Friday, June 18, 2010

Power to the people

click photo to enlarge
Sometimes I get home from a bit of photography, review my shots on the computer screen, and then realise the oppotunities I missed. Often that prompts me to return to the same location and look anew for images. I did that the other day when I went to a wind farm that has a large electricity sub-station and wildlife reserve nearby.

The line of electricity pylons that passes through this particular part of the Fens links to this sub-station, perhaps to transform the voltage or for some other reason of which I am ignorant. Whatever happens there takes place behind large metal and electric fences that are liberally festooned with bright yellow "Danger of Death" signs. Peering through an unelectrified fence you can see ranks of machinery with insulators that sit and hum. A shot I'd casually taken the previous day included the shadows of this fence, so for my second visit I went later in the day and looked for a shot that included it to greater effect. Today's image is the result. I suppose it is one of those that has limited appeal, but I quite like it, not least for my shadow pressed against the fence as I placed the camera lens between the bars.

I called this post "Power to the people" not solely because it depicts an electricity installation, but because as I was going about my photographic business I was pondering some words of President Obama in relation to the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, an event that has happened in part because of mankind's insatiable thirst for cheap power. He said that it would have an effect on the government and people's approach to the environment of the same magnitude that 9/11 did to the approach to national security. He may well be right. But he should be wrong! There have been other man-made environmental disasters with the magnitude to have been a wake-up call to the world, such as Minimata or Chernobyl, but the event that definitely should have caused a rethink on industry and the environment, happened in 1984, and not in the U.S.A., but in India. The Bhopal disaster was caused by a leak of chemicals at the U.S.-owned Union Carbide pesticide plant. Half a million people were exposed to the chemicals, and though precise figures are disputed, it is widely accepted that about 8,000 died soon after, and a futher perished 8,000 later from gas-related diseases (the Indian government says 3,500 within days and 15,000 in subsequent years) . A large area of land remains contaminated to this day. Moreover, the compensation given to the bereaved and injured, and for the cleaning up of the pollution was pitiably small, and legal action continues with limited effect twenty five years later. Regrettably it doesn't take a great deal of thought to work out why that was the case then, in India, and why there is a different scenario being played out now over the oil spill off the U.S. coast.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/500
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On