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All posts for the month August, 2010

It must be some overseas kind of marketing strategy.
Remember I wrote about Natmag Rodale awhile back? I’ve been a subscriber to US Outdoor Photographer now for two years. I got the subscription from an offer two years ago when it was discounted with about 60% and I paid something like $35.00 for two years. It was a good trial period, and it was nice and cheap compared to the £70,00 I pay for the UK Practical Photography (which I find an excellent magazine and well worth the price). But I guess also in these matters you get what you pay for. The first couple of issues were ok, but it got boring very fast. There’s very little variation in the topics and save for the occasional exception to the rule most of the pictures all look the same (and I kind of not like it that to participate in anything they organize you need to be a citizen of one of the 52 US states or…)

And thus I decided not to renew my subscription. I must honestly say that I expected a lot more persistence (especially because every single issue has about 4-5 “Get your subscription NOW!” cards tucked in. What a waste of paper!!), but I got only two reminders. To which I of course didn’t reply. I get it that the sales people try to keep their subscribers subscribed, but if you don’t get a reply to the first reminder, please, LET IT BE!
And if you really are so desperate to remind people, do also think of the international subscribers.
Today, August 30th, I received the (with big yellow letters on a firey red envelope) FINAL NOTICE and they wanted me to respond by August 14th.
So, suppose I missed the first reminder, and for some idiot reason I also missed the second reminder… If you send a third reminder and send it in such a way that it’s delivered two weeks after the last respond date, you seriously need to check up on your marketing strategy…

In 2008 we went to California on holidays. The Better Half is an avid wine lover, and since I’m the perfect driver (as in I don’t drink alcohol, I’m sure my driving isn’t all that perfect ;) ) it was clear we would drive up to the Californian wine country to visit wineries and to let the Better Half taste all the good stuff. We visited many, she tasted many, and we brought home as much as we could.

Simi Winery was one of them. A beautiful place with lots of history, very nice people and some great experts. We took a tour on the premises, had the expert explain everything and show us around through the production area. Of course I shot a lot of pictures, some good, some better, some just… well… ok…
Lo and behold, about two years later I’m working on a brochure for one of my clients and find that one of my images from the Simi Winery premises was just the image we needed. I made a quick draft of the brochure, put the picture in to show, and everyone agreed that it was a great shot for the page. I did inform the client that I would have to contact the winery, because I didn’t have a property release.
That was all my honesty. The image in itself was so generic, and probably not even recognizable in the way that we were using it (see below for the original and the crop as it was going to be used).

Simi Winery

D200, ISO100, 1/1500 sec @ f/2.8, Tamron 28-75mm

Simi Winery

Edited and cropped as it was planned for use

If I would’ve just put it there, I’m quite positive that no one would ever have bothered. But then… I would want other people to inform me if they were planning to use an image of my property, so… Don’t do unto others…

So I started to (try to) get in touch with them. This was about 3-3,5 months ago. First I checked the Simi Winery website. There was the name of a contact, an email address and a phone number. I sent an email to this address explaining who I was, what I wanted and why. A week passed and there was no sign of life. I sent another mail and waited a couple of days still before I called the number on the website. Hmm… That’s funny… The number I called returned with a message on an answering machine, but the lady talking mentioned a different name than the name on the website. I figured I’d try again later (a good number of late nights involved here, since the time difference is about 10 hours).
I tried again later… a couple of hours later… a couple of days later… called the cellphone number this lady said she would be reachable on if she wasn’t at the office… No reply whatsoever. I left messages on the answering machine. In vain. No sign of life, or confirmation that she got my mails or messages. I sent a mail to another contact person mentioned on the site, from a different department, called that person, but it was the same story. I sent an email straight to Simi Winery, I called Simi Winery, but they didn’t answer either.

I was at a loss as to what to do. I had no doubt that they would let me use the image, since the winery and my client don’t have any conflict of interest or anything. There might even be a good chance that my client actually supplied the material in this image. It was just a courtesy thing for me to ask them.

I kept on checking the phone number for the next two-three weeks and the website, until all of a sudden I noticed that the phone number and name of the contact person had changed on the Simi Winery website. I tried again, a little shimmer of hope shining through. But there was no change, save for the name, the email address and the phone numbers. No one replied to either email or phone or messages that I left on the answering machine. About two months had passed since I first started trying to get in touch with these people.

At some point, I can’t even remember why it came to mind, I thought of switching off the number recognition of my phone number. I called again, but now without sending along my caller ID. I’ll never know if this was actually the reason, but the first time I called without sending my caller ID along, the phone was answered. YAY!
This lady appeared to be a marketing person from Constellation Wines U.S., sort of an umbrella organization representing American wineries and wines. She sounded very suspicious when I told her who I was and what I wanted, and there was nothing in her voice that gave me the idea that she had any idea what I was talking about. After I explained who I was, what I did, why I contacted her and how long I had been trying, she all of a sudden remembered that she indeed had seen my mail and forwarded it 16 days ago to their legal department, because she had no authority to decide whether or I could use the image. If I wanted to inquire any further there was one person whom I could contact and she was happy to give me the contact info.

I didn’t waste any time and straight away called the number, again without sending along my caller ID, and promptly got this lady on the phone. I told her I got her contact info through another person from Constellation Wines U.S. and that this other person had forwarded my mail to them, that I didn’t get a reply yet and if she could please have a look at it. As with the other lady she sounded very suspicious and as with the other lady there was nothing in her voice that gave me the idea that she had any idea what I was talking about. That was especially accentuated by the fact that she told me she didn’t know the other person. Of course Constellation Wines U.S. can be such a big enterprise that people don’t know each other, but even when I spelled out my name and email address and the other lady’s name and email address, she couldn’t find my mail. So she kindly requested me to resend the email to this specific address, so that they could process and archive it with a reference number. And so I did. I included the image and for easy and fast processing I also added my property release form for them to sign.

Dear Ms XXX, 

Following our phone conversation today I'm sending you the request
to use the attached image in a corporate brochure of one of my
clients. The client is XXXXXXXXX [explanation of what the client
does and in what field they are working]. 

This image was shot by me on the premises of Simi Winery in
California in 2008. I am the rightful copyright holder, but
since the Winery is private property I kindly request your
permission to use the image in the aforementioned brochure. 

To speed up the process I've attached a property release form
for my archives. If you allow me to use the image, please fill
in and sign the form and return it to me. 

In return I can make available a number of images I shot on the
Simi Winery premises for you to use free of charge in promotional
material for Simi Winery if credit line © www.arnoenzerink.com is
used. 

Looking forward to your response. 

If you want to contact me by phone, you can reach me on my cell:
011 358 -- --- ----. Do keep in mind that I'm based in Finland, so
it's 10 hours later here. 

--- 

Kind regards,

The reply came very fast, totally against my expectations after having to wait and follow-up and try to get people on the phone. The next day I was in for a big SHOCKER. My kind request was denied.

Dear Mr. Enzerink,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us at Simi Winery Consumer
Relations. We appreciate hearing from you.

The information and picture you sent have been reviewed by our team.
Thank you for your interest in Simi. However, we respectfully decline
your request. 

If I may be of any assistance in the future, please feel free to
contact me at 1-800-XXX-XXXX Ext. 7XXX4, 7:30am - 5:00pm PT
Monday - Thursday and 7:30am - 12:00pm PT Friday.

Sincerely,

I was dumbfounded. Speechless. I absolutely didn’t see this coming.
There was no reason for the rejection stated, so I sent an email back kindly requesting the reason for rejection. As I mentioned before Simi Winery and my client have no common economical grounds, there’s no competition, no market share, nothing. The image as it was going to be used didn’t refer in any way to Simi Winery, nor could it be recognized by anyone as such, and in the text there wouldn’t be any reference to company or location. I had no clue as to why I wouldn’t be able to use this image.
Days passed. I resent the email to no avail. I called this lady again (I forgot had switched back on the sending of my caller ID), but all I got was the answering machine. A couple of days ago I tried again and remembered to switch off the sending of my caller ID. Of course I will never know if this was actually the reason ;) but the phone was promptly answered and when I said who I was I could hear the annoyance in the voice of the lady. I told her I sent her an email a couple of times asking a reason for why my request was denied and she said she had forwarded the mail to the legal department three times, only to get a reply that this reference number was already processed. I asked her to once more inquire about it and I think she said “I would” only to get off the phone. I now know the sound of “Good Riddance” in a voice, and it’s not pretty, no matter how friendly it’s brought.

I did, however, promptly got a mail back the next day:

Dear Mr. Enzerink,

We thank you again for your continued interest, but again I must
reiterate that your request has been denied.

If I may be of any assistance in the future, please feel free to
contact me at 1-800-XXX-XXXX Ext. 7XXX4, 7:30am - 5:00pm PT
Monday - Thursday and 7:30am - 12:00pm PT Friday.

Sincerely,

Which was basically a copy-paste from the first mail and STILL didn’t give me a reason for why my request was denied. I sent her a mail again, with exactly that, stating that there still wasn’t a reason for why my request was rejected and kindly suggested that if she didn’t think she would get a different reply from their legal department, she’d pass on their contact info to me so I would call them directly.

I’m not expecting a reply to that anymore and I don’t think I feel like calling her again and listen to that “Shit, it’s that annoying foreigner again” voice.

Moral of the story?
Some day honesty and friendliness will pay off, although it is not this day…

Mid/end summer always brings out the full-grown crops. I have a weakness for many things in terms of photography subjects, and one of them is wheat. For many reasons.
One of those is that it’s perfect to play around with depth of field (DoF). Even though it’s probably one of the most cliché things ever to photograph, and there probably isn’t a single angle or point of view left that it hasn’t been photographed from, it just never fails to entertain me.
I guess I’m just happy with the small things Life has to offer ;)

Wheat

For all 4: D700, ISO200, Nikkor 70-200mm. 1) and 2) 1/6000 sec @ f/2.8 -- 3) 1/350 sec @ f/13 -- 4) 1/45 sec @ f/22

Place your orders for prints, posters, cups, etc. etc. now, before any one else has the chance! You’ll be one of the first ones with a poster over your bed like this!
I’d never seen a pink grasshopper before, so I googled it and there’s a stack of results coming up saying this is a rare thing. I remain sceptical until the orders come in :D

Ok, all jokes aside… When out with the Better Half (I guess I won’t disclose the location to prevent news teams showing up at the place :D ) I took a stroll through the garden when my eye caught a glimps of an out-of-place color. At least for the part where I was looking. I checked in closer and saw the cutest little creature sitting on a leaf.
Needless to say I went for the camera to shoot a couple of pictures. I did have the macro lens on, but that didn’t really turn out too good, so I went back to the car to get my bag and the extension tubes, expecting the little bugger to be gone by the time I came back. But lo and behold: it was patient, and and apparently experienced in modeling, because it had turned around, head up, facing right up in to the light (if you lean in closely you might even catch a catch light or 500 ;) ). So I set up the tripod, which I also brought, put the extension tube on, stuck it in the face of the grasshopper and even then it didn’t move.

Pink grasshopper sitting on a green leaf

D700, ISO200, 1/250 sec @ f/4.8, Tamron 90mm macro + 24mm extension tube

WOA! That was exciting!
Not that I haven’t seen thunderstorms before in my life, but still. This was one of the better ones we get in this -usually- thunderforsaken place. It all started when things got really, really dark really, really fast.

Thunderstorm

D700, ISO1600, 1/4 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 50mm

Usually I’m quite fast with taking out and setting up the stuff, but this time I was just so in awe about the power of the whole thing that I stood there on the balcony with the Better Half just watching it unfold. Then I quickly ran back inside, grabbed camera, tripod and remote shutter, put a plastic bag over the camera (it had started to rain really badly), set everything up on the balcony, put the camera on C-high with the remote shutter locked and a long exposure time. And then I continued to stand there with the Better Half watching it unfold (I even missed -like- an hour of Star Wars Return of the Jedi – which I’ve never seen before in my life!).

It was just too cool, literally, after having been fried in plastic balcony renovation plastic, which they took down only two days ago!

Lightning strikes during a heavy thunderstorm in Espoo, Finland

D700, ISO200, 10 sec @ f/19, Tamron 28-75mm

Lightning strikes during a heavy thunderstorm in Espoo, Finland

D700, ISO200, 10 sec @ f/27, Tamron 28-75mm

Lightning strikes during a heavy thunderstorm in Espoo, Finland

D700, ISO200, 30 sec @ f/16, Tamron 28-75mm

with a clear blue sky, a field of bright yellow rapeseed, a beautiful bride and an even so beautiful groom.

Manfred and Willeke

D700, ISO200, 1/500 sec @ f/9.5, Nikkor 70-200mm

Manfred and Willeke

D700, ISO200, 1/500 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 70-200mm

Manfred and Willeke

D700, ISO200, 1/500 sec @ f/11, Nikkor 70-200mm

Don’t you just love the contrast with the white, red and yellow? :)

And then there was of course the bride’s and groom’s son and one of the best men:

Son and Jan

D700, ISO200, 1/350 sec @ f/5.6, Nikkor 70-200mm and some more post-processing in Photoshop

It tells a story, that picture. Maybe not the story of a wedding, but a story nonetheless. One of my absolute favorites of the day. Together with this one:

Son

D700, ISO200, 1/250 sec @ f/5.6, Nikkor 50mm and some more post-processing in Photoshop

I was really pleased with the last one. The whole day he seemed to be aware of “the Photographer”. When I had him in the viewfinder he either would look/turn away or make a funny face. Here I caught him off-guard :)

I’m part of the Worth1000 community and a couple of years ago I participated in a Surf and Turf competition for which the idea was to combine a land animal and sea animal into one being. Lots of hilarious things come out of that. Mine was called the Seahound and it looked like this:

Seahound

Seahound

Courtesy obligates me to mention that neither of the two images I used to create the above one were made by me. See below for the two sources. I have no way of retracing who the original photographers of these pictures were. I found them through a Google search when I came up with the idea of making a Seahound. Uses like this, non-commercial, supposedly fall under the creative commons license, meaning (in short) that, as long as the user doesn’t sell the derivative image onwards and doesn’t use it for commercial purposes, it is okay to use the source images. This image ended up 8th (out of 73) in the contest, with seven even more hilarious ones going first.

Seahound sources

Seahound sources

Occasionally I do a Reverse Image Search on my work (typically the stuff that IS my own and COULD be used commercially) through Tineye and see if anything comes up. Several times something did come up, but nothing close to the results that were returned on this particular image. Together with a good number of other images from this competition it came up on a wide variety of sites, among which websites that sell backgrounds for cellphones and such.

Dilemma, then. What to do?
This is my image, I created it. But it it’s not completely my image, because I used source images that aren’t my own. Should I pursue this? Should I find out what I can do about it? Someone out there IS making money of images that aren’t his/her.
Kind of frustrating it is. And the biggest problem is that most likely the servers that host these images are based in some obscure country where the laws in these matters aren’t taken too seriously. And if for whatever miraculous reason they would reply to emails, or if for whatever miraculous reason the websites would be taken down, then they would simply set up another website within a couple of days.
Carrying water to the sea, that would be.

So… as you’ve noticed before in some of my posts I’m a big fan of Jim Carrey, and I’ll quote that favorite quote of mine from Liar Liar again:

…so what I am going to do is piss and moan like an impotent jerk, and then bend over and take it up the tailpipe!