Cow insertion?
August 16, 2008 11:16 AM   Subscribe

It's going to drive me bonkers if I don't ask was this cow photoshopped in?

It really looks that way to me, but I don't know enough about compression, photoshop or photography to really convince myself. It may just be a strange looking picture. But there does seem to be some unusual blurring around the cow.
posted by Citizen Premier to Media & Arts (23 answers total)
It certainly looks like it to me. The quality of the cow vs. the field seems different, and the color palette of the two seem to differ. I'm not a professional though, so I can't back this up with the specific evidence and terms you mention. If it is, that seems like a rather large lapse in ethics from the AP.
posted by katemcd at 11:30 AM on August 16, 2008

I don't think it is. But, because it's in the foreground and under shade, it looks different from the rest of the photograph. Look at the back-right leg to see where it just goes out of the shade into what looks like the noonday sun.
posted by stavrogin at 11:33 AM on August 16, 2008

Looks weird to me, too. The cow's face is somewhat in focus, the grass at its feet is totally blurred, yet the soldiers and everything else behind it is in focus. The cow's head, being closest to the photographer, shouldn't be as in focus as it is considering how blurry the grass at its feet is -- look at the detail of the lines in the cow's face and compare it to the grass.
posted by puritycontrol at 11:38 AM on August 16, 2008

That would have to be one small tank.
posted by erpava at 11:42 AM on August 16, 2008

Best answer: I'm going to vote no. A telephoto lens shortens the apparent distance between objects (in the z-axis) and can make for some surprising compositions. It could be photoshopped in, but there is no evidence in the lighting or DoF to indicate to me that it was.
posted by knave at 11:48 AM on August 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don't think it is. Hard to tell for sure at such a low resolution and heavily compressed.

It does look suspicious at first glance, but that seems to be because of the different lighting on the cow and how it seems to be the wrong size compared to everything else in the scene. However it looks like it's just standing on a small rise under a tree in the foreground, which accounts for the weird lighting and the false perspective. It also looks like it's being lit by a reflection from something off camera right (a building or something) which is too dim/far away to light the other subjects. Otherwise there are no obvious matting problems that I can see (though low rez+compression hide them well.) The only thing that is suspect to me is that the cow is slightly out of focus, but I don't know enough about real cameras and lenses to know if the depth of field is plausible or not.
posted by Ookseer at 11:48 AM on August 16, 2008

Another "no" vote here. Telephoto lens plus cow in dappled shade at the leading edge of the depth of field. I think compression artifacts are creating the illusion that there's more focus on the cow's face than is actually there.
posted by hades at 12:00 PM on August 16, 2008

I'm gonna say 'no,' if only because I think if they were photoshopping it in they'd've integrated it a little better. It's a really unnatural-lookin' photo.
posted by Plug Dub In at 12:07 PM on August 16, 2008

It definitely looks fake, but a few thoughts...
- stavrogin gives a good explanation about the cow's shading being different.
- Perspective! While the cow looks like it's 12' tall and the soldiers are midgets with model tanks, it was either a pathetic 'shop, or the cow's simply a lot closer to the lens than the camera is.
- The waaaay-background is pretty sharp-looking, suggesting they used a very small aperture to keep everything in focus. Thus, the cow is also in focus, though it seems to have a slight blur, perhaps on account of being very close to the lens.
- It could be "Photoshopped" without inserting the cow. I'll often enhance shadows/highlights to compensate for things like, say, a cow that looks really dark with most of its details lost in the shadows. If the work is overdone, the result is an image that looks pretty artificial.

So there definitely could be a rational explanation for why this cow looks so fake.

But with that goofy look on the cow's face and tanks behind it...?
posted by fogster at 12:07 PM on August 16, 2008

isn't this exactly why the photographer took that shot?

i imagine there was probably some post-processing involved to change the relative brightness of the cow (which is in shade and perhaps almost black on a "straight" image), and which isn't going to help it look normal, but my guess is that it was already there.
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 12:12 PM on August 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Newspapers and photo agencies certainly have been caught Photoshopping in the past, but they don't do it for comedic purposes like putting an enormous cow in the middle of the shot. Manipulating images is very frowned upon. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen, but it does mean it's unlikely it would ever happen in such an absurd way.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 12:24 PM on August 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't think so. Cow is standing much closer to the photographer,
on a little grassy rise, in the shade. Cow and grassy shade are
not in the zone of critical focus.

There is also a pine limb in the left foreground that seems to be
in the same zone of focus as the cow, and of the same species
as the trees in background.
posted by the Real Dan at 12:26 PM on August 16, 2008

Response by poster: Here's another photo with an possibly phony bovine, but it does seem to show a couple yards of dirt that didn't show up because of the first camera's perspective. This is probably what made the cow look so huge.
posted by Citizen Premier at 12:28 PM on August 16, 2008

Here's a similar photo from Getty with metadata (photographer, location, etc.)
posted by cowbellemoo at 1:47 PM on August 16, 2008

I downloaded the image and then enlarged it to 300 percent. Strange, the whole image is pixelated except for the sky which looks, to me, like it has been painted in photoshop - I guess to get some uniformity or to paint out something. Also the tank looks like some of the identifying numbers have been painted out. So, yes, I think it has been photoshopped. Don't know about the cow.
posted by cda at 2:19 PM on August 16, 2008

looking at the image metadata, it was produce by photoshop (app12 ducky). that doesn't mean much - almost everyone uses photoshop, even when they are not adding cows.

APP12 contains:
Ducky14423B1237Russian troops take up positions on farmland, during a search operation outside of the Black Sea port of Poti, Georgia, Thursday, Aug. 14, 28. Russian forces Wednesday targeted three Georgian boats in Poti, and Georgian television showed the boats ablaze in the city's harbor. For several days, Russian troops held the western area near Abkhazia, controlling the region's main highway. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)
JPEG image is 62w * 4h, 3 color components, 8 bits per sample
JPEG process: Baseline

so that's your photographer - you could contact them and ask.

as far as cda's comment goes - the side of the tank does look a bit odd, but it and the sky could be down to compression - the sky does have a gradient in the lowest bits, but it's muddied by the compression (jpeg introduces a box-like pattern).
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 2:48 PM on August 16, 2008

hmm. actually, no, that site doesnt have contact info that i can find.

but there are more photos of what appears to be the same tank here also taken by bela (we are now on first name terms). those funny blurred regions are visible - they're just painted patches (have you noticed how many of the tanks have graffiti on? i suspect it's been painted over here).
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 2:56 PM on August 16, 2008

ooops. no, that's 085, not 088. 088 is visible in another image on that page and looks similar. 087 too, which seems to have a similar blob of green paint at the same position. odd, but not photoshopped.
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 3:02 PM on August 16, 2008

Best answer: more on bela. seems like the kind of guy (now officially a he - names ending in "a" always confuse this spanish speaker) that has enough of a reputation to not need photoshopped cows.
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 3:11 PM on August 16, 2008

and his contact details. the dude is a member of "south east european network for professionalization of media (and cow insertion)".
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 3:14 PM on August 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm going to nth the weird perspective being due to a small apature telephoto. I've done quite a bit at 500 and 700mm on 35mm and the images always look "flat" like that.
posted by Mitheral at 4:04 PM on August 16, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I have come 180 and now have complete faith in the cow.
posted by Citizen Premier at 8:00 PM on August 16, 2008

I'd also say no. I imagine that it's cropped from a much larger photo where you could have seen a better representation of the whole scene and be better able to understand the depth of field. If you look at the soldiers in the background, they are pretty far away and still pretty much in focus. So they are at the far end of the in-focus area, and the cow is at the close end. I'd imagine that if you could see a wider shot or the full scene, the cow would be 15 feet closer to the camera than the first tank. While it looks like the soldier is aiming at the cow, I think he is probably aiming well behind it.

And I think that *IS* one small tank. Look at the headlight on the front right of the left one. And look at the guy crouching right next to the one on the right. Pretty small.
posted by gjc at 8:41 AM on August 17, 2008

« Older How to turn East Village apartment into speakeasy...   |   Toddler nudity: how much is too much? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.