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Archive | April, 2011

Happy Earth Day

23 Apr

I guess Earth Day was technically yesterday. No matter, Andy and I stumbled on a lovely toxic dumping ground a couple of hours ago, just east of Cut Bank, Montana. I shot with the 5DII, but I shot these with the Hipstamatic app on my phone. I rather like how they look, so here you go.

From afar it was an interesting visual trope, but up close it was a mess of mud and snow, with bits of crunchy plastic and rusty metal sticking out.
A leaning and long neglected sign identified it as a recycling yard, but we were in the middle of nowhere. It was sandwiched between the highway and a pair of railroad tracks. A solitary pickup truck passing by and a jogger who looked to be having a very long run were the only people we saw.
Empty drums of who knows what horribly toxic petrochemical lay in piles, some rusted, some horribly dented. “Caution: corrosive” was legible on many of the labels.
A slow moving freight train broke the depressing quiet and we decided to get back in the car and keep making our way East. Andy picked up a broken shard of plastic and used it to scrape the thick mud off of his shoes before tossing it back into a rusty pile of appliances and tires. “You’re a part of the problem” I said sarcastically. We both knew that there wasn’t anything we could do. (more…)

Seattle Steam Plant

22 Apr

The other day, Andy and I got a tour of the Seattle Steam Plant.

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While I often shoot industrial scenes, this time it was notable because we were actually invited inside and given a tour by two awesome employees, Harry and Hal.  (that’s right, I found somebody else with my same name).  More often, I’ll attempt to shoot industrial installations from the street, and instead of being invited in, a security guard will hassle me or even call the police.

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This is also notable because, due to the aforementioned law enforcement issues, I’ve never been able to shoot INSIDE a major industrial installation before.

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And let me just say, the inside is THE SHIT.

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A lot of these photos are shot with a lighting technique that works really well with industrial photography.  All of the light in this scene is available light; as in, I’m not bringing in any lights with me or gelling anything.

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Most industrial installations use two kinds of lights at their facility.  The first is typically Sodium Vapor.  Sodium Vapor lights are incredibly efficient, last practically forever, and give off no heat.  They also take a long time to “warm up”, but that’s not an issue when you leave them on 24/7.  They also won’t short out if they break.

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Sodium Vapor lights also have a green or yellow cast to them, but what’s most important is that they aren’t full-spectrum lights. What I mean by that is that most lights, including tungsten, fluorescent, and, well, the sun — even though they all put out slightly different colors of light — still emit all of the colors in the light spectrum.  Red, green, and blue.  With all these full-spectrum lights, it’s still possible to properly white balance your scene in post, or put a blue gel on a tungsten light for instance.

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Industrial installations also will use tungsten (normal household lightbulbs, which have a yellow cast) in places where lights need to be turned on and off, or to light rooms.  So, these scenes are light with two different kinds of light that both look yellow to the eye, except the Sodium Vapor lights aren’t putting out any blue.

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That’s the other Hal, above.

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So what I’ll do in post is white balance the entire image so far into the blue spectrum that the tungsten lights, which normally look yellow, look blue.  However, the sodium vapor lights aren’t actually shining any blue light (remember, just red and green), so anything being light by those lights keeps it’s yellow or green hue.  So effectively I’m gelling all the lights in post, and taking a flat yellow colored scene and making different colors pop to life.



Seattle Ferry

21 Apr

Driving from Portland to Seattle, we decided to stray from the beaten path of Interstate 5 and head a more westerly direction around Puget Sound.  We wound up on Bainbridge Island and took the ferry directly into Downtown Seattle just as golden hour set in.

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Coos Bay Abandoned Rail Bridge

18 Apr

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Leaving Coos Bay, I spotted a very long abandoned rail bridge leading out of the railyard and heading North.  We pulled over and I walked along the tracks a good distance.

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The bridge was in very poor condition.  The constantly wet Pacific Northwest weather had caused the paint to peel away exposing rust underneath, and some of the planks were soft to the step.

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Others had rotted straight through.

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The bridge was built in 1914, as the date had been cut out of the steel.  It was a swing span, designed so that a section of it could spin perpendicular to the rest of the bridge to allow boats to pass.


San Francisco

18 Apr

I decided to spend one of my last few days living in San Francisco walking around town and shooting some of the more “touristy” areas that I never really spent much time in before.  I walked from the Mission District to the Financial District, and then through North Beach to Coit Tower and down to the Embarcadero where I caught a historic streetcar on the way back home.  Here are some photos from my walk:

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Forcing Inspiration

16 Apr

Today was not a “photo day”.  Normally driving along the coast from Northern California to Central Oregon could take a week if I stopped at every gorgeous photo op, of which there is no shortage in the Pacific Northwest.  However, being Oregon in April, it rained.  Hard.  So hard that water could be seen dripping into the car through the cracks between the window and the door frame.  It was not a day to be outside with expensive camera equipment.

By the time we had hit Coos Bay in the late afternoon, the rain had finally let up, although we were beginning to lose what little light was filtering through the dark clouds.  We hadn’t stopped for anything except food all day, so this was beginning to look like our last chance to wander around and shoot anything.

From the highway, I could see an industrial complex and a long-neglected rail yard.  When we stopped, I grabbed my camera with the lens I had on it (a 28-70L) and started wandering, leaving my backpack with all of my other lenses in the car.  I wandered relatively far from the car without taking very many photos … the light was bad, and what looked interesting from the road turned out to be pretty dull of a subject.  I wasn’t “feeling it”, if you get my drift.  I deliberated getting a telephoto from the car so I could shoot things across the river, but knew that if I’d made the walk all the way back I wouldn’t want to keep wandering around.

I decided to force myself to come up with at least ONE good photo before I could leave, and without changing lenses.  As is often the case as a professional photographer, if I’m given something to shoot, it doesn’t matter if I’m “feeling it” or not. I have to come up with something to give to the client, and I have to make it look good.

After a few minutes of looking for a subject and daydreaming about what this railyard would have been like in it’s heyday and how long it had been since it had seen any trains, I took a look at the rust on the rails for any forensic clues to their wear.  All of a sudden, it clicked.  The patterns and the textures in the rust on the wet steel rails looked really cool. The soaked ground and soft dim light from the sky worked perfectly, instead of against me as they’d been doing all day.  Finding interesting compositions became immediately easy, and I spent fifteen minutes pointing the camera straight down.


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Whiskytown Lake

15 Apr

This will be my first “What I’m up to” post.

Currently, I’m sitting on the top of a rocky bluff next to Whiskytown Lake.  It’s about an hour West of the town of Redding in Northern California.

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Here’s my “mobile office”, where I’m writing from right now:

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I shot these photos with a cool app for my iPhone called Hipstamatic.

I have a Verizon USB EVDO card, so I can essentially connect to the internet anywhere there is cell service.  It’s a bit slow out here, but it works well enough to post to the blog.  Having a computer and internet access this far into what is essentially the remote wilderness seems to be defeating the purpose a bit, but the beauty of it is that I can do my job from here.  Nothing is an escape, nothing is a vacation, but yet everything can be an escape and a vacation.