Of the arguments thrown around in the great internet copyright wars, the one I find most frustrating is the claim that nature photographs shouldn't be copyrighted on account of involving little creative input. The logic is that photography captures real scenes, real scenes are like facts, and facts aren't copyrightable. The photographer, in this view, is just a recording device.

Yet that argument undersells photographers' creative options. Sure, we can all thoughtlessly point a camera at something and fire away in full auto mode. In fact, the top photo in this post is just that. With the camera in auto-focus and auto-exposure, the camera made the exposure decisions, and all I had to do was aim. But just because one image of a subject is slap-dash doesn't mean all photographs are.

Taking the lede photo as a default, we have a fine control for a small creativity experiment. Below, I explore 15 variations on the same flower. How much creativity is involved in a simple photo of a common flower? Judge for yourself.

(view larger images in gallery)