Saturday, March 12, 2011

Nature and the city

click photo to enlarge
Everything visible in this photograph is man-made except the trees, the river and the sky. The part of London in which it was taken has been extensively redeveloped in recent years. Riverside flats, offices, hotels and a few "service" type buildings - shops, pubs, etc, dominate the area. Concrete, steel, brick and glass are the principal materials of this man-made environment. Much of what has been erected is unremarkable, some is good architecture, and some should never have left the drawing board. Were the buildings all that was to be seen, then it would be a fairly grim place. But, there has been a conscious effort made to incorporate natural planting.

What grows in this part of London's redeveloped Docklands is, by and large, what has been deliberately put there. In the area where I took this photograph the streets are lined with trees, often London Plane, trimmed to keep them down to a manageable size - like the pair in my image. In small corners of paved areas beds with hardy shrubs - eleagnus, cotoneaster, etc - have been inserted. The odd grassed area has been inserted to soften up some of the block-paving. Individual houses display plants of their owners' choosing in the small walled gardens in front, and more extensive private gardens fill the centres of apartment complexes. Balconies often have pots and baskets of shrubs, perennials and annuals. And then there are the larger scale, green, public and semi-public areas. Near to the location of my shot is the Surrey Docks City Farm, a collection of animals and vegetable gardens that seeks to educate local families about food production and animal husbandry. Across Salter Road is Stave Hill Ecological Park, a 5.2 acres linear area of trees, grass, water and carefully nurtured wild planting, that comes as a surprise to a visitor to the area. Walking through it the other weekend I saw woodpeckers!

It seems that mankind has a need for the green randomness and beauty of plants. Architects, of course, value their irregularity as a foil for the straight lines of their buildings. And photographers can also benefit from the juxtaposition of a natural shape and a rectilinear building in creating contrast and tension within a composition.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 24mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/00
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On