The following is an email to Ranger Rick Photo Editor Susan McElhinney from the former Editor of Ranger Rick, Gerry Bishop:
"I was thinking of you a couple of weeks ago when I got the latest issue of Outdoor Photographer. On the "Last Frame" page (p. 130) they show what they describe as a swarm of butterflies on a eucalyptus tree in San Francisco. What the editors didn't realize is that the butterflies in the photo are blue morphos from the tropics and couldn't possibly have congregated in 'Frisco. I checked the photographer's website, and apparently he created this image, using mounted specimens, for a ad campaign he was commissioned to do. I don't know whether he intentionally misled the editors, or whether they just made up the caption, but it's a major screw-up.
I wrote an e-mail and a letter to the editor, and after I got no response, I called and talked with the managing editor, Kim Castleberry. She acted as if I was bothering her with something trivial and clearly didn't want to deal with it, but I told her this is the kind of thing that degrades the integrity of a publication and that she should at least talk to those involved, including the photographer. (I also had e-mailed him but got no response.) Seems no one really gives a damn, or perhaps in the case of the photographer doesn't want to fess up to a fraud."
Too much of this goes on without the appropriate outrage from the natural nature photo community. Speak up folks if you value the work you are doing or are we all Dodo birds! — Susan McElhinney
I can understand the frustration with OP about their incorrect caption, but I must say that in this instance it isn't a big deal. Outdoor has never been a publication aimed at the scientific community or the presentation of specimens behaving in the wild.
Their own website describes them as "When it comes to capturing nature's beauty at its best, you can't beat the photography tips from Outdoor Photographer. From reviews on photography equipment to the latest photography techniques, explore it all here."
If the caption mistake had been made in National Wildlife, National Geographic, or Smithsonian to name a few, then it would be a big deal.
The simple fact is that sometimes photography is just about art, just about executing a personal vision - not science, not conservation, not ecology.
I've not seen the image, and I don't know who the photographer is, but it is possible that the caption is descriptive, they are Blue Morphos, and they are in San Francisco. I'm not arguing that the caption is scientifically accurate, but perhaps that isn't the intention of the caption.
Perhaps the caption describes what the photographer was trying to achieve, and they did so by using mounted specimens.
Susan asked me to post that because she felt strongly about it.
I do agree that the ethics bar is set pretty low with OP. My issue with it is that it's not just a lack of disclosure, it's written to deceive. I've never seen dead butterflies swarm.
This photograph of butterflies swarming upon a eucalyptus tree in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park took Kelvin Hudson some time an patience to perfect.....
I didn't realize the caption read as you quoted. As I said, I haven't subscribed to OP in several years, and so I didn't see the published image first hand - and didn't realize they wrote the caption to read as such.
It seems the image might be something better suited to a magazine that celebrates creativity and ingenuity in creating the surreal - perhaps something like After Capture, though I don't read that either.
I think one of the core problems here is this perception that the image and the photographer are less because the scene was "set-up". It's what drives (and I don't know who's fault it is) people to not disclose how or why they took the image. If we as a community didn't look down upon people who set up shots, then there wouldn't be any motivation from photographers or publishers to make everything seem as wild as possible.
Deceiving the audience is one step further. Photographers should make the details of their images available - the only problem here is that as soon as people find out that an image was taken at a game farm, or set up, it is looked down upon. There's just no motivation for publishers or photographers to be forthcoming with this information.
They would have been better just leaving the image with no caption at all.
I was fooled
I was impressed with the image and was amazed that no one else had discovered and photographed such an amazing event at Golden Gate Park before. I knew the image was for an ad, but they never said it was fake and staged.
I think OP has reached a new low with this one, thanks for letting us know that it was a fake.
I have had editors make up some silly things about my images, to make the creation of the image sound more "exciting" but this is just a big lie.
They should at least admit to their readers that it was not real.
I think you should also post this on NPN.
And to follow up their misleading caption in the October issue, Outdoor Photographer is at it again with the "Last Frame" caption in November. When I contacted the photographer about how the image was captured, he told me that "This is from a Wildlife Model shoot, no wild but trained animal." Would anyone reading the OP caption come to that same conclusion? I suggest that someone at NANPA invite the "Last Frame" editor to one of its ethics committee meetings.
An image of this nature isn't a problem in a photo magazine, in my opinion, but the misleading caption sure is.
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