Interface Images
Landscape by Keith Ratcliffe  
© 2007

For Free

Well the enquiry has opened and the warring factions have prepared their campaigns. The pylon’s future is to be decided. Their image reminds me of the War of the Worlds which I read with no visual cues to the Martian invaders other than those created in my mind by H G Wells – later images were tame compared to my aliens. The extra-terrestrial pylons march through my imagination as I watch the cases set out in the new War of the Worlds – consumption vs conservation.

I am of course referring to the construction of the Beauly – Denny line that connects the Moray Firth to Central Scotland. Denny is a remarkable place – it is like a spaghetti junction of pylons with about twenty of them in a small area all interconnecting with each other at alarmingly high voltages and humming on a damp day.
Seven different lines meet up here.
Pylon & Wallace Monument
The project is in fact a refurbishment but on a grand scale. The existing 30 metre pylons will be replaced by 65 metre giants. One of the main arguments for needing the super-pylons is that it will allow future access to the National Grid for the wealth of renewable energy that can be generated in the North of Scotland. Wind, tide and wave energy are all available in plentiful supply and for free, once we have developed the technology and raised the capital investment.

On balance I think that in terms of photography, power lines are more of a problem than windfarms. I even find the turbines quite elegant constructions when viewed close up. Yes, they can be an eyesore in the landscape but it is often possible to exclude them from view because they occupy specific places. As long as those places are regulated to prevent them from being located in areas where they do not ‘spoil the view’ I think I could live with them. I certainly favour off-shore sites rather than land based and the current proposal to cover much of Lewis with them is an unthinkable blot on the landscape.

Power and telephone lines are different. They cross the view and there are so many of them that in some places it is impossible to exclude them from a picture. You have to be very good with Photoshop and have lots of time to clone them out if you make an image with them in. I use this as a last resort and try to find solutions that hide them in the scene. Using natural objects as blockers for the pylons or towers and keeping the sun off the lines sometimes works quite well.

A recent day out in Glen Artney illustrates this issue nicely. The aim was to visit the Trig Point on Uamh Beag – also man made of course and to some people an intrusive item. This hill top overlooks the Forth valley and significant in the outlook is the Braes of Doune windfarm. Currently at 36 turbines this is a major development and is an impressive construction when seen from a few hundred metres away.

Braes of Doune windfarm

The website of the developer – Airtricity – provides the following statistics:- 36 turbines, 72MW capacity, Power for around 45,000 homes, Mitigates around 173,000 tonnes of CO2 each year.

On this calm day the blades turned slowly and silently – I wonder what it will be like in windy conditions. I have watched the towers go up over the last year as they are easily visible from my local stroll round King’s Park. They formed the subject of several pictures with which I was quite pleased.

On the return car journey out of the valley there is a good view across to Ben Halton so I stop and work on a couple of pictures. No amount of trying different positions can remove some power lines from the scene that I want. The sun is on them and sure enough they show up on the image. It took several minutes of work to clone them out but the damage to the pixels is there to be seen when you enlarge the image.

© Keith Ratcliffe

February 2007

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