A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Act 2, Scene 1. Titania speaks
“…Contagious fogs, which falling in the land
Have every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents.
The ox hath therefore stretched his yoke in vain,
The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn
Hath rotted ere his youth attained a beard.
The fold stands empty in the drownèd field,
And crows are fatted with the murrain flock.
The nine-men’s-morris is filled up with mud,
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green
For lack of tread are undistinguishable.
The human mortals want their winter here.
No night is now with hymn or carol blessed.
Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air…”
Taken last night, one street away from where I live, this image is full of troubling, man-made offenses to our planet. Shakespeare, as always, said it best, “…The nine-men’s-morris is filled up with mud…” but whereas the mud is flowing in California, not France, the Seine and its tributaries are bursting their banks, renewing the severe flood conditions of recent years in central Paris.
Listing the issues
As you may see from Titania’s soliloquy, the disturbance in the Force, to use a more modern current expression, gives rise to floods, pastoral disaster and the strangeness of the night. The photograph, was taken near midnight, one street away from where I live, on the Pont des Invalides. It illustrates the current applicability of this poetry and adds some, more modern factors.
How shall I pollute thee? Let me count the ways… (with excuses to Elizabeth Barret Browning and her sonnet 43)
The Seine’s 3rd most serious flood was in 2016 (the two other, bigger ones were in 1658 and 1910). While the lower quays regularly are at risk of some interruption from flooding, today’s water levels are more extensive along the length of the City’s flood defences. Today’s levels give rise to legitimate questions about the reasons for the severity and frequency of their occurrence.
The image you see is slightly false, in that I corrected the yellow/orange colour cast arising from the city’s use of sodium vapour lamps. I chose to prioritise the normal colour of the swan and a more pleasing, natural colour of the water over the absolute colour “truth”. Of course, without that immense light pollution, I would not have been able to capture the scene with as much clarity and depth of field, even if I used maximum ISO.
The swan was fully awake, feeding and observing its disturbed, fast-flowing environment, even though it was very late at night. I don’t know where is its usual habitat on the river, but I can witness that it is not usually seen on this particular stretch of the Seine. Its partner appeared briefly but disappeared to some other shelter.
The amount of garbage generated by city dwellers is immense and Paris is particularly attentive to collecting and disposing of it. The flimsy nature of the safety-friendly bags and unplanned issues like major flooding do not assist in keeping the flow of detritus from entering the natural environment.
Why are the litter bins so flimsy? This is a Parisian response to long decades of multi-faceted terrorism, varying from home-grown nationalists to various north African and Middle Eastern factions. Out of concern to reduce easy and dangerous hiding places, as well as to diminish injuries to passers-by, the former, more elegant street furniture has given way to the current models. Unfortunately, these are far more fragile,
The nature of general litter is heavily weighted towards plastic, a long-lived, noxious and dangerous product which is deepening its penetration of the food chain, as micro particles are digested by plankton and are accumulated in the hierarchy of predators, of which we are the pinnacle.
The main issue with this image was whether to keep the colour “as shot”, given the artificial illumination, or to correct it, which I did do. That said, without that powerful, false colour illumination, the camera would not have been able to provide a workable speed at that aperture, even at ISO 6400. Even then, Vibration Reduction, being mounted on a monopod and bracing against the parapet of the bridge were other, helpful factors.
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: VR 70-200mm zoom f/2.8G ED
Focal Length: 200mm
Focus Mode: AF-S
Shutter Speed(Bracketed): 1/25s
Vibration Reduction: On
Auto Focus-Area Mode: Single
Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
ISO Sensitivity: 6400
Mounted on a Monopod and braced against a parapet
Copyright Paul Grayson 2018 All Rights Reserved