National Geographic Photo Accused of Being Photoshopped, Claims Milky Way Stars Were Cloned

National Geographic Photo Accused of Being Photoshopped, Claims Milky Way Stars Were Cloned

National Geographic is receiving criticism online after posting images of some of the world’s oldest trees under the stars. One of the photos featured within the gallery is being called fake, namely due to a number of the stars in the Milky Way appearing to have been cloned.

An article posted on April 26th to the Nat Geo website includes images by photographer Beth Moon. Featured, are some of the oldest trees in existence. The photos are part of a project titled Diamond Nights. The description reads as follows:

For Diamond Nights, Moon made the transition from film photography to digital capture. It’s a more light-sensitive technique, she says, and results in incredibly vivid images. Planning all her shoots around moonless nights, she wanted each tree to be primarily bathed in starlight, with additional glow from flashlights, for example, as necessary.

Because of the dark conditions, Moon set her camera on a slow shutter speed. This meant standing by for wind, and pausing during gusts. “With a 30-second exposure you don’t want the branches shaking,” she says. “So there was a lot of downtime.”

 The post was well-received on social media too, with the Facebook post acquiring over 23,000 likes. But one image, captioned “Baobab trees are silhouetted against the Milky Way galaxy in Botswana,” has been the subjective of much criticism.

Despite being presented as long exposures, it appears a portion of the image was cloned, so as to enhance the number of stars, and create a false Milky Way.

Neither National Geographic nor Moon have commented at the time of writing.

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44 Comments

Previous comments
Simon Patterson's picture

This statement isn't, though.

Jacques Cornell's picture

"National Geographic Photo Accused of Being Photoshopped, Claims Milky Way Stars Were Cloned"
Grammar tip for the headline writer: you're saying the PHOTO is claiming that Milky Way stars were cloned. The subject of the sentence - and both verbs ("accused" and "claims") - is "photo". Also, is anyone really accusing the photo? Aren't they accusing the photo's creator?
A grammatically correct (and shorter) construction:
"National Geographic Contributor Accused of Cloning Milky Way Stars"

Adriano Brigante's picture

Also, it's not really an accusation or a claim, it is a fact: This photo (and others by Moon) are heavily and badly photoshopped.

Jacques Cornell's picture

Nice of you to take on the legal liability that Fstoppers quite reasonably wanted to avoid.

Jonathan Brady's picture

I'm surprised that people will believe that someone at National Geographic should be an expert on the milky way. I don't have a clue how it looks. My guess is most people don't. Sure, in hindsight they could have spent more time authenticating it but if it was presented as genuine then I understand that they didn't spend the time to do so. it's not like you can print the picture and take it out at night time and hold it up to the real thing to make sure that it's the same.
Again, it's absolutely possible to verify the authenticity but it seemed to me that this was just a mistake yet people are ready to metaphorically burn down National Geographic.

Adriano Brigante's picture

What, nobody at Natgeo knows an astrophotographer or am amateur astronomer? I don't buy that. They're just lazy and didn't care.

Jonathan Brady's picture

Wow... Way to completely ignore what I said. Bravo!

user-206807's picture

We live in a fake world: fake news, fake food, fake photos, fake people…
Switch off the light please!

Laughing Cow, why does your original spreadable Swiss Cheese contain Sodium Polyphosphate? Why?

user-206807's picture

Swiss Cheese, me??
Don't make me laugh!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Laughing_Cow
For the rest, unfortunately it was not my choice :'(

Andy McIntosh's picture

"The entire cosmos doesn't look good enough in its natural state; here lemme move a few gajillion light years worth of stars around to make the universe better."

For me the distinction between legitimate "enhancement" and fakery is clear cut. Using digital techniques to reveal elements which are real and present, but not normally visible to the naked eye, is not crossing a line (though the techniques used should be disclosed nonetheless). Adding in that which only exists in the imagination of the photographer, and presented as reality, is unethical.

user-146450's picture

I shot the milky way this past weekend and to get the arch u have to either pano or use a very wide and a mean very wide lens to get it all in. Then everything in the four ground would be small. So i think u would have to composite (- may be wrong here). But that is my experience i dont mind composites but i think it needs to be pointed out it is one and i think this one as many have pointed out is awful. The milkway doesnt have 5 or 6 cores lol

Jeff Colburn's picture

The photo doesn't bother me at all. Who cares if more stars were added. If it makes the image look better, so be it. The photo wasn't taken for scientific research, but to be an attractive representation of the subject matter.

Have Fun,
Jeff