Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Street lights

click photo to enlarge
When, as a child, I moved from a country dwelling, into a small market town, it was the street lights that fasc-
inated me most. And not just because they turned night into almost day. The green, ornate, cast iron lamp standards had a cylindrical scalloped base, a tapering shaft that changed into a top bracket shaped like a question mark, and a light with a hood resembling pointed petals. But, best of all was the short horizontal bar sticking out just below the lamp. This was presumably a relic of the days when lamps were gas-powered, and a ladder was used to reach and light them. We children liked the design because you could swing on the bar! The day these street lights were changed for modern pre-cast concrete models, which later got orange sodium bulbs, was one of deep, deep regret.

In the years that followed, standardisation seems to have been adopted across many parts of the country. Galvanised steel and concrete became the materials of choice, and spare, utilitarian forms, were favoured. However, it wasn't long before planners tired of these, particularly in conservation areas, and other, more ornate designs came into use. Today it's gratifying to see that local councils regard even large street lighting as something that can bring distinction to a road. In Blackpool, Lancashire, the South Promenade has large, shiny steel "C" shaped lights, and in nearby St Annes, the ornate lights on the main street are part of a suite of street furniture - shelters, seating and art work - designed to enhance the area.

The lights in the photograph are at Fleetwood, Lancashire, and are clearly designed to look "modern". They are a fairly unexceptional design, spherical for no good reason other than appearance, and look too tall in their location. However, the height brings advantages for the local gulls which use them as convenient and safe perches! I took the shot of this young gull streamlining its body to avoid being blown off the curved surface with a 300mm (35mm equivalent) lens. The diagonal view filled the frame better, allowed the gull to be placed in a key position, and left enough blue sky to give the feeling of space that the bird must experience as it looks down from its near, yet safely remote perch.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen