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Forgotten Places

(June 19–27, 2010)

Christopher Glick

Bullet Train Museum / 新幹線資料館

James Gentles

Shale Oil Waste Bing

Philpstoun, West Lothian, Scotland, UK

June 20, 2010, 15:28 U (16:28 local)

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© 2010 James Gentles, All Rights Reserved.

Look around the horizon. In 1850 this was a green rural landscape until not far from here James Paraffin Young perfected a process for extracting oil from Torbanite and Shale. Very soon, all over east central Scotland, companies were setting up under licence to satisfy the growing demand for lamp oil. Deep mines were sunk, the rock brought to the surface where the oil was extracted, and then millions of tonnes of red spoil were dumped in huge heaps hundreds of feet high. The works at Philpstoun are typical of many others exploiting this resource all over West Lothian.

At the turn of the 20th Century the discovery of easier to obtain and process “crude” oil meant the industry ended, all that was left was the forgotten red “bings.”

In the 1960s and 1970s the need for large quantities of aggregates for the foundations of Scotland’s motorways made engineers look again at the “bings.” The one at Philpstoun is typical. It was “re-mined” to extract the best shale spoil, which was removed for the new freeways. As well as reducing the overall height of the “bing,” the works resulted in the inside of the hill being turned into a labyrinth of pits, tracks, and mounds where the material has been graded, removed, and in some cases rejected.

Once again, when all the usable material had been extracted the location was forgotten.

In recent times the area has been rediscovered by cross-country motor-bikers and (not necessarily with the land-owners permission) has become a magnet for those wanting a challenging off-road experience.

Finally locals recently campaigned and stopped a planning application to use the site for waste recycling.

How forgotten really is this site, and what does it tell us about peoples attitude to waste, and recycling?

Europe / UK-Scotland

Lat: 55° 58' 23.16" N
Long: 4° 31' 50.65" W

Elevation: ground ~80m, camera ~150m

→ maps.google.com [EXT]

Precision is: Medium. Nearby, but not to the last decimal.

Nikon 8400 with FC-E9 Lens. Homemade camera cradle/rig, triggered by a gentLED intervalometer. Suspended below a DoPeRo kite 6ft/2m by 10ft/3m in size.

This technique produces two hemispheres, and a different workflow in PTGui from the classic ground pano technique. This results in lower resolution BUT impossible angles!

See the rig, how Kite Aerial Photography is achieved, and the workflow.
Behind the scene : how this panorama was made
The challenge with WWP is getting the right wind and the right light within the shooting window so I can demonstrate teh capabilities of Kite Aerial Photography. I had identified the disused shale bing a few weeks before the shoot, and realised it was more interesting inside that I expected.

The first trip to shoot had lots of bikes but not enough wind, second trip had neither wind nor bikes, so I took some ground panoramas as "backup". Later that same day the wind was stronger so third time lucky and my biggest kite (for lightest winds) saw us with the kite pulling well.

Once flying I attached the camera that weighs 1.4Kg (3lbs) to the line below the kite then let out more line to raise it into the air. Always a nervous time as the fisheye lens points straight down and has no protection should it touch the ground.

The camera automatically took around 150 images, hopefully you like the results!

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