French Walnut bread. [Alamy image ref. BJ40E8]

I’m an almost lifelong vegetarian and generally fit and healthy through also walking and riding a fixie bike every day… but I’m certainly not a foodie nor a fitness freak. However, I do take great interest and care – with no real attitude towards price – as to what I buy from shops here in France. I’d hardly ever visited a supermarket whilst living for most of my life in the UK… and in France for the past decade they are only an occasional destination for household essentials rather than for bodily sustainability.

Most boulangeries I’ve lived near are not just bread and cake shops… they are essential meeting places for a local population who go there for a baguette probably twice every day – baguettes only stay tasty and chewable for a few hours so are baked throughout the day in order to be fresh between normal 6am to 8pm opening hours.

The boulangerie just across the street from here has the following on their shelves from about 8am (you only find “baguettes” and “pains” wheeled behind the counters in wicker baskets for the first couple of hours of opening) including Pain Cerèal, Complet, au Son, Moulé, Farine, Epi, aux Figues, aux Abricots, aux Noix, Solognot, Campagne as well as Grosse et Petite Boules, Gros et Petite Batards, Pavé Tradition and the popular long  Baguette staple food “sticks” made in extra varieties such as Cerèal, Moulè, Festive, Festival and, in February when the Crocus are in bloom and harvested for the world’s most costly spice, as Baguette Saffron. I’ve probably missed a few… but you get the drift. The variety is large and very interesting compared ot my last experience of  Welsh bread shop which offered White, White Sliced (wrapped), Hovis and a small Harvo (wrapped).

So when I buy my daily bread I look at what looks particularly photogenic – the regular baguettes do look different from day to day (sometimes a little burnt and therefore more visually interesting from a photographer’s point of view) – and on occasion decide to buy a more expensive loaf such as the “Pain aux Noix” illustrated above. As you can see, each slice contained a few Walnuts and looked particularly rustic.

Although feeling extremely peckish from the smell of recent country baking, I restrained myself long enough to quickly photograph the food before consuming it in one go… and I can tell you that creamy farm butter spread on slightly warm slices of Walnut loaf – with a cup or two of hot rich Arabica coffee – are elevenses you want to eat every hour or so throughout the day. Having photographed first, eaten second and downloaded the still-life shoot to my Mac third, my morning felt rewarding… which turned out to be true when the above image sold under my “a la France” pseudo to an American magazine with a 50,000 circulation as a single page repro for one month for a fee a hundred times what I paid the the loaf… so there’s obviously plenty of dough in French bread!

French Scrabble [Alamy image ref: AYP30R]

I’ve enjoyed the board game Scrabble for at least half my lifetime, despite being beaten more often than not, and bought a French version on arriving in this country a decade ago. There are several subtle changes though… the numbers of individual letters are different. In the UK version there are a total of 98 letter tiles plus two blanks. In French Scrabble there are 100 letter tiles plus 2 blanks, and the numbers of letters are different to reflect the language with fifteen rather than twelve “E” letters, six “O” tiles rather than eight, six “U” and “S” rather than four, and other variations… which surprisingly do change the flow of the game if playing in the English vocabulary.

So I had a choice of adding visual interest to this stock shot between adopting English words – for the wider world – or adopt a French theme with the intention of specialising in an already fairly saturated niche. The layout had to be simple because the letters take up only a small area of the image and have to be readable… so I chose part of French philosopher Réné Descartes’ memorable quote, “Je pense, donc je suis” (I think, therefore I am) and added the English translation on the other tile holder, placing the “Je pense” and “I think” letters strongly in the foreground.

My three carefully composed Scrabble board images hover at around 350th place out of almost 1,300 examples – of which close to 550, more than a third, are Royalty Free (including fifty rather repetitive examples from the same contributor – another good reason for Alamy employing editors?) which is strictly against registered name copyright rules as clearly stated on Alamy’s own contributors information pages!Shot in the garden under diffused sunlight with a 12~24mm wide-angle Nikkor set at around 20mm and stopped down to f/16, the difficulty was in keeping as much as possible within a sharp plane of focus… but the closer I got with the zoom lens at the widest setting, the more distorted the image became, to the point of being ugly.

But as a result of this fairly simple, but thought out exercise, this image, and another very similar example but taken straight on rather than at an angle, were sold twice to Canadian educational textbook publishers on 5-year licenses as well as to a South Korean book publisher on a 1-year license. I’m hoping for more sales in time as they are occasionally ‘zoomed’ by registered buyers more so on average than any of my other image searches.

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