Monday, March 29, 2010

High visibility flowers

click photo to enlarge
I can't remember the first thing that I saw painted with fluorescent paint, but it may have been part of a military training aircraft. What I do remember is that from the initial orange the palette of achingly bright colours gradually expanded to include yellow, green and pink. Similarly, the uses to which these eye-catching colours were put spread widely to fire engines, safety jackets, warning signs, the tips of barrels on toy guns, and then into everyday lettering, clothing, posters and much else. For a number of years the police have routinely worn high visibility jackets in a very acid yellow colour. Other emergency services, as well as utilility workers, builders and drivers have also adopted jackets in these colours, usually through the belief that being very visible will reduce the risk of injury as they go about their work.

I was wondering recently how widespread the use of fluorescent colours has to become before we cease to notice them. I'm hoping we have some way to go yet because my wife and I frequently wear bright yellow jackets when cycling. I suppose that question is similar to the one about permanent headlights on road vehicles. In some countries it is mandatory to have them on at all times for safety reasons, and proponents of this strategy maintain that it reduces the number of collisions. But, I wonder, does there come a point where the increased visibilty of cars with headlights (or road maintenance workers with fluorescent jackets) is lost as their ubiquity makes them part of the normal scene? And if that is so, is there a case for restricting the use of these colours to those who will clearly benefit from them? I think I'm probably seeing a problem where none exists, but I'd be interested to know if any research has been done into this issue.

We're currently planting up a newly created mixed border, using shrubs and perennials from elsewhere in the garden, along with some plants that we've bought. It was when I was planting a few primulas that the above thought occurred to me. This flower now comes in an amazing variety of colours, including some that verge on the fluorescent, making them "high visibility flowers"! Today's photograph shows the centre of a white primula bloom that has an almost Day Glo orange centre. The colours that we added to the border are, in the main, different from those that we already have, pictures of which I've posted before here and here.

Afterthought Fluorescent must surely be one of the most commonly mispelled words. I've even seen it on paint manufacturers' and distributors' websites written as "flourescent".

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f4
Shutter Speed: 1/800
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: -0.66 EV
Image Stabilisation: On