Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Hiding What's Not There

I've been a contract shooter for Getty Corporate Images for more than 10 years. I shoot a handful of assignments a year for them and this post is about my most recent assignment for them.

I was asked to photograph a construction project just outside of Pueblo, CO for an engineering firm. The project I was assigned to photograph is a new "chemical weapons dismantling" facility. The U.S. government has stockpiles of WWII mustard agent mortars that need to be destroyed. This project is just getting off or should I say "out of the ground", the completion date is sometime in 2013 or so. Needless to say, there wasn't much to photograph, some concrete pad work and very little iron out of the ground.

Over the last 25 years I've encountered this type of situation numerous times. You have an assignment that sound terrific and interesting only to find out that there's not much to photography when you arrive on location. I know I'm not the only one that this happens to.

In situations like this you really have to put on your creative thinking hat. I keep mine just under my hard hat at all times! What I really needed to do was "hide" what wasn't there. At this particular location I had plenty of obstacles to deal with, the government was one of them. Not only was there little to shoot, I was restricted from pointing my camera in certain directions due to the sensitive nature of the location I was shooting at.

At this location there are what seems to be, thousands of "igloos". Igloos are the storage bunkers that the military uses for the "mustard agent" munitions. I am able to show you this example of what an igloo looks like, as these do not contain any of the munitions that are stored on base.

This site was a real struggle, trying to show construction progress without showing specific locations and such. I used the sky as backgrounds and shallow death of field (DOF) to hide specific details that the government wanted hidden. I was restricted from from shooting from high places as I was not "trained or certified" for lifts and harness restraints. The next time I shoot at this location or with this client, we will need to take the time for that type of certificate.

The photo on the top is an excellent example of using shallow DOF to isolate the subject from the background. This photo of just reflections on a fresh concrete pour is another way of hiding objects that where in the background of the scene.

Sometime we run into these type of situations that require a different way of thinking. Using the sky, reflections and shallow DOF where good solutions to the situation at hand. Here is one more shot from our location.


Ann Torrence said...

I had a similar situation come up last week when I was asked to cover a firefighter's funeral. Capturing the pageantry and emotion of the day without zeroing in on individual mourners took some creative seeing, but it can be done. Loved the use of water to obscure detail, I'll re-use that one.

Erik Lawrence said...

I can totally see now what you couldn't show me by taking pictures of something that isn't it. But really,not, I get it. Follow?