Copying or Co-incidence?

Bruce Little / landscape, photography / / 0 Comments / Like this

On the way home down the M5 from a weekend  in the Midlands the other week, I worked out that we’d be passing the Severn Bridges at about sunset. I persuaded my wife to let me turn off the motorway and head for the Second Severn Crossing (SSC) as on my previous visit, way back in 2008, I had tried to take a shot from directly underneath the bridge showing both the detail of the underside and the main structure of the bridge in the distance as the road curves to the right. I have yet to publish this image as my exposures were all to pot and the underside of the bridge was way too under-exposed. Therefore this was my opportunity to put things right.

There are two things you notice as you walk under the bridge — the quietness, given the busyness of the road it carries, and that due to the road curving to the right as it crosses the Severn estuary, you can get a composition which includes the underside of the bridge and also the superstructure in the distance.

I got my shot and ended up staying for about an hour to try out some different compos. Maybe due to my rustiness at not having visited this location for a while, I found it hard to get a decent composition from just right of the bridge showing its sweeping curves. Therefore I gave up on this and headed upstream a hundred yards or so to get a more side-on view. The sunset was obliging but not spectacular and, after abusing my photography pass for too long, returned to my wife and sleeping toddler in the car and we headed home.

I posted a couple of the images to my Flickr photostream and thought that was that. Then, a couple of weeks later, I was mentioned in a tweet. The contents of the tweet were a bit obscure so I read back through the preceding conversation, which included the following comments relating to my photos:

Someone on flickr has taken identical photos to some of mine

Not using my images but shots from exactly the same angle, not complaining see it as a compliment

Then the following comments appeared on my images on Flickr:

so similar to a shot i have on my photostream

Another shot so similar to mine

Now call me sensitive — many do — but I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the accusation that I’d stolen someone’s ideas. Not only that, but one of the compositions I’m accused of copying isn’t even on my accuser’s photostream. I was just enjoying my hobby and oblivious to his presence on Flickr. This is the SSC for heaven’s sake and there are limited compositions from the English side of the river — two or three downstream, a couple directly underneath, and another two or three upstream. Given the structure’s photogeneity and accessibility, there are bound to be many similar images on photo-sharing websites the world over. I have visited this location myself several times in 2007 and 2008 but this was my first return visit for four years. I have since deleted the comments on my photos as my photostream is my own work and I want to put this to bed.

Now, rant almost over, I will admit that my first visit to this location was in fact due to seeing someone else’s photography. Take a look at Tony Howell’s excellent SSC gallery and tell me you wouldn’t be inspired to visit.

Finally, despite a potentially worrying development in photography copyright I would like to think that I can visit the Cobb at Lyme Regis, Bowerman’s Nose, Durdle Door, Southwold Pier, the Angel of the North, or any other photographic cliché that takes my fancy, and shoot as many photos as I want. I’m not claiming these viewpoints as my own and, with the exception of a very very small number of people, neither can anyone else.

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