Monday, October 23, 2006

Space to breathe

click photo to enlarge
The Victorians were the first to really understand the value of public spaces. Perhaps it was the unpreced- ented expansion of cities that forced this idea on them, and they realised the need for "green lungs", places for the masses to stroll, play, relax, or simply experience the liberating feeling of being out in the open rather than in the claustrophobia of urban streets. Whatever the motivation for their philanthropy and civic mindedness, the parks and gardens that they created still form the bulk of the green spaces in many of our cities.

Prior to the creation of parks outdoor public areas were largely restricted to streets and squares, market places and any remaining "commons". However, those cities with rivers running through them often had a further area for recreation, namely the river banks. In recent years I have visited London more frequently, and staying in a location overlooking the Thames has made me understand its importance, not just as a transport artery, but as a place for recreation and somewhere to experience that most precious of commodities in a capital city - space. The simple existence of an area uninterrupted by buildings, even if it is relatively inaccessible water, does Londoners a power of psychological good. Those who live overlooking the river recognise this. I wonder if others do?

The South Bank of the Thames has become much more accessible in recent years, and this photograph illustrates the use that cyclists and walkers make of this "linear park". I took the shot contre jour using a zoom lens at 110mm (35mm equivalent). The aperture was f9, and the brightness of the light that caused the silhouette effect pushed the shutter speed to 1/1000 second even dialling in -1.3 EV. The cyclists had just finished taking their photographs and were about to go on their way. The composition of the couple and their bicycles, framed by the railings, light and tree, with the backdrop of the Thames and the Houses of Parliament, was too good to miss. The black and white treatment seemed right, and post processing involved retrieving a little more detail from the distant architecture.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen