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F4

Slate rockface detail, Wales. [Alamy image ref. B5M6K2]

Back in my days in mid-West Wales the general observation of the landscape and climate was wild, wet and windy. Of course there were many areas and days of beautiful and balmy views and conditions, but the latter were not as common as the former.

What did impress, though, was that no matter how harsh the conditions in that superb blend of coastal to mountainous country, here were always subjects to be found for a photographer. Taking the above image as an example; I was sitting in a small sheltered cove with my wife watching a storm abating over the Irish Sea… and on turning around to return to the car I noticed how the light was highlighting the rocky face that we had been sitting against. The rockface was curved from being cut and carved by man and nature over many years… so the natural light effects on the stone changed in the space of a few yards from being in deep shadow to glancing highlight… as shown here.

I shot several frames according to color and shape combinations (this was in the days of film so relatively restricted in number compared to today’s digital practice and output!) and later chose those which showed the most interesting abstract effect and with no impression of true scale – technical photographs of similar subjects would include a measuring stick or ruler as a reference.

I have to add that I didn’t think this image would ever be licensed commercially… but that just shows how wrong we can be or lacking in imagination (not to mention hope) at certain times with our creative output. How many similar images we include in our uploading to Alamy and other agencies is open to question… but in order to cover all bases we have to do just that – and if we don’t then someone else will… and possibly profit!

This image was licensed by Alamy for a Spanish language magazine under my “Nature” pseudonym, which includes subjects such as this geological detail as well as the obvious plant, animal, insect and sky-scape subjects amongst others.

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Sunset, Aberdovey, Wales. [Alamy image ref. AMM3BW]
When I was still shooting film and publishing “Camera & Darkroom” magazine in the UK – back in the last century… and it really does seem that long ago – it was ridiculously easy and cheap to process my own film. 

So I shot a crate-load of black-and-white negatives and color transparencies (my 35mm film cataloging system reached well over 10,000 rolls towards the end of that era) and frequently experimented with color filters on both types of film.

In fact I frequently became confused, when shooting quickly, as to which camera had what type of film stock being wound through. For much of my photographic career I’d used matching Nikon camera bodies, from Fs and then F2s to FMs, FEs and then F3s… with one body being chrome and the other black. 

But when the Nikon F4 came along… well, as Henry Ford would have put it, the choice was any color so long as it was black… hence the occasional confusion as to what I had held to my eye, and whether the visually exciting filtered effect was appropriate for the type of film.

Having said that experimentation, by definition, can work when you least expect it to… you just have to explore all the possible permutations, and note what you’ve done if you want to repeat it. With photography being a visual medium note-taking can sometimes be ignored… the effect being plain to see. However, it does help to record some basic exposure data if you want to learn how and why a visually interesting effect came out as it did.

Anyway, as I said, 35mm film (Fuji 100D loaded from bulk 30.5 meter rolls) and home-processing in E-6 chemistry bought in 5-litre packs was cheap. So with the fishing boat image above, a subject I must have photographed on at least a hundred different occasions – that frequent were my visits to the local Aberdovey sea front during a happy decade living in west Wales – I was using yellow, orange and then red filters on various lenses from the still current 20mm AF Nikkor to a very old manual 80-200mm Nikkor zoom probably dating from my F2 days.

Exposures were not so much bracketed for safety, but altered for intentional over and under exposure so that I had a range of shots showing moods from high-key to silhouette. Of my 33 examples of “Aberdovey + boat” on Alamy, 13 of the images are of this boat… and around half of those have had their mood changed with a selection of filters from warm Amber and cool Blue to the previously mentioned Yellow, Orange and Red. I think that whilst most photographers – myself included – regard the use of these types of filters for stock images on Alamy as rather passé (you don’t see many 1970s type of Cokin Tobacco T2 “graduated sky” shots either, thankfully). 

However, I scanned a representative selection of these “filtered” trannies with a Nikon 5000 Coolscan and, after the usual several hours of retouching all the grime and dust marks, I had them sail through Alamy’s QC without any problems… although I never imagined any of them would be looked at or even zoomed. 

So imagine my surprise at this orange filtered image being sold on the first day of business for 2011… being used in a UK monthly magazine with a print-run of up to 50,000, inside editorial spot size, under my “UK Scenes” pseudonym.

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