I have some precious memories hanging on my walls. One is a photo of my wife and daughter walking on the beach. When I took the shot, several other people appeared in the background, and a fish carcass interrupted the foreground. They are no longer there. In another case, my daughter took photos of flowers to create a gift for her mother. Even at age 8, she recognized the need to "fix" the flowers that were missing petals and had other irregularities. I obliged. Purists may argue that these are not reality. To quote my daughter, "Whatever!"
Been thinking about this a bit (yeah, it does happen occasionally... ;-)
I remember having the Time-Life Photography series book on Color. That had some examples of things like infra-red photography and solarisation (which reverses some of the colors in an image). Those results were just as outrageous as some of the photoshop stuff you see these days. I remember one where a guy had a silhoutte of his wife's head, combined with a skull x-ray, all in zany colors. I liked it.
You can argue that these were all manipulations of existing images rather than the creation of new ones, but it's a rather hair-splitting distinction. I somehow think that my - and maybe Brian's, though I cannot speak for him - dislike of photoshop stems mainly from the fact that we're getting old? Photography has moved on. And like the old photographic techniques, it's possible to overuse some of the features of photoshop.
It's much like wine. You know what you like and what you don't, and you stick to what you like, even though someone else might hate it.
There's a fine line between "art that incorporates photographic elements" but is not true photography, and merely "enhanced" photographs.
Some are clearly on one side -- like David's examples of fictitious animals -- and others are clearly on the other side -- cropping, contrast or brightness enhancements to a genuine photograph.
But what about airbrushing to make a model look better than she looks to the naked eye? Or David's example of adding the moon to an evening landscape -- something that could have been there had the photo been shot on a different night? Or one of my favorites, color replacement, which can make a natural scene look surreal, but still very much a photograph with no added or missing elements?
I think there's room for all of these, and I'm glad that Adobe and others keep advancing the capabilities of these tools and algorithms so that we can all enjoy stunning images -- real, almost real, or mostly artificial.
But I'm with you on this point Brian -- Photoshop is getting so complex, it is hard to master without a large investment of time, effort and experimentation.
I'd agree with Brian. Lightening or darkening of all or part of the picture is photography, so is cropping, maybe even putting a moon in a landscape. But making dogs with wings or birds with cat's heads is photoshopping. I do marvel at the the technical competence of some of these guys but the results don't merit more than a few seconds' attention. But you can look at Ansel Adams' work all day.
I agree that Ansel Adams used dithering and similar techniques to control exposure. This I consider manipulation to adjust for the limitations of the technology as compared to the eye. He did not change the fundamental aspects of the landscape he was photographing, he did not move a mountain to make the shot better, he did not hide elements of the picture...
I know I have a narrow view of what photography is. I do not claim that what others do is not good art, or that it incorporates photographic elements, but I do not believe it is photography.
So you don't consider Ansel Adams a photographer, and think his images are not photographs? While Mr. Adams didn't use any digital tools for manipulating the light captured, he certainly felt the process of photography included post capture darkroom manipulation (see his The Print title).
Your definition of photographers and photograph is much too narrowly applied to an assertion of 'truthful' imagery, IMO.