2015 Highland Council Visualisation Standards for Wind Energy Developments

Review from a Photographer's Perspective

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The optional use of a 28mm wide angle lens. I have professional quality 28mm and 50mm lenses. My 50mm lens produces superior quality images. Furthermore I try to avoid changing the lens in the field as this invariably results in dust and pollen entering the camera body and sticking to the sensor. This causes the appearance of dark spots on the image further detracts from quality. I therefore avoid using 28mm lens and the required panoramic images are created by stitching together images taken using a 50mm lens.

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A minimum camera resolution of 21MP on a full frame sensor is required. I never understand this mega-pixel myth that the more mega pixels results in superior quality images. My camera is a 24MP Nikon so I’m fine. Nikon’s flagship camera body the D4s costs £4,500. This has a 16MP sensor. Enough said? Even Nikon’s forthcoming D5 costing £5,200 has 20.8 MP sensor so not even this is suitable. If you have two similar size camera sensors, one containing 16MP and the other containing 24MP, each of the individual 16MP sensors will cover a larger area than the individual 24MP sensors. The larger individual size sensor does a better job at recording the light data (image). This results in a superior signal to noise ratio and better quality image being recorded, hence full frame sensors produce better quality images than cropped sensors. I don't think I'll upgrade to 16MP now.

The 24MP sensor will let you crop in / produce larger prints than a 16MP sensor however even a 12 MP sensor has more than enough detail for the size of reproductions that The Highland Council (and also Scottish Natural Heritage) guidelines require.

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Photography needs to be taken in clear sunny weather. Of course I want to take the best possible photographs for my clients however not allowing photography in dull and cloudy conditions causes me significant problems and will vastly increase my lead time in supplying photographs. The visibility and air clarity can be excellent on an overcast day and visualisers can render the turbines so they stand out with greater contrast against a cloudy background opposed to a pale blue sky. It seems a shame to not be allowed to photograph in these conditions which, after all is far more representative of Scottish weather. Furthermore, most Scottish sunny days have isolated clouds which create distracting shadows on the land form.

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Avoid roadways. If a receptor is a road, some clients like to include the road (to show the contextual setting of the receptor) so I photograph on the far side of the road. Other clients prefer me to photograph on the near side of the road to minimise foreground distractions. This clarifies the Highland Council perspective however I still need to clarify with clients when photographing to SNH standard.

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Images to be taken in landscape orientation only. If I am close to a turbine and in a land depression or top of a hill this can result in the top of bottom of the turbine being chopped off the image. Under such circumstances I will also take an additional 360 degree sweep in portrait orientation as this may better help the landscape architects assess the visual impact despite these images not being allowed for submission.

The height of the centre of the camera lens above ground level shall be 1.5m. This can be problematic if I am photographing against a tall barrier for example on a motorway flyover or bridge over railway line. Under such circumstances I photograph at the stipulated 1.5m metres and also the minimum height in order to see over the barrier. I document the revised height.

As side notes:

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I am pleased to note there is recognition of the small difference in camera sensor size between different brands and models.

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This standard applies to more than just wind energy developments. It applies to solar farms, pylon lines, hydro-electric schemes and all energy related applications.

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Software lens correction needs to be applied. High quality 50mm lenses are virtually distortion free. The minimal distortion are in the frame edges which are not used as panoramas are taken in 20 degree increments so only the central 50% of the image is used.

wind farm photomontage, windfarm photomontage