12.03.2014 A popular tree

I’ve photographed this dead tree in Poor Farm Swamp a few times over the years.  I’ve never seen another photographer looking at it and haven’t seen any other pictures of it.  But after posting this on Facebook, I was told it could be the most photographed tree in Amherst.  I had no idea.  I try for original shots and what I liked here was the light and the sky.  Oh well….ignorance is bliss.

Poor-Farm-Swamp-120114-700WebThere is an ongoing and probably unending debate among photographers as to whether the repeated photographs of the same subject is plagiarism or free expression of what one sees and our own way of portraying our own vision of that subject.  I vacillate between both positions.  Obviously, I was not trying to copy anyone here as I did not know anyone else has done this.  OTOH, I have shot it enough times to figure it must appeal to others.

Now to find those pictures.

About Steve Gingold

I am a Nature Photographer with interests in all things related. Water, flowers, insects and fungi are my main interests but I am happy to photograph wildlife and landscapes and all other of Nature's subjects.
This entry was posted in Black and White, Landscape, Nature Photography, Western Massachusetts and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to 12.03.2014 A popular tree

  1. Andrew says:

    Perhaps it is just you who have taken all the photos, Steve. Is there a lot of competition? Every time you go it must surely be different and you add your own twist. I like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Andrew. No, not just me. I haven’t found anything by the commenter yet, but did find a couple of very nice shots by another local photographer.
      That is one of the arguments in favor of shooting popular subjects. We each have a unique way of seeing things and twiddling the dials on our cameras.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t imagine that if I were to travel to Amherst and photograph this tree, this would be plagiarism. Having dealt with the subject, here in the educational sphere, I apply a definition which stresses using the ideas, words, or observation of someone without proper citation. How in the world, and in what way, can my taking a photo of a something others have photographed be plagiarism? That’s total nonsense. Now, Having said that, if I photograph the same subject and, perhaps try and render the image in a ‘style’ that has been well established by someone else … well, then perhaps (and that’s a BIG ‘perhaps’) we’re on to something that should be discussed. There are certainly some photographers out there who have a style that can be defined (I cannot name any for you, but I know that some photographers have a particular ‘style’- I know it when i see it). So, perhaps a concerted effort on the part of one photographer to recreate the style of another might be considered to be encroaching on intellectual property. I’m not a lawyer … so, I cannot say. All I know is that perhaps millions of folks have photographed the Statue of Liberty – and, in my view, none of them are plagiarists. In a general sense, I think it is safe to say that because we are all individual, we see objects in different ways (as you have suggested). Because we interpret objects and scenes in different ways, we will photograph them (and process them) in different ways. Because there may always be a few bad apples in each bunch .. perhaps the practice of mimicking or parroting someone’s style does happen – and, if it does, maybe that’s not the best thing. There … I’ve had my say. Oh … and, by the way, nice shot! Renders nice in black and white. D


    • The issue for some is as you described. Someone sees a shot, most often one of Ansel Adams’ but many others too…Galen Rowell, John Shaw etc…, and try to get one just like it for themselves. If it is just going to hang on your wall then most have no problem and many workshop leaders love the idea. But if a pro or aspiring pro does the same and then markets it…there arises the problems for many. Anyway, for the most part this is never an issue for me (I try for some pretty unique stuff-macros and the like of ice and flowers-and, as you said, lighting and conditions are often quite different on a constant basis so each image has a certain level of individuality. Not quite on the level of written plagiarism, but for the creator of a unique image, seeing a copy of it being marketed is a biggie…..and I would think a photography student ripping off an idea might qualify too I have some virtual fine art acquaintances, a couple of whom occasionally drop in here, that take this very seriously.


      • Just so. It is one thing for me to take yet another shot of the Golden Gate Bridge … it is entirely another for me to attempt to recreate the style of another. I was just about to say that I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to do this … and then thought about it a bit more … and concluded that I can’t imagine why anyone would want to do this. Sometimes people are beyond my understanding. D


      • I get your point, David. For independent thinkers it would be hard to understand. But all you have to do is look through the images on various photography sites and see the amount of similarity in shots and it becomes obvious that if a flavor is popular then many will want a taste for themselves. Even if it is slightly different in composition, the style an d approach will be similar. There is a lot of filtering for pink sunrises and sunsets out there. And as I said, that’s all fine if someone is just looking to hang their own shot above the sofa. But if one wants something uniquely theirs with a personal touch then why copy someone else?


      • One reason I was happy working in 3-D black and white infrared in the late 1970s and early 1980s was that no one else I’m aware of used that unusual combination of media. Let’s hear it for uniquity (which is a unique way of saying uniqueness).


  3. Jim in IA says:

    You can search this map for your tree to find out how popular it is. http://www.sightsmap.com/#


  4. In any even, no one could photograph this tree any better. I love what you have done here, setting it against those lowering clouds. It looks wonderful in black and white.


    • Thanks, Melissa. Well, I appreciate the compliment but the other images I saw were quite different and very nice too. 🙂
      The clouds were a moving target, but there was a nice blend of solid and a few puffies that I liked.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Nihil sub sole novum, said the Romans, nothing new under the sun. It’s not surprising that others have been drawn to the same tall dead tree as you, as well as to other like it (as I was drawn to one and photographed it just last week).

    That said, copying does sometimes occur. It can be in a general way, when certain things catch on, like adding an unrelated texture to a photograph. Or it can be pretty blatant, as when people closely copy a photograph they’ve seen elsewhere.

    And then there are re-photography projects, in which a photographer starts with historical photographs and tries to go to the exact same spot today and take pictures showing how the scenes have or haven’t changed.


    • I think what most are considering is the “put your tripod legs right where Ansel put his” type of situation. It could be Marc Adamus or it could be John Shaw…the idea for some folks is to get the same shot. Also related is baiting owls etc.
      I’ve seen a few of the re-shooting old images to see what’s changed, but that’s different.


    • We’ll see what happens, but I commented in reply once but so far WP is not showing it, although when I copied and pasted it said I already posted that content. Good ol’ WP.
      I think the issue for most has to do with folks trying to place their tripod legs exactly where Ansel Adams placed his….or John Shaw…or Marc Adamus…or Guy Tal…and so on.
      Reshooting to show progress or regress is altogether a different topic, but has merit and I enjoy seeing them.


  6. shoreacres says:

    “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” ~ Anais Nin


    • shoreacres says:

      This whole discussion of “plagiarism” has been nagging at me. Passing off someone else’s photo as your own? That’s plagiarism. Taking a photo of the same subject? I don’t understand how anyone could understand that as plagiarism.

      Using that reasoning, I’d have no right to publish a piece about, for example, Pawnee Rock on the Santa Fe Trail. Hundreds of people already have written about it — are we all plagiarists? Of course not. Taking someone else’s article and publishing it as my own, or drawing on it without attribution, is plagiarism. Visiting the rock, learning about it, and recording my own impressions of it? Perfectly legit.

      I don’t know quite what to think about trying to replicate something like Ansel Adams’ photos, right down to tripod placement. That doesn’t seem like plagiarism to me, but it surely does seem weird. I can’t imagine why someone would do that, unless it would be to understand some of the technical aspects of what he did.


      • I would have to agree with you and every one else, Linda. Still, there is a lot of copying….at least according to a fair number of folks.
        I remember that George Harrison had a decent finding against him because”My Sweet Lord”….I think…sounded a lot like a Motown hit whose title eludes me at the moment. Even though the lyrics were different and all were sure the resemblance was unintended, it was still judged as copying.
        We live in a society where many are looking for an angle and often profit by it.


  7. First of all the tree is not exclusive property of any one with a camera. The same thing could be applied regarding farmer Brown’s cow that stands in the same place along the fence each day and folks driving by stop to photograph old Bessie. The tree and the cow are in a public place therefor there is no domain over the cow except the farmer. And I am assuming that who ever owns the land where the tree stands can not keep his/her tree from public view therefore anyone is privileged to photograph. The tree is obviously dead but the subject about the tree is alive and kicking. 🙂

    Oh, I forgot. Excellent monotone, Steve. I hope I didn’t run off the rail too much with the above discourse.


    • The tree is on public property, Yvonne. So it’s free to all. As far as Old Bessie goes, more than a few farmers and other property owners have chased photographers despite the truth of what you said. As long as photographs are not used for commercial purposes then we are free to photograph. However, even that is in a grey legal area.
      I am always happy for people’s opinions, Yvonne. Keep’em coming. 🙂


  8. Can you guess how many times the Flatiron Building in NYC has been photographed! (though I understand that somehow the evening view of the Eiffle Tower is now copyrighted. Don’t know how they did that, or why…) Plagerism, no. Good image, yes. Now i have to go out and find the tree!


    • I would be glad to share that tree with you, James.

      Copyrighting any structure with a public view seems a bit odd although I can understand wanting to control the commercial use of images.


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