Saturday, December 09, 2006

Insurance and risk

click photo to enlarge
An envelope flopped through my letterbox yesterday. On the cover it said, "Important - insurance policy enclosed. Do not throw away". Resisting the temptation to screw it up and put it straight in the bin, I opened it and found that my water company had sent me a document that required only my signature (and money of course) for me to be protected against "water supply pipe emergencies". Call me careless if you will, but I've never, in all my adult life, had insurance against such an eventuality. What's more, I've never had a water supply pipe emergency! And, I imagine that if there was a strong likelihood of me having such an emergency, then the company certainly wouldn't be offering me insurance!

It sometimes seems to me that western society is obsessed with eliminating all risk. People insure their houses, cars, holidays, pets, appliances, even their teeth: virtually anything can be insured. And yet, at the same time, "adventurous", risky activities and sports, such as bungee jumping, white water rafting, parachuting, car racing, and even kite boarding, are becoming ever more popular. The adrenalin rush that these activities give seems to be a required antidote, for some people, for the absence of "real" adrenalin stimulators such as chasing and killing your dinner, or escaping from marauding invaders. And I suppose that risky activities that give excitement, without impinging on the enjoyment of others, are to be encouraged. They are certainly a better way of getting a "buzz" than beating up teenagers or mugging old ladies.

I took this shot yesterday on the beach at St Annes, Lancashire, when I was photographing sand dunes. The kite boarder was racing up and down in the surf by the edge of the sea. I've never taken such a shot before - I usually favour static subjects! However, this proved to be one of only a few, because shortly after I'd taken it I was chased off the beach by a heavy rain storm! I used a long zoom lens at 136mm (35mm equivalent), with the camera set to Aperture Priority (f5.6 at 1/640 sec), and the ISO at 100, with -0.3EV. The distance between the kite canopy and the rider meant that these were very small elements in every shot. On this image I've cropped heavily to give these elements greater prominence, and I've done quite a bit of work on the contrast and colour.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen