I’ve always wanted to get inside a cooling tower: those curved iconic structures indelibly associated with power stations. The nearest I got was a couple of years ago when I shot the soon-to-be destroyed towers near Meadowhall from the viaduct nearby. I sadly discounted ever being able to climb inside one of these giant structures, assuming that health & safety and security concerns would rule out any exploratory access…
So you can probably imagine my excitement when a few months ago I read there was a disused and decommissioned power station near Doncaster – Thorpe Marsh – where almost everything bar the six cooling towers had been demolished. These remained due to concerns that demolition could threaten the safety of nearby canal walls. More recently I happened to be driving up the A1 and as I neared the turn-off for Doncaster the rainclouds parted, and provided the opportunity for a little exploration. Fortune smiled, so I turned off and headed to Thorpe Marsh.
The site itself is rather eerie: these towers are truly massive and you you approach they loom up and over you almost impossibly. Getting inside wasn’t hard, but was very spooky. Every noise, from the klaxons on the nearby level crossing, to the crackle of what I presume was heat-proof lining blowing slowly around the floor, echoed and swirled around me. I was convinced somebody was walking behind me at one point. You’ve never heard echoes and reverberations like it: the sound fades and then seems to almost be amplified again as it circles back towards you. Even the click of the camera shutter sounded like a pebble being thrown down a well, amplified and exaggerated dramatically.
I love looking up in this shot, eyes drawn inexorably to the darkening skies above, framed by the aperture of the tower opening. As you’d expect there’s a vast dynamic light range between inside and out: this was shot with a six exposure bracketed sequence and tweaked in post to give some idea of the drama of the scene. Amazing place!
Click below for a full screen 360° view of the scene with Flash, to read more on Wikipedia, to see the location in Google Earth, or to view an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch compatible version.