Industrial Photography

The schedule of my work requires me to be on site for 28 consecutive days on 12 hour shifts with no weekends and then 28 days vacation to even it out. It will probably sound like a good deal at first but I say the 28 days off might not even be fair enough. You will definitely be amazed how 28 days working straight can totally mess up your mind and drive you almost to the point of insanity.

That is why when I’m at work, I am bound to do work whether I like it or not. I think of myself as a bird flying away from the great forest and going straight into a cage every time my 28 days of work begins.

There are days when all you want to do is survive and get one day over with so you’re one day nearer to returning home. For me, most of the days are like that though. One positive thing about it is that when I am at work, I sleep early…way too early unlike when I am at home in the Philippines, I just can’t get enough of one day and I feel like I can’t give it up yet just to sleep.

That reflects my point of view about sleeping which I don’t see as a mere necessity for my body. For me, sleeping involves a profound connection to life. For me, sleeping is our personal surrender that a day is concluded. One day was like a play held successfully on the stage, with all the chorus and highlights, laughter and sadness. The curtains cannot go down unless the applause is made.

Not quite the same thing here. Because of the unforgiving monotony, I can no longer tell where one day ended and the other day started. My body feels the same and no matter how many hours of sleep I get, I will wake up still tired and dazed. What used to be my reality is reduced to a dream.

I make it a point to bring my camera with me on my 28-day roster. Although I know there is little chance of putting it to any significant use, my camera keeps me hoping that something better will show up. Some evenings, I try to shoot with my camera but I end up dissatisfied with what I come up with and just give up. I feel all creativity in me is snuffed out. Sometimes I feel bothered what if I can’t recover my creativity back. Fortunately that has not happened YET.

All being said and after a long, bleak but personally necessary introduction, here’s the deal.

I was given an odd assignment 3 days ago by my boss. He said he wanted to frame some photos of our Refinery and put them throughout the office. It sounded like a good idea but if you think about it, do you really want to see more pictures of the Refinery when there is obviously nothing else to see outside of the office besides the Refinery!

But anyway, I found my boss’s request a humbling compliment and of course a challenge. Right there I knew it will take a miracle for me to turn ON my creativity when I turned it OFF the moment I left Philippines. Trying to breathe some enthusiasm to my predicament, I told myself that this could be something that I can add on to my blog. After all, I haven’t seen anybody blog about an Oil Refinery better yet make it a Photography subject.

Among the things a photographer will find interesting in an Oil Refinery is the unlimited instances of repetitions and patterns. The first photo I have here is one example of repetition. Despite the complete lack of creativity and aesthetic value of the subject, this photo is admirable from an Engineering point of view because of stuff like commonality of equipment, inter-changeability of parts, maintainability etc.

Now, a lot of people love to take photos of repeating subjects. Sadly, it is used so often especially by beginners because it is one of the simplest compositions to make and due to our inherent bias towards appreciating patterns the results always turn out to be pleasing. But of course there are some that do not show any thing of interest anymore because they have been done a lot of times already. Think about clothespins on wires, crayons, pencils – familiar right?

It is debatable and probably depending on one’s taste how to take photos of repetitions. Do you use a shallow Depth of Field or do you go full blast at F11? I know I might get tied to the cross for this but I find it absurd to use a shallow depth of field on repetitions because you will end up blurring out the rest of the items not in the Focus Point hence making the entire repetition scene useless. If you ask me, I use a shallow depth of field when I want to isolate a subject.

The next photo I have here is a view taken from one of the Heat Exchanger platforms showing an excellent view of the process columns as well as the storage tanks. Nothing of particular interest here but It is a best effort of combining the hefty portions of the subject and some bits of the surrounding environment (vegetation, weather and topography). My curves and exposure seem off at this point but I had to compromise because I wanted more attention to the details of the piping, columns, stacks and all the boring stuff . I felt that an HDR is not necessary as the photos will be viewed more by Engineers anyway.

This next photo is intended to strike a sense of dimension emphasizing to the viewer the height of the subject and the relative distances they are between each other. A good level of detail was called for in this shot because the leading lines created by the Wide-angle lens have a tendency to draw the viewer’s eyes all the way through the top. Actually, I veer towards a liking on photos that draw attention and have that power to manipulate the eyes of the viewer.

This last one is an off angle shot I included in the mix to give a dynamic sense to the place. All the straight vertical and horizontal lines tends to convey that boxed-up emotion so adding a little angle gives that extra kick and puts some energy. I’ve done this in lots of occasions and it works well on group shots of people. It works wonders too because when your subject sees you tilting your camera they will start to loosen up which makes the whole process more natural and spontaneous.

Right now I’m looking forward to what my boss chooses to print out. How about you? Which one would you choose?

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One response

  1. I would choose the one taken from the wide angle lens and my second choice would be the first photo in the blog; In one glance, the view is definitely Interoil Refinery.

    April 17, 2012 at 7:47 am

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