Monday, January 16, 2012

Blots on the landscape

click photo to enlarge
Mankind is responsible for many blots on the landscape. Limestone and other quarries take some beating. They are often found in areas of scenic interest and beauty and invariably produce the ugliest of scars that are not usually healed even decades after they've shut down. Then there are the so-called retail parks. Anywhere less park-like it's hard to imagine. Yes, they usually have a sprinkling of lollipop trees and a few shrubberies that are mechanically savaged yearly, usually at the wrong time, but they are basically a collection of ugly steel and glass sheds surrounded by acres of tarmac. I once opined that, had Breughel and Bosch been living today, they would have set their visions of hell in somewhere like Manchester's Trafford Centre.

Then there are the oil refineries. Mostly located on estuaries to enable the convenient supply of the raw material, and often incorporating other industries and processes based on oil, they are usually particularly bleak places. The forest of towers and pylons, some belching steam or smoke, are visible for miles. They are even, or perhaps especially, a night-time blot on the landscape. Because they are twenty four hour operations, when darkness falls thousands of lights appear and a sulphurous glow that reflects off low clouds marks their location.

And, yet, and yet. Even the darkest, most dismal of these blots, when seen in the right light, by someone in the right mood, can offer a fearsome grandeur. And, in much the same way that Philip James de Loutherburg found a subject for his paintbrush in the mighty furnaces of Coalbrookdale at the start of the industrial revolution, the photographer too can find something today in these places that offers a spectacle worth capturing on film. On my recent visit to Hull, when I was casting around for a subject, it was the distant refinery and power station at Killingholme that offered a detail to place between the darkening sky and the cold River Humber.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 218mm
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/640 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -1.00 EV
Image Stabilisation: On