Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Is It Really That Big?

According to the World Wildlife Fund, a couple of Thai fishermen caught a 646-pound catfish back in 2005. The picture came round again in Yahoo News, attached to a story about a dam project that could endanger the giant catfish.

But that’s not what I’m writing about. I’m more interested in the picture itself. It uses the same technique we saw in the “Hogzilla” and "Monster Pig" pictures to make this fish look larger than it really is. It’s a perspective trick that works with photographs because your depth perception is fooled in flat images.

I’m not necessarily saying that the fish isn’t as big as it appears, mind you, but it may not be. The fishermen are posed behind the fish, and with the right composition of the photo, it’s impossible for us to know how far behind it they are. The farther back they’re posed, the more our perception of the fish’s size is inflated.

I’ve no doubt this is a very big fish, of course, but it wouldn’t be the first time a fish story got exaggerated a bit in the retelling.

Update: If the photographer wanted to clear up all doubts about the size of the fish in the picture, he should have one of the fishermen (or just his hand, or something) in front of the fish, so we could be sure that the men weren't posed well behind their catch.


Jake said...

I think the folds of the tarp in front of the fish testify to this photo being real, Tarps are made from pretty thick fabric and you don't get folds like that on a much smaller scale.

Of course, I could be wrong, what do I know about photoshop?

Lord Runolfr said...


I don't think this photo has been altered, it's just been composed so that the fish looks somewhat larger than it really is. Every part of the fishermen is behind the fish, so even though they've posed to look as if they're touching it, they could actually be a few feet behind it.

The folds in the tarp actually help disguise the distance, since they obscure clues could help us judge distance, like the placement of the right fisherman's foot compared to the fish's tail.

RioIriri said...

Yes, it's that big, and it's adorable! Here's the Nat'l Geographic article (with links to some photos, including where they made steaks of it--it died inadvertently, so they made use of the flesh):

Catfish are just astonishing, and in tropical locations, they grow to immense proportions. In zones where they have to experience winter, they don't get as big. My favorite giant cat is the redtail, found in the Amazon.