The Route

The route was chosen to coincide with the widest point of mainland Britain which corresponds to a line of latitude of 51.904 degrees (51°54'13'').  The navigational map consisted of a sheaf of 1:50000 OS maps. However, due to the curvature of the earth, the chosen line of latitude does not follow exactly the standard OSGB36 grid on a printed map resulting in an error of about 5km at the extremes of west Wales & Harwich. Therefore, I calculated the deviation for a series of points across Britain in order to plot the line as accurately as possible.  The exact route was not planned in advance and the maps were annotated as we travelled, following our whims depending on prevailing conditions and timescales, while keeping as close as possible to the line.

The Equipment

For this project I decided to use a modular pinhole camera which I made several years ago.  Its major advantage over simpler designs is that the universal back allows use of roll-film holders, and in this case the 6x9cm format was chosen, giving 8 shots on a 120 film.  A medium focal length of 90mm provided a reasonable angle of view without including too much extraneous detail - such as the front of the car.  In the interests of road safety, the pinhole camera was securely mounted on a bracket against the front windscreen and fitted with an electronic shutter to enable push-button operation for the required exposure time.  Ambient light level was measured periodically using a handheld light meter. Further details of the camera & its construction are given on my pinhole photography page.

The Photographs

With a pinhole camera, the aperture is tiny (f/225) necessitating typical exposures of around 10-30 seconds, with a few considerably longer as the storm clouds rolled in...  When mounted centrally at the front of a car in motion, the camera produces a blurred image but with a characteristic "A" shape of the road ahead.  It is this particular visual element which maintains a compositional thread throughout the series.  Bearing in mind that 30mph =800m/minute, this limits the accuracy to which any photograph can be located, and the general aim was to follow the spirit of the endeavour rather than compile a scientific survey!

Please note that, for copyright reasons, I am unable to provide an online version of the annotated maps.

Finally, thanks to...

• Colin @ College Guest House, Haverfordwest
• The staff @ Premier Inn, Ross on Wye
• Linda & Mike @ The White House, Takeley
• The staff @ The Kingscliff Hotel, Holland on Sea

All of whom contributed to the success of this project with their friendly & helpful service.

back to road movie 52nd parallel...

All images © Martin Winfield 2011