Saturday, December 30, 2006

Groynes and geography

click photo to enlarge
It's a common boast by so-called "self-made" men and women that in achieving fame and riches they used nothing of what they were taught at school. These fatuous claims, if they were true, would say a lot about the intellectual poverty of their lives, and the low quality (in the midst of superfluous quantity) of their daily existence. But such claims are never true. Just as we carry the imprint of our parents through our lives, so too do we, daily, lean on that which we learnt at school.

Most people would agree that English and Mathematics are the subjects that we make most use of on a regular basis. The interesting question is which subject would come third in terms of its contribution to our daily lives. The answer to that will, of course, vary according to the individual and their particular job and interests. But, I think a strong case can be made for geography. This subject gives us an understanding of how our physical, political and social environment came to be, how significant parts of it work, and how to navigate it. Anyone who has studied the aspects of cartography, geology, geomorphology, sociology, economics and the myriad other areas that comprise a good geographical education is able to enjoy the world more, and has a richer experience wherever they find themselves. So, I was shocked to hear, a few years ago of the subject becoming optional in English schools after the age of fourteen. I pity children who do not experience the joy and challenge that the subject involves, and the loss to their future lives that their paucity of geographical learning will bring.

What has this to do with a photograph of groynes (groins in US-English) on the beach at Cleveleys, Lancashire? Well, I can't see groynes without re-living the fascination of learning from my geography teacher about longshore drift - the lateral movement of sand and pebbles that groynes are designed to arrest! These particular groynes have lost their linking pieces of wood, and will stop very little, but I thought that, together with their shadows they constituted a structure that would make a graphic photograph, moreso in black and white. I used a zoom lens at 124mm (35mm equivalent). The camera was set to Aperture Priority (f6.3 at 1/250 sec), with the ISO at 100, and -0.3EV. The shot was cropped slightly to make the groynes fill the frame better, and contrast was increased.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen