Monday, 14 March 2011


There was better light, this Sunday, when I visited my current favourite metaphorical landscape. Bright, but diffused by cloud; just the thing. For the first time, I went up onto the old viaduct, only to discover that you'd have to be 7 feet tall to see over the parapet (or, yet again, have remembered to bring an inflatable ladder). Previous frustrated photographers had obviously demolished sections of wall, however, so I was able to find the proverbial place to stand.

For those who do not follow these things, that cutting was driven through a unique and historic landscape in the teeth of protracted and inventive opposition from environmental groups in the 1980s. Despite what it represents, I have come to like it, and it always denotes "nearly home" when I drive through it. You would have thought a tunnel would have been the obvious solution, though, even if only one of the "dig and fill" sort.

An elevated position really opens up the forms in the landscape, and a good light means the monochrome treatment can open them up even further. This is nothing more dramatic than a riverside path on the Itchen running towards the viaduct. The long lens has compressed the perspective, too, giving a little drama to those simple shapes.


Kent Wiley said...

Despite the desire for an elevated view of the viaduct, I rather like this restricted perspective, Mike. It lends some mystery to the landscape. Of course you could always get a ladder and climb on top of the brick wall. But you wouldn't be able to use that illusive tripod. I like seeing the foot track at the base of the the wall/fence paralleling the expressway beyond. Am I merely making excuses for not bringing out the cherry picker?

Mike C. said...


This is the viaduct -- I'm about 30 feet up in the air -- it used to carry a railway over the river. It's now part of a network of footpaths.

The Hockley Viaduct was built in the 1880s and is apparently unusual in that its core is solid concrete -- the brick is merely an outer skin.

Typically, I carried a tripod around all afternoon, and didn't even get it out of the bag...


Kent Wiley said...


I thought the new highway was the "viaduct." Goes to show how closely I looked at the photo: clearly the lens is above the top of the fence.

I'm rethinking the tripod issue myself. With small cameras, why bother? It's the large format w/ slowish ISOs that want the stabilization.

Mike C. said...

A lot depends on your taste for blurred backgrounds, or whether you find a very "soft" picture unusable.

One of the things I like about "reduced sensor" digital cameras is the enhanced depth of field at wider apertures -- if I can, I like the image to be sharp front to back, and this is more feasible at hand-holding speeds. In fact, with compact digital cameras, the main complaint you hear is the near impossibility of getting a blurred background.

With image-stabilisation you really can hand-hold at ridiculous speeds like 1/15, provided you're not hyper-critical about soft edges.

My problem is I like to get into odd corners and climb onto things where it is simply too tedious or dangerous to set up a tripod. This would be OK if I was photographing people in a war zone, but people expect "tripod quality" images of landscape and other relatively static subjects.


struan said...

I like the first pic very much. My (idiotic) camera club judge's hat keeps screaming at me that the wall and fence lead the eye off leftwards into dull nothingness, but my monkeybrain says it's OK.

I'd crop it square though :-)

Tripods aren't so bad. It's small viewfinders/screens that make them miserable to use.

veriword: litchA voyeuristic urge.

Mike C. said...

Trust that monkey brain! My problem is I have a left-handed monkey brain...

I saw somewhere that someone has come up with a way to tether an ipad to a digital camera, for use as a supplementary screen. For a serious tripod user, that could be quite useful. For the really serious user, no doubt the image could be laterally reversed and turned upside down... Maybe you could even get a cloth to attach to it.

OK, I'm definitely going to set up a blog solely dedicated to the pursuit and study of verification words.


Kent Wiley said...

Something about... tripods... and verification words, perhaps?

This time it's: gorkmz

Dave Leeke said...

I know I'm putting my (whatever) into the lion's mouth but . . .

Isn't the idea of Gorillapods for exactly this situation?

Yes, I know, what do I know about photography . . ?

word verification: munhauln

Mike C. said...


No, a perfectly good point. The problem is really one of weight and height -- even an entry level DSLR with a 70-300 zoom attached is pretty heavy, and the chances of there being a stable object in just the right place and just the right height are small -- you'd just end up amplifying the problem I have with tripods in the first place i.e. you end up taking the photo you can, not the one you want to take.

Having said that, I must investigate what the capacities of these things are -- could be useful in certain circumstances.


Dave Leeke said...

I suppose the idea of wrapping these chaps (Gorillaods) around tree branches and other opportune objects is what makes them appealing - they do one for SLRs.

With the Flips, there's a little tripod with twisty legs and it seems quite stable, so I guess modern designers are listening to the users rather than deciding what people should have because that's what they've decided.

Still, sometimes a sketchbook and pencil is all that's needed - cheaper!

Dave Leeke said...

That is "Gorillapods"