“Keeping Watch” by Greig Clifford

It was a cold but bright October morning when I visited the Dungeness A and B nuclear power stations, the coastal location, a vast shingle landscape that held a desert-like stillness. Both power stations are now in phases of decommissioning, neither creating electricity anymore, and it seemed to me there was an unusual quietness, the air almost silent but for the crunch of pebbles underfoot and the distant sounds of breaking waves carried closer by the sea breeze.

I was struck by the utilitarian human design of the buildings, a collection of similarly sized square boxes, each one stark and minimalist. A distinct lack of shadows added a sense of the surreal as the bright, flat faces of each structure almost glowed in the light from the low autumnal sun.

I have never viewed myself as a landscape or architectural photographer, and this seemed to be very much in that domain. I knew other photographs from a similar viewpoint would exist, so I had no real intention to photograph the scene until I noticed one other thing… a single person sitting with binoculars.

For me, a human presence introduces an extra dimension to an image, especially when that presence holds a degree of anonymity. It helps exercise a curious mind with another layer of narrative beyond the purely visual. In this case, the person is quite a subtle element in the overall picture and easily overlooked, perhaps, but when they are noticed, I think the image changes from being a portrait of a power station on a beach to something with additional depth and significance. How deep that significance is, of course, always in the eye of the beholder.

What are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!

I think the impact comes from several subtle, less impactful elements working together. Two particularly subtle elements I haven’t mentioned already are perhaps the flat depth of field, of which composition played an important role, and the overall tonality, which includes very few blacks.

If you could make this photo again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?

Sometimes, I wonder whether a slightly longer focal length would have made a better picture… The slightly leaning verticals may not have been so apparent, although how they converge does feel natural to me. I’m satisfied I got the best photograph I could at the time.

Greig Clifford shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.


Greig Clifford, Brighton, UK


Equipment and settings

Leica CL with Vario-Elmar-TL 18-56 f/3.5-5.6 Asph lens @23mm.
f/3.9, 1/2000 sec., ISO 100.

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