#23 – A bridge not too far…

Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, UK. [Alamy image ref. AP2RYJ]

A few days ago, in response to a question on the Alamy Forum entitled Street Photography, David Kilpatrick wrote the following which I had not really considered before…“Check Alamy against your landscape subjects. If there are no similar images, stick to RM. If Alamy if flooded with RM landscapes of the same scenes, but very few RF, maybe designate them RF (same would apply in reverse). And remember that most national parks, private lands, owned forests, etc can not be RF in theory as they include property.”

Which made me think about an unexpected RF (Royalty Free) sale of an image of Bradford-on-Avon I received in 2008. Of the 138 (relatively few in number) images of that beautiful English woollen town on Alamy, I counted 20 listed as RF, including all seven of my own shots. To those who have never visited that famous location, the view of the old lockup and one time chapel on the ancient stone multi-arch bridge across the river Avon, with the terraces of Georgian stone buildings spread out on the hilly background, has to be the definitive image of that famous West-country town. However, there are only seven out of 138 images of this un-missible view on Alamy, and of those seven (including three of mine) only one is a vertical shot (again mine). Can it be true that most photographers rarely turn their cameras through ninety degrees to see and take a completely different view? My goodness… when I was much more active as a freelancer, the vertical shot was almost the first one to look for because “magazine covers make more money” was literally engraved on one’s mind – although more likely written on a scrap of paper Cellotaped as an aide-memoire to the inside of the lid of one’s camera case!

But to retrace my steps a little… when I took my shots of that attractive town bridge back in the early 1980s it required an extra-wide-angle lens to get it all in from the restricted viewing point… and at that time there were only a few such lenses available for professional camera systems. I had been trying the Canon F1n system (only for about 12 months until an F1n body suffered internal breakages never experienced in the previous two decades of hard photography with my preferred Nikon F and F2 cameras) which included the Canon FD 17mm wide-angle lens. At f/4 wide open it was not very easy to focus, and the corner sharpness was not too good either, but it allowed me, then, to capture many extra-wide type shots which today are more commonplace with the proliferation of exotic, but less expensive, lenses such as the 10~24mm and 12~24mm zooms for Nikon for example… oh, and not forgetting the remarkable 8~16mm lens recently introduced by Sigma for a variety of DSLR camera fittings which has received very good reviews. These are exciting times for photographers!

But I digress… the advice from David is excellent and worth following if shooting new areas and worth rechecking on if you have old stock shots languishing in the “never zoomed probably doomed” category. My original decision to list most of my 1980s shots as RF on Alamy was more to do with the fact that they were all scanned 35mm trannies which had not only been home-processed, but sent to editorial offices through the post enclosed in slide sleeves more than a few times, handled by researchers probably sipping their morning coffee… and were therefore thought (rightly or wrongly) to be of lesser quality because of increased grain and noise as well as odd colour shifts, harsh contrast and heavy retouching of dust and camera film-gate tramlines (remember those?) compared to today’s clean digital files straight from the camera.

My surprise was to see the above image licensed by Alamy under my “UK Scenes” pseudonym in September 2008 as a 2 MB compressed Royalty-free image for a sales figure of $421.96 despite it having harsh contrast and a rather bleak winter feel. Even though I have no idea of it’s final use or uses, it did have ample space across the plain sky as well as on the deep shadowed foreground areas for titles and text overlays if needed for a magazine cover, book cover, poster or advertisement. Oddly, considering the normal viewing angle and attitude of our eyes, my horizontal / landscape format examples of this same scene have never sold or ever been zoomed!

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