Antcheater
May 1, 2018 3:01 AM   Subscribe

A prize for Wildlife Photographer of the Year has been withdraw when judges noticed the anteater pictured is almost certainly stuffed. 'There's a lot of fakery': insiders spill on the dirty tricks behind wildlife photos
posted by fearfulsymmetry (42 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not surprised at the practise, but I am surprised at the use of taxidermy rather than taxidermied.
posted by unliteral at 4:05 AM on May 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


The photographer is claiming innocence and that he really did take a shot of a live anteater.
posted by octothorpe at 4:46 AM on May 1, 2018 [4 favorites]


I came here to say the same thing as octothorpe above. The Petapixel article makes a very persuasive case the photographer is innocent.

On a side note, "Antcheater" is a clever title but perhaps a bit one-sided for something that's legitimately controversial within the community.
posted by fremen at 5:45 AM on May 1, 2018


They look like the same stuffed animal to me, but then I'm no expert in anteaters.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:00 AM on May 1, 2018 [5 favorites]


Well now I am depressed.
posted by Young Kullervo at 6:02 AM on May 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


Something that jumps out from the Petapixel article: the photo was a 30-second exposure. Either the anteater was very cooperatively holding still for all that time, or it should be awfully blurred, shouldn't it?

IANA Expert in photography nor anteaters
posted by Gordafarin at 6:06 AM on May 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


It was a 30 second exposure but with a flash so the exposure caught the background of stars and the flash froze the foreground action.
posted by octothorpe at 6:16 AM on May 1, 2018 [8 favorites]


I dunno, all anteaters look alike to me. But it does look very similar.

On another sidenote, he could probably get a job as a natural history diorama artists, if natural history dioramas are a thing.
posted by carter at 6:42 AM on May 1, 2018


Wait...upon investigation of the details discussed in octothorpe's post, those do look like clearly different animals and poses. I'm not an expert on anteaters but there are minute details that display variation in its fur. And the second claw in the background, which....could the photographer simply photograph the stuffed anteater at the same angle as his photo?
posted by Young Kullervo at 6:43 AM on May 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


Are we sure it's not just pining for the fjords?
posted by BlueNorther at 6:52 AM on May 1, 2018 [3 favorites]


It’s a hell of a of a coincidence if he didn’t fake it, but I do see those differences too. Maybe some revenge strategy by the anteaters? “Stuff one of us for display, will you? We’ll pose in the stance of our fallen friend and mess up all your wildlife photography competitions, unto the seventh generation!”
posted by Catseye at 7:03 AM on May 1, 2018 [4 favorites]


The comments in that thread are slowing falling down "the Beetles were 10 different people just look at their TEETH" OCD conspiracy holes, so I'm just going to ignore it at this point before I get creeped out.
posted by Young Kullervo at 7:14 AM on May 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


PAUL IS A DEAD ANTEATER
posted by flabdablet at 7:26 AM on May 1, 2018 [15 favorites]


I can prove all my photos are not fakes because I keep all 5 shots of that picture of the train schedule and at least 7 if it's actually important.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:32 AM on May 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


If he really is innocent, he should easily be able to supply other shots of the same situation, with the anteater in a different pose. No photographer would just one shot and call it a day, especially a nature photographer who would be used to moving targets.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:09 AM on May 1, 2018 [9 favorites]


As he explained, he was doing 30 second exposures, and there’s only the one that had the anteater in position. It wandered in, he got the lucky shot, and the flash scared it off. It’s not as though he were just snapping away. I don’t see a hole in his story.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:14 AM on May 1, 2018 [3 favorites]


"the Beetles were 10 different people just look at their TEETH"

It look me a long time to realize you meant the band (the Beatles), so for a few minutes this was a contender for my “creepiest comments on MetaFilter” list.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:17 AM on May 1, 2018 [9 favorites]


Although I do see the apparent inconsistencies highlighted in the PetaPixel story, the dead similarities in markings and other physical characteristics are far more numerous. I feel any minor inconsistencies can be fairly easily explained by differences in lighting, a non-obvious variation in camera angle, and the ways that the fur catches or reflects the different types of light. And the fact that scientists with expertise in "mammals, taxidermy, conservation, South American mammals and anteaters" were consulted (assuming they're actually experts) carries a lot more weight with me than anyone's interpretation of those small differences between the photos.

I mean, come on -- if this photographer just happened to catch a living anteater that appeared 99 percent identical to one that was, purely coincidentally, already on location in taxidermy form, right down to the precise pose he happened to capture it in? That would be a noteworthy coincidence.
posted by Mothlight at 8:27 AM on May 1, 2018 [8 favorites]


I don’t see a hole in his story.

Except that the experts say it looks like a fake. I know, it's probably aard to tell for sure, but he sure looks guilty. And he had a great incentive to lie, whereas the scientists just get paid to tell the truth as they see it, one way or the other.
posted by pracowity at 8:38 AM on May 1, 2018 [4 favorites]


They look like the same stuffed animal to me, but then I'm no expert in anteaters.
posted by cjorgensen


excuse me but the proper plural is "antseater"
posted by the phlegmatic king at 8:41 AM on May 1, 2018 [11 favorites]


My question is: can the taxidermy version be reposable, even a little? There has to be an armature inside the taxidermy.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:53 AM on May 1, 2018


I think that one area the experts probably can help is in identifying how plausible it is that this is the only anteater the dude would see. Even if he frightened this specific anteater off with the flash, he's taking pictures of an anteater at an ant-eating spot, so it doesn't seem to me to be wildly unusual behaviour. It seems to me that if he's spending days waiting at termite mounds and if anteaters are relatively common in the area that it's implausible that he only saw one, and that he didn't have photos of other anteaters his story is much less likely. It's like the difference between me claiming that this squirrel I took the picture of is the only squirrel I ever saw, versus something actually unusual in nature, like the bird/shark/fish picture.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:57 AM on May 1, 2018


From the "noticed" link:
it was concluded that the photograph features the dead anteater that greets visitors at the entrance to Brazil’s Emas National Park
That a dead anteater actually greets people is unnerving. Oh, wait: Grauniad.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:06 AM on May 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


It seems obvious to me that the claws on the two anteaters' outstretched arms are at pretty different angles with respect to the heads, even if all of the differences in markings can be explained.

On the other hand, it's the job of the scientists and the organization to maintain the reputation of the contest. If a significant number of people think that the photograph may well be fake, I can understand why they would choose to err on the side of caution here. A lifetime ban does seem harsh in this instance, though.

tl;dr: I think the photograph is probably real, but I also think the contest-runners made the correct decision.
posted by cmoj at 9:17 AM on May 1, 2018


The Petapixel article makes a very persuasive case the photographer is innocent.

I don't agree. The majority of their argument rests on the black stripe and tuft of white fur on the forearm, but it's clear from the angle of the eye and snout that if it is the stuffed animal being used, in Cabral's shot it is rotated somewhat away from the camera with respect to the comparison shot, in a way that the white tuft that sits just atop the forearm in the comparison shot would be largely obscured behind the forearm in Cabral's. Which would also account for why the black stripe looks continuous - we are seeing a different portion of it as it extends beneath what is visible in the comparison shot. That may also explain the paw that is maybe visible in Cabral's shot (though I think they are right to hedge that bet, that looks like it could just be a coincidence of lighting making a nearby patch of dirt look roughly the same color as the fur).

Seems like it would be pretty easy for someone to take a shot of the stuffed version that better matches the orientation in Cabral's shot, that would go a long way to a definitive settlement of the claim.
posted by solotoro at 9:20 AM on May 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


PAUL IS A DEAD ANTEATER

I am the antman
I am the antman
Nope, Chuck Testa
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:33 AM on May 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


I guess it's better than killing and stuffing another anteater just for the shot.

I agree with pracowity, it's really aard to tell. It's an OK photo, but he's no Rembrant. If the scientists hadn't put their noses in his bizness, we probably wouldn't nostice the deception.They aren't making a mountain out of a ant hill after all. The question is, did he have claws to fake the photo? I'm betting he was hoping to get up another tongue on the ladder of photographic recognition. Certainly he won't try to fake another photo. That would make him an antrepeater.

So. Bad. Am leaving now before I embarrass myself further.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:37 AM on May 1, 2018 [5 favorites]


It look me a long time to realize you meant the band (the Beatles), so for a few minutes this was a contender for my “creepiest comments on MetaFilter” list.

Shows I know more about their teeth than I do about the band itself, including the spelling. Thanks Internet.
posted by Young Kullervo at 9:42 AM on May 1, 2018


"And he had a great incentive to lie, whereas the scientists just get paid to tell the truth as they see it, one way or the other."

Oh come now, "scientist" is just a job and they don't always have to report the truth as they see it, there are industries who pay for studies all the time to get the results and findings they want, rather than the reality of whatever it is being studied. Scientists have an incentive to lie just like everyone else, it's called a paycheck.
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:08 AM on May 1, 2018


Shouldn't there be dirt and other residues from the site of the photoshoot on the stuffed anteater?

In order for me to conclude it was fake, I'd have to know the photographer could have grabbed the stuffed one and then put it back without being detected.
posted by jamjam at 10:59 AM on May 1, 2018


Why would it have to be undetected? I assumed he would have paid someone at the park to let him quietly borrow their stuffed anteater for the night. I mean, why not? If he promised to have it back by morning all cleaned up, what would be the harm? It's barely even bribery, no big deal.

Also anyone who has played around with light painting knows that the painters will leave traces in the photo if they don't move quite quickly indeed at all times. Forget to move your left foot for a few seconds and a ghost foot will appear in the image. These types of ghosts aren't impossible to clean up in post, but the original RAW would still show them. Cabral has refused to release the RAW file for this image, nor can he provide any others.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:14 AM on May 1, 2018


Oh come now, "scientist" is just a job and they don't always have to report the truth as they see it

My point was that these particular scientists in this particular situation don't, as far as I can see, stand to profit one way or the other. They get their salaries and go home. Whereas the photographer wanted the prize money and exposure.
posted by pracowity at 12:14 PM on May 1, 2018


Mothlight: "I mean, come on -- if this photographer just happened to catch a living anteater that appeared 99 percent identical to one that was, purely coincidentally, already on location in taxidermy form, right down to the precise pose he happened to capture it in? That would be a noteworthy coincidence."

Remember this? The pure fire-hose of pictures now being taken and disseminated mean 1 in a million shots happen a couple times a day.
posted by Mitheral at 12:47 PM on May 1, 2018


Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The: "Cabral has refused to release the RAW file for this image, nor can he provide any others."

The Petapixel article says: Cabral did provide the contest with the actual RAW file of the photo containing the anteater, so the judges had long ruled out photo-manipulation. “The recent Wildlife Photographer of the Year disqualification was not due to the image being ‘photoshopped in’,” an NHM spokesperson tells PetaPixel. “Digital manipulation had nothing to do with the disqualification and the RAW file of the entry was examined for excessive manipulation and cleared during judging in April 2017 […] The rigorous examination of RAW files for excessive editing is a key element of the WPY judging process.”
posted by Mitheral at 1:36 PM on May 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


Another approach to this would be examining extant photos (if there are any) of the stuffed one in its display which bracket the date of the photo in the wild, because it would seem almost impossible to get the stuffed one back in exactly the position it was in after you took it on an excursion, maybe even moved a limb or something, and then brought it back.
posted by jamjam at 1:46 PM on May 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


I was just surprised it won tbh. Like it shows something cool but in terms of composition and colours etc I really wasn't crazy about it.

The anteater is rotated in his photo compared to the other one hence the differences.
posted by smoke at 2:12 PM on May 1, 2018


Ah, my bad. I was going off a report I read a couple days ago on another site which said he hadn't released his RAWs. I was misinformed.

Still, I feel like the lack of ghost images in the RAW is evidence that he probably cheated. (If there were ghosts, that would be strong evidence that the anteater was moving and we'd have heard about it.) They would be obvious if present and a grazing anteater is going to make a lot of small, slow movements while it's eating which are precisely the type of thing that's most likely to show up as a ghost in an image like this.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:59 PM on May 1, 2018


I think the "shows something cool" aspect is why it won, yeah. Like, it's a pretty crazy photo to be able to get, if he had got it. A lot of the best wildlife photography isn't necessarily great art, I mean even on ultra-high-end productions like the BBC's Earth series the producers are happy to get basically any kind of grainy, black-and-white footage of an unusual animal doing an interesting thing at night. An anteater raiding a mound full of glow-in-the-dark bugs is the kind of thing almost nobody ever sees in real life, so to get a decent photo of it would be awesome.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:05 PM on May 1, 2018


I believe that there is no way that a live anteater just happened to pose in a way that is 99% identical to a stuffed one located a short distance away. The small differences are simply due to the re-positioning of the stuffed animal, and the camera angle.
posted by trialex at 6:40 PM on May 1, 2018 [3 favorites]


Cabral has refused to release the RAW file for this image, nor can he provide any others.

There is no Cabral.
posted by flabdablet at 11:06 PM on May 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


I agree with pracowity, it's really aard to tell.

Except that the experts say it looks like a fake. I know, it's probably aard to tell for sure, but he sure looks guilty.

I see what you did there..?
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 12:00 AM on May 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


I see what you did there..?

You're varking up the wrong tree, it was an honest typo.
posted by Index Librorum Prohibitorum at 6:56 PM on May 2, 2018 [3 favorites]


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