Peter Lik | MASTER of the Mooniverse
Peter Lik | Master of the Mooniverse
Around 4.5 billion years ago, a Mars sized celestial body named Theia slammed into a molten Earth, nearly destroying the planet that gave us all life. The debris created by this cataclysmic event formed a new Earth and along with it our Moon, which has fascinated humans since our first steps across this planet we call home.
In 1959, a man was born in Melbourne, Australia with gifts seemingly granted to him by the gods themselves, appearing to have the power to control the moon, the stars and to shift time and space, effortlessly blending the dark of night with the setting sun. This is the Legend of Peter Lik, the Master of the Mooniverse.
How Mortals Photograph The Moon
Digital camera technology has provided mortal photographers with the ability to photograph the moon in a number of ways. using various lenses, from wide angle to telephoto. You can even achieve somewhat surprising results with a smartphone, as long as you stabilize that shiny new iPhone 15 pro on a tripod, your friends shoulder or the hood of your Honda Civic with all those awesome stickers in the back window.
However, if you are Peter Lik, you do what the @%$@ you want! You aren't controlled by the silly laws of gravity, the limitations of camera technology or atmospheric conditions, you are a God among men and the moon and stars bow down to your greatness.
Peter Lik Moons
Peter Lik has "photographed" the moon many times achieving mythical feats in the process. He has bestowed names on these miracles of time and space such as Moonlit Dreams and Bella Luna. What is even more astounding is the fact that he was able to "capture" the same full moon, in the exact same position, in two separate places on two different days! Amazing!
The photographs above are cropped versions of Moonlit Dreams, (left) and Bella Luna (right) both by photographer Peter Lik.
Other Peter Lik Moon Photography
Peter Lik clearly has a fascination with photoshopping moons. He has created a number of other moon photography images in recent years, most of which are equally unbelievable to the images that started it all. These images include Luna Pathway, The Perfect Storm, Moonlight Reflections, Lunar Veil and Night Shadow. In his defense he has published images with moons that are much closer to reality, or at least what reality would look like captured through the lens of a camera including "Dark Side of The Moon" and "Moon Over Montauk".
Controversies and Conspiracies of the Moon
On July 20th, 1969 the United States Apollo 11 was the first crewed mission to land on the moon. In 2018, Peter Lik released Moonlit Dreams. Both of these events are swirled with conspiracies and controversy pointed out by both intelligent educated men and women and some of the most questionable people on the internet.
In regards to Peter Lik's work, the controversy isn't that the moon is so visibly large, as this incredible video shows is possible to achieve, but that the exposure, depth of field, sharpness and atmospheric conditions are impossible to capture in a single frame. Then there's the silly little fact that the moon would have to actually be in our atmosphere to have clouds behind it. Other recent work titled "Zion Nights", showcases the milky way and the setting sun at the same time, another impossible twist of our natural world but just a mouse-click away for Master Photographer Peter Lik.
While photoshop is used by millions of photographers around the world to edit, enhance and in some cases completely destroy their photographs, Peter Lik and Lik USA largely claimed that these photos were real. Who would pay thousands of dollars for a computer generated image of the moon anyway? Apparently, lots of people due to the fact that more than one of the images in question adorn his best sellers page. Moonlit Dreams kicked off a barrage of impossible moon photos like the world has never seen from the self proclaimed god of photography.
Who Needs Science Anyway?
This is what Lik had to say about his image Moonlit Dreams about capturing the photograph (paraphrased):
"This shot has eluded me my entire photographic career. I searched for days to line up this classic tree with the moon. The golden sphere slowly rose in front of me. I pressed the shutter, a feeling I'll never forget. The moon, tree, and earth.
So what's the problem? How do we know this image is a fake, or what is known in the world of photography as a composite? Science, that's how. It is physically impossible to have the North Pole of the rising moon at the top, as shown in this photograph, for any picture taken in Kodachrome Basin, Utah. For it to be shown this way it would have to have been captured above the Arctic Circle.
There is no way, with current technology at least, to capture the moon with this level of sharpness at the altitude shown in the photograph. The combination of the optics and the atmospheric condition would leave you with a soft or even blurry photograph. If you would like to dig even deeper, Steve Cullen from FStoppers destroyed the hope of photography purists in his article a Tale of Two Moons.
Anyone educated about the moon itself, or a photographer of the celestial bodies above our planet knows without a doubt that this image is simply impossible. I have never been one to tell others how they should create their work whether their goal is realism, fantasy or something in between. That being said, the truth is usually an expectation I feel people deserve, especially when potentially shelling out big money for a "photograph" of a fantasy world.
Peter Lik | The Man With No Sleeves
Photographer Peter Lik, when measured by economic success at least, sits at the top of the hill of today's nature and landscape photographers, having claimed to have sold a half billion dollars in prints by 2015, as well as a single print titled Phantom for 6.5 million dollars. At the time, this would have been the most expensive photograph ever sold, however this sale has also been disputed by just about everyone in the art world and even by the New York Times. Today, the record for the most expensive photo ever sold belongs to Man Ray and his photograph Le Violon D'Ingres which sold at auction on May 14th, 2022 for an astounding 12.4 million dollars.
Despite the suspicious nature and controversy, there is no doubt that Peter Lik has enjoyed a lifetime of success in the world of photography, a true accomplishment for a man who wears a sleeveless jean jacket.
Photography, Photoshop and the Power of Ai
As a professional nature photographer myself, who makes a living from selling photographic prints, It would be a lie if I said I wasn't slightly annoyed with composite photographs on a personal level, as I understand the dedication, persistence and blind luck that are often required to capture a truly stunning nature photograph. For artists themselves, I have no doubt that a percentage of personal pride and the joy of photography itself is lost to those who choose to manipulate their images to this degree. They will make excuses, for themselves and others, but at the end of the day, they know the truth.
The recent strides in the world of Ai Technology are even more troublesome as many are using bits and pieces of others hard work to create images with nothing more that keystrokes and a mouse click. In its infancy now, I expect Ai Technology to continue to grow and the line between reality and fantasy to continue to be blurred in the world of photography. One day soon, an "artist" will be ale to "travel around the world" creating a portfolio of beautiful, engaging "photographs" of places they have never witnessed with their own eyes, while eating Cheetos in their underwear on their couch. There are millions of people in this world thrilled at the opportunity to hit the easy button and the question is, where will that leave art and true artists? Maybe Ai will enslave and destroy us before we find out. Maybe every photograph will eventually have a giant doulestuffed moon in it. Either way, it will be one hell of a ride.