Sunday, April 13, 2008

A man-made view

click photo to enlarge
The distinction between "natural" and "man-made" is interesting because it implies that which is made by man is not natural. And yet many of the problems that mankind creates, it can be argued, come about because people see themselves as different from, and better than, nature. If mankind saw itself as part of the natural world, beholden to what it gives us, and responsible to it as well, then perhaps we might fit into our world a little better, rather than moulding it and destroying it to fit around us. Mankind's depredations often result in diminished biodiversity, though animals and plants are surprisingly good at adapting to the new landscapes that we create.

In fact, it's surprising how many who live in Europe have forgotten (or maybe never knew) just how little of our landscape is now "natural" in the sense of being unchanged by man. Take, for example, the English Lake District, a National Park revered by poets and everyman for its natural beauty. It's a fact that with the exception of a few of the highest summits and screes it looks very different from how it would look without the effects of sheep grazing, forestry, shooting, and tourism. The romantic, bare fells would soon disappear under scrub without farming and land management to keep them clear. Take too, the area of wetlands known as the Norfolk Broads. These lowland peat bogs, reed beds, lakes and rivers, now the playground of boat owners and bird watchers, and home to a remarkable variety of plant and animal life, look like a natural feature of East Anglia. And so they were thought to be until the 1960s. Then the botanist, Joyce Lambert, showed that they result from peat excavation, an activity that began with the Romans and continued and grew through the medieval period, until at one point Norwich Cathedral was extracting 320,000 tons a year!

The photograph above is a spring evening view of part of the northernmost area of water in the Broads, Horsey Mere. The water levels used to be controlled by the five-storey windpump built in 1912 (shown), but today electrical pumps do the job. This is another photograph where I seem to have been influenced by my interest in painting. The processing I've given the shot gives something of a seventeenth century Dutch painting look to the image, making it a man-made view in another sense too!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 22mm (44mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.0
Shutter Speed: 1/125
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On