This is the time of the year when you publish some of your best or favourite photographs taken in the previous year.
I didn’t travel around the country as much as usual in 2018, mainly because of illness over the summer, so I’ve limited myself to Belfast. These are some of the photographs that jumped out at me for various reasons.
I found it more difficult than expected to select images but right or wrong these are what I’ve decided on. They’re not in any particular order.
Alamy has about 155 million images available for licensing and say they have the world’s most diverse stock photo collection. In early December they announced that in January they would announce they were increasing their commission from 50% to 60%. An increase of 20%.
The Alamy forum erupted in a tirade of condemnation. Feelings ran high. Alamy said little and the venting continued for a few hundred posts. Then they announced that images exclusive to them would continue to attract 50% commission.
The issue has calmed for now, on the forum anyway. It will kick off again in January when the actual announcement is made, but it’s unlikely to gain much traction and the vast majority of contributors do not air their views on the forum.
Prices in stock photography have been falling for some years and many agencies have closed. As you would expect the board at Alamy will do whatever they feel is in the best interests of the company. This episode is a reminder that the future they see for Alamy may not align with the interests of contributing photographers as closely as in the past.
Will it be financially worth it licensing images exclusively through Alamy? Possibly for a few, for others probably no.
My last sale through Alamy was licensed to a National Newspaper for $8.59 and I will receive $4.30. After February I will receive $3.44, if it’s not exclusive. Yes, some sales are much larger but I’ve had smaller as well. Sales are rarely large enough to get excited about.
I will continue to upload but few will be exclusive.
We’re lucky in Northern Ireland when it comes to the weather. It‘s mild. It rarely gets too warm in summer and in winter rarely drops much below freezing. When storms get to us they’re usually winding down or just brush us as they pass by.
The latest storm to pass by is Diana. It’s giving Southern Ireland a hard time and although there’s a yellow warning about winds its not expected to cause many problems for us.
The best place for me to get dramatic images that include wind and sea, without travelling far and without putting myself in danger, is Donaghadee. It’s five miles away and while Bangor is in the mouth of Belfast Lough and somewhat sheltered, Donaghadee is exposed to the Atlantic.
The Bank Buildings, Castle Street, Belfast was built in 1785 and was originally known as the Bank of the Four Johns because the four founders shared that Christian name. The bank collapsed around the early 1800’s and became the residence of the Church of Ireland Bishop of Down and Connor.
Interestingly or gruesomely, depending on your outlook, the area directly in front of the building was used for public executions until 1816.
In 1853 the building was taken on by a wholesale drapery company and later became a retail department store with the upper floors being used as wholesale and warehouse area.
It was bought by House of Frazer in 1969 and later Boots the chemist. Boots moved out in 1975 when the building was badly damaged by fire after an IRA bomb and the present owners, Primark took possession in 1979.
On 28 August this year fire broke out on the fifth floor.
I photographed what was left the next day and it was only today while tidying up some of my photographs I came across this photograph that I had taken on the run up to Christmas 2016. The after the fire photograph is at the bottom.
Thankfully there were no injuries but the staff at both Primark and neighbouring businesses are now faced with an uncertain future. The surrounding area has been cordoned off, as the building is unsafe, with premises inside the cordon having to close. Pedestrians and traffic have been diverted, further reducing footfall to the nearby shops that have been able to continue trading.
There has been a campaign involving some local celebrities to promote the city and the council has committed funds to ease things but its a situation that is going to affect the livelihoods of many people in these already uncertain times with Brexit on the horizon.
Every year, in September, we have a Culture Night in Belfast and this year was the 10th anniversary. The night now attracts over 100,000 people to the various events both in the street and in bars and restaurants. These range from mural painting and street entertainers, that tend to just pop up, to more formal events like choirs singing at the Cathedral and live music in the various bars and restaurants. This year there were over 250 events. Originally confined to Cathedral Quarter Culture Night now spreads across the city.
The night is family friendly and marketed as the biggest event in Belfast’s cultural calendar – put simply Its a Big Night.
I think I’ve only missed one year when I was laid up with an injured knee and in the last few years I’ve taken photographs mainly for myself rather than stock.
The next day I was back in Belfast and thought, while there, I should grab some pictures of ‘the morning after.’ With over 100,000 people in the streets the night before I expected some breakages and rubbish – lots of rubbish and photographs of rubbish can be good for stock. They suggest pollution, recycling and green issues as well as general environmental challenges to list a few subjects.
I readily admit that I didn’t really search for rubbish, I didn’t think I would have too. I happened to be in the city and expected to be able to easily grab a few pics of discarded waste and untidiness while there. These photographs are among the best I got. The streets were surprisingly tidy. It would seem that Belfast, as well as getting better every year at organising large events, is getting better at clearing away the mess the next morning and getting the city back to normal.
I didn’t take many photographs the previous evening but here are a couple. The first is Fresh Garbage, a clothes shop that also sells incense, smoking accessories, jewellery and lots of other stuff.
This is The Duke of York Bar in Commercial Court. It sells beer and has the biggest selection of whiskeys I’ve seen.
An entry is what people from Belfast call an alley.
“The Belfast Entries” or simply “The Entries” are the alleys that mostly run from Ann Street through to High Street, Belfast. They have been described as, “The close knit passageways where Belfast was born and bred.” They date from a time when the geography of the city was very different from now. It is believed that The Entries led to bridges that crossed the Farset River, now flowing through a culvert underneath High Street.
Pottinger’s Entry is the most accessible of The Entries and hosts the popular Morning Star bar, dating from Victorian times. With a brick arched passageway at the Ann Street end, where you will often find a busker and an ornate metal arch at the High Street end, it is probably the most photogenic.
I’ll try and cover some of the others in the future.
I try to get to Belfast Pride most years and send the pictures to Alamy Live News. I don’t think I’ve ever sold any as news but the occasional one has sold after it moved from News to the main collection.
The first Belfast Pride Parade was, unbelievably, in 1991. The years really do pass quicker as you get older and change happens fast. It would’ve been around 100 people and few would’ve bothered watching them. Now thousands turn out to watch with large companies like Sainsbury’s and Asda represented in the Parade. The police even take part!
My main motive in going this year, apart from taking photographs, was to experiment with delivering images to Alamy faster. In the past when submitting to Live News I had travelled home and uploaded the photographs from my main computer. This I am told is not the way it should be done. Images should be sent within minutes not hours.
Some time ago I had bought an App called PressIPTC that allowed you to upload images to an Android tablet or even phone and FTP them. I had never got round to using it before and thinking this would be an ideal opportunity decided I would try it on an Android tablet I have. The night before I managed to get it set up, added the IPTC information I would include, tested the connection via my iPhone and went to bed feeling confident.
Failure! I took some pictures at the start of the parade and went back to the car to send them off. I had expected to have to do it in the street or at best a coffee shop but I’d managed to get parked nearby and thought the peace and quiet of my car would be more conducive to dealing with iffy wireless connections and strange software. I know these things rarely work as they should first or even sixth time. I loaded the photographs onto the tablet, got a connection via my iPhone and couldn’t get the pictures to go. I made quite a few further attempts but couldn’t get it to work. That saying about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result popped into my mind. I’m not sure its right when your’e dealing with computers but I left it and went back to the parade for more photographs. Later I went home and sent the images to Alamy Live News as I’ve always done.
I’ve looked at Press IPTC again and still can’t get it to work. It hasn’t been updated for 3 years and I suppose its possible that with the updates to Android it simply may not work anymore. My knowledge on such things is limited. I’ve checked online but found little about the App and the website is no longer there.
Shuttersnitch for the iPad/iPhone is similar to Press IPTC but after my experience I’m reluctant to travel the same route and spend yet more time and money at this, albeit with a different operating system. Perhaps sometime in the future I’ll revisit it.
I’ve resurrected an old Netbook with a proper keyboard and a slot to put the memory card in. That’s the way forward if I can find suitable software. There are also questions on the screen quality and processing power but I’m hopeful. Its not ideal when I’m trying to keep weight down but I’ll see how it goes.
I’ve posted a few images below and and you can see more here.
McHugh’s in Queen’s Square is believed to be the oldest surviving building in Belfast, dating from around 1711. It’s a popular bar and restaurant especially when there’s an event in Custom House Square.
I’ve taken many photographs of McHugh’s over the years but always found it difficult as the front of the building seems to be often in shadow when I’m passing.
On the day these photographs were taken it was cloudy but bright. I think it was the flowers that first attracted my attention and when I noticed people sitting at the tables, well it was always going to make a picture. That the building was fairly well lit, with the clouds diffusing the sunlight, was the icing.
They were taken using a Panasonic 100-300 mm lens that I’d recently bought. I had decided I needed longer reach and with the field of view on Micro 4/3 this gives the equivalent of a 200-600 mm lens. Its second best in the Panasonic line up but I wasn’t prepared to part with over twice the money for the 100-400 mm. These long lenses are nice to have and I’m more than happy with it so far but I don’t expect it to be among my most used.
I took a few photographs (two are below). The first has just the people sitting at tables talking while the second has one of the men holding his mobile phone up, perhaps taking a selfie, while a young guy walks past. Not what you would call an action pic but enough going on to make it interesting.
I’ve put the second image, the interesting one, on Alamy. I was tempted to upload the other one as well, thinking that it would be interesting to see what one, if any, sold. That plan was dismissed as, although it looks fine here, when I started to process for submission to Alamy I found that it just wasn’t quite as sharp as I would like.