Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Death, dignity and helium

click photo to enlarge
The popularity of releasing helium filled balloons and watching them float away into the wild blue yonder shows no signs of abating. It's now reasonably widely known that the earth's supply of helium is finite and dwindling (despite it being the universe's second most common element), and that more pressing uses for the gas exist e.g. in medical MRI scanners, welding and industrial leak detection. And yet, every year races involving hundreds of helium balloons are organised, often to support a charity, and millions of party balloons are inflated with the gas. It may be that mankind, one day, finds a substitute for helium, but until then many scientists advocate a more responsible husbanding of this important resource.

A while ago I came upon a shiny, red helium balloon that had attached itself to the metal fence that surrounds an electricity substation. It had clearly been snagged for some time because it was abraded and beginning to fade, the metallic coating showing grey beneath the paint. On the side facing me (upside down) I could read the word "dignity". Behind the balloon was a yellow warning sign, one of the many placed on the fence at regular intervals, warning of "Danger of Death": not unreasonable considering the high voltage apparatus inside. As I gazed on the fluttering balloon it occurred to me that this happenstance juxtaposition had put "death" with "dignity" in close proximity and that the three primary colours - red, blue and yellow - were also part of the photographic composition that was forming in my mind. So, reflecting that a "death with dignity" is something we all wish for when the end finally comes, I took my shot and continued on my way.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 20.9mm (56mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/800 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On