Posts Tagged ‘picture library’

Bada Bing!

April 4th, 2014
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

As an Apple user of 23 years’ standing, I obviously prefer to use the Bing search engine from Microsoft rather than any goggle-eyed alternative. It has a very rigorous porn filter, so when I search for Gwyn Headley (come on! don’t we all?) I get 31,000 results as opposed to 64,000 from a rival search engine.

But the main reason I like to use Bing is that it looks so nice. And one of the reasons it looks so nice it because they buy photographs from fotoLibra to use on their home page. Here are two fotoLibra images they’ve recently chosen:

Three baby scops owls, by Linda Wright

Three baby scops owls, by Linda Wright

 

A herd of Oryx

An oryx herd, by Paul Benson

 

Congratulations to fotoLibra contributors Linda Wright and Paul Benson.

And what’s more, Bing pays decently as well. Full marks.

The BAPLA Quiz

March 20th, 2014

Life working in a picture library isn’t just wine and roses, you know. There’s only so much disporting ourselves in sylvan glades we can get through in a day, and there can be such a thing as a surfeit of ambrosia and an excess of nectar. From time to time we are forced to descend from our ivory citadels and face the gritty reality of everyday life, away from our cloistered, chauffeured and charmed lives, and deal with Ordinary People, who have to get by on Wine. And Beer. Occasionally we even have to confront what we believe is called Hard Work.

Such a day came yesterday evening, in the guise of the BAPLA (British Association of Picture Libraries & Agencies) Quiz. Goodness, we had to work! It was so-o-o Hard! A nasty man kept asking us difficult questions — a proper interrogation it was — and he ignored me when I plaintively demanded more nectar and ambrosia, making me drink Beer and Wine instead, and asking me more hard questions. I won’t be doing that again in a hurry.

From a human PoV this event was much like a pub quiz, except the participants were all picture libraries and picture researchers; the nymphs, satyrs, gods and goddesses of the image world. We congregated at the Yorkshire Grey in Theobalds Road, hard by Gray’s Inn in the centre of London, on Earth.

All the teams had exotic names, coincidentally mirroring the names we use back home in Arcadia.

Graham, Llinos and Jacqui couldn’t be coaxed from their dreaming spires, so the fotoLibra team consisted of:

  • Charlotte Lippmann, Picture Researcher
  • Beverley Ballard, Picture Researcher
  • Martyn Goddard, Photographer
  • Damien Gaillard, fL Technical Development Manager
  • Yvonne Seeley, fL Marketing Director, and
  • Gwyn Headley (that’s me), fl MD.

Each team had to have a minimum of two picture researchers, and so we are very grateful to Beverley and Charlotte for putting up with us.

The questions were compiled and enforced by Steve Lake of 4 Corners Images, and he was merciless. No, implacable. No, unrelenting. Yes, all three, and more.

For example, we were shown Photos of Celebs When Young. We got 3 out of 20 right. Who on earth knew that José Mourinho used to have horns?

Then followed questions of every sort, such as “What does the term Lyonnaise mean when applied to French cooking?”

We had a secret weapon here. Damien, our TDM, is from Lyons, and his brother is a top chef in Paris. So “Potatoes,” I said decisively. “Cream,” said Bev. Nothing, said Damien. We left it blank.

The answer was Onions. “Onions? Everything in France has onions!” complained Martyn.

Finally the results came in. There were tears. There was laughter. There was gross injustice. To show how remorseless Question Master Steve was, he slashed 20 points from the British Library for writing ‘Euston Square’ instead of ‘Euston Road’ .

fotoLibra only came fourth, despite our clear superiority. We would have won by a large margin if the other teams hadn’t known more than us. Not fair.

The official results (subject to scrutineering) were

  1. The Bridgman Art Library
  2. Mary Evans
  3. Offside Sports Images
  4. fotoLibra
  5. Camera Press
  6. National Portrait Gallery
  7. British Library
  8. Superstock

So here we are this morning, back in our ivory tower, re-insulated from the οἱ ολλοί, gazing out at the world (ach-y-fi! nasty, dirty place!) and I’m contemplating a quiet bacchanalia or two to restore my flagging spirits.

Ah! Here comes Pan! I’ll have to go — gotta dance, gotta sing. See you later!

This is posted in an effort to placate Owen Elias, who wrote about my last blog “Another moaning tirade. Do you never have anything positive to say?”

25 million images for a dollar each!

Yet another ‘stock agency’ has bulk-emailed the world (why should spam trouble them?) to tell us we can buy images from them for a dollar each.

Of course you can’t actually buy a picture from them for a dollar, despite what they promise. You have to start by paying a minimum of ten dollars, at which point they’ll throw in nine extra pictures (which you may or may not want) for free.

The pound, the euro, the yen and the rouble don’t concern them; they only want your dollars.

The business model is to blind buyers with price and quantity, and gloss over content and quality. Pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap. It’s a well-used model.

But talking of content and quality, the balance of image subjects seems wrong for a website which appears to be US-based and aimed primarily at American buyers. Compare these eastern and western cities, all with populations around the million mark. Here are the number of images Pictures For A Dollar (not its real name, natch) has of each location:

odessa

 

As for my headline, I have no idea if this site has anything to do with our Russian friends. But there does seem to be a definite Eastern flavour to the content. As the table above demonstrates, there are ten times as many images of former Soviet bloc cities than of American cities. Which is very useful if you are publishing to the Eastern European market.

Check out these two tourist destinations:

kotor

Where did this Pictures For A Dollar site acquire its images, do you think? From all the figures quoted, it certainly looks more Eastern than Western.

I assume they own all these images, so they don’t have to pay the photographers. Therefore all the business costs are pumped into marketing the static stock. There is no indication that there will be new additions to the 25 million images they hold — the website baldly states “Pictures For A Dollar is not accepting contributors at this time.”

Why does this upset me? Because this has nothing to do with photography. Photographers are not welcome on this site.

This is a commodity sale, which will directly affect the livelihood of yet more photographers. I very much doubt that the photographers who supplied the majority of images which ended up on Pictures For A Dollar are going to see a cent for their work. And I don’t think that’s fair.

What worries me is how can a picture library (British usage) or stock agency (American usage) like fotoLibra compete?

I hope it will be by providing well-keyworded, precise, high-quality, up-to-date AND historical images that people actually want and need, not a dubious flytip of cheaply acquired bulk collections that might pass at a pinch.

Or do you have other ideas?

We received a cheery sales enquiry this morning:

Good morning,

I work for the Social Security Administration (SSA) in the Dallas Region. The Dallas Region is comprised of Social Security offices in 5 states (New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas). The Dallas Region is separated into 6 parts called Area’s [I think he means Areas]. One such Area has Social Security Offices in two states (Oklahoma and Arkansas).

We are creating a banner for the Area front page that would represent 2 states (Oklahoma and Arkansas) and we would like to use one of your pictures as part of the banner to represent the State of Arkansas. This front page would exist on a Secure intranet and would only be visible to Social Security employees. This Intranet is not accessible to the general public or anyone outside of the Social Security Administration and serves as an information portal for SSA employees.

Please consider allowing us to use your image shown.  As a government entity we cannot pay for rights.

Yvonne was on it in a flash:

Hello Tony

Many thanks for your message and for your interest in one of our images. I’m sorry to read that as a government entity you can’t pay for rights because, as a stock agency, our business is selling usage rights for our many contributors.

I regret that I can see no reason why we should give you free rights to use one of our images and wish you luck in persuading someone else to give away their work for no reward.

Regards,

Yvonne Seeley

What a model of restraint. It’s fortunate she responded before I had a chance to vent my spleen, otherwise Anglo-American relationships could have been irreparably damaged.

This scenario is becoming increasingly common. I wrote about it in a blog last November, Give Us Your Work For Free. Yvonne was more concise and to the point than Whitey. Why should anybody, in any organisation, in any country, anywhere in the world, expect to be paid for what they do and yet expect you and me to hand over the fruits of our investment, creativity and labour for nothing? It’s contemptuous, patronising and demeaning.

Mind you, Yvonne has form where this sort of behaviour is concerned. Some years ago when she was working for BASF and Sir Peter Hall was Director of the National Theatre, Hall’s secretary rang up to order 10 reels of recording tape. Yvonne’s question was to be expected: “To whom shall I send the invoice?” In a flash Hall (as he was then) was on the phone, fulminating “Don’t you know who I am? I’ll have your job for this!” Yvonne answered evenly, “I don’t think so. Now do you want to buy these tapes or not?”

Collapse of stout party, as they say.

Only one good comes of this. It shows that a picture library set up in a remote corner of North-West Wales can be seen and used by a US government department.

The next step is to get them to pay $600 for our lavatory seat. Older readers will recall the reference.

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

I’ve been on both sides of the desk at publicity meetings when the response to the question “What’s new?” is “We’ve got a new website!”

Hearts sink all round. The PR company’s, because no journalist has bought a New Website story since 1993, and also the client’s, because he can see this magnificent, radical, earth-shatteringly great new website isn’t cutting the mustard with the very people he’s paying to tell the world how wonderful he is.

Well — fotoLibra has a new website! This is Version 6.0, launched at noon today. It’s evolutionary rather than revolutionary, so old fotoLibra hands won’t be fazed by unfamiliar procedures — but explore a little further and you’ll find a wealth of new and useful features for both buyers and sellers.

For instance, you no longer have to sign in to check the price of an image.

It’s a ‘responsive’ site, which means it works equally well on smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops.

It’s bigger, brighter and faster, using the latest HTML5 features, which means you’ll need to upgrade your browser to appreciate them fully. You can navigate through the site using left and right arrow keys. There’s a new drag and drop image uploader with thumbnail generation. Search results default to larger thumbnails. There’s a lot more.

Please take it for a test drive:

http://www.fotoLibra.com.
And we would love to hear what you think about it, whether it’s bad or good.

Being a small company, fotoLibra actually listens and responds to all its contributors, unlike some others we could think of. We’ll respond to your comments and queries, and if you have ideas for further features we could offer in the future, let us know. If we like them and can do them, we’ll incorporate them.

A note to our dinosaur friends — fotoLibra 6.0 won’t work on the no longer supported web browser Internet Explorer 7, and works (but looks slightly odd) on IE8. Please upgrade to IE11, or try using Safari, Firefox, Chrome or Opera.

We hope you enjoy using the new fotoLibra Version 6.0. We’ve put a lot of hard work and love into making it as intuitive and user-friendly as we can. Please comment!

CEPIC

June 24th, 2013
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

If you’ve never heard of CEPIC, I’m not really surprised. It’s a business business. It stands for the Coördination of European Picture Agencies Stock, Press and Heritage. It aims to be the centre of the picture industry. CEPIC federates nearly a thousand picture agencies and photo libraries in twenty countries across Europe. It has affiliates in North America and Asia. CEPIC’s membership includes large and smaller stock photo libraries, major photo news agencies, art galleries and museums, video companies and of course fotoLibra. CEPIC represents more than 150,000 photographers in direct licensing, and if you are reading this as a fotoLibra photographer, that means you.

CEPIC holds an annual conference packed with lectures, events, seminars and opportunities to meet. There are no photographers, no picture buyers. If you ran a milk bar, would you want cows in the shop?

This year it was held in Barcelona, so Yvonne Seeley and I felt we really ought to make an effort and go. It was our first CEPIC. I mean, what’s not to like about Barcelona? Well, I’ll tell you exactly what’s not to like, but I’ll put it in my personal blog.

The fair ran from Tuesday to Friday, and it was a networkers’ paradise. Yvonne and I scheduled 38 meetings with picture libraries from Spain, USA, Germany, Turkey, Brazil, Ireland, Russia, France, Poland, India, Switzerland, Korea, Japan, India and China. In addition we met more people at coffee time, parties, in lifts, at lunch, sunning ourselves outside, at restaurants — it was non stop, frenetic and immensely stimulating.

Unlike the Frankfurt Book Fair which is vaster than the wheatfields of the Mid-West, you had a chance to meet just about everyone. I mean, at Frankfurt the fiction rights director of Bloomsbury wouldn’t be seen dead talking to the sales manager of an STM publisher, but at CEPIC everyone was happy to be talking to everybody else. It was big enough to matter, yet small enough to care. If at times there was a sense of bumbling amateurism it was offset by genuine love and enthusiasm. And people weren’t afraid to gossip — ‘Oh, she’s AWFUL!! I avoid her like the plague!’ — and ten minutes later the two protagonists are seen in tears of laughter over a couple of glasses of cava.

The French air traffic controllers decided to strike that week, and some of the seminar speakers failed to turn up. So it was I got a panicky email from Heathrow on Tuesday night asking please could I speak at the metadata conference on Thursday morning? Of course I agreed.

We had meetings all the next day, so there wasn’t much time to prepare. No Powerpoint, thank God. So I jotted down a few jokes on metadata and winged it. If I can remember roughly what I said, I’ll write it down in a future blog.

When you’re on a podium, people you wouldn’t otherwise have met come up and speak to you afterwards, so that enhanced the fair still further for us.

CEPIC was great. Obviously only about 5% of the business we discussed will amount to anything (that cynicism is born from 35 years at the Frankfurt Book Fair) but we will see. And that 5% could prove to be very important.

Just to give you a flavour of the show, here’s a link to the estimable Photo Archive News’s picture coverage of the event. And if you scroll halfway down, past the party goers to the workers, you might find a photograph of the dedicated fotoLibra team in action.

Here’s an extract of part of the programme for one morning — and remember we were fitting in our meetings around the seminars:

  • 10:00 – 11:30 Machine Readable Rights in Practice
  • 10:00 Short introduction by Christina VAUGHAN/ CEPIC
    10:10 Introduction to machine readable rights in the picture library industry by Abbie ENOCK
  • 10:25 – 11:30 How can software help to manage rights?
  • 10:25 Introduction by David RIECKS
    Speakers on panel are: Christopher FRENNING/ Fotoware, Dennis Walker/ Camera Bits, Richard BAMFORD/ Extensis, Ramon FORSTER/ PicturePark,
  • 11:30 Coffee break
  • 12:00 – 12:35 What the users need: the (bad?) experience of buyers and sellers
  • SPEAKERS: Michael STEIDL/ IPTC, Alan CAPEL/ Alamy, Christina GALLEGO/ La Vanguardia
  • 12:50 – 13:55 The wider context: what is driving change?
  • 12:50 Introduction by the moderator, Sarah SAUNDERS/ Electric Lane
    12:55 Copyright developments in the UK, Paul BROWN/ BAPLA
    13:05 IPTC’s Social Media test, Michael Steidl/ IPTC
    13:15 PLUS show case of expressing a specific license, Jeff SEDLIK/ PLUS Coalition
    13:25 CEPIC Image Registry project, Sylvie FODOR/ CEPIC
    13:35 Panel discussion
  • 13:55 – 14:05 The Camera: a Source of Rights Metadata?
  • SPEAKER: David RIECKS will introduce examples of direct connections of cameras to the Internet.

Was it worthwhile? I think so. I hope so. We will see. Next year’s CEPIC will be held in Berlin.

I guess we’ll be going.

 

 

Coming down and calming down from two hectic days at the London Book Fair, I’m sitting in our Harlech office looking out at the waves and the wind and the sunshine, and contemplating the immense power of books.

There’s no doubt the publishing world is in turmoil, with fewer people buying books, ebooks taking an ever larger slice of the pie, bookshops closing every week and a general air of uncertainty hanging over everything. This of course adds to the excitement, and there is, as always in publishing, this sense of ambiguity — are we in the right business? Should we be looking forward? Or over our shoulders?

Two companies expressed an interest, however veiled, in acquiring fotoLibra. Of course there’s a world of difference between acquiring and buying, but it’s interesting to see that some firms are discreetly expanding, and not necessarily in their core disciplines. I should add that these are the first signals of this type we’ve seen in nine years. Flattering, I guess.

To get an indication of the measure of hope in the business, I posed a theoretical question: “If you personally had fifty thousand to invest, would you put it in a firm making printing machinery or a firm making screens?” No one answered directly. Everyone nodded slowly.

There is a rearguard action. At the fair advertising king Maurice Saatchi launched his Books Are My Bag campaign, claimed to be the biggest ever promotion of bookshops. Who doesn’t love a bookshop? But we’re all buying online, and condemning them to a slow, lingering death. Asked to name my favourite bookshop, I hesitated — there used to be two in Crouch End, now there are none.

It’s not because everyone is buying ebooks. An ebook is still a book; it’s just presented differently. And the only ebooks that are selling are fiction. Illustrated ebooks, as we have found out to our cost, are hard to shift. Heritage Ebooks, which we launched with great hope and wonderful images from fotoLibra photographers, has struggled to find a market. We did a deal with The Folly Fellowship, an organisation concerned with the history and preservation of this curious aspect of Britain’s architectural heritage, to give their members a thumping great discount on the purchase of any of our forty Follies of England ebook titles. How many folly enthusiasts took up the offer? None. Not one. Zilch. That is disheartening.

But The Guardian tells me they’re now doing a feature on our Heritage Ebooks, illustrating ten of our ebook covers. That would be nice. I’ll believe it when I see it. BREAKING NEWS: They’re not doing it. Our ebook covers are Portrait format, and they said they needed Landscape. The covers have lettering on them — the book titles, actually — and they wanted them without lettering. It turns out what they really wanted was ten free photographs of follies.

Despite all this doom and gloom, the London Book Fair was humming. Large companies had dozens of tables, each one with four people talking intently with heads bowed. Business was being done. Smaller firms were concentrating just as hard. The only oases of quiet were to be found in the Arab quarter: huge, lavish, glittering, empty national stands, as depopulated as the deserts.

I captioned this piece The Power Of The Word. The word has more power to stimulate the imagination than the image, I regret to admit. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “People remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, and 50% of what they see and hear.” But we’re not told what sort of people they asked. These aren’t book people.

Book people feed on words. I’ll give you an example. I’ve known my old pal Mike for over forty years. We haven’t been in touch a lot since he left publishing, but we hooked up last Christmas and resumed normal service. For a Significant Birthday he was planning a tour of Japan. His highlight was going to be queuing outside a bookshop to be the first to buy Haruki Murakami’s new novel. That was, to borrow a phrase from Gilbert Harding, his Sole Purpose of Visit. What power can there be in words to drag a foreigner halfway around the world — literally! — to join (or in Mike’s case, form) a queue outside a Japanese bookshop? I wish I had readers like that. He’s still out there, by the way, and blogging about it as he travels around the country. You can read his adventures here. Oh — and he left book publishing to become a film-maker. Images for words.

So this week was the book fair. fotoLibra’s major source of income is from book publishers. Next week will be the picture buyers’ fair, fotoFringe in King’s Cross. It will be a busy week for us. And there will be some interesting NEWS from fotoLibra.

Dreams, Trains, Ideas

October 18th, 2012

What can be more conducive to reverie than a good meal, a comfortable seat and a long smooth train journey?

Last Saturday I travelled from Frankfurt am Main to London, changing at Brussels, on the way back from the Frankfurt Book Fair — my 36th. It was a good fair, with plenty of top-level discussions about image licensing and clearances, price agreements and long-term contracts.

It’s been a rough old time in the picture library business but we’re hanging on in there and I am convinced I can see a silver lining here or there amongst the heavy cloud cover. A week at the Buchmesse always boosts my confidence.

There was a lot to think about on the way home. My mind ranged through meetings, proposals, promises, developments, the way forward, new ideas and so on until I fell into a light doze.

Earlier there had been a slight altercation between a Canadian and a German Muslim over seat allocation, and I fell to pondering on national stereotypes. Meanwhile my reading matter for the journey was the account books of C. F. Martin, luthier, based in Nazareth, Pennsylvania in the nineteenth century, not a page-turning thriller by most standards.*

So when I awoke there were three fresh ideas to make me smile.

Firstly, how about a series of picture books on national stereotypes? And before we all rush around tut-tutting and waving our hands in the air at such racism, it’s undeniable that a shared educational experience will produce a population that generally moves in the same direction and accepts the same discomforts. For example, most Americans are keener on owning guns than most Brits. Germans are generally more efficient than Greeks. Italians design prettier cars than the Welsh. And many of these attitudes could be illustrated by photographs — fotoLibra photographs, of course.

I suddenly remembered the pre-war Punch cartoonist Pont, and his series on The British Character. Wonderful, one-frame situation comedies, with captions such as

  • Fondness for cricket
  • Importance of being athletic
  • Absence of enthusiasm for answering letters
  • Preference for driving on the crown of the road
  • Love of travelling alone
  • A tendency to be hearty
  • A fondness of anything French
  • A tendency to learn the piano when young

You can imagine his drawings. So in my spare time I thought I’d rattle off a few observations on the national characteristics of the English, the Americans, the Spanish, the French, the Germans, the Italians and any other nation where I’ve had some experience of the inhabitants, each illustrated by a suitable fotoLibra image. If you have any suggestions for captions — and for images — please let me know. I’m looking for an affectionate and gently ironic tone. But I’m happy to offend, if it’s funny enough.

Then I contemplated Herr Martin, German immigrant to New York in 1834 and his subsequent move to Nazareth, PA, where the company he founded still makes fabulous and sought-after guitars. I discovered that Nazareth was a suburb of Bethlehem, PA and I thought that would have made Mary and Joseph’s life a little easier, having to travel 10 miles instead of 110. But there’s a Nasareth and a Bethlehem in Wales, as well — and they’re the same distance apart as the original Nazareth in Judea and Bethlehem.

There we are! How about a pilgrimage across three continents? A description of three journeys from Nazareth to Bethlehem — one in Israel / Palestine, one in Wales, one in the USA. It would be a road trip, maybe even one short and two long walks, discovering the sights to be seen and the wonders to be shared in three such different environments, all with a common heritage. TV series? Book? Magazine article? I have yet to decide. But an agreeable concept.

And then Mr Martin and his lovely guitars. I am fortunate enough to own one, a 1972 D-35 Dreadnought acoustic, named for the British battleships of the early twentieth century. When I’m away from it, my fingertips get soft and itchy, and it’s not really practical to lug it around. Why couldn’t I rent one while I was in Frankfurt so I could have a quick strum before bedtime?

Eleven years ago I spent three weeks in George, South Africa, rocking on my heels. On the second day, fearing I might go stir crazy, I found a music shop and asked the owner if he would consider renting me a guitar for three weeks. He looked at me as if I was black. Then someone renting my house in Wales asked if there was a local shop which could rent him a guitar for two weeks. There isn’t.

Why not? Don’t be silly, I told myself, there will be a giant corporation which has this sewn up. I just haven’t heard of it yet. RENT-AN-AX dot com probably has depots scattered across the world where tired businesspeople can have a Strat delivered to their hotel room when they check in. Blindingly obvious. Ah well.

I got back home, and looked up rentanax.com. No such website. So I registered it. I am now the proud owner of rentanax.com.

Now what do I do? Anyone want to start a guitar rental company?

Me, I’ve got a picture library to run.

*Fascinating nonetheless: C F Martin & His Guitars: 1796—1873, by Philip F Gura, Centerstream Publishing, Anaheim Hills 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re busy with our final preparations for fotoFringe London 2012, the picture buyers’ fair which is being held tomorrow in King’s Place, a newish office block and conference centre where The Guardian have their offices, near King’s Cross.

And it’s an article in The Guardian that I want to write about. A friend in Euskadi alerted me to this one (thank you Peta) because it’s one of my favourite topics — the freedom of photographers to use their cameras.

Stonehenge, Trafalgar Square, National Trust properties, a whole bunch of places in the USA — the list of places where photography is banned or restricted lengthens daily. Now, unsurprisingly, we can add the Olympic park in East London to the list.

I’ll never get to see this place because all my ticket applications have proved unsuccessful. However I am permitted to contribute substantially towards it through a hike in my London rates over the next ten years. So I’d like to see some pictures of it.

The Olympic venues are technically private property (purchased using our money, but when did that ever restrain our dear leaders?) so control can be asserted over what can and can’t be photographed within the precincts. But not on the public spaces surrounding the venue, of course.

The Guardian thought this could be interesting, so they sent a couple of photographers and a video to test the temperature of the waters. They struck lucky straight away when they ran into an incompetently and incompletely briefed security guard whose debating skills and command of English were no match for the fiercely well prepared Guardian hacks. He simply attempted to stop them filming in a public place. They refused. Reinforcements arrived.

And here — well, you know I’m on the side of the photographers, but this was outright provocation and harassment. The Guardian hacks were milling around, pushing for a reaction. But they came up against an intelligent, articulate and reasonable security supervisor who conceded they had a right to photograph on public land but as this was a sensitive area — the Olympic Park’s security centre — it would be most awfully kind of them if they could possibly desist.

The Guardianistas hectored and interrupted. They tried to photograph the armband name badge of an old fart security guard who looked worryingly like me, and he tore it off to prevent them. Bad move. The hacks loved it.

I want photographers to be able to photograph what they want when they want where they want, within reason and without causing offence, upset or danger. Yes, there are security concerns. Yes, there are privacy issues. I’m less impressed by the “we own it, therefore we should profit from it” brigade. I personally find papparazzis distasteful, and I believe they were the major contributing factor in the death of Princess Diana.

Our cause isn’t helped by photographers manufacturing an incident where none existed. But every movement needs an obnoxious vanguard.

Doesn’t it? What do you think?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2012/apr/23/olympic-park-security-guards-journalists-photos

The New Year is traditionally the time to herald new things, starting with the Epiphany of the Christ Child on January 6th and the chance to play and replay my Desert Island carol, Peter Cornelius’s “Three Kings from Persian lands afar”.

So a happy New Year to you all. At my age things no longer occur, they tend to recur, and it’s rare to encounter something that appears to be completely new. Continuing the religious references, the Preacher in Ecclesiastes thunders “Is there any thing whereof it can be said, See, this is new?”

What I’m writing about today is a camera. That’s not new. But a light field camera is new to me, that’s for sure.

A light field camera? A field camera is one of those bulky great things with bellows, a permanent tripod, and a hood so the photographer can view the upside-down image on the 10×8 plate in darkness. Great for architectural photography, less useful for sports.

A light field camera is nothing like that. ‘Light field’ is the word phrase, and it refers to the way the device captures light data. The ‘light field’ is defined as the light travelling in all directions through all points in space. In conventional cameras — digital or film — the image (or light data) is captured on a flat plane at the back of the box. This can either be film or a digital sensor. The rays of light are combined and recorded as a single unit of light and shade.

In a light field camera, it is claimed that its sensor can capture the colour, intensity and vector direction of all the rays of light in a scene, providing much more data from which to compile an image.

What does this mean? Well of course the science is beyond me, but what I really need to know is what does this mean for the photographer, and obviously as a picture librarian, for image sales? In what way is the resulting picture different? Note that I didn’t say better. It’s not a field camera, after all, which is the gold standard for image quality.

My first thought is lots of data means big file sizes. And what do we do with all that extra data? The answer is nothing, at the moment. We’re back to 1950s Britain, where you couldn’t buy garlic or olive oil because “there’s no call for it.” At the moment, there is no call for it — there is no commercial need for the additional data a light field camera can produce. Here in 2012 fotoLibra has the ability to supply 8 bit, 16 bit or 32 bit images; we can supply HDR images. We don’t, because we’re not asked for them. At the moment professional picture buyers are content to buy 8 bit JPEGs.

I didn’t see the point of an HD television until I got one. But I can totally see the point of a professional quality light field camera to create images of record for museums and archives. Imagine being able to focus and study every plane of Nefertiti’s head. Wow.

Because here is why an image taken on a light field camera is different. You can refocus on any part of the image — after the picture has been taken. This is not the same as an Ansel Adams image at f64 where every part of the image is pin-sharp; these are images taken at f2 with a very shallow depth of field — which you can subsequently vary at will.

It is fascinating. I can play with these images for hours.

A light field camera has just been launched for the consumer market in the United States. Its brand name is Lytro, and I guess that could go the way that Hoover and Biro (and Kodak once did) to become the generic name for a light field camera. The first Lytro has an 8x optical zoom and an f2 aperture lens. It doesn’t look much like a camera, more like a square tube, and it comes in three colours and two storage sizes, 8 GB and 16 GB — 350 or 750 photos. It costs $399 (£255, €206) and $499. The aperture stays constant across the zoom range, which allows comprehensive light capture in the foreground, the mid ground and the background. The images it produces are 1.2MB JPEGs, which are at the lower end of the quality scale.

Do I want one? No, not yet. Remember, I’m not a photographer, I’m just a bloke who has a camera. Will it be more than just a curiosity? It’s hard to say. It’s certainly cheap enough for many people to be able to buy on a whim and play with, experiment with. Would I recommend you get one? If you’re a curious and inquisitive photographer who’s not strapped for cash, then yes, definitely. I would love to see what real photographers can achieve with such a tool.

At the moment the Lytro doesn’t meet the fotoLibra quality standards set out in our Submission Guidelines.

But I think we’ll make room for it.

Even though ‘There is no new thing under the sun.’