From the Archive

Bala 1980


1980 – Rhiwlas, Bala – I’d seen the shot before and asked the shepherds if they could create a perfect circle with the feed.

With me on slightly higher ground and the feed spread well I got what I wanted. Staged? Well perhaps, but it made for a good image. Any thoughts?

Filed under: Bala, Rhiwlas Project


  1. Nice shot, Tim. I have no problem with the shot being staged, as you say you got what you wanted. In fact most good shots are staged aren’t they? A landscape, a portrait, a still life…The only exception really is wildlife, as you can never predict exactly what is going to happen. At least with a prepared shot you can anticipate your settings, with a chance shot it can go drastically wrong. Sadly I know this from experience.

  2. Yes Joyce, in a sense as soon as we decide to take a photograph and frame it we are in the act of staging things. Wildlife too as well really. Down at the farm I prepare the backgrounds position the feeders and construct landing branches. The chance shot as you say remains perhaps the most spontaneous of all and for that reason the most difficult! I just wonder with documentary work whether it’s completely ethical to re-enact something you’ve seen and that has gone just to satisfy yourself, even if it’s something that genuinely did occur. Not sure, although I know it happens a lot! In news photography (photojournalism) it would definitely be frowned upon, the slippery slope and all that!

  3. The staging can be excused as you are showing people who could in no way be there something that is of interest and which they would not otherwise be able to see. The fact that it wasn’t photographed as it orignally happened is neither here nor there – you are showing your audience how things they cannot get to see happen. Yes News photography has to be shot as it happens but not something like this. I think it is a great shot.

  4. I think you’re probably right Marilyn in what you say. I certainly had no issues when I took it, but there’s still just a little in me that nags and says, but it’s not ‘real’ and I say real in the very broadest sense of the word, no image is real, photography is all an illusion, which is what make it so interesting. But should a documentary image have the same criteria as a news image? It’s certainly worth a debate! …. and when do they overlap?

  5. Hi Tim , I think it’s just a question of how much a shot is staged . They all are to some extent , even if it’s just the position of the camera to the subject, lighting etc . Otherwise you may as well leave the camera on a timer !!

  6. Hi Tim, to me it doesn’t seem to be too much of a crime but I can see the niggle with it, is the photo authentic? It’s a similar question to the one you spoke about, I think, when deleting a bit of a wader? from a photo a couple of years ago to improve the composition, should you start and where do you stop. Do we take it as an ‘honest’ representation of what was there? Do most people seeing the photo unconsiously rely on that honesty and would they question it? Are you giving them a false impression? And maybe after hours of talking about it we’d be no nearer a real answer.

  7. Think your both right, hours of debate, years of thinking about it, and still no real consensus. The line is probably simply too blurred and without the open honesty of the photographer would the question arise. Or, and here we go again! Is it a bit like drugs in athletics? – we’d like to think we were watching the real thing but we’re never actually sure! Thanks both!

    Just back from a week in Liverpool hanging the show ‘Ghosts of the Restless Shore’ – Private view link here:

    All welcome

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