#22 – Careful composition from chaos

Roof timbers – house construction site [Alamy image ref. BNPFF7]

Following on from last week’s article it seems natural to refer to a typical photo which does sell easily from the same situation… namely progress photography on building sites. In that last blog posting I said, “My main problem has been to capture activity on sites where those engaged in work or inspection have been wearing any of the recognized safety equipment such as helmets, reflective jackets or overalls, protective footwear, goggles or other eye protection, ear defender, respiratory equipment or masks for protection against breathing-in dust, sprays or fumes.”However, if the main problem arises from workmen not wearing the correct safety equipment, then it follows that there should be no problem when not including people working! Which happens to be most of the time whenever I manage to get onto a site.Here it has to be stressed, that your own safety is paramount… in all probability you are trespassing whenever you enter a building site and will have no insurance coverage if you break through a temporary floor and then break a leg. I does not even help, legally, if you have permission “on the nod” from a foreman or client to access a site when work is not taking place… such as in the evening or at a weekend. All such sites are dangerous and should be treated as off limits at all times.

Having said that, I have visited a local building site here in France several times during the past nine months in order to record the building progress of a typical family bungalow. The owners and builders – whom I know in the local bar – have accompanied me within the building shell and allowed me complete access on the scaffolding boarding, but not into the unsecured roof spaces.

As a result I have around a hundred progress shots from this one site on Alamy illustrating many details from service piping poking through concrete foundations and breeze-block walls to roofing tiles and rainwater guttering. However, not that much of my output is “generic” because building materials and construction methods differ from country to country… and I suspect France is more different than most.

One detail that does appear to be similar to what I have seen, shot and sold previously in the UK is the roof truss. Perhaps the “Laws of Physics” have universally determined the shapes and sizes of roofing timbers – the A-Frame being a sturdy and stable form of construction for many hundreds of years from what I have seen in many old buildings – and this type of image has been a proven seller for me over the years in several publications both at home and abroad.

The main photo had to be taken on a particular weekend because I knew it was going to be covered with plastic insulating sheets and then laths and tiles the following week. But the weather had been poor – and I’m a “blue sky” photographer – so I waited and waited until a hole in the cloud cover appeared and the sun broke through to provide better contrast and some essential shadows.

House construction site [Alamy image ref. BNPFCM]

Normally I would hope for a cloudless sky when photographing building’s roofing details… yellow-blond pine timber against a rich azure blue sky always attracts a picture researcher’s eye and certainly looks better in repro than with a dull grey cloud background. But making do with the conditions I shot with a moderate wide-angle 24mm (35mm equivalent on full-frame) from all angles… concentrating on the graphic effect of the crossed diagonals and converging perspective of the A-frames.I shot many more images than is possible to show here… including patterns of shadows cast onto the concrete foundations and rich red-orange colored breeze-block walls. In a sense, it was like being a child in a toy shop… everywhere I looked there was another goody to be grabbed!

Sold by Alamy under my “Fabricate” pseudonym for use on a world-wide editorial website, secondary screen, 1/4 screen size on a 3-year license. I see more of these website/secondary screen sales popping up… and for far better fees than have been reported by others who have opted-in for the newspaper schemes. Having been a “stringer” in the ‘70s and ‘80s for papers such as the “London Evening Standard”, “Daily Express” and “Sunday Times”, I’ll be damned if I’ll see my images sold to these papers for peanuts when I know they can and will pay far greater fees when they need images.

1 comment
  1. Great read Ed. But, what puzzles me is why you and some other Alamy contributors) are set again the newspaper scheme? Surely an extra $30 an image is better than not having it at all?I have opted out of the Novel Use scheme, because I got fed up with seeing the $1 and $2 sales, but an extra zero on the figures is more appealing to me.The biggest problem I have with the newspaper scheme is not the fee but having to stay on top of reported sales – as some newspapers (like the Daily Mail) sometimes overlook the small task of reporting their use of an image to Alamy.

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