MMake Mine Industrial

January 13, 2009 ·

Michael Reichmann

Pouring Steel at Sunset. Hamilton, Ontario. January, 2005

Canon 20D with 70-300mm f/5.6 DO lens at ISO 400

Many of the emails and letters that I receive have a common refrain. "I don’t get to travel to far off and exotic places, so I don’t have anything interesting to photography. What can I do?"

My answer to that problem is to seek out the exotic close to home. One of the most fascinating things for me, and the one that I enjoy photographing the most, are industrial sites. Unless you live in a rural area you’ll find factories and mills everywhere. These make great subjects, especially the older ones.

With a long lens no special access is needed. The photograph above, titledPouring Steel at Sunsetwas taken from a public pier across the harbour from theDefascosteel plant in Hamilton, Ontario. I was driving by on the highway at sunset, and saw some great light developing, so I exited off the expressway and drove down to the docks.

I took a number of shots as the light changed over about a half hour period, but then all of a sudden they unexpectedly started pouring steel, and I was able to take a few frames. Because of the huge contrast range this image took a lot of work, requiring processing the raw file twice, once for the highlights and once for the shadow areas, and then blending them. But in the end it’s a powerful and satisfying image.



Cement Plant. Bangladesh. January, 2005

Canon 20D with 300mm f/2.8L and 1.4X Extender at ISO 400

A commontrickwhen photographing industrial sites is to use telephoto compression. This flattens apparent perspective and can make these monoliths even more congested and impressive due to the flattening effect.

The above photograph of a cement plant was taken from a ship. I was stunned at how congested this industrial area near Dhaka, Bangladesh looked, and so used the longest focal length available to me at the time, to intensify my impression. Scenes such as this are found everywhere, and shooting from a ship, such as a ferry, can provide a frequently unobstructed and unique vantage point.



Defasco Dawn. Hamilton, Ontario. January, 2005

Canon 20D with 70-300mm f/5.6 DO lens at ISO 400

As most experienced photographers know, successful images are usually as much about light as they are about subject. The above steel mill shot, like the one at the top of the page, would have been much less compelling if taken at mid-day. In this case it was early dawn light that added the magenta glow, complimenting the colour of the steel superstructure.



Defasco Monochrome. Hamilton, Ontario. January, 2005

Canon 20D with 70-300mm f/5.6 DO lens at ISO 400

Of course B&W is an ideal medium for photographing gritty industrial sites. In this near silhouette I exposed to prevent the back-lit steam from burning out, which threw the factory itself into deep shadow. Billowing smoke can create wonderfully abstract shapes, either when front lit or back lit. Combined with the angularity of most industrial plants this creates a number of intriguing contrasts and juxtapositions.

Incidentally, the area in the image,Pouring Steel at Sunset, at the top of this page, is found in the right-hand corner of the wider shot immediately above.

Michael Reichmann

Michael Reichmann is the founder of the Luminous Landscape. Michael passed away in May 2016. Since its inception in 1999 LuLa has become the world's largest site devoted to the art, craft, and technology of photography. Each month more than one million people from every country on the globe visit LuLa.

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