David Byrne had his title of Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year stripped after his images were shown to be edited beyond the rules of the competition
Earlier in 2012, photographer David Byrne was awarded the title Landscape Photographer of the Year by the organization Take a View, but it has since come out that the shots that Byrne took were so heavily edited — and potentially even plagiarized — that the title has been stripped and awarded to another photographer.
The image that won Byrne the prize is above, and the takedown of the photographer has been widespread. A lot of it started with Alex Neil, who posted about how the winning photograph was heavily influenced by other work. The allegations of heavy handed editing started to pop up in discussion forums, and Tim Parkin did an analysis of how the light sources inside some of the photos were inconsistent. As debate spread, it became clear that Byrne was heavily editing/compositing the images. If you hit that Alex Neil link, and head to the section "Updated again!", there's a particularly damning animated GIF that shows just how heavily things were altered in another shot that Byrne entered.
Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with heavily editing an image like this — the images that Byrne created were quite breathtaking. However, what he did was in violation of the contest rules, forcing Take a View to strip his title and award it to someone else. This isn't about a debate on if editing should be allowed in photography, but that specifically Byrne broke the rules in this category of the competition. As the organization stated:
Following the recent announcement of the winners of the Landscape Photographer of the Year 2012 Awards, further investigation has confirmed that the image chosen as the overall winner is in breach of the rules for the Classic view category owing to the extent of the digital manipulation techniques used. Organisers, Take a view have regrettably disqualified David Byrne’s image of Lindisfarne Castle and can announce that Simon Butterworth is the new winner of this year’s competition.
Whilst digital manipulation is a valid part of an artistic process for many photographers and is encouraged in the ‘Your view’ category, the extent of the changes made was in breach of the ‘Classic view’ category.
For some reason, much of the discussion about this has devolved into arguing over what constitutes photography, and what doesn't. Which seems to miss the point — there's plenty of space for compositing and heavily edited work, and many people love it. In this case, it was against the rules of the competition, and was rightly disqualified. Remember, read the fine print for anything you submit your work to.