Nite Flights

Keeping one foot in the world of freelance photography often leads to some interesting jobs. Over two nights last week, for example, I was orbiting Heathrow assisting on a light pollution survey.

I had anticipated the adventure to feel quite Ballardian and it didn’t disappoint.

Each day would begin in the twilight zone — quite literally. From 5.30pm onwards, our team would drive from view to view, taking long-exposure photographs and measuring the ambient light in locations from Windsor to Woking, all in orbit of Heathrow airport.

We never got too close to the airport itself. We would repeatedly slingshot around it, heading to some forgotten corner of the local area, but always with the screams of night flights passing low overhead. The sound was constant and bone-rattling but still you found yourself getting used to it.

Many of the locations were surreal. They were often rural, off the beaten track. The haunts of night fishermen and doggers, poachers and dodgy dealers, like spirits guarding the egresses between airport boundary and wilderness.

The whole trip was like a strange inversion of Concrete Island, or perhaps something more like an excursion through a concrete archipelago. We combed the outer edgelands of successive nighttime voids — bridges, roundabouts, bridleways — measuring light that was barely there or there in absurd abundance. (Sodium street lights were dwindling in numbers and the new style LED ones give off daytime light readings.) Black holes and white holes and night flights between the two.

After the jump, you can find a selection of photographs taken over the two nights.


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