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Cock Weathervane, France. [Alamy image ref. BJ1DJX]

I have many specialized groups of images on Alamy which were started as “collections” around thirty years ago when shooting general subjects which caught my eye and interest. Some of these collections grew rapidly if they were easy to find – bright red GPO post-boxes being an obvious example, with windows of all shapes and sizes, front doors, colored stripes, numbers, and chimneys being other typical examples.

Another of my growing collections which I started many years ago in the UK and which really took off in France are weather vanes… or “girouettes” as they are called on this side of the Channel. They come in all shapes and subjects – although tend to be roughly the same size so are easy to frame from ground level with a regular 200mm telephoto or the long end of a telephoto-zoom lens.

As with any subject there is always more than one way to photography it… I try to photograph each weather vane I find in full sunlight and then as a semi-silhouette to make their shape stand out more. Either way, I generally make sure there is a rich blue sky as a background. I think that grey skies are a killer when clients are looking at images… so much so that I rarely snap away with my camera unless there is an solid expanse of blue in the frame!

One potential problem I’ve found when photographing weather vanes in France is that the English directions of North, South, East and West become Nord, Sud, Est and Ouest… the “N”, “S” and “E” letters are common to both countries, but there is a problem with the “W” and “O” looking odd if prominent in the composition. The weather vane above was chosen by an Italian client so again their “Nord” and “Sud” corresponded with our North and South… but our East and West  would look odd in an Italian publication where “Oriental” and “Ovest” were the norm. However, the Italian publisher must have been aware of this and probably looked through my collection (and possibly those of others on Alamy) for a vane with only the “N” and “S” prominent.

There are many hundreds of individual weather vanes to choose from with several agencies I know of, and finding something with a unique aspect or even a little out of the ordinary is often difficult… so perhaps my example of a Cock with the chance addition of a Great Tit took the researches fancy with the real bird’s contrasting flash of bright yellow… although I doubt the “Cock and Tit” connotation has the same meaning when translated into Italian!

This image was licensed RM by Alamy for reproduction in an Italian textbook with a 5,000 print-run on a three-year license under my “Directions” pseudonym, which includes all general information signs, road directions and markings.

Cock and hen, France. [Alamy image ref. AR6NRN]

One of the few images from my collection on Alamy – now numbering close to 7,500 – that has stumped me for keywords, is the above. Maybe I didn’t think this early-morning, back-lit, farming image would ever be seen… let alone chosen for use because I’d encouraged the two characters to pose by placing pieces of bread on the grass at a nice frame-filling, pre-focused distance from my Nikon 70-200mm zoom.All I had to do was click the shutter every time these cute creatures stood still for a moment – if you’ve never tried photographing friendly fowl before, you won’t know how quickly their heads bob up and down and blur a high percentage of shots!

However, when it came to key-wording, all that came to mind for the “Essential” box was “cock, hen, poultry.” I had also written “Cock and hen – poultry” as the caption, as well as “farm, bird, birds, rooster,” in the additional keywords box… but that was it… probably my shortest set of keywords of all my images so far on Alamy.The result? This image sits 1st of 648 Rights Managed images (there are 985 including RF) with “cock, hen, poultry” as the keywords. Scratching around a bit more I found there are 1,821 images using “cock, hen” as keywords, and more than 27,000 images found using the single word “poultry”. Interestingly, when “poultry, hen, cock” (the original three search words but used in reverse order) are used in the keyword search, my image drops down from position #1 to 165, although the total number of RM images found stays the same at 648.

All of which makes me think that perhaps during 2011 I should start to look at my frequently excessively descriptive key-wording… and start to pare it all down to the basic essentials. I did a lot of kissing – with both men and women… as is normal here in France – over the New Year, so perhaps I should take the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) acronym to heart.

Used in a UK national newspaper with print run up to 5 million, inside spot size on a 1-day license under my “Farming Today” pseudonym.

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