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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Two: Travel Incongruities > Dog bed, Bering Island, Russia, 2002
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Dog bed, Bering Island, Russia, 2002

Bering Island, adrift in the vast Bering Sea, is one of the most remote islands on earth. There are no roads. Ancient military vehicles often provide the transportation, and for this particular dog, a place to curl up and sleep. I incongruously juxtaposed this fuzzy Russian dog with its bed of unforgiving steel.

Canon PowerShot G2
1/250s f/4.0 at 12.5mm full exif

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Phil Douglis01-Jun-2005 05:10
Hi, Jing, Thanks for the link. I think Rod is talking about using the channel mixer here, right? That's what I do in my own black and white conversions.
JingJing 01-Jun-2005 04:04
This is all very interesting about filtration and BW conversion. Here is some info just recent too and how it can be used to control light. This is good example to use filter to create dramatic mood effect, I think so at least:
Phil Douglis23-May-2005 02:28
Thanks, Rod, for posting all of this information. My friend Tim May ( ) taught me how to use the channel mixer when we were shooting in Laos together. It is very simple and intuitive. You just go to the Layers Palette in Photoshop, click on the little Adjustment Layer symbol (half black and half white), and then click on Channel Mixer. I check the box where it says Monochrome and the picture turns black and white. I then slide the color channel sliders until I get the effect I want. I see now, from what you say, that I am simply playing with filtration effects. It really makes the subject "pop" and is far more effective than "de-saturating" a color picture or using the "grayscale" mode as I used to do. I always shoot in color, never in black and white, and then can go either way in Photoshop. Thanks for clarifying all of this for me, Rod. I repeat it here, because others might find it useful knowledge.
Guest 22-May-2005 23:22
Hmmm I think Fred makes both PC and Mac versions. But to save some $, you can just try the channel mixer, Ithink you will be surprised with the results. I discovered that monochrome option there, and playing with the filters by accident hahaha. and it will save $25 :)
Guest 22-May-2005 23:18
Hi Phil. Yes to Camera lens filter, and yes to photoshop filter hahaha. Basically there are colored filteres (Red, Green, Yellow, etc) which can be applied to the front of a lens to get more dramatic effect when shooting black and white film. Ex: utilizing a red filter with black and white film will dramatically make the sky darker, with clouds poping (sort of same effect as a polarizer with color film). Green filters are quite often used when shooting black and white film and landscapes (makes trees, leaves, and grass pop). Tiffen (because they happen to be the ones I used to use) makes a ton of them. they have been around even before Ansel's time.

Some digital cameras, such as Canon 20D has several BW modes: standard BW, and BW modes with colored filters, to similate the effect of BW with that particular filter.

The Fred Miranda filters (can be found under software at converts a color photo to BW, but gives the opption of applying colored filters to the BW image, to similate it's use as if it was on the lens. Additionally that plug-in gives maybe 200 duotones, 50 tritones, similates film grain (like ilford) etc. It's pretty cool.

Of course, one does not need to buy a plug in to do this. Converting in PS using channel mixer will give you the same capability (where you first set to "monochrome" then move the red, green, and blue sliders back and forth. more red similate red filter, more green similates green, blue and gree similiates yellow, you get the idea).

If you want I can download this photo, and make several BW versions of it so you can see how each looks-- not that they will be better than your color image, but just to see what they look like. I'm pretty sure converting to BW and using a red or orange filter will make that doggy really stand out from the rest of the photo just as he does here in color.
Phil Douglis22-May-2005 18:01
Hi, Rod, and thanks so much for this suggestion. I am not sure what you mean by choosing the proper filter? Are you talking about filters for the camera itself? Or do you apply filters in post processing that are already in Photoshop? Or do we have to buy them elsewhere and add them to Photoshop as plugins? What is a Fred Miranda Conversion? How do you get it? How do you work it? Will it work on Macs as well as PC's? I am not as experienced in this kind of digital technology as you are, so please explain a bit more about this stuff to us so that not only I can benefit from your technical knowledge but also my readers. Many thanks, Rod.
Guest 22-May-2005 11:01
Very interesting comments on BW vs. Color. When one converts to BW, you must remember you have choices of BW filters. A normal coversion, and yes the dog and engine merge into the same tones. But, if you apply a red filter to it (which is done easily digitally, especially with tools like Fred Miranda BW coversion) then the dog pops out of the scene, from the engine. I also tried using orange, and yellow BW filters. Orange gives the most dramtic effect, as you can understand.

I guess my point is when converting to BW, choosing the proper filter is as important a part of the converstion as BW itself. maybe with Red or orange your opinion will change (based onthe reasons you gave).
Phil Douglis10-Jan-2005 05:54
Thanks, River King, for this comment. I welcome your views on black and white. My own roots in photography go back to black and white photojournalism, so I have deep and abiding love for it. However as a travel photographer, I find that color more often than not lends a sense of presence, reality and meaning to a travel image that would be lost in black and white. Although my entire approach to expression is based largely on abstraction -- and black and white photography is certainly a medium of abstraction -- i find that there are plenty of ways to abstract my image and still use color to help define meaning. Such as I did in this image. Thanks for expressing your pleasure in it.

I also agree with what you say about using your feelings to choose your medium. I, too, am now strictly a digital photographer and I shoot everything I do in color, yet there are times where I feel converting an image to black and white will express an idea with greater simplicity and meaning, such as in my shot of Xian's Terra Cotta Warriors at:

And I also agree with you about rules and techniques being used to enhance our vision, never to limit it. In the end, all techniques are really nothing more than tools. And all rules are actually nothing more than guidelines. Both must serve meaning, and never obscure it.
Guest 10-Jan-2005 05:03
Hi, Phil, I just converted the picture to B&W and I very much agreed with you, that the dog and machine blend into the the same gray tone, in a way it becomes much less effective as it is in the color. I really like the composition of this picture. The dog is the main subject but it's not big in size. What really brought dog to reader's eyes is the color of the dog. This composition is great, especially for color photo. I didn't mean to say this picture would be better in color. I just thought the subjects can make a good B&W photo. If I could take it in B&W, most likely I would change the composition.

I don't identify myself as color photographer nor B&W photographer. I choose the medium by my feelings. My digital camera can only shoot in color, but many times I compose the photo in a mind that later I would be able to convert them to B&W.

You are very right about how we choose the medium. There are rules and techniques in photography, but they should be used to enhance our vision but not to limit it. Our feeling and vision should lead rules and techniques; but if we let rules and techniques guide our vision, then we are losing something very special about the art: freedom.

This particular picture is the best in color, and again, the composition of this picture is great, and I enjoy it very much.
Phil Douglis09-Jan-2005 20:04
Thanks for this suggestion, River King. I have converted this picture to black and white for comparison, and it expresses its meaning in a completely different way. In color, the dog presents a vivid contrast to the tank. For me, its reddish coat symbolizes life resting upon a bed of death. Even though the vehicle offers it a warm bed, it is a hard bed, designed as a killling machine. When I turned into black and white, the dog and machine blend into tones of gray. The symbolism is still there, but it is much more subtle now. So what you have suggested here is a way to make discovery of meaning come with less immediacy, but when it does come through, its effect will be every bit as profound.

Both versions are equally effective - they just speak to us in a different tone of voice. I prefer the color version because of its immediate impact, but I recognize the subtle value of the black and white version as well.

Your suggestion teaches us much, River King. 1. As a medium of abstraction, black and white photos can often speak more softly and mysteriously than color. They seem less real, and thereby offer more room for the imagination to explore them. On the other hand, black and white can often mute the immediacy of a color original -- softening its impact and power and making its meaning less obvious.

Your suggestion also illuminates a important principle: If we are choosing between using a B&W or color image, we must choose on the basis of how each medium expresses its meaning. We should never choose on the basis of form or "looks" alone. A lot of photographers on pbase are using black and white just because it looks "different" or more artful. That can be a huge mistake. We should choose our medium of expression based on how each best conveys the meaning we are trying to convey.

Thank you, River King, for making this suggestion. I will keep this image in color because it best fulfills my own purposes. However your suggestion offers us an extremely valuable learning suggestion. I would suggest you download this image and make your own conversion, and then compare the two side by side, and you will see this lesson demonstrated loudly and clearly.
Guest 09-Jan-2005 07:46
Phil, I feel this could be a great B&W photo subject. Wonderfing what it would look like in B&W. Nowadays when I shoot a photo, oftentime I keep in mind that some scenes would be the best in B&W and I go home to conver it to B&W since I use a digital camera. This picture really reminds me about B&W.
Phil Douglis06-Jan-2005 23:11
Thanks, Simon. Poignant is a good word for this the nature of this message. As you can see, there have been many interpretations. Glad you find it, and this gallery, of value and thanks for the comment.
Guest 06-Jan-2005 13:16
The whole gallery is great but somehow I found this one the most poignant.
Great shot.
Phil Douglis23-Dec-2004 20:53
You have interpreted this image very much as I have, Mikel. The incongruity of a killing machine giving warmth to a a vulnerable animal on a bed of murderous steel does give us pause for thought.
Guest 23-Dec-2004 17:45
Well, supose that the motor was warm and so the dog was nice an confortable there. Anyway, it is also a kind of a social incongruity. You see some cold steel military oruga of the snows that has been designd to kill or help killing and then you see a very kind and human part in it that is the dog almost the personalized innocence and vulnerability at the same time.
Phil Douglis02-Dec-2004 04:19
You say it all here, Clara. And you are the first to see this dog as a metaphor for all of us.
Guest 01-Dec-2004 23:58
the dog is oblivious to the meaning of its seat. that's life. we all don't know where we are seated. life goes on. weapons of war die too. a dog curls comfortably.
Phil Douglis06-Nov-2004 19:29
Expressive photography is a universal language, Nut. It bridges cultures and overcomes language barriers. I might write my explanations and my comments in the English language, which is the only language I read and write. But I can also speak to you photographically, and judging from your comments, my images can also express my ideas and feelings to you -- as well as your brother!
nut 06-Nov-2004 07:32
Well, all below are what I got from your photo. That's what I saw here based on my own
personal background without knowledge of histories over here. A word once files everywhere.
In my country, some Thais don't know how to read, write or speak English. One of them is my
brother, he doesn't understand very well in English. If I show this to him with all English
description, he might walk away. But if I show him this photo and question him about his idea
about this photo. He will take a look and tell me all what he think about this.

Words can spread out all this world, but photo can spread out inside human thought.
Phil Douglis05-Nov-2004 19:47
I am delighted this image has caused such philosophical musings as you express here, Nut. I won't argue with any of it. All I can say is that people can read whatever they want to read into my photographs. If they can stimulate any thoughts, or stir the imagination in any way, they are doing their job.
nut 05-Nov-2004 09:57
Feeling incongruity. This photo told me the different between object and a matter of life.
Only human can say that this dog is innocent. I don't think this dog doesn't know anything
about this military vehicles. And this vehicles is an object to me. Only human can move
this. It won't move by itself. I have nothing to do with this vehicles and I won't call
it as killer machine too.

If I am a dog, I do believe that I won't feel afraid on this. But if a dog can drive this
vehicles and kill my family or my friends. Then I will call that dog as a killer but not
for this vehicles. Only human can put feeling into this object. Without human feeling
inside, it's just a thing. Can't hurt anyone.
Phil Douglis02-Jun-2004 20:12
I agree with your sentiments, Dirk. A fuzzy dog such as this one represents innocence. Military hardware is, in essence, machinery made for killing. Strange bedfellows, indeed.
Guest 02-Jun-2004 14:40
Touching image! And a clever dog! I prefer the way he use these horrible machines then what they where intended for. I love the warm characters of man's best friend so much and wished that more humans would have their characters.
With kind regards,
Phil Douglis05-Dec-2003 22:15
Thanks, Cecilia, for your remarkable comment. You should write photographic criticism for a living! You are correct -- I deliberately moved in to simplify the picture and abstract the armored vehicle to make it appear more massive than it actually was. And I did try to contrast the soft, furry dog against the rather unforgiving bed of steel. However I did consciously plan the third incongruity you have pointed out -- the ironic life vs. death allegory. You have made a wonderful point -- irony and incongruity often go hand in hand. And in this case, it was one of those ironies that becomes evident well after the fact. Thanks, Cecilia, for offering these valuable comments -- they come by way of a Malaysian designer to an American photographer about a Russian dog on a Siberian island. The world is a small place, indeed!

Cecilia Lim 05-Dec-2003 20:35
Phil , I think this image is a fine example of using incongruity to evoke an emotion in the viewer. ( I too felt the pang. ) It seems so improbable that a dog could ever sought comfort and refuge in a military killing machine, but this one does! This dog appears so isolated, displaced and deprived of a warm, comfortable place to rest that we can only feel sympathy for it.

This really is a great piece of work Phil. This deceivingly simple image is actually rather complex in that it has several incongruous ideas working together that make your statement even more powerful: -

First, you show us the contrast between the soft, furry dog against the cold, hard steel.

Then the incongruity in size: You use scale to illustrate how small the dog is compared to his "bed". You achieve this by composing your picture carefully so that the tank mainly fills up the image and the dog appears only in a small corner of it. I also notice that by zooming in, you've made the tank spill over the edge of your frame hence suggesting the tank's massiveness and power in contrast to the tiny, curled-up dog.

And you show us most succinctly, the irony of life versus death - a dog seeking to survive on a machine built to kill.

This photo with all its incongruities has shocked, provoked and touched me. What a truly wonderful piece of photojournalism! Great work Phil!
Phil Douglis28-Nov-2003 02:20
I never saw that TV program, Marek, but I get your point. Animals can be warm and fuzzy, innocent and forgiving. Wars are not.
Guest 27-Nov-2003 22:45
It reminds me of the childhood TV programme, about the "Four tank men and a dog". Why do animals 'humanise' war? Go figure...
Bailey Zimmerman28-Sep-2003 18:09
Whew...I'll rest better...knowing the pup is warm!!
Phil Douglis28-Sep-2003 03:55
BZ -- if you were out there on Bering Island with us, you would have been surprised to learn that this bed of steel was not as entirely unforgiving as I said it was. While hardly as soft as the rumpled bed that you pictured at Venice's Marconi Hotel, this truck actually offered the only warm place for a dog to sleep. The guard used the cab of that old armored truck as a shelter from the bitter, damp winds, and he kept its engine running. This dog knew what he was doing!
Bailey Zimmerman28-Sep-2003 02:54
As I zeroed in on the dog....I felt a pang....a creature seeking comfort on 'cold' steel....remembering the days when the machine offered warmth?
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