La Haute Touche, Indre, France [Alamy image ref. B4NAHM]

The animal and nature reserve of La Haute Touche is the largest zoo in France. Located in a 500 hectares forest in the Brenne National park in the Indre département (36), it has over a hundred hectares open to the public and is the home to more than a thousand animals with more than one hundred species from five continents. The park is only 15 minutes from where I live and provides a very reasonable 8€ (5€ OAP and children) value-for-money for a day’s education and enjoyment.

This zoo is not like the average commercial zoo with cages and aquariums… it is quite different being very open, tranquil, natural and non-commercial (although there obviously has to be a restaurant and café for refreshments). La Haute Touche is more about seeing and experiencing animals in a much more natural environment than behind strong iron bars and thick glass.

I didn’t know it before I took this particular shot only a couple of minutes past the entry point on my first visit, but the safari park at La Haute Touche is reputed to have the world’s most beautiful collection of wild deer which freely roam the forest mingling with many other species. Within the reserve there are 75 species of mammals and 31 species of birds, and most can be seen on by walking or by bicycle… the latter a very good idea (and they are for hire) because of the wide area of habitat that may eventually be covered by the curious animal and nature lover.

The vast size of  the park, allows the animals to be housed and presented in roomy enclosures (some of up to 2 or 3 hectares each), and their environment means that they can thrive in what are near natural conditions for African animals of the savannah such as Hyenas, Leopards, Antelopes and Giraffes.

From my first visit to the zoo – and I only saw, at most, ten percent of the animals and birds, I saved twenty-five images as suitable for stock… which is more than I normally achieve in a half-day shooting sortie. For a specialist “nature” photographer much more is obviously achievable… but for me, not knowing one deer from another (unless it was pulling Santa’s sleigh) I got enough shots to satisfy a general coverage. However, having edited my shoot I can see many gaps which will be filled during my next trip to La Haute Touche.

The Image was licensed by Alamy for use in a retail textbook with a 10,000 print-run for Worldwide distribution for a 12-month period under my “Nature” pseudonym.

Roadside Cross, Indre, France [Alamy image ref. B4CJFN]

Sometimes, when driving along a deserted country road and thinking aloud – actually I usually think and speak aloud in French to myself as a form of learning amusement (but that’s beside the point) – I catch in the corner of my eye something slightly unusual which makes me slow… and perhaps stop. This scene was such an occasion… a simple but elegant wooden cross, slightly tilting, as if it had resisted the winds for many years and next to it, rather incongruously, a modern traffic sign with just “6T” as information.

Now I know that “6T” means there is a weight limit of six tonnes for larger vehicules traveling along such a narrow, minor route, but what I don’t know is why an editor searched for such a combination – when I have many other images of religious wooden crosses taken at many road junctions in the very Catholic country which France is – chose a particular roadside cross whose calm environs were visually desecrated by a modern traffic sign. Perhaps that was the attraction, the odd juxtaposition, or perhaps the “6T” has a relevant significance in the Bible, or another religious symbolism, which I don’t know about.

Incidentally, my “essential” keywords for this particular image were “roadside, religious, wooden, cross, France” with the other main keywords being “leaning, tilting, weathered, split, wood, crucifix, road, sign, 6, six, tons, tonnes, weight, limit, Le Blanc, Buziak” (I include just my surname – not “Ed Buziak” – in case clients search all of Alamy just for my images with my name as the searchword).

Whatever, it was licensed “RF” – and no, that’s not ”Republique Francaise” but ”Royalty Free” which is a licensing method I’m generally abandoning in favour of being completely ”Rights Managed” and which carries, again in general, although there are no generalities in this game, a higher payment for most usages. However, in this case that impression was turned on its head. Last week I had an RF sale in mid-single dollar figures – albeit for a tiny image file and probably for someone’s personal website and for which I should actually be thankful that the person decided to go the proper, ethical and legal route and pay for the image use -unlike many others who grab and paste from others’ websites – whereas this sale was for a larger image file (although still not huge) and licensed for hundreds of dollars.

Overall it has added to a very good month for me with Alamy… August 2011 was (then) my best month ever after four years with the agency, but September has exceeded the previous month by a good margin. Do I think the world economy is in crisis? Not on the current showing with my image sales I don’t, especially when my past year’s earnings have basically doubled the previous four year’s cumulative total!

Château le Bouchet, Indre, France. [Alamy image ref. AHN2EG]

This image of the Château le Bouchet was taken through a gap in the trees alongside the Etang de la Mer Rouge with a telephoto lens. The lake was named by the Lord of Le Bouchet, who owned the château and the artificial lake, who had been to the Holy Land on a Crusade and been held prisoner for a while near the Red Sea. I can ‘t find authenticated proof of this story and it puzzles me because as far as I know most of the thousand and more small lakes in the Brenne were created artificially after the extraction of clay for roofing tiles… and I’m not sure this industry was carried out at the time of the Crusades.

Another unauthenticated story about the Mer Rouge was that another owner of the Château drowned whilst fishing… his chest-high waders accidentally filling with water and eventually dragging him  down below the surface of the lake. Again I’m curious because when I‘ve seen some of these lakes drained – many have a sluice gate for such an event – all have been revealed to be very shallow… perhaps three feet deep at most.

So I know of two puzzling stories – a dubious name source from a prisoner, and a drowning – connected with the romantically named lake at the foot of this fortified château. Both are dark in character… so I feel, for once, that the image of this particular château which has a sombre and brooding feel, poking its turrets through the surrounding woodland, is enhanced for once by the gathering storm clouds rather than my (obligatory) blue sky background.

Licensed RM by Alamy for reproduction (with two other images for the same feature) for 1-year in a French textbook with a 5,000 print-run under my “a la France” pseudonym.

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