(james benedict brown) on the road

Taking photographs from a bus

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 6 August, 2008

Taking photographs (or making photographs, as you would say more satisfyingly if translating literally from German) through the windows of a bus or train is something I normally look down on. I suspect I have some kind of patronising opinion about those who think that they can get a decent exposure when they press their lens up against the grubby laminated windows (especially if they expect a flashbulb to improve the brightness of a Scottish mountain in broad daylight). But then, during a six hour bus journey from Glasgow to the Inner Hebrides, the monstrously beautiful landscapes of the Highlands won me over, and I found myself unwrapping by digital camera to grab pictures of what we were surrounded by.

This naturally lead to a number of “imperfect” shots. I have no idea what this gantry structure might be, or what that small grey roadside box conceals. But more annoyingly, I have no idea why they might have been situated along a stretch of unpopulated A-road, with no traffic signals or speed cameras to control. This picture is also notable for the reflection of the no-smoking sign fixed to the back of the seat in front, and the hideous orange/brown/red pattern of fabric that the seats were trimmed with. All in all, a horrid picture, but nonetheless a gorgeous amalgam of components, an abstract composition impossible to replicate because of the exact factors of light, movement, angle and location.

Some of these imperfections – when apparently alien objects puncture the natural landscape – seem to help the photographs immensely. After all, without that sign warning of a sharp bend, I’d probably never remember in twenty years time that I took this picture from a moving vehicle. I imagine that it would be a badly composed shot of moorland and distant mountains that is neither balanced nor particularly interesting.

Who are these people? And is that really someone in full Scottish regalia playing the bag pipes at a roadside viewing spot?

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