One of the most surprising things about filming aerial video or photography is seeing how much of our countryside is still green farmland, woodland or otherwise uncultivated, but not developed. Driving along even our country roads now, it’s easy to get despondent and run away with the idea that the entire countryside is being paved over and filled with ‘affordable housing’, but, as anyone who lives in the South East will tell you, the real impact is on infrastucture, those bits that are already developed, but now hopelessly overstretched.
Looking at the video footage above, once you’ve got over the tragedy of another piece of farmland being ripped up for a new trading estate, the miles of verdant fields stretching away towards the horizon are a useful reminder of what is still left. Not that modern, intensively cultivated, farmland is much use environmentally speaking, being as it is, mostly devoid of animal or insect life, but at least it can still be nice to look at.
The ‘official’ figures regarding land use also make interesting reading. We are told that 94% of UK land isn’t urban. A recent report by the BBC suggested that 5.9% of the UK is built on and another 2.5% is “green urban”—including parks, cemeteries and private estates. That would suggest around 92% of the UK is presumably farmland or forests (which are still technically farmland as far as the government are concerned), quite a statistic.
This may sound quite comforting until you read on and discover that the UK produces only 52% of its own food, with the rest having to be imported. Apparently the percentage of food imported annually is increasing, mainly coming from South East Asia, the EU and South America, with the net result that 64% of the UK’s greenhouse gases are being emitted on foreign soil.
In other words, we meeting our environmental commitments by outsourcing the damage that ‘our’ intensive agriculture does to the natural environment, proving once again that there’s no such thing as something for nothing!
What does this all mean? I hear you ask. Well, the obvious statistic here is that even intensively farming 92% of the land is not enough to feed the existing UK population, and there will be nowhere else to go once those third and second world countries now growing our food decide they need it for themselves. Obviously the current UK population size is unsustainable in the long term.
What does this have to do with aerial video or photography? One thing that is always (or should be) in the back of a photographer’s mind is how to present the client’s product or service in the most seductive light, and over the years we have become quite good at making even some of the grimmest buildings and industrial installations look presentable, it’s what we’re paid for. Obviously we don’t set out to lie to customers, but it is undeniable that working to present everything in the best possible light is part of the process of helping people avoid reality. Looking at the video footage of the turbines and surrounding development here, you could be easily forgiven for thinking that all is well with the English countryside, but fast forward 20 years to the time when the shiny new warehouse now being built has become just another shabby, down-at-heel building on a semi abandoned trading estate, surrounded by ‘to let’ signs and rusting containers and you can see that the problem does start here.
What to do about it? On an individual level all one can do is carry on doing a good job, but always keep in mind that the camera can easily lie in the wrong hands. Photojournalism is probably one of the most contentious fields of all, given that so-called news reporting has so often been harnessed as an instrument of political propaganda, particularly by people who think they have the worthiest of motives.
The good news from our point of view is that the latest generation of drones have completely changed the way we do things and dramatically reduced the cost and complexity of producing high quality aerial video and photography for our customers, while opening up a whole new range of possibilities. Even a simple shot of a building can now be tried from an almost infinite number of heights, angles and distances to get the best view. Something which would once have taken hours of trudging around with a tripod or expensive special equipment can now be done in minutes at the touch of a joystick (or two). That’s real progress, and ensuring that the resulting shot is easy on the eye and tells the whole story will continue to be our priorities.
If you want to see more sumptuous aerial photography go to bedaphoto.com