Every other weekday morning when I check my account on the Alamy website – to see if there have been any overnight sales or payments registered – I sometimes have a quick read of the current topics on the Alamy forum (for contributors to that stock image agency) to see what new market trends may be taking place or if someone needs a plant or vehicle image identifying, whatever… general interest stuff.
Often, there is talk about far-flung exotic locations, or where certain photographers are planning to travel to next in order to shoot “different” stock for their expanding portfolios of images. And it occurred to me that in the past five years in France I’ve basically been nowhere. OK, I’ve visited chateaux and villages in the region within, say, a maximum of an hour’s drive away from where I have always been based. And the odd thing is that those further locations I’ve visited have proven to be, despite their attractiveness and tourist appeal, have not been regular sellers. In fact, if I look at all my image sales for the past five years probably 80% were shot locally, or within walking or easy cycling distance from where I live, and of those more than half were shot in my study, kitchen, garden or out of my window onto the street… in other words “on my doorstep”.
There are a number of very successful photographers with Alamy – usually noticeable by their absence from the Forum – who, like me much of the time, shoot locally and rarely run out of subject matter requiring them to venture further afield. An example of this is the highly talented Keith Morris of Aberystwyth, a university and holidaymakers town on the Welsh coast, who is one of the top most successful news and stock photographers with Alamy. He achieves multiple sales daily by being on and in the local scene morning, noon and night… and if there is nothing going on he creates something by engaging with people, both locals and holidaymakers, by getting them to wave whilst they ride the on the dodgems, or dodging waves whilst they walk on the prom.
I’m not in Keith’s league (I’m also getting a bit too old for this game) but I do try to adopt his attitude of sourcing and shooting images locally with widespread potential usage. The above shot of caged rabbits – they were being bred for the farmer’s kitchen and dinner table – was taken in a neighbours allotment. A simple subject typifying rural life, not just here in France but in many other European countries… so much so that it was licensed yesterday for use in a Czechoslovakian monthly magazine under my “Farming Today” pseudonym. Again, a local shot of nothing exotic, but finding a use in a country on the other side of Europe.
, sweet corn
|Watering Maize, France. [Alamy image ref. AEF1PR]
This was my fourth image sale in my early days with Alamy and it was a bit of a surprise because the subject matter was not “impressive”- being an old Ford tractor and crop sprayer. With my submissions to Alamy I had been concentrating on more modern machinery for my “Farming Today” folio of images – thinking that potential picture buyers would always be looking for the most up-to-date subjects for illustrations. Not so! In fact there must be an enormous number of subjects which have missed being captured digitally since around 2000 and therefore are increasingly scarce to find unless careful scans have been made from previously taken film originals.
But, by chance I saw this farmer in a local field in the Indre-et-Loire département of France spraying his early Maize crop… although as it was a small field and he as towing a very large tank of liquid I think he was watering his crop rather than spraying it with fertiliser or pesticides. He was working further and further away from my roadside position so I had to use my old 300mm Nikkor to get reasonably tight framing. My 70-200mm would have been too wide even at the long end and my only other telephoto at the time – a 500mm f/8 Mirror lens – was unusable being too long, too slow and difficult to hand-hold and pan with a moving subject.
My suspicion about water rather than chemical spraying may have been influenced by the requirements for maize being 30-60 mm of rain and/or irrigation per week, with requirements for advanced sweet corn being increased to 80-90mm per week during hot weather… and it was a very hot summer. Also, the farmer was in an unenclosed tractor cab and at risk from spray residue with wind and working direction changes. However, the point I have made to myself is to ask farmers whenever possible and practicable what they are doing and why. I find the chatting is usually very friendly and entertaining… and it provides accurate caption and key-wording information!
Licensed RM by Alamy for use in a South African educational textbook for 1-year under my “Farming Today” pseudonym.
|Lamborghini tractor and roller [Alamy image ref: AE894P]
I was surprised to see an off-white tractor rolling across the mostly flat, farmed, French landscape which borders the “Thousand Lakes” area of the Indre département also known as La Brenne. Although there are around 1,200 lakes in that fairly small region, many are probably the size of English dew ponds so the impression created by the name is a slight letdown for those visitors expecting watery scenes to vie with those of, say, Sweden.
But back to the tractor… from afar I was expecting to see another marque; any marque apart from a Lamborghini – a name which ranks in the top echelon of Italian mid-engined high-performance sports car makers and engine suppliers for Class 1 World Offshore Powerboat racing. In fact Lamborghini tractors were manufactured during the Second World war, more than 20 years before their first supercar was launched. And typical of current Lamborghini advertising, they state, “Professionals choose Lamborghini tractors for two basic reasons: its advanced technology and the good looks assured by its elegant and exclusive styling. Whether you’re guided by rational or emotional considerations, in the end it makes little difference!” Note: The Lamborghini I photographed was certainly not very beautiful so must have been a model from the ’80-90s.
Although tractors working farmland travel fairly slowly, there is a common problem when photographing them in the Summer of raised dust, plus a more interesting phenomenon – heat convection, or atmospheric shimmer seen when very warm, dry air rises off the land. Obviously the further away the tractor is and the longer the telephoto lens the greater the distortion that may be visible in front of the subject… but as the tractor approaches the air will be clearer with definition improved.
I used a 70~200mm f/2.8 Nikkor telephoto zoom for a small series of shots, turning the zoom ring as the tractor approached to keep it fairly fully framed in the viewfinder… this selected image being taken at around the 130mm mark. Although that more recent Nikkor lens has “VR” (Vibration Reduction) built-in, I hardly ever used it in action – preferring a Gitzo Basalt Monopod for steady support with moving subjects.
The image was licensed for a 1-year period, surprisingly (and a first for me), to a Japanese TV company for use during a regular show, presumably as part of a studio backdrop montage for an agricultural, news or discussion program. I can only guess what a photo caption for the tractor may include… “Italian Job” or “French Connection” perhaps?