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Avebury - Bob Croxford

Winter at Avebury Henge, Wiltshire - Bob Croxford, 2003

1 December 2012

I have been running my own self-publishing business since 1984. Nothing very special, just landscapes of the west country. I started a series of small, postcard sized books in 2001 and a couple of years later did The Landscape of Avebury.

I had a narrowboat moored at Devizes at the time and was using it as a base. Avebury was conveniently just up the road. I needed to do pictures in all seasons and was staying on the boat for a few days in winter when the night became seriously cold. A steel hull in a marina frozen over with thick ice was bearable while I kept a stove burning and myself under several layers of blankets. Getting up from my warm bed and out into the freezing cold when I wasn’t even working on assignment needed a strong dose of self discipline.

I arrived at the site just as the sun came up over the Henge. I was still shooting on film, 645 Mamiya mostly, but had started doing my own digital work on scans. Shooting into the sun caused a few problems of exposure range. Fortuitously I had met up with a true genius of Photoshop work in France, a very talented photographer called Fernand Ivaldi. He had shown me an interesting technique of combining two bracketed exposures into one and ‘dodging’ highlights back into a frame where they had burnt out. Similar to HDR.

The technique involved copying the image exposed for the shadows over the image exposed for the highlights. I then, rather crudely, used the History Brush to paint, or dodge in the missing detail. Shooting on film involved a little difficulty of getting the two images in register. I achieved this by not cutting the film and sending the two joined frames to be scanned in one go.

After shooting the stones shown here I decided to look for more viewpoints and set off to walk round the top of the Henge. I had almost finished the walk when I discovered my cable release was missing so had to retrace my steps to find it. By now I was getting very chilled and decided to head back to bed on the boat.

The small book is still selling modestly. A postcard of the same image has sold about fourteen thousand in the past ten years.

At the time I was submitting everything to Alamy and the image was eventually licenced as a book cover of a Robert Goddard bestseller. (The fee for the cover was $1010 and as an added bonus they paid $1550 to run up to 250 copies of in-store posters. Alamy took their cut from these figures. A couple of years after I quit Alamy the publisher called wanting to re-licence the image for a re-issue. Another fee of £290 was agreed of which I kept 100%.)

Altogether it was a fairly productive morning.

After leaving school at 16 in 1957 Bob Croxford worked in the photographic darkroom of the Morris Motors car factory at Cowley. He later studied photography at the Art School in Birmingham and went on to work for major advertising agencies, magazines and design groups undertaking a wide range of photography although specialising in still-life, food and room sets. Bob now concentrates on his publishing business.

Photographer since 1962, EPUK member since 2004

See more work by Bob Croxford

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