadeeyadee”. I still didn’t react.
So the third and fourth reminder came.
“Despite our earlier letters we haven’t received your instructions to renew. It is very unusual for a regular reader like yourself to let your subscription lapse.”
Regular Reader? Regular Reader my a**!!
So I wrote a mail to the subscription department, saying

“Dear Sir, Madam,
Even though it’s very unusual for a regular reader like myself to let my subscription lapse, I did. And intentionally so.
So please stop sending me any reminders for renewing my subscription.
Note in your administration that subscription number 0000636XXX is and will remain unrenewed.
Thank you.”

And even then, reminder number 5 came.
“Your subscription to Men’s Health has been suspended. Yadeeyadeeya.
To show our good faith, I have asked that a copy of the next issue is reserved for you, so renew the subscription and you won’t miss an issue”.

Well, Rodale… Let me tell you where you can shove that next issue!
Subscription number 0000636XXX is and will remain unrenewed and we will never do business again!

I had to get something small from the local camera store…
And I walked out with…

Myeah… dream on…
But it was there for real. And it looked massive, heavy, but oh so sweet.
And if the price tag had only shown one zero less, I would probably have walked out with it and forgotten all about the small thing I had to get.

Sigma 200-500 f/2.8 / 400-1000mm f/5.6

Sigma 200-500 f/2.8 / 400-1000mm f/5.6

Sigma 200-500 f/2.8 / 400-1000mm f/5.6

Sigma 200-500 f/2.8 / 400-1000mm f/5.6

But yeah, at € 16,000 I would’ve kind of maxed out my credit card, so I decided to let it pass this time.
*ahem*

But it was purdy.
Oh, and I did get my sync cord in the end. That was only € 29 :D

So… I’ve never been a real big fan of politics… Most of the times it’s boring, hypocrite and below the belt.
And people are ALWAYS trying to find something dirty about other people just to make them look bad. Take for example Holland’s current prime minister.
No one knew he had a sister, but recently the dirty little secret came out… He DOES have a sister. Her name is Janine Petra Balkenende, and she’s in the kind of business no prime minister would want to be associated with…

Janine Petra Balkenende

Janine Petra Balkenende

Janine Petra Balkenende, up close

Janine Petra Balkenende, up close

Okokok… I’ll ‘fess up…
It’s not true… I made it up… Balkenende may have a sister, but I wouldn’t know it…
This is just a little playing around in Photoshop.

I DO know, though, that had Balkenende been this hot, I would’ve voted for him… HER! :D

by Don McLean. Well, really by me, but we needed some music to go with it ;)
And it was the first thing that popped to mind.
It wasn’t really such a starry night at all, since it was raining, but well… Sometimes we can help, can’t we? (no filters were used here.)

D200, ISO100, 6 min 39 sec @ f/27, Tamron 28-75mm

D200, ISO100, 10 min 39 sec @ f/27, Tamron 28-75mm

Myeah… when you live up north and most of the day is dark, you get quite some opportunities to shoot during the “night”.
We went to an old part of the railway area and there’s lots of stuff to shoot. If not old wagons or other equipment, it’s old buildings.
This we ran into just before we left. Notice the train that passed in the background during the 91 sec exposure… Happy coincidence at a railway area ;)

D200, ISO100, 91 sec @ f/27, Tamron 28-75mm

D200, ISO100, 91 sec @ f/27, Tamron 28-75mm

I’ve been out of town already a couple of times, and figured I’d have to change the title to “Touristing in your own country”. I probably will in time. For now it’s “area”.
Last year I happened to pass this church in Kirkkonummi. There was snow then when I passed, and of course I didn’t bring my camera. Next time I passed with camera it the snow was gone and it didn’t look half as interesting. It was a crappy winter last year and I didn’t get any other opportunity.
But you know the saying… Patience, virtue…
Now we have snow. So I give you the church of Pyhä Mikael.

D200, ISO100, 26 sec @ f/19, Tamron 28-75mm

D200, ISO100, 26 sec @ f/19, Tamron 28-75mm