Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Big wheels

click photo to enlarge
When the London Eye, the big wheel that sits on the south bank of the Thames in central London, was first proposed I was one of those who thought it a bad idea. It seemed to me to be bringing something of the fun-fair to the centre of our capital city, and I guessed I felt it was somehow inappropriate: that the justaposition of the wheel and the existing architecture wouldn't work. I was wrong. I don't say that London's wheel sits easily in its present location, but I have to admit that it isn't the glaring "eye-sore" (pun intended) that I imagined. And the view from it is wonderful!

One can have no such worries about a big wheel in a place like Blackpool; a town predicated on glitzy fun is just where you expect to see one. The largest, at the moment, is sited on the Central Pier and is 108 feet high. The biggest that Blackpool ever saw was opened in 1896, as the Winter Gardens' rival for the Tower which had been completed in 1894. It was 214 feet high, rotated once every 15 minutes, and cost 6d (2.5p) for a ride. This was substantially cheaper than its London rival of the time (yes, even then London had the biggest and best) which cost either one or two shillings depending on the seating.

My photograph shows the shadow of the Central Pier wheel thrown across the sand on an October afternoon as the sun was disappearing and dark clouds threatened. The beach was still proving an attraction for hardier souls, and even the donkeys found some customers, but most have glanced at the sky and decided that indoors is going to be the best place within the next half hour. I used a wide angle zoom lens to capture the scene, placing the shadow to the right to balance the tower to the left. The contrast in my black and white conversion has been increased a little to emphasise the dramatic effect.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen