Photographer bashed after sharing an “obvious composite” image of a tornado

Jul 6, 2020

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Photographer bashed after sharing an “obvious composite” image of a tornado

Jul 6, 2020

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Photographer Aaron Groen recently came under fire from the photography community. After he shared a photo of a tornado, many praised him for the amazing image that must have been scary to take. However, some photographers claim that the photo is “clearly fake” and “obvious composite” and the whole story quickly blew up.

Aaron shared the photo titled Hold On on his Facebook page. He responded to some of his followers’ comments, saying that the photographed the tornado in South Dakota. “I go out everytime it storms within about 100 mile radius of where I live. Which is almost daily here,” he wrote to one fan. He responded to a few users that “even just going thru the raw files for this gave [him] that scared uncomfortable feeling.”

However, some people started calling Aaron out for “faking” the image. Or in other words, for sharing a composite without being honest and transparent about it. Some of them claim that he deleted negative comments from the post. I only found one at the moment of writing this.

Other photographers and storm chasers then turned to their own Facebook profiles. They shared Aaron’s image, accusing him that it’s “fake” and “obvious composite.” PetaPixel even obtained a triptych that shows a similar storm in other Aaron’s images.

This whole story reminds me of “the Peter Lik case” from two years ago. He was also called out over sharing a composite without being transparent about it. Eventually, Peter Lik’s team confirmed the photo indeed hadn’t been taken as a single frame.

It’s not up to me to judge. If this photo was shot at a single frame, it’s epic. If it’s digital art, it’s a well-done piece of digital art. To be honest, I don’t have anything against composites. It’s quite the opposite, actually – I love seeing good composite work. But I just think we should always be clear and transparent about it. As Mike Mezeul II puts it: “If it’s a composite, be proud of your composite, and tell your audience it’s digital art. If it’s a photograph, be proud of your photograph, and tell your audience about the efforts you put in to capturing that precise moment. Being transparent is so key.”

We will reach out to Aaron and try to learn more about the controversial image. We’ll update the article if we hear back.

What do you think? Is this a composite or a single fame photo?

via PetaPixel

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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35 responses to “Photographer bashed after sharing an “obvious composite” image of a tornado”

  1. Don Navarro Avatar
    Don Navarro

    The pixels in the sky don’t seem to match those in the barn. Another sign is the zone on the right side of the barn where part of the landscape seems to disappear into the storm ; i.e. sloppy masking.

    1. Slobodan Vasic Avatar
      Slobodan Vasic

      How you can tell that pixels does not match? You can say that light does not match but pixels? Lol.

    2. Siesta_Bear Avatar
      Siesta_Bear

      You would have to see the original from him to come to that conclusion. How do you know the writer of this article didn’t add some “unmatching” pixels out if spite or to get street cred?

      1. mice Avatar
        mice

        Easy. Let’s see the raw files. The OP claims it’s photographed. The onus is on the OP.

  2. Murray Hammur Avatar
    Murray Hammur

    Who cares anymore….the time for bashing has long since past. Most peoples photos are lies to some degree.

    1. Lynchenstein Avatar
      Lynchenstein

      Luminar 4 has a whole AI replace sky feature, light rays, etc. Personally I’m aok with photocomps as long as the artist isn’t saying it’s a single. Don’t lie.

      1. Justin Thyme Avatar
        Justin Thyme

        Where did he lie? I read the article and the posts. He only claimed the photographs are his. He never said this was a single image. If he took the original photos for the comp are you saying it is a lie to claim credit for the photos in the finished product?

        1. Lynchenstein Avatar
          Lynchenstein

          I never said he lied. I like his photos. I’m only saying that if a photographer creates a comp they shouldn’t say it is a single frame. I was unclear, sorry about that.

  3. Siesta_Bear Avatar
    Siesta_Bear

    The photographer has no need to speak about his or her work.
    The photographer has no need to say if it is “fake” or “real”.
    Let the audience decide. Let them get emotional.

    Photography is no longer just film, it is digital, it is a collage of effects, and if you are Annie Leibowitz, it is other people’s hard work for which she gets credit.

    I don’t consider magazine covers or ads as photography. True the work was photographed and developed and processed and printed, but there is too much design behind the screen for the result to be an intimate moment caught by one person.

    I also do not consider selfies as photography.
    I also not consider people capturing dying Muslims in the arms of scrying woman as photography, that is exploiting their lives to win an award. Very disturbing.

    I don’t consider either of those two as art.

    1. Wabajak13 Avatar
      Wabajak13

      I’m really confused. Photography is only allowed to be an intimate moment captured by one person? But if this is a composite doesn’t it fail on that criteria? Or wouldn’t harrowing war photography pass your test then?

      1. Siesta_Bear Avatar
        Siesta_Bear

        How can it fail if he took all of the pictures? That is “intimate”. An intimate/personal composite.

        No one accused him of stealing someone’s work. They want him to be transparent. They want the magician to reveal his secrets.

        When you see the amount of people behind photoshoots for magazines, you loose interest in the photographer. The photographer only clicks the button, everything else was arranged for him or her. How is that photography? It is not. It is advertising using photographs.

        They are not harrowing when they are taken by white people who exploit poor people of another race to win an award. That is just disgusting.

        1. RogerRoger Avatar
          RogerRoger

          Wow…bringing race into it, just had to happen. Just had to.

          1. Siesta_Bear Avatar
            Siesta_Bear

            Bringing? Was always there. Just dig deeper.

      1. Siesta_Bear Avatar
        Siesta_Bear

        Haha.

  4. 00rodgee00 Avatar
    00rodgee00

    Needs the option “Who gives a flying f@#k”

    1. mice Avatar
      mice

      If you don’t fight for honesty now, then don’t expect any in the future.

  5. Chuck Brown Avatar
    Chuck Brown

    Real easy… If it’s real, they should have no problem producing other shots from the event. It’s not like we only take one!

  6. C.Stahl Avatar
    C.Stahl

    Let the viewer have their own interpretation of the photo regardless if it’s composite or not. I think it’s artistically done and like it. And yes I think it’s a composite and I don’t care. Either it appeals to somebody or it doesn’t. I have a photo of a real tornado and it just speak like that one does. This really conveys the power and magnitude of nature. (to me).

    1. mice Avatar
      mice

      The issue is “photographed” (documentary) vs “visual art”. There’s an important difference. It is not tied to whether the image observer likes it or not. It is squarely on what the poster is claiming.

  7. Arnor Baldvinsson Avatar
    Arnor Baldvinsson

    Manipulating images has been done for ages, since long before digital was invented! Why can’t people accept art and get off their high fake horses and just enjoy it? :)

    1. mice Avatar
      mice

      “Photographing” something implies documentary. Compositing or image manipulation with element replacements is visual art – in which case don’t say you photographed it.
      Those that do documentary work care about this as this affects journalism and the effort put into make genuine images.

      1. Justin Thyme Avatar
        Justin Thyme

        Um, every image that is posted for documentary purposes has been mananipulated in post production. Also, he is selling Wallart. Did you even check out the source or did your jounalistic istincts tell you to take this article and others’ opinions as fact? He photographed something, then created wallart, which he sells. If you take the time to read, he never claimed this was a single shot…the opinionators and the article writer did that bit of editorializing.

        1. jonyah Avatar
          jonyah

          Actually he did. Read all the comments on his post. He claims multiple times that it’s a single shot. That’s what everyone is complaining about. Be honest, or you lose all reputability. If he does somehow take some incredible shot in the future, no one will believe it’s real. Yes it’s a cool picture, but it isn’t a photograph as he claimed multiple times.

          1. Arnor Baldvinsson Avatar
            Arnor Baldvinsson

            Ah, I had not read all of it. Yes, I agree. There is no reason to not say if asked if the image is a composite.

          2. Justin Thyme Avatar
            Justin Thyme

            I did read through them, but did not see s post here he claimed it was a single shot. If you saw one, please post date, time and poster or a screen shot. I am open to changing my opinion, but not for lack of evidence.

      2. Siesta_Bear Avatar
        Siesta_Bear

        Photographing doesn’t imply documentary since documentary is more about “facts” and not capturing a fantasy or emotion.

        If you take two photos and then composite them, that is photography.

        1. John Pouw Avatar
          John Pouw

          Not sure I agree with the last sentence. Exposure blending of two images, of the same subject, taken moments apart to gather dynamic range is photography. Compositing an image which is based on two very different photographs is where it becomes art. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s an awesome image, I think the argument or point of the article is about being honest about it :)

  8. jonyah Avatar
    jonyah

    The guy has 4 other photos with the same tornado in different locations. Of course it’s a composite.

    1. Justin Thyme Avatar
      Justin Thyme

      The accusations in the screenshots above accuse him of creating the tornado and not actually photographing one. I think the article shows that trolls clearly were using a different definition of “composite”; one that means using mixed images both photographic and drawn from scratch rather than simply being a combination of photographs in a single shot. However, I see no basis for calling this tornado fake other than being jealous.

  9. John Wollwerth Avatar
    John Wollwerth

    I actually took this picture, and yes, it is a composite. The barn was shot in South Dakota and the tornado was shot in Florida. If he’s saying he took the picture, he’s lying. It was available as a stock image on several sites.

  10. jimmy Avatar
    jimmy

    Why is all the discussion of the image about the tornado being “fake”, or about this being “art” as opposed to photography? Does anyone think that the tornado is a purely digital creation? Hand painted? If so – amazing job! But it’s clear to me that it was photographed. A composite photo is made of photos. If he didn’t like the foreground of one image of the tornado and swapped it with another, doesn’t mean he wasn’t equally as close to a real tornado. Doesn’t mean the tornado is fake. Or the house. All real, just combined. Photography doesn’t have to be unedited documentary.

  11. John Beatty Avatar
    John Beatty

    Well,15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance with Geico.

  12. Paul Tobeck Avatar
    Paul Tobeck

    If that were a provable, single exposure photograph, then I would have seen it and heard of this photographer long before this article.