Current Affairs

Magpies in the garden


Picture: © Gary Eason 

A larger than usual number of people have been getting e-mails from me this month containing invoices.

They now know more about copyright, if they claim not to have done so before, and my income has gone up somewhat. 

What am I complaining about: after all, don't I want people to use my pictures? 

Yes but that is how I pay the mortgage and feed my children (and the cat). So this does mean people  need to pay for a licence if they are going to reproduce them. Otherwise it is a breach of copyright law. This not only lays them open to a claim for damages, even if they acted without any malice, but can actually be a criminal offence (something I had not realised myself until I was reading up on this). 

If you just copy something without licensing it I suffer a direct loss of income. That's obvious. But also, a picture without any attribution is at risk of becoming 'orphaned' to use the technical term. People say they "just found it on the internet". Then the next person who reads their website will do the same, and so on and so on.

My picture, which is the result of my hard work, is then being used to attract internet traffic to someone else's site from which they potentially or actually gain revenue and reputation. The corollary is that if it is not connected to me, I am deprived of those. 

It seems to me it is also unfair to genuine customers who do pay for a licence. 

Reverse image search

For those for whom an appeal to 'play nice' is a joke, there is something else to bear in mind. You are increasingly likely to get caught.

The internet search technology that has made it easy for people to find and 'lift' images they like can now be used in reverse to search on an image and find the various instances of it, independent of the text around it and even if (as is likely) the metadata has been stripped out.

Incidentally I can tell you that photographers all over are now realising this and using it, so copyright infringers can expect more knocks on the door. 

Oh come on officer - look, all those other people are speeding too. Why are you picking on me? - Well I guess it's just your unlucky day, sir. 

The 'copy and paste' screenshots and 'view source' facility that have made it easy to steal pictures make it just as easy to take a precise record of abuse. 

Not so hidden

The wonderful Internet Wayback Machine (did you know the web has an archive? Give them a donation) means copyright holders can dip into history and log when something was first used, how prominently and for how long - even if the infringing material is no longer there. 

And goodness me doesn't that intraweb thing just get everywhere these days? The internal US university undergrad newsletter from six months ago which has my picture on page 13? Thanks for posting the PDF on your departmental server for search engines to index - oh and thank you very much  for licensing it! (even if I did have to invoice you first). 

The conference presentation slideshow you loaned to someone else which they put on their firm's website. Lovely picture on page seven - or that's what I thought when I made it. Click here to license it. 

The blog editor who 'just found a nice picture' and decided to use it even though it wasn't actually relevant. Yes, international bank transfers are fine, thank you, here are the IBAC details. 

To sum up, please follow the simple rule: if it is not your picture, do not use it - unless you get the proper permission first. 

Believe me, photographers and digital artists would much rather be making pictures than chasing down copyright infringements: but market forces do have a tendency to take us where the money is to be made. 

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For the avoidance of doubt: this article is  © Gary Eason 2014 even if it doesn't say so

Busy, varied week

Polphail: for sale

Everything this week from school prom ball gowns through beach huts, a poetry reading and the dropping of tens of thousands of poppies over central London, to a ghost village.

The ghost village - Polphail, in Argyll and Bute - you might remember from a previous post last November. I stumbled across this extraordinary place by chance while on a Scottish tour, and naturally made some photos of it.

These caught the eye of the SWNS news agency, who'd heard that the place was about to be put on the market. As a result my pictures ran alongside their news story in The Sun, the Mail online and odd blogs etc.

I made the photos because it interested me pictorially but I'm pleased that they kicked off the week by earning their keep too.


Being in Essex was a pleasant interlude as always. I spent some time mooching around on Mersea Island; buying scallops, admiring Dawn's new paint job and making compositions around beach huts.

And Wivenhoe Poetry Society hosted a very enjoyable double reading by Jane Routh and Mike Barlow. Enjoyed chatting with them about boats, and navigation, and Shetland.

Moving target

The overflight of Green Park involved the only Lancaster bomber still flying in this side of the Atlantic, PA-464 of the (misnamed) Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

_GE01554_blogIts role on Thursday was to mark the unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial. This was a rather convoluted way to get many sackloads of symbolic red paper onto the sunlit green grass of the park, in which the memorial stands.

Photographically a tricky subject. A longish lens would be the obvious choice - except that the red ribbon of falling poppies predictably made quite a trail across the sky. So in fact I used the 24-70mm and ranged its zoom lengths to encompass the airborne scene, shooting on manual to manage the brightness.

In fact the hardest decision was where to shoot from. I knew the route would be in from the east, over the Houses of Parliament. I had no press pass for the ceremony itself - though in any case that did not seem the obvious choice, being directly underneath.

I checked with the excellent The Photographer's Ephemeris just to be sure and, at 1230 on June 28th, knew I did not want to be shooting southwards into the sun - although I did consider that, in fact, as so often, this might make the best shot - but in the end erred on the side of caution in my planning.

Once there, it was all too easy to confirm just how many trees there are in and around, um, Green Park. So I lined up alongside Buckingham Palace with a clear line of sight up over the foliage  canopy. I was happy enough with the shots I made, although with hindsight I reckon the best came from those who'd positioned themselves to the west, further down the track, catching the aircraft head on. Those who weren't lucky enough to be in a helicopter, that is!

Anyway all very moving. But not half as moving as seeing your daughter in a fabulous ball gown heading out to her final school prom.


Celebrated author 'likes' my photo

Castle Stalker _GE05162_3_6_pr_blog
Castle Stalker, dusk - the picture chosen for Susan Cooper's fan page

The famous children's author Susan Cooper is currently using one of my photographs for her official Facebook fan page.

The iconic Castle Stalker, on the west coast of Scotland, features in two of her books.

My picture, selected from a huge range available on the internet, portrays the castle in bright late afternoon light but with a backdrop of very dark clouds.

It is a tone-mapped image composed from multiple originals. This is a technique that is used to handle the very wide range of light inherent such a scene.

Ms Cooper's Boggart books, in which the castle appears, are lighthearted. But she is best known for darker and more atmospheric fantasies based on English and Welsh legend and it was felt that the mood of the photo was "just perfect for her".

I think of her as an American because that is where she has lived for many years. But I gather she was born in Buckinghamshire, where I'm based, and apparently says High Wycombe is where she rode her bike as a child, so I guess she felt a sort of affinity.

The photographs from which the image is compiled were made during a very wet trip to Scotland last year. I made several from the same location, or very near it.

I'm absolutely thrilled they bought it.



There is something fascinating about the urban periphery. I don't mean shanty towns; in fact I mean the opposite. Instead of people crammed into makeshift habitats, I mean habitats that were fully intended to be peopled, but are not.

I can remember, when I was a boy, exploring in some local woods with our pet dog and coming upon, first, lots of rhodedendron bushes among the woodland, a sign of cultivation, then the back of a big old mansion, all derelict and smashed. Spooky to wander around and peer into. (Years later it was done up and became the Rushpool Hall Hotel, and very splendid it is).

On the Costa Blance in Spain some years ago, I remember driving and walking around an abandoned holiday resort: roads all laid out with drains and lamp posts, but overgrowing with grass. Deserted buildings; an empty swimming pool.

Today I happened to turn down a side road on the Cowal Peninsula in Argyll and Bute, just to see where it went, and stumbled across Polphail. Cordoned off, after a fashion, with temporary site fencing, it was easily visible from a concrete access road along which a public footpath was signposted.

What a weird place. It looked to be fairly modern - 1970s, maybe; concrete-built two-storey accommodation blocks, with all the windows smashed and a few wall-sized graffiti cartoons of people.  Spooky as hell - especially when I heard, from within one of the darkened rooms, a deep, guttural, hacking cough.

Signs say bats live there. Apt.

My camera's GPS metadata places it at this lat/long: 55.87047667, -5.30587667.  Here's the place on Google's Streetview, although the caravans at the entrance have now been moved some way further back. There are warning signs on the fencing that it is an offence to disturb the bats.

I thought it might have been a holiday home project that had failed. But, searching later, I found that it had been built in the North Sea oil boom as housing for workers who were going to construct concrete rigs in a huge dock excavated nearby. But the rigs never got made so it was never occupied. Here's a BBC News report.

The demolition promised a few years ago clearly has not happened; however, a smart new marina  promised in the old dry dock is now up and running, and very swish it looks.

Here's a Scotsman report on the graffiti project, and of course I have some photos on my site. There is a much fuller set of photos on Flickr.

Interesting, turning down side roads.




It is very pleasant down by the River Thames in south-west London, notwithstanding the violent squalls that went through today, disrupting my photo shoot with cyclist Mike Baker (on which more later). 

No surprise to see a common tern speculatively fishing alongside the Sea Scouts' boathouse in Kingston. 

Just the kind of place you'd expect to find ... Apache attack helicopters?

I knew, from the previous day, that they were in the news. Only tonight did I know that four were being deployed by the UK to Libyan operations - reportedly from somewhere in the Med.

Well, I can confirm that two were strolling thuggishly, chugga chugga chugga chugga, under the threatening clouds over Hampton Court this morning, heading west. Maybe they do that every Thursday morning. I wouldn't know. 

 Meanwhile here's that tern: