gill moore photography

Archive for the 'environment' Category

Shooting the city @ night with Christina Seely & her “Lux” project …

christinaseely_lasvegas_lux

A few weeks ago I was privileged to help out a wonderful US photographer Christina Seely  shooting her latest project “Lux”.  I became aware of her work after a call out on Mark Page’s excellent Manchester Photography website back in June.

A number of reasons prompted me to answer the request for assistance.

  • I checked out Christina’s website and I really liked her work.
  • Her own areas of interest happen to be ones I share a passion for too; namely the planet, our relationship with nature/the environment and the effect of one on the other.
  • Personally, I have found collaborations are a good thing if one has a gut-feeling to do it.
  • It presented a great opportunity to learn from a successful photographer who has drive, talent and belief in abundance.
  • A  measure of helping is always good for the Soul Department.

The gist of the “Lux” project as explained by Christina (from a blog interview with Plazm magazine) :

“A few years ago I rediscovered the NASA map of the world at night and I kept coming back to it over and over again. I was captivated by the beauty of the light on the map and also the complexity of what this light represents about us.  The conclusion is that this light obviously equals an intensely negative impact on the planet.  However, since it’s inception, man made light has also represented; ingenuity and progress, innovation, growth, prosperity, amusement, romance, optimism and promise – basically fundamentally positive and hopeful things. My real interest lies in this complexity and what it reflects about our current relationship with the planet.

The final body of work will be made up of photographs that document the artificial glow produced by the 43 brightest cities at night.”

This is a 4 year, worldwide project and a great deal of organisation, skill and research has been required for each of the shoots to go ahead.  Many artists mention their process when they discuss their work, when you read Christina’s “Lux” blog, one can gain a very real sense of this being more akin to a quest.   It highlights the efforts an artist has to put in behind the scenes to deliver; including battling an airport theft (Madrid) and a fire (Edinburgh).

My role for the Manchester and Liverpool shoots: location scout, navigator, car driver, equipment carrier, safety-in-numbers guard, torch bearer, stopwatch watcher, umbrella handler, local guide and regional catering advisor.

christina_and_camera

Christina uses a beautiful handmade 5×4 field camera to record her work, modelled by Christina in the above phote.   For “Lux” the aim is that the finished prints will be large and so the rendering needs to be as detailed as possible.    After copious testing, her chosen film for the work was Portra 100T negative, which presented a problem as Kodak decided to discontinue the whole range once shooting had commenced.  I think by scraping Ebay Christina should just get through to the end of the project (however, if anyone knows of any further sources then please do get in touch).  Average time for exposing the film was 3 hours.  This is due to the effects of reciprocity failure.

The spot I thought might work for the Liverpool shoot was Bidston Hill on the Wirral, close to Birkenhead (thanks also to Chris Coles for help scouting locations and research).   However, I must admit I was a little worried about wandering a lonely location such as this in the dead of night.  Due to it’s landmark windmill, it is a popular meet-up place for the local youth.  Thankfully,  despite the shoot starting around 11pm on a Friday night, we were bothered only by moths and a shooting star, a hooting owl provided the odd punctuation mark.  Manchester was captured from a field near the summit of Hartshead Pike, Mossley.  No threat of hassle, just a wonderful night sky, a few curious horses, low-flying bats, great company (Richard Brook from MMU also helped on this shoot) and a tiny bit of drizzle.  Both shoots were surreal, magical and very special.  I do not think I have ever sat and consumed the same scene for so long.

lux1_manchester

This project is now nearing completion as regards photography and there is already interest worldwide concerning possible sites to exhibit the body of work.  I cannot wait to see all of the filmic images displayed in one place.   Especially the shoots I tagged along for, will those two sheets of 5 x 4 film reveal the same things I conjured and remember so vividly?  Will they even make the finished cut … as I know some degree of image editing will be necessary.

A final footnote, Christina has been in touch to tell me about another project she is involved with called the Civil Twilight Collective who have been busily working on a fantastic idea: Lunar Resonant Streetlights.  It has been nominated for the prestigious Index Award (the world’s largest design award 500,000 euro prize-money) in the Community category.

lunarresonantstreetlights

There are some amazing ideas shortlisted, all along the theme of “Design to Improve Life”.  It merits a blog post of it’s own and if you have an interest in this subject you will find it well worth a visit.  Whilst there, you can cast your vote for the People’s Choice (I have) but be quick as voting ends tomorrow Friday 28th August when the winner is announced.

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Late summer nature show, beautiful colour and lines on my dill ….

Just couldn’t resist taking a shot of my doorstep herb plant which is gearing up to spread its seeds soon. It’s been shouting out at me to take a shot of it as it gets more beautiful by the day. So with today’s sunshine I finally got my act together. Something to remind of me of summer during the dark winter days ahead.

dillhead_1_r0011034

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Manchester Artist heads off to “Th’Arctic” …

As ever Kate @ the Manchizzle shows she has the proverbial finger on the pulse of all things interesting and arty in the Manchester region.

th_arctic_image

Kate gave a mention to local artist Rebecca McKnight and her mission to explore the icy beauty of “Th’Arctic” (that’s Lancashire for The Arctic in case you were wondering).

A place so cold that the Ocean frequently freezes solid and only the hardiest of animals and plants survive. It is here the Polar Bear, Arctic Fox, Wolverine and Arctic Hare find their natural habitat.  For much of the year things are so unbearable that most living things hide away til the warmth of the short summer gives them a nudge to briefly explode into life. Though, if you are lucky, you may catch sight of the Aurora Borealis to take you mind off the biting wind!

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I got to know Rebecca last year as we both had work displaying at the Chorlton Arts Festival. This was May 2008 and she was already focused, excited and working hard on plans for the trip, so I have seen first-hand how dedicated she has had to be to make this project happen.

The logistics of pulling something like this together requires nearly as much determination and effort as surviving the Arctic elements. Sponsors and funding, website, journal, publicity, technical gear, experienced mentors, involvement of the community, travel plans, flights, visa’s, communications … not to mention a map and route! I’m sure that’s only the half of it.

She is hoping to become one of the first British people to ski up to 300 miles pulling a pulk (sledge) from Resolute Bay to Grise Fiord, the most northerly Inuit community in the Canadian Arctic. So, getting supremely fit prior to the attempt has been one side of the preparation, plus this trip is also a live art project which aims to “explore personal identity in relation to situation and environment.”

The use of the word ‘live’ was not a mistake. Check out Th’Arctic website, which has regular updates from the location, a live tracker map showing the groups progress and there is the ability to send the Team a text or email to keep them all on their toes and gain a real insight into the experience. There are no photo’s on the website just yet but as they have only just arrived at base camp I am sure some amazing work will surely follow.

The actual trek starts tomorrow (1st April) and the latest weather conditions sound tough (-60oC and blizzards). So best of luck Rebecca and everyone else, what a fantastic effort to bring such a dream trip to life.

You can follow things and send messages of support via:-
Th’Arctic website
Facebook page
artist’s talking a-n website
The Big Screen Manchester

plus there will be a live-link up with the team which is being co-ordinated with the guys at the Cornerhouse on Saturday 18 April.

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Patrick Blanc to be featured on a Gardeners World Special this week ….

gardenersworld

from the BBC website:

Last year Joe Swift described how back gardens are being sold for development, reducing the amount of green space that oxygenates our cities and soothes our troubled souls. But instead of beating his chest and saying how terrible this is, he heads off to discover how to grow gardens where land is scare. In France, he visits the Parisian botanist Patrick Blanc’s famous hanging gardens, which use an ingenious irrigation system to grow plants on vertical walls. In the UK, he meets one man who has cultivated a jungle on his balcony, and another who has a garden of succulents growing on the dashboard of his van. He also meets Nigel Dunnett from Sheffield University, who is an expert on green roofs – a way of turning the humble house roof into a demi-paradise; an industry that is booming.

This Special Gardeners World show will be broadcast this coming Friday, March 20th 2009 on BBC Two @ 8pm, definitely one not to miss!

For more information on Patrick Blanc and his amazing work with Vertical Gardens read my post from last year here.

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How does a rather excellent real ale and the UK’s largest sedum roof go together?

adnams_distributecentre

I recently saw a very large and impressive sedum roof at the Wildfowl and Wetlands site at Martin Mere, Lancashire. It got me wondering who can lay claim to having the largest sedum roof in the UK?

I felt sure it would be housed somewhere like the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth (Wales) or maybe one of the large regenerative building schemes undertaken over the last few years for eco-friendly social housing or public buildings?

I did find a few nice examples of sedum and regular green roof schemes:

Certainly quite a number of educational buildings such as St. Martins-in-the-field Girls’ School, London roof and one at Cambridge University plus many new build schools across the country.

The well-known Eden Project has a small green roof, the most picturesque I could find was the Gallie Craig Coffee Shop, Drummore, Scotland. Wow, I SO want a hot beverage there now! :-)

gallie_craig_coffee_shop

Sometimes the choice to create a green roof was by necessity, such as the restaurant within St. James Park, London; any design for the new roof there had to blend in with the surrounding parkland or it would not gain planning permission.

An award-winning illustration on my doorstep here in Manchester is the Norman Foster designed scheme called Budenberg HAUS which has 4,500 square metres of green roof sited on the edge of Altrincham overlooking the Bridgewater Canal.

budenburg_haus1

The largest UK green roof (not wholly sedum) is at the Rolls Royce factory near Chichester which has a huge roof space measured at 40,000 square metres.

Eventually after a fascinating journey delving into various schemes I found a winner … and a real-ale brewery at that! Any real-ale fans will have heard of Champion Beer Brewers Adnams who are based on the Suffolk Coast in Southwold. In 2005 beer sales were up and faced with this growing demand they realised that a new distribution centre was required.

Adnams website lists their environmental goals “We aim to manage our impact positively on the social, natural, and built environment” and on this newbuild project they certainly went for it, not only creating the UK’s biggest sedum living roof but also building the Centre predominently from bricks formed using locally-grown hemp, lime and chalk.

These building materials certainly earn green brownie points (sorry I couldn’t resist!) but they also add effective functionality. Acting rather like a cellar, it maintains a steady 11 degrees celsius temperature within the warehouse, and means there is no need for expensive air-conditioning units. Heating for the offices is provided by solar panels. Though the initial build for the scheme was higher than a conventional approach, is has meant running costs are nearly half what they were at the Brewers smaller previous warehouse. So in the long term it will result in a considerable cost saving.
sedumroof

The roof itself is predominently sedum. These low maintenance, fleshy, thick skinned succulents have excellent insulation properties and also help filter out air pollutants. The plants are low maintenance and usually require no artificial irrigation, they absorb sound (useful in an urban environment) and can provide a habitat for birds and wildlife. The Adnams planting scheme also included regional wildflowers and wild grasses to supplement the sedum and to blend more naturally with local flora.

However, Adnams may soon be knocked off the top of their green perch. Work is ongoing on a scheme in Hemel Hempstead for a new Indoor Ski Centre. The sedum roof here will be a jaw-dropping 21,500 square metres and is set to open in the summer of 2009.

I have rather skirted over the pioneering use of the hemp and lime bricks on this project, but that is only because I am planning a longer post on this Stone Age plant and it’s modern applications in the very near future.

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Life as Art : Photographs taken with a microscope.

Some of the personal project work I do involves photographing nature in some shape or form. I try to often use an abstract or unusual approach, hopefully it helps to make the viewer stop and think. It is a fascinating, ever-changing and endless canvas, I feel it helps glue us all together.

The image above is from a page over on the National Geographic site which features stunning and beautiful imagery all created using the help of a light microscope. There is a slideshow of 10 shortlisted images taken from a competition sponsored by Nikon called “Small World”. Utterly beguiling and contemplative. If it wasn’t so expensive to invest in the kit I would be trying my hand at this tomorrow. Click here to read more on microscopy (photography using an optical microscope).

This image came in Seventh place, it looks just like a landscape which has been “photoshopped to oblivion”! The reality is more interesting, it shows in massive detail an antibiotic cancer drug; the colours are created by the light passing through polarizing filters which helps to reveal the drug’s chemical structure.

The only photograph that doesn’t work for me is the final one which finished in Tenth spot. I have been lucky enough to travel extensively all over the beautiful New Zealand Islands and I am afraid biting memories of sandflies and sandhoppers prevents me feeling anything but horror when I look at that particular image. Sorry :-(

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