Friday, 24 May 2013

rainbow river

I am constantly on the lookout for opportunities for abstract photography, and the sight of oil and similar pollutants on the surface of my local river is too good an opportunity to miss. I have seen three significant such pollution incidents in the past 12 months, and the interesting aspect of the photos I took on each occasion is how different they are.

17th April 2012.

8th November 2012.

21st March 2013.

Although these photographs have been manipulated (increased contrast; increased colour saturation; altered tonal balance), it isn’t possible to change any of the pictures of one incident so that they resemble pictures from another. There are three significant variables that may account for the differences:
  1. Light conditions at the time the pictures were taken. It was overcast when the first photo was taken, cloudy but bright for the second, and sunny for the third.
  2. The nature of the pollutants involved. All three photos above appear to be of light compounds such as kerosene or diesel, but contrast these with the picture below, taken in the winter channel of a tributary of the main river. The pollutant here appears to be heavy engine oil.
  3. The angle of the camera relative to the surface of the water. The first picture was taken from a footbridge over the river, looking almost directly down. The second picture was taken from the top of the embankment overlooking the river, while the third was taken from the water’s edge, making it the shallowest of the three angles.
Variations in all three of these factors appear to have influenced the results. There is a fourth variable, wind effects on the surface of the water, but this has probably influenced the texture of the photos rather than the colours.

A photograph taken at the same time as the first one above appeared in Photographic Abstraction #3 under the title Rainbow, while the pollution incident depicted in the second photo was the subject of Troubled Waters. No photos from the third and fourth incidents have appeared previously.

I can say little for certain regarding the source of the pollution shown in these photos, except that the tributary on which the following photo was taken flows through Fanling’s industrial district, and careless disposal of oil-based waste is more likely here than anywhere else. However, once pollutants reach the main river, it becomes almost impossible to identify the source.

5th May 2013.

I am currently in the UK and will not be returning to Hong Kong until October, so this is likely to be my last post about the territory for some time, apart, that is, from a post that I have tentatively titled Saturday Morning Adventure, which will be about cycling and which I hope to finish soon.


  1. Nice images Dennis. I love the last one absolutely! It can be an abstract painting, or a colored block print.
    They also remind me how polluted China is.
    BTW, I was not able to make comment for your previous post because I had some weird skin reaction to that sort of texture. But very nice photo anyway!

    1. Thank you Yunyi. Your comment about pollution in China is spot on. There appears to be little environmental awareness in the country.

      I try to make all of these kinds of photo look like abstract paintings, although whether I succeed is up to readers to decide.


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