When I turned the manuscript for the Aquaponic Gardening book over to the publisher a month ago it was SUCH a huge relief! I knew I still had to deliver the 80 images I promised for the book by April 15, but how big of a deal could that be? Oh boy, I was sure naive.

The images I’m gathering fall into four categories. They are first either Charts and Illustrations or Photographs. Within those two categories either someone else owns them or I created them.

And there are two hurdles that need to be cleared for every image. They need to be high enough quality for print (300 ppi, and preferably vector Illustrator files for the illustrations) and have enough contrast to show up in black and white on recycled paper. They also need to be accompanied by a signed release form from their owner.

If I created them, clearly things are easy. Even on my most disagreeable days, I would probably still give permission to myself to use my own images! And even if an image was taken in lower resolution than optimal, retaking it usually isn’t a big deal.

The fun comes in when you try to use other peoples, and other organizations’ images. Thankfully, almost without exception people have been incredibly generous about signing over the use of their images. So far, not a single person has declined. One company president tried to negotiate a fee for the use of his image, but when I told him that I was working with a small publishing house and that there was no budget he completely changed his tone, and even offered additional images that might be useful!

Here are some wonderful things that have happened along the way:

  • I’m trying to get permission from the United Nations to use a population graph that is part of a UN report. Incredibly, I’ve actually heard back from them, although it was just to tell me that my request had been forwarded to the ‘office concerned’. What I did learn, however, was that they have a huge database of amazing photographs that anyone can access and use (with proper credit, of course) – http://www.unmultimedia.org/photo/.
  • The World Wildlife Fund puts a blanket statement on the front page of their Living Planet report that says “In order to help get the critical findings of the Living Planet Report to the widest possible audiences, all material in this section is free for you to embed, download and otherwise re-use in your print and online media presentations so long as due credit is given”. They even provide links to high resolution versions of everything in the report! Wow!
  • Our hydroponics distributor, Hydrofarm, said “just send us a wish list of what you are looking for and we’ll see if we can help”. They ended up knocking off 14 of the 80 images!
  • The wonderful NY Times photographer who shot the images of me, my dog and our greenhouse for the Spotless Garden article a year ago agreed to release an image for which he would normally charge over $100 for a long as I promised him a free book when it comes out in October.
  • The architects for the new Growing Power vertical farm have sent a diagram of their design drawing.
  • Many, many others – Murray, Nate, Rob, Dave, Chris, Rick, Neal, Karl, Jerry, Dennis – have also been quick to help, and generous in their enthusiasm for the project.

Now my amazing graphic designer, Kim, is working her magic to take some of the lower resolution illustrations and bump up the quality so they will work in the book. I have such respect for graphic designers!

Frank's Frog

Frank’s Frog (image courtesy of EcoFilms)

But my favorite contributor has been Frank Gapinski of EcoFilms. Frank produces all of Murray Hallam’s aquaponics videos, and is an outstanding writer and blogger in his own right. When Frank heard that I was looking for images for the book he just took up the challenge and started sending me images he thought I might like! The best has been the tree frog I’ve named Frank’s Frog. I woke up one morning to find this wonderful little guy in my inbox with this note from Frank “Here are two more photos which I think could go into anywhere you mention that Aquaponics is an Ecosystem. This is a little green tree frog who has made his home in our grow bed. The plant he is sitting on is known in Australia as a Zucchini or Courgette I think your call them in the States. I took this photo a few minutes ago. Amazing what you will find.”

What actually continues to amaze me is the degree to which the formation of this book is such a community effort! It’s as if this book just needs to be born, and the aquaponics community is coming together to contribute to the birth.