Utilities – Photo Story by Simon Bond

This photo story is about utilities, and was something I worked on for the guardian camera clubs monthly assignment. Utilities is a broad subject as it covers all our energy needs, and I needed to create 6 images to reflect this. I also had a relatively short time frame to work on this as my holiday to China was coming up, so plans to get out to a power station and do some landscape photography incorporating that power-station had to be curtailed. The first 2 photos were ones I already had concepts for, and I’ll begin with the first photo called “energy patterns”

Energy patterns

This photo was a light painting, and has a uniform but energetic feel. The photo also makes me think of electrons racing around a central proton. The photo was made by suspending a torch above my camera in a completely dark room. Then the torch was swung in a loop, and with each loop being slightly different it made some nice arch shapes, to add to the effect I used a coloured filter over the torch to give it colour. In this image we are seeing the edge of the arch as I though this worked better as a composition.

Metering our lives

This was the only shot not taken in or around my house, and was taken in Itawon in Seoul. I’d seen this gas meters a few weeks before so on a weekend trip to Seoul I returned to this location for the shot. I loved the lines the pipes made around the meters, and I also liked the fact that each meter had something different about it. The photo was taken at an angle because I though this would better frame the meters, and also give the photo a more dynamic feel. This photo is now available to license through Getty images, so I must have done something right with this one!

Shimmering blue energy

I’ve never done one of these gas stove photos, so I thought now would be a good time to do it. The main thing for me here was not making the shot too busy, so being able to remove a lot of the elements used for cooking was handy. There wasn’t too much light in that corner of my house, so I also needed to use a tripod for this. I got a nice angle lined up, I then touched the front of my lens to make sure it wasn’t getting cooked, and I was ready to shoot. This was a 5 second exposure with the flames lighting areas around them, the rest of the shot was black giving this a nice clean feel.

Water storage

I live in a house as opposed to an apartment in Korea, giving me something of a rarity…. a roof. On the top of my roof there is a water tank, and as everything up there is painted green. The fact everything was green was a great help when trying to make this a clean shot. I used my wide angle lens and tried to get above the tank for the angle. This involved standing somewhat precariously on the edge of the roof wall, it would not have been pretty if I’d fell. My main problem now were some strong shadows being cast across the roof, so framing my shot to remove these was the next step. The photo taken it was time to move onto the next shot.

Water delivery

Now below the tank is my bathroom with the low ceiling that I have to lower my head to fit into without banging my head. I thought about doing this shot of just the shower-head and a straight tiled background but soon changed my mind. I settled on an angle that made a slightly obtuse use of the rule of thirds, it also made some nice interesting tile patterns. To give this photo some more punch I now turned the shower on and bounced a strobe off the tiled wall, so that the water drops from the shower would be lit and clearly visible in frame. The drops of water on the ceiling were an added bonus for this shot.

We’re all plugged in now

The last shot in the series was to be electricity so I want to show this without electrocuting myself! I had an idea to show a plug in the foreground and a bokeh background. It was time to get those Christmas tree lights out that I’d only really bought for bokeh photography! Now the next thing was to make that bokeh look like electricity so I decided to try shaped bokeh, something I’d always been curious about. I went for an electric volt shape, so cut out some black card into a circle to cover my lens and then cut a volt shape into the centre of this. Now I stood above the Christmas lights on a chair holding the plug. I needed some light on the plug so got a strobe set up with a snoot to aim the light at the plug. Now I just needed to make the bokeh so opened my 50mm lens up to f1.2. Now I just needed to get the focus right, not so easy with a narrow depth of field but t came out ok.

So there we have it, a series of 6 photos on utilities mainly made around the home. This series had 2 photos each from water, gas and electricity.


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