Have just completed the multi-disciplinary set of tasks necessary to prep and publish a new portfolio of the location photo shoot for Tru-Line Civil last month in Akaroa (flagged in my first, test post a few days after the event). This new work/photography portfolio item can now be viewed here on the MagentaDot site, and in the form of a new case study page I’ve loaded onto the Tru-Line Civil website. The set of prep tasks mentioned has included:
- library tasks, rating, sorting and post-processing the photos in Lightroom and Photoshop.
- research to enable chronicling what I learned on the day and frame it in the correct technical jargon using the recognised terms for describing events and things.
- designing and structuring the page content using the Tru-Line CMS.
- Populating the site with the story and pictures and all the contingent back-end web optimization tasks to embroider the images with tags, captions and descriptions.
The documentary shoot chronicles the Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) construction method practiced by Tru-Line. The shoot documents the drilling of a pilot bore and the subsequent back reaming of a 120m long drinking water supply pipeline up to the summit of Coachmans Road, Akaroa—a small, very busy tourist destination located less than 2 hrs drive from home on scenic Banks Peninsula in the South Island of New Zealand.
Background to the HDD drilling event
The HDD drilling and back reaming was a sub-task of the Akaroa Water Supply Stage 3 Reticulation Upgrade, carried out in 2014 by Tru-Line Civil for the Christchurch City Council (sub-contracting to Hawkins Infrastructure). The 180mm ø pipeline is designed to carry treated drinking water pumped up from a new water treatment plant in Akaroa to a new 500 m³ reservoir situated on the ridge between Akaroa and Takamatua.
The big picture
The photojournalistic objective is always to produce a series of truthful, descriptive, and candid photos of two broad subjects; Tru-Line’s Civil Engineering projects and the disciplines and methodologies used to complete them. The work is objective, I learn about the subject so I may anticipate and flow with the action on the day. Due to the nature of the Civil Engineering and Drainlaying industries, documenting their methods and disciplines most often involves pictures of people, specifically men, at work, using hand-tools and skilfully operating heavy equipment.
This day of shooting is part of a larger, long term project which commenced for the client in 2008, to produce a high quality image archive of their construction methods and completed projects—the photos are both of historical significance to Tru-Line and for immediate use in marketing communications material and contract bid documents that are produced as part of day-to-day operations.
The gear and shooting rationale
The photos were shot on two Canon a 60D, and 50D using a couple of EF lenses; EFS-10–22mm and EFS-15–85mm IS. I use an Orbis Ring Flash & Arm Kit mounted on a Canon Speedlite 580EX II in daylight, cloudy and shady conditions as it produces a nice even shadowless light well suited to portrait shots and documentary images of people and equipment at work. The broad even illumination is brilliant for shooting subjects moving in and out of shade, and provides great fill light in bright sunlight. I like the way the ringflash also makes high-vis gear sing out on the people in shot even at a distance in daylight, this also highlights people in shot easily overlooked, for example the operator sitting in the shade of an excavator cab on an overcast day.
I treat the shooting of men and machines in action as a kind of news reportage so usually prioritize a faster ISO setting of 400 to be certain of getting the shutter speed and aperture settings I’m after—I’d rather a little grain than soft, out-of-focus and unintentionally motion-blurred images. I use single point auto focus to hone in on my subjects and get tack sharp focus where I want it as I frame up the composition. When the setting, weather conditions and project workflow allow mounting the camera on the tripod and shooting low ISO landscapes with small apertures—sharp backgrounds, blurred action—are called for, while the most picturesque settings inspire the capture of multi-frame panoramas using the ‘Fanotec’ pan head—this is a most rewarding strategy for objectively documenting fleeting hives of human activity in the context of the enduring land, capturing both exquisite detail and grandeur.