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Port of Los Angeles

15 Sep

Continuing the industrial theme, I went out last night to the Port of Los Angeles with Mike and Harrison.

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Every time I make my way down that way, I discover something new, or explore further down a direction I’d been before. Failing either of those, I at least shoot somewhere I’ve already in a completely new way, noticing details or angles I’d never noticed before.

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This abandoned oil terminal (above) was completely covered with no-tresspassing signs, but the main gate was also unlocked and ajar, allowing me to get this shot. Some lights were still on, leading us to believe that venturing inside would be poor logic, so we moved on to other locations.

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I spent a chunk of time exploring the idea of these un-light cranes being silhouetted by brightly light cranes in the background, glowing in the fog and melting into pastel colors in the black water below.

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Benicia, California

8 Sep

While out shooting in Wine Country over the weekend, I made a stop on the way back to my hotel in Benicia, an industrial city on the edge of the Bay Area that I keep coming back to.

There was a spot I had in mind that I saw the last time I was there with dozens of pipes of various sizes snaking along the contours of a hillside. When I went to scout it out, I discovered that since the last time I’d been through the area, a brand-new 10′ tall chain-link-topped fence had been erected where I was hoping to shoot.

Not to be deterred, I went back to a favorite spot of mine underneath the Benicia-Martinez bridge, and started hiking around that area.

I loved the way the shadows from this bridge came into focus on the water, blurred from the long exposure.

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This is a Northbound Amtrak Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle. The 4-minute exposure was more than enough time to capture the entire length of the 14-car passenger train:

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This is a dock used for unloading crude oil from tanker ships, or loading finished gasoline back onto them:

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Here’s the underside of the Benicia-Martinez bridge.  It’s a 5-minute exposure, the streaks in the sky are stars:

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Here’s that oil terminal again. This is the base of the pipe system I was trying to shoot earlier in the night:

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On the way back, I got lost and wound up in an abandoned warehouse district. It being almost 2am by the time I left and without the energy to keep shooting (it was cold, too), I decided to make a mental note to return the next time I was on the north-eastern edge of the Bay Area.

No Apparent Esthetic Value

16 Aug

Lots of people have been forwarding me lots of links to blogs and news articles over the last few days.

Police Chief Jim McDonnell, of the Long Beach Police Department has recently admitted to having a policy of detaining photographers taking pictures that have “no apparent esthetic value”. The definition seems to include most “industrial areas” and excludes “things tourists often take photos of”.

I’m no stranger to this policy — although this is the first time it’s been publicly acknowledged — as I’ve been stopped over a dozen times while shooting in that area. I’ve also been detained, questioned, interrogated, yelled at, checked for warrants, searched, frisked for weapons, and been visited at my home by FBI agents.

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All for going off of the beaten path. If I took photos of the same things everyone ELSE was taking photos of, and in the same way from the same places, I wouldn’t have anything worth looking at, much less selling.

So far I’ve never been arrested in my life.

But then again, I’m not doing anything illegal.

My friends will tell you that I even drive the speed limit (although I’ve been known to jaywalk).

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Anywho, as a law-abiding citizen and full-time professional photographer, I have a tendency to shoot gritty industrial locations. Places that are made by man and are designed to be functional and efficient, and without any architectural sense. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I tend to think that oil refineries, logistics hubs, rail yards, and other typically-unseen utilitarian infrastructure has a neat esthetic.

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I thought I’d include some photos I’ve shot in the Long Beach + Port of Los Angeles area over the last few years.

After all, this one made the cover of Science Magazine two years ago:

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And this one was the photo of the day on Bing’s homepage back in May:

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Many of the photos I shoot in the port are available on Getty Images and iStockPhoto.  I’m still not sure if they have esthetic value or not, but they certainly get a lot of sales.

I might actually be overdue for a visit to Long Beach. Hey LBPD: cut that crap out.

A few more photographers who have fantastic industrial photos from the area are David Sommars, Shane Quentin, and Thomas Hawk.

After the jump, a few more photos from the industrial part of the Long Beach area I’ve shot in the last couple of years.

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Bing.com Photo of the Day

3 May

Guess who shot today’s bing.com photo of the day?

That’s right, I did.

Stock imagery at work.

Now if this legitimizes me enough that cops can stop thinking I’m a terrorist when I go out to shoot photos in industrial areas (including this one — three squad cars showed up to question me a few minutes after shooting this photo), that would be awesome.

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.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

 

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