Tri-City photographer Clements says alterations can be spotted

A professional photographer may be able to readily tell if a photo has been manipulated, but there are some easy clues for lesser trained eyes to detect digital alteration in a nature or wildlife photograph.

"There are little keys. One is to look at the primary light source in the photo, then at the foreground. Are the light sources matching?" said acclaimed Tri-Cities photographer John Clement.

Another giveaway: If the moon in the background of a twilight or night-time photograph looks "excessively large," the image may have been manipulated.

And when viewing a wildlife photo, such as that of a deer or elk, Clement advises scrutinizing its eyes. If there is a bright highlight to the eyes and a clear blue sky behind the animal, the scene also likely was digitally manipulated.

Certain scenes also can be suspect, such as that of a deer or elk with a massive rack standing on a ridgeline at sunset, perfectly framed and in seemingly ideal light conditions. Chances of a photographer being in exactly the right place and time to capture a photo like that are slim, Clement said.

Clement has received more than 55 regional, national and international awards for his pictorial and commercial work.

Nine of his prints are in the Professional Photographers of America permanent loan collection, and one, Red Dawn, was named one of the top photographs in the United States and hung in the permanent collection of the International Hall of Fame of Photography, according to Clements' Web site.

Clement doesn't manipulate photos very often, but he doesn't begrudge others who do.

"There are absolute purists, like my daughter (Colleen)," he said. "She likes to do everything with film. She wants (to capture) things exactly as they are."

Clement is renowned for his landscape photos of Eastern Washington, particularly Rattlesnake Mountain.

His scenic photos are compelling in part because he knows where and when to set up his tripod.

"I'm out waiting for the right kind of light, the right situation," Clement said. "I know where to set up from my past experiences and the many places I have been to, so I can be assured of an image."