One of the reasons people have been drawn back to the cumbersome, time consuming and in many ways archaic media of film to create photographs is possibly because there is something more of an empirical truth to it. Once an image is recorded to the emulsion its there forever, only to be destroyed physically, and can be used as an undisputable reference point to the view into reality that was frozen in time. Some of this is a push back or fatigue with over edited, over saturated, or even fake images that it is now relatively easy to produce. I myself experience this and has encouraged me to continue working with film despite some of its challenges and expense.
There is however a sentiment that can be found commonly online that editing film photos is somewhat sacrilegious. The photo above, taken with my Bornica SQ at Pistyll Rhaeadr in Wales, got me thinking about this. Normally my tendancy is to freely crop, tweak the exposure, black point or contrast, as after all the scan is just an interpretation that normally needs some creative input to resolve an impactful image. Rarely have I scanned myself and not felt the need to tweak the levels. Even with Lab scans, the decisioning is theirs and the resultant images may not match my vision. Its also true that errors in exposure can be compensated for after the fact. I don't see a big philosophical problem with this, as after all printing involves creatives choices to get the best out of a photo. Where I do, normally, draw the line though is any airbrushing other than dust spots or belmishes on the film itself. But this image made me pause. I really liked the composition but unfortunately two people were stood right by the waterfall, and judging by the smell of what they were smoking, did not appear that thier transfixion with the crashing water would end anytime soon. The light was fading and I needed to leave so I decided to take the photo anyway.
So I airbrushed them out, as you can see from second image above, which is the straight from scan edit. Clearly its helped the photo become a better image, although it obviously reflects a dubious reality. Is airbrushing out the people really any different than waiting until they had left? After all this image without people could be argued to misrepresent this site anyway, as it is infact a well visited tourist attraction (in fact this is the tallest waterfall in England or Wales). So overall editing the image to make it useable for me rather than simply discarding it was worthwhile, but I'm sure not everyone will agree.