Canon controversy: Photo alteration a no no – VnExpress International

More than 3,000 people responded to a fast photography challenge in Hanoi last week. The sole grand prize for the challenge, Canon Photomarathon Vietnam, was won by a photo taken by amateur Tran Huu Long, which was submitted under the “Hard Working” category.

On October 28, the awards ceremony showed Long’s winning picture, which had a dog meat sign (THIT CHO) in the background.

However, when this image was released and circulated in the media by Canon Vietnam, the word “CHO” (dog) at the top-right corner of the photo was replaced with “GA” (chicken).

The change triggered a debate over the ethics of “photoshopping” contest entries and plunged the competition into its worst controversy in the 13 years it has been held in the country.

Tran Huu Longs Grand Prize picture. Photo by Canon Vietnam official Facebook 

Tran Huu Long’s altered Grand Prize picture in the category, Hard-Working. Hard Working, Passion, and Vietnam’s Pride were the three subject categories in the competition. The contest, held in Hanoi and HCMC, welcomes submissions from all nationalities who are legal residents in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Canon Vietnam 

We did it

Canon Vietnam, one of the biggest Japanese investors in the country, admitted that they had edited the photo to avoid the social controversy that has been raging in Vietnam over dog meat consumption.

They said the photographer had consented to the alteration without infringing on the main value of the photo.

“Many readers, reporters and photographers, who have not read the information closely, are creating mixed reviews saying Canon has violated its own rules, based on their own judgments,” Canon Vietnam spokesperson Ly Tran told VnExpress International.

This newspaper also spoke with photographer Long and he confirmed Canon Vietnam’s statement.

“As a contestant, I read and agreed to all terms and conditions, including the one saying the organizing committee can edit my pictures when I enrolled the contest. I agree with their decision and motive behind changing the word in my photo,” Long said.

He said he was not a professional photographer, and photography was only his hobby.

“I was asked by many why I took that photo while eating dog is being boycotted in Vietnam, but I had to capture everything very fast so I didn’t pay attention to minor details… just focused on the main subject of the shot,” Long explained.

Photographer Hai Thanh, one of the judges of Canon Photomarathon 2018 in Hanoi, posted a public statement on his Facebook about the incident on October 31.

“I claim part of the responsibility in this unfortunate incident which has made the competition controversial and face harsh criticism. This should not have happened and I myself should have done better….”

Since November 1, the content of the post had been removed and can only be seen in edit history and screenshots of it in the comment section, while the accompanying photo and tagged people remain.

What the professionals say

Nguyen Tien Anh Tuan, a former Canon Marathon contestant and a journalist, said in a Facebook post that he did not intend to get involved in the debate initially, but felt compelled to do so after viewing the photos on Canon’s official page.

He did not specifically address Long’s photo but did not find staged shoots tasteful.

“To be honest, I do not discriminate against staged photos. Many genres like art, commercials, fashion … then it is natural to do [a setup]. I also know a lot of colleagues, friends, and seniors who produce photos in these fields which I still cherish. But perhaps staged photography should be limited to a certain extent and [the contest] should not accept unrealistic arrangements.”

Tuan also wondered if the judges and organizing committee had shared with the contestants what they should or should not do. It has to do with orientation, encouraging creativity and passion, how to apply simple to complex techniques… “telling them what is right, what should be done, what is wrong and should not be done,” he said.

Otherwise, contestants might just “emulate” previous years’ winning works, he added.

Nick Ut, the Pulitzer-winning “Napalm Girl” photographer, who is currently visiting Vietnam, told VnExpress International he strongly felt that using photoshop is something that should not be done.

“As a photojournalist, I don’t think using photoshop is a good idea. Sometimes we can crop a picture or change the lighting but altering details in the picture using photoshop is a no-no,” Nick Ut said.

He felt Canon Vietnam could just have not selected that photo in the first place, instead of editing it.

Catherine Karnow, a photojournalist well known for documenting Vietnam for nearly 30 years, said: “From a compositional point of view, the writing is distracting. Your eyes keep going to the red writing. The problem with the photograph is the red sign, which is completely irrelevant.

“If they were women eating in a restaurant, that would have been fine but this is not. It’s not that it’s a good or bad picture, but it’s flawed to a point where it shouldn’t be winning the grand prize because of that sign.”

Karnow told VnExpress International that there was a gray area where to which extend alteration of a picture is acceptable or not. “If you take a picture and a bird in it looks like dust, will you remove it?” 

The National Geographic photojournalist added that in photojournalism, there is an unbroken rule: you cannot alter elements in a picture, which are objects such as a hat, cat, person, brick, or so on.

However, in the context of this competition, photojournalism was not mentioned, so nobody broke any rule, she said.

Ly Tran of Canon underlined Article 21 in the terms and conditions of Canon Photomarathon 2018 competition, which states that the organizing committee has the right to copy, reproduce, use, display, modify, transmit, distribute and create derivative works of the materials. The competition rules are posted on the Canon Vietnam website.

“Canon values the photo highly and also respects the judges, the photographer, and the contestants. So when the results were published, the original work was screened at the award ceremony. Canon only uses the edited picture for media purposes and not for any other purpose,” Ly Tran said.

She also said that the original photo taken by Tran Huu Long will enter the next stage of the contest, Photomarathon Asia.

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Ben Sasso is a photographer and educator who currently lives in a van with his lady (as he says). His photographic work appeared in numerous international publications both printed and web media. During the past years, he managed to develop a rapidly growing fan based and photo community around different channels. Ben’s photographic work is mainly characterized by portraits captured in natural surroundings with the charming appearance of analog photography. A small selection of images can be found below. For more, please visit Ben Sasso’s website or follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

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Can You Take Selfies At Your Polling Place? Say Cheese… Maybe

Be honest: Election Day often starts out as a drag. It’s time-consuming. It’s held on a really inconvenient day. There’s the depressing thought that your vote might not work out in your favor… But once you walk into your polling place and cast your vote, you feel invigorated. Accomplished. And ready to celebrate, which, in 2018, means snapping a selfie of yourself and your ballot and uploading it on social media to serve the great news to your friends. But you probably don’t know if you can take selfies at your polling place, considering elections are government-regulated events and all, right? Well, it’s a good thing I’ve looked into the topic for you. Here’s what you need to know.

Frankly, taking selfies in polling places is really murky. According to the Associated Press, it all depends on what state you’re in. There are reportedly just 21 states (and the District of Columbia) that will allow you to flick it up at polling stations — Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.

By a show of hands, who’s disqualified? Yeah, me, too. But there might still be some options for you to capture the moment, which I’ll get into shortly.

Michael Gottschalk/Getty Images News/Getty Images

As for those who do live in states without laws banning ballot selfies, there are still some things you should keep in mind. Although they’re legal in Louisiana, some legislators are “not fond” of them, so if you happen to catch some side eyes on Election Day, that’s likely why. The same thing goes for Washington. Similarly, Minnesota also allows photos, but you can’t show them to other voters — no matter how cute your selfie might be. And in Utah, photographing other people’s ballots are illegal, so taking joint ballot selfie with a friend is a total no-go. To be totally safe, check out your state’s regulation on photography at the polls here.

On the other hand, there are 16 states where ballot selfies are explicitly illegal. According to the AP, they include Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Doing so could earn you a hefty money penalty or even jail time in states like Missouri and Illinois, so resist your camera phone trigger finger with all your might.

Stephen Maturen/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If you haven’t seen your state yet, well, it’s likely because selfie legality is still unclear there. Take Delaware, for example: Cell phones aren’t allowed in the voting booth, but it’s not strictly enforced. Or Ohio, where voters are restricted from showing others how they voted, but it’s unclear how selfies are handled. If this situation applies to you, it’d probably be in your best interest to avoiding taking photos altogether. But you’ll at least get an adorable “I Voted” sticker at your polling place that you can snap it up with thousands of times over!

It doesn’t get much better than that, and you’ll feel just as accomplished. Happy Election Day!

Google finally adds consumer customer support with Google One

You may recall my tale of woe from last year when I recounted how I was locked out of my Google account for a month. It was a tough time, made all the more frustrating because there wasn’t any customer support to contact. That is changing for Google One users though, and it’s about time.

I received an email this week from Google informing me that my paid Google storage had been upgraded to Google One, Google’s freshly designed storage options announced last May. It comes with twice the storage, giving me two terabytes for the same $9.99 per month I was paying for one. It allows me to share my generous storage allotment with my family members, but the thing that really caught my eye was actual customer support.

With Google One, which is available for as little as $1.99 per month for 100 gigs of storage, everyone has access to actual customer support where they can talk to someone, who can (presumably) help them with issues like password recovery.

Brandon Badger, who is Google One product manager, says this is a critical component of the new storage package. “Support is important to us, we want people using our products to have a great experience and get questions or issues addressed in a timely manner,” Badger told TechCrunch. He added that users with paid storage plans often use many other Google products and services and this provides a way for customers to get answers to problems they have across the Google cloud ecosystem.

Photo: Google

Obviously, this is long overdue and something that G Suite customers, the business side of Google’s tools, have had for some time. This ability to contact a customer service organization shows a maturation of consumer cloud products that had been missing previously.

As a journalist, when I got locked out I was forced to use my contacts at Google PR to give me that help. After many attempts I was able to get my account credentials back, but since I wrote that article I have received dozens of emails from other unfortunate souls who faced the same predicament, but lacked the connections I had. Unfortunately, as much as I could empathize with their plight (how could I not?), there wasn’t much I could do other than refer them to Google. I wrote about my level of frustration in my post:

Once you have gone through the recovery protocol, what is a person supposed to do to get Google’s attention? They don’t have customer service, yet I’m paying for storage. They don’t have a reasonable system for navigating this kind of problem and they don’t have a sensible appeals process.

While I hope I never get locked out of my Google account again, I’m happy to know that if I do, I and so many others like me at least have someone to contact about it. That’s no guarantee our problems will be resolved, of course, but it’s at least a path to getting something done that hadn’t previously existed.

Tencent is launching its own version of Snap Spectacles

Some were surprised to see Snap release a second version of its “face-camera” Spectacles gadget, since the original version failed to convert hype into sales.

But those lackluster sales — which dropped to as low as 42,000 per quarter — didn’t only fail to dissuade the U.S. social firm from making more specs, because now Tencent, the Chinese internet giant and Snap investor, has launched its own take on the genre.

Tencent this week unveiled its answer to the video-recording sunglasses, which, you’ll notice, bear a striking resemblance to Snap’s Spectacles.

Called the Weishi smartglasses, Tencent’s wearable camera sports a lens in the front corner that allows users to film from a first-person perspective. Thankfully, the Chinese gaming and social giant has not made the mistake of Snap’s first-generation Spectacles, which highlighted the camera with a conspicuous yellow ring.

Tencent, which is best known for operating China’s massively popular WeChat messenger, has been an investor in Snap for some time after backing it long before it went public. But, when others have criticized the company and its share price struggled, Tencent doubled down. It snapped up an additional 12 percent stake one year ago and it is said to have offered counsel to Snap CEO Evan Spiegel on product strategy. We don’t know, however, if the two sides’ discussions have ever covered Spectacles and thus inspired this new Tencent take on then.

The purpose behind Tencent’s new gadget is implicit in its name. Weishi, which means “micro videos” in Chinese, is also the name of the short-video sharing app that Tencent has been aggressively promoting in recent months to catch up with market dominators TikTok and Kuaishou .

TikTok, known as Douyin in China, is part of the entertainment ecosystem that Beijing-based ByteDance is building. ByteDance also runs the popular Chinese news aggregator Toutiao and is poised to overtake Uber as the world’s most-valued tech startup when it closes its mega $3 billion funding round.

Weishi’s other potential rival Kuaishou is, interestingly, backed by Tencent. Kuaishou launched its own video-taking sunglasses in July.

Alongside the smart sunglasses, Tencent has also rolled out a GoPro-like action camera that links to the Weishi app. Time will tell whether the gadgets will catch on and get more people to post on Weishi.

Snap Spectacles V1 (top) and V2

The spectacles will go on sale November 11, a date that coincides with Singles Day, the annual shopping spree run by Tencent’s close rival Alibaba. Tencent does not make the gadget itself and instead has teamed up with Shenzhen-based Tonot, a manufacturer that claims to make “trendy” video-taking glasses. Tonot has also worked with Japan’s Line chat app on camera glasses.

“There isn’t really a demand for video-recording glasses,” says Mi Zou, a Beijing-based entrepreneur working on an AI selfie app. That’s because smartglasses are “not offering that much more to consumers than smartphones do,” she argues. Plus, a lot of people on apps like Douyin and Kuaishou love to take selfies, a need that smartglasses fail to fulfill.

“Tencent will have to work on its marketing. It could perhaps learn a few things from the Apple Watch, which successfully touts a geeky product as a fashionable accessory,” suggests Mi, who points out Snap Spectacles’ so-far dim reception.

Weishi had not responded to TechCrunch’s request for comment at the time of writing, but we’ll update this story with an additional information should the company provide it.

Tesla subpoenaed by SEC over Model 3 production forecasts

Tesla said Friday in a regulatory filing that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice are investigating projections made last year about Model 3 production rates. The SEC has issued subpoenas for information related to Model 3 production estimates. The DOJ, which is running a separate investigation over Model 3 production targets, has stopped short of taking that action.

The information contained in Tesla’s 10Q filing backs up an October 26 article by The Wall Street Journal that reported the FBI was investigating whether the company misstated information about Model 3 production and misled investors. The FBI is the investigating arm of the DOJ.

Tesla issued a statement at the time of the article, acknowledging that it had received a voluntary request for documents from the Department of Justice about its public guidance for the Model 3 ramp. “We were cooperative in responding to it,” the statement issued last week said. “We have not received a subpoena, a request for testimony, or any other formal process, and there have been no additional document requests about this from the Department of Justice for months.”

This latest filing provides further confirmation and clarifies the extent of the investigations. It’s also the first time Tesla has said that the SEC has issued subpoenas to the company for information about the Model 3 production.

Here’s the whole nugget in the SEC filing:

We receive requests for information from regulators and governmental authorities, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the SEC, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and various state agencies. We routinely cooperate with such regulatory and governmental requests.

In particular, the SEC has issued subpoenas to Tesla in connection with (a) Mr. Musk’s prior statement that he was considering taking Tesla private and (b) certain projections that we made for Model 3 production rates during 2017 and other public statements relating to Model 3 production. The DOJ has also asked us to voluntarily provide it with information about each of these matters and is investigating. Aside from the settlement with the SEC relating to Mr. Musk’s statement that he was considering taking Tesla private, there have not been any developments in these matters that we deem to be material, and to our knowledge no government agency in any ongoing investigation has concluded that any wrongdoing occurred. As is our normal practice, we have been cooperating and will continue to cooperate with government authorities. We cannot predict the outcome or impact of any ongoing matters. Should the government decide to pursue an enforcement action, there exists the possibility of a material adverse impact on our business, results of operation, prospects, cash flows, and financial position.

We are also subject to various other legal proceedings and claims that arise from the normal course of business activities. If an unfavorable ruling or development were to occur, there exists the possibility of a material adverse impact on our business, results of operations, prospects, cash flows, financial position and brand.

This didn’t stop CEO Elon Musk from blasting the WSJ for the report during a lengthy podcast interview released Friday with Recode’s Kara Swisher.

“The amount of untruthful stuff that is written is unbelievable. Take that Wall Street Journal front-page article about, like, ‘The FBI is closing in.’ That is utterly false. That’s absurd. To print such a falsehood on the front page of a major newspaper is outrageous. Like, why are they even journalists? They’re terrible. Terrible people.”

Tesla recently reached a settlement with the SEC, which began with a now infamous “funding secured” tweet by Musk about taking the electric automaker private. A federal judge approved October 16 Musk’s settlement with the SEC over securities fraud allegations. The SEC alleged in a complaint filed in September that Musk lied when he tweeted on August 7 that he had “funding secured” for a private takeover of the company at $420 per share.