I’ve driven a few miles this year, primarily on three separate assignments to New York, including a side excursion to Philadelphia. These trips required a good deal of photographic equipment, forcing me to opt out of flying, and hitting the road. Its fortunate I enjoy driving, although admittedly, the days can get somewhat long.
This particular photograph was created at a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility that produces yogurt. I was hired by The Raymond Corporation to highlight their materials-handling equipment in action. I particularly like this photo due to the sterile and nearly monochromatic setting we were in. This shot was photographed using a mix of ambient light along with my well-travelled strobe equipment.
As a commercial photographer, I’m often awarded a location assignment without the opportunity to do a preliminary scout prior to shoot day. In these instances we really don’t know what perils may await us. We hope for spotless factories with pristine machinery and well groomed operators. However, those hopes are usually dashed moments after arrival.
The facility photographed above , EPIC in suburban Detroit, was an exception to the norm. We were welcomed into an almost sterile-like environment, showcasing a meticulously clean assembly line. Not all industrial photography projects will be as clean as this one, but we can always hope.
A mysterious or fascinating quality. That’s how the dictionary defines the word “intrigue”. I can still readily remember how I felt working in my college photography darkroom, waiting for an image to appear on my photo paper as I gingerly sloshed developer back and forth. It was magical and suspenseful at the same time. That same feeling of intrigue kept with me over the years as I waited for my film to come back from the lab, never truly knowing the results of my photographic efforts until I held them in my hands. It added mystery to the process of photography.
Now with everything photographic being digital, we’ve lost some of that mystery and suspense within our chosen profession, and exchanged it for the immediacy of pixels on our computer monitors. To be fair, we did have Polaroids that removed a portion of the intrigue from our shoots. These days there is still an element of suspense in our work that keeps me engaged. In the photograph shown above, all the elements to create a quality image for my client came together, proving to me once more that photography can still carry with it a little bit of intrigue.
Once again, my business partner Tom Kirby and I have teamed up for a commercial photo assignment. I handled the location photos and Tom shot in studio for an industrial protective gear client. This scenario has worked well for us in the past and this time was no exception.
Photographing heavy industry can often take place in less than sterile environments. Noise, dirt and occasionally foul odors can be part of the occupational hazards of industrial photography, but it can also be fascinating to see how America really works behind the scenes. Truth be told, I’m always glad to be on this side of the camera.
I was recently hired to do a photo shoot at Toyota Boshoku, an interior trim facility for the automotive industry. As in nearly all photographic assignments, there were challenges that awaited me. For this particular photography project, time was limited and decisions had to be made quickly once our scouting with the client had been completed.
For this lifestyle photograph, one of several created that day, we temporarily employed one of the staff seamstresses to assist us. We set up quickly using just a key and a rim light, mixing with the ambient light of the facility. Our client was pleased with the results as we were able to help tell their story of quality automotive finishing.
I was recently hired to photograph at a multinational automotive paint laboratory in suburban Detroit. Although I’ve worked with this company a number of times before, it was my first gig with this particular client who flew in from Chicago for the two-day shoot. There were no layouts which gave us the flexibility to shoot anything that we felt would tell a good story. I enjoyed having to think “on-the-fly”, as it differs substantially from many shoots which are much more disciplined.
This particular photo opportunity forced us to change directions, move our gear and operations to a satellite building to take advantage of the work in progress. Without the flexibility our shoot strategy allowed, we couldn’t have captured this paint booth image.
I was recently on a photography shoot in Atlanta at a brand new 800,000 square foot distribution center. I was photographing material handling trucks for my client Raymond. They chose this particular facility due to its “VNA” designation (very narrow aisle), three words most photographers probably don’t want to hear. We tend to like space, lots of space for our lighting needs. But of course, we’re always up to new challenges.
These trucks are pretty amazing and so in an attempt to capture their remarkable capabilities, I spent about fourteen hours out of a two-day photo shoot perched on top of a scissors-lift. This particular photograph was accomplished by shooting from approximately three stories high, giving an unusual perspective to the truck, the operator and the warehouse itself.
I’m sure I’ve said it before, but its probably worth repeating: commercial photography is a rush. I was recently in northern Michigan photographing a lumber mill for a repeat client when about three-quarters through the shoot she commented, “This was probably a dull shoot for you”. “On the contrary”, I replied. I had been just thinking how awesome it was to make a living at something I love to do, travel (even though its just to an out-of-town industrial site), and see and learn things we have a tendency to take for granted. Like what goes into creating a 2″x6″! It was really quite fascinating to see the entire process of giant timbers being off-loaded from logging trucks, debarked, ripped, dried, sorted, planed and bundled, before once more taking a truck ride to Home Depot or an alternative lumber yard. The automation process was a thing of beauty and I couldn’t but marvel at the ingenious minds that put it all together.
Dave and I recently finished a shoot for Raymond. The project included shooting in the studio (Tom) and on location in a warehouse (Dave). The project included video as well, so we had to coordinate closely with the video crew to make everything work smoothly. We had two excellent models from Productions Plus. Thanks to terrific clients, organized pre-production and teamwork, the shoot came off smoothly!
Mention to someone that you’re a professional photographer and chances are they may conjure up thoughts of you having a glamorous lifestyle, photographing beautiful models and traveling to exotic locales. And granted, there are some pros who actually live that fantasy. But for most of us, the glam jobs come only occasionally and the remainder of the year is filled with assignments that help cover the overhead, keeping the doors open until that next dream shoot comes along.
I was hired this past year by a New York communications firm to shoot a project that was decidedly not glamorous by any stretch of the word. It was a three-week stint photographing the “old” General Motors bankruptcy properties throughout the state of Michigan. My job was to photograph these assets in their varied states of condition, from repopulated to vacant, from stages of demolition to vacuous parcels of land.
Although not the style of work I normally strive for, the assignment paid fairly well and there were no tight deadlines to contend with. I met several interesting people along the way, some who shared their stories with me of a lifetime of working in these factories and the deep sadness they felt in seeing them ultimately closed. I couldn’t help but think of all the workers who had once walked the floors of these plants, providing for their families and of the cycle of life that surrounds us, both in the living and in the manufactured.
From careening a three-wheeled bicycle with camera gear in tow through a darkened million square foot edifice, to being chauffeured in a golf cart through the historic Willow Run plant in Ypsilanti, we can find the silver lining in all assignments that come our way if we’re open to them. Mine came especially true knowing that I was retracing the footsteps of those workers from a generation ago who had built my father’s World War II B-24 bomber on the very floor that I now had the opportunity to stand with my camera poised.
Not a glamorous shoot, but for me, a memorable one.