The Terrific Ten: Favorite T&D Photos Over 30 Years

Miscellaneous

Over three decades covering the field of electrical power transmission and distribution across the globe, INMR has published thousands of photos. Now, entering our 30th year, we felt it might be an interesting challenge to rank our very best photos.

In this undertaking we had to start with an important question: what makes a photo so memorable that it stands out from all others? For example, it cannot simply be a ‘beauty shot’, such as the sun setting dramatically behind transmission towers. That same image can be duplicated almost any day. Similarly most photos of overhead lines can be reproduced over and over. It can also not be a purely technical photo, such as a close-up of a failed insulator or other component. Such images, while clearly informative, are devoid of the necessary drama and dynamism.

Rather, an outstanding photo has to reflect the confluence of luck and opportunity. That means it must be unique in such a way that it can never be fully duplicated. Something unique must be happening that contributes to telling a story as dynamically and visually as possible. Best that it also contains people who not only contribute scale but remind the viewer that nothing would be possible in our T&D world without the dedicated professionals who work in it. Ideally, these people should not be aware that they are being photographed. Finally, it must create the feeling that the viewer of the photo is there, witnessing what is happening.

After much time searching through our vast photo archive, below is our selection of the best 10 photos ever published in INMR: our ‘terrific ten’, starting with #10 and culminating in #1. See if you agree.

Terrific Ten #10

Over the years, INMR has visited numerous porcelain insulator factories on almost every continent. One constant during all these visits is the feeling that people in these factories are as much craftsmen as production workers. In fact, no matter how automated the process someone in the plant invariably places their hands on or carefully examines the final product. Much like a sculptor might stand back to scrutinize their latest creation. This unposed photo succeeds in capturing that attention and devotion.

Terrific Ten #9

Any photo featuring several different people is a challenge since it’s hard to coordinate everyone’s position and body language. This vibrant and color-rich image shows engineers with Statnett in Norway along with consultants and staff from their contractor from Croatia. All are fully absorbed studying the routing of new 400 kV and ±525 kV DC lines that will eventually replace those in the background.

Terrific Ten #8

There are many opportunities to capture lines workers working on newly erected lines. But this wonderful perspective gives the distinct feeling that the worker is climbing into the clouds on a ‘stairway to heaven’.

Terrific Ten #7

This image from the Martigues Insulator Test Station in southern France captures two relentless adversaries, each trying to outlast the other. In the background, the churning sea whips up foams of salt spray. The steadfast and sturdy insulator stands alone in the face of the onslaught. Which will triumph?

Terrific Ten #6

A rainbow thrusts its prismatic beam directly onto tower-mounted cable terminations and surge arresters in northern Spain, yet goes no further. As if nature is creating the event only to guide the eye to these vital components of electrical transmission.

It’s barely sunrise in the midst of the bitter Canadian winter. Yet one can already see the silhouettes of intrepid lines workers who are busy at work helping to complete the ±500 kV Western Alberta Transmission Line. That the temperature is a bone-chilling -30°C only adds to the admiration one feels for their fortitude.

Terrific Ten #5

Being able to capture this photo was itself an achievement. First, you have to get all the way to distant New Zealand. Then, you must be given access to one of the most critical locations in the country’s power network – the cable termination station at Oteranga Bay near Wellington. Then, you have to push your way up carefully through a narrow vertical chute to reach the rooftop. Finally, you have to capture Andrew Renton of Transpower and Peter Wiseman of Transfield Services immersed studying the condition of the country’s most important electrical components – two bushings that link the power systems of the North and South Islands.

Terrific Ten #4

Opportunity and luck can make for truly memorable photos. Here, the good fortune was being at the 90 kV switchyard of a Tunisian wind power plant just at the moment of the first rainfall after the long dry summer. The porcelain insulators, with their accumulated deposits of sand and salt, suddenly erupt in sustained discharge activity rarely witnessed during daytime.

Terrific Ten #3

It seems impossible to imagine that this surrealistic image can possibly be connected to the world of T&D. Until of course you find out that this worker is taking precise measurements of the thickness of the FRP tube about to be used in the production of a composite hollow core insulator. The perfectly smooth interior of the tube plays magic with the colors and reflections.

Terrific Ten #2

It’s 10:00 and all is well.
It’s 02:00 and all is not so well.

Until the late 1990s, many transmission lines in Israel relied on strings of porcelain long rods, then mostly imported from Eastern Europe. These insulators had to contend with different contaminants, from conductive desert sand, to coastal and industrial pollution. During daytime, when humidity is near zero, insulation design appears sufficient. But in the early hours, when morning wetting phenomena are underway, one sees a much different story.

Terrific Ten #1

A colossal ice storm has ravaged the power system in the Canadian Province of Quebec. Hundreds of transmission structures topple, but none so dramatically as this 735 kV structure, whose upper section crumbles straight down. This photo, infused with the drama of the ominous iridescent sky, shows conductor lying lifeless on the icy ground and also a lamppost that has succumbed as well to the onslaught.