Cool­ing tow­ers

Tony Alves shoots the cool­ing tow­ers of his lo­cal power sta­tion and cap­tures the dif­fer­ent ef­fects weather and air­craft move­ment have on the scene

NPhoto - - Over To You -

My home is near Jo­han­nes­burg’s OR Tambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port, close to Kelvin power sta­tion. The power sta­tion was built in 1957, and still gen­er­ates elec­tric­ity, af­ter it was partly moth­balled some years ago. Our re­cent elec­tric­ity sup­ply cri­sis made it nec­es­sary to start up many of these coal fired relics, and I’m led to be­lieve Kelvin is cur­rently run­ning at about 30 per cent of its ca­pac­ity. Half of the fa­cil­ity is not in use. Ev­ery night out­side my door, I see air­craft tak­ing off from the air­port head­ing ev­ery which way. The planes and power sta­tion make great sub­jects.

It’s dark at night so my ISO sen­si­tiv­ity on the D300 varies from 400 to 1000, depend­ing on the bright­ness of the scene, although the for­mer al­lows me to keep the shut­ter open longer (8 to 10 secs) so as to al­low the lights of the air­craft to span the frame. I vary the white bal­ance to cre­ate dif­fer­ent moods as many of my pho­tos are shot from the same di­rec­tion, with a sim­i­lar com­po­si­tion. Ob­vi­ously the noise re­duc­tion fa­cil­ity in the cam­era helps, although post-pro­duc­tion in Pho­to­shop en­hances the images a bit more. Mostly I just re­duce noise, and play with the con­trast.

I am al­ways in­ter­ested in the lin­ear move­ment of the air­craft against the soft lines of the cool­ing tow­ers and wisps of

I am al­ways in­ter­ested in the lin­ear move­ment of the air­craft against the soft lines of the cool­ing tow­ers

smoke as a re­sult of the long ex­po­sure. There is a cer­tain en­ergy in the jux­ta­po­si­tion in this im­age [1], I think. The air­craft nor­mally fly from south to north (right to left in this photo) but also head east (di­rectly away from me) to­wards the coast (Dur­ban, Port El­iz­a­beth and so on). Each time I pho­to­graph the cool­ing tow­ers the air­craft tra­jec­to­ries are dif­fer­ent.

Drama in the skies

Ap­proach­ing thun­der­storms from the north force the air­craft to bank right and fly di­rectly away from me, head­ing east­ward. Fo­cus­ing can be tricky, be­cause de­spite the ap­pear­ance of good light on the images it is ac­tu­ally quite dark, so I man­u­ally fo­cus on the win­dows of the power sta­tion build­ing to en­sure my images are sharp.

Thun­der­storms on the High­veld, as the greater Jo­han­nes­burg re­gion is known, can be fierce, in­tense and of­ten dis­si­pate as quickly as they ar­rive. When I was pho­tograph­ing this night [2], storms were pass­ing from the west be­hind me, and head­ing east, leav­ing be­hind crisp, clean air. As an­other thun­der­storm fiz­zled out on its way to­wards the East, the dull light­ing al­lowed me to shoot this in mono­chrome which I think lends it­self to the weather con­di­tions, rem­i­nis­cent of old black-and-white movies.

I thought of cym­bals in an orches­tra when I first saw this shot [3]. One could almost write some music to this ex­plo­sion of raw en­ergy and power, which de­fies the age of this time-worn relic from which it es­capes. The warm glow of the tow­ers is a prod­uct of Tung­sten white bal­ance, which cooled the sky but kept the tow­ers bathed in the orange street light.


2 2 Lightning Nikon D300, Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4D, 20 secs, f/8, ISO200 1 Plane trail Nikon D300, Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4D, 13 secs, f/9, ISO250

3 3 Cym­bals Nikon D300, Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4D, 8 secs, f/7.1, ISO400

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