Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Photographic Assignment With Almost Everything

You can click of any of my pictures to go to my Flickr site for a larger view. For a really good look, click again to view them on black.


Some days one of those assignments with almost everything lands in your lap.  Just before I left for family vacation, I got a call from a client looking for someone to photograph the transport of some wind farm components from Dunedin Wharf to the installation site above Lake Mahinerangi. I'd have to take some days out from my camping holiday to do it, but this job had it all - cool stuff to photograph, technical challenges, and a great excuse to get up before dawn.  My only disappointment was that wharf security wouldn't let me as close as I wanted to the ship, let alone on board, or that I couldn't ride on the trucks.  It would have been nice if there'd been a budget for aerials of course, but apart from those tiny niggles, the only drawback was the lack of an insulated coffee mug with a one litre capacity.



The shipments rolled out from the wharf at 4.00 am, which meant 3.00 am starts for me. I love any excuse to light shots, but my chances here were limited since nobody was going to wait around for me to faff around with flashes, stands and radio triggers, and the safety guys were not prepared to risk me dazzling their drivers, so while I did manage to quickly pop a flash into the cab of one of the trucks (top) and some others on the payload, much of my pre-dawn work had to be done with the ambient lighting at high ISO and long exposures - as well as a little of Lightroom's fill light slider.


I spent a little time up on the Saddle Hill overbridge trying to combine second-curtain flash with long exposures to get some light trails leading up to a static image of the vehicles. One reason for my choice of position was to show more of the payload rather than the tractor units (the main part of the brief) as well as show where the stuff is heading to rather than where it's coming from. The other reason is that it shows the trucks heading down the wrong side of the motorway out of town. Some units were so long, they wouldn't be able to negotiate the Mosgiel roundabout or some corners on the left-hand side of the road. This was a hard shot to get right. Only 3 trucks make the trip at a time, and because the weights of the components are different, they travel at different speeds, making the exposure for the light trails different every time. Add to that the fact that nearly every time a truck went under me, a logging truck went by me just a meter away on the overpass, making the whole thing rumble and sway.


Nice shots to be had as the trucks started climbing the hills above the Taieri Plain, but again, without the risk of dazzling the driver, I couldn't employ second-curtain flash and shutter drag to get the effect I really wanted - not that I think my flash would have been as distracting as the lights of an oncoming vehicle, but safety first.



Dawn saw the 3-truck convoy come together at the Mahinerangi Road turn-off, where I was able to use a little flash during the drivers' short break. Again I would have liked to go all Joe McNally or Strobist on it and place flashes in cool places, but there was really only time to keep the flash on camera and do the old run-and-gun.



It was hard to get a meaningful perspective on some things other than from far away - the blade units are 44 metres long, not counting the added length of tractor unit or trailer. Get up close, and they're just weird shapes tapering to a tiny tractor unit half a rugby paddock away.

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Finally there was the long slow grind along gravel roads up to the wind farm site above Lake Mahinerangi. I'm not a huge fan of these things in our valuable high country landscapes, but this is a pretty good location: lots of wind naturally but it's way out of view in pasture land overlooking an artificial lake, surrounded by pine plantation forest. This place lost its natural values a while ago. And these things do look kind of cool in their own right.

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Images captured, lessons learned as always. Now I just have to wait and see if the client is happy - and catch up on a little sleep before the next job.

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