Pittsburgh industrial photography

Diagraming a photograph

Taking pictures is easy! Just point and push the button. 

Yeah, right.

The diagram below shows what goes through the mind of a photographer a nano-second before the shutter is released. With time, it becomes so second nature you forget you're doing it. You see it all without looking. It becomes a feeling. Or, as my mentor Joseph Costa once told me what his mentor told him, "you look through the viewfinder until that voice in your head kicks you in the ass and says, NOW!"

Breaking it down, line by line.

RED LINE: The first thing I saw was the spiral that starts at the wheel above the mechanics head, travels down at an angle to the wheel on the shelf and rotates around his hands and lands on the tire on the car in the background. I call this a 'modified Fibonacci spiral' (my term, not official).

GREEN LINE: Next comes the balance between different forms within the frame. The two wheels and the can and poster. While the sign itself is a different shape, the balance is still there. 

BLUE LINE: Speaking of balance, the negative space occupied by the refrigerator on the left and the concrete floor on the right are areas that balance each other within the photo. 

YELLOW LINE: The picture gains power with a strong diagonal line from the tire above center, through the angle of the mechanic's eyes and out the other side through the wheel on the right. The photo has a near perfect division between left and right sides with the subject's head almost dead center. Left and right side of the picture is balanced. Finally, if you draw a line through the space separating the refrigerator door from the freezer above and on through the top of the shelf in the background, it too divides the picture just right. The three lines also form a triangle, which further enhances the strength of the frame. 

Of course, all the graphics in the world can't make a weak image strong. The concentration on the mechanic's face as he works on the part in hands enhances the photo, as does the angle of the light streaming into the garage from the right. Put all the individual elements, lines, and graphics together, and the picture works. 

It's that simple, and that difficult. All done in the mind and heart of the photographer in a fraction of a moment, every day, on every assignment. 

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Welcome to my new website and blog

Today I'm proud to announce my new website and blog.

The lengthy process started a or more year ago with a list of wants, needs, and desires for a showcase of my work, a portal for my writing and, the future expansion into educational opportunities. This site is one I can grow with as the serpentine path of my life and career continues to advance. 

As I said, it was a long, arduous process. Often it felt like I was drinking from a firehose – seemed like a good idea at the time, until it wasn't. In the end, I got everything under control, and I'm happy with the results. I hope you'll like it too as I'm just getting started writing about photography. For your convenience, I've posted everything written since the beginning. 

Thank you and stay tuned! The best is yet to come!!

Building a new website is sometimes like trying to drink from a firehose.

Building a new website is sometimes like trying to drink from a firehose.

Pittsburgh construction photography

Sometimes the best thing you can do is wait. You find an angle that works, choose a lens to compress the scene, but you need more, you need a point of focus, a human element, a center of interest to bring it all home. You wait for the picture to build, for that singular moment when all the parts come together in a crescendo, and you squeeze the shutter. Foreground, middle ground and background all working together to tell the story. You've done your job. 

Dissecting this photograph, I was assigned to document a major road construction project for an engineering company. They wanted more than just progress photos. The images would be for internal and external communications. 

The first thing on the shot list was a dramatic overall showing the scope of the project. While I often receive a list of the pictures the client wants, rarely am I given specific instructions. Most clients trust my eye. They know my dedication to the project I'm assigned. More than once art directors have given me instructions as simple as "go make nice pictures." 

Wandering the site, I found an elevated point that showed everything I needed, heavy equipment, graded road, concrete forms, and rebar. The only thing missing was a person. So I waited. I knew they would be bringing in steel beams for the overpass and I hoped a person would appear. 

Luck favors the prepared. It wasn't long before a worker, who just happened to wear a USA t-shirt that day, appeared at the exact spot I needed him to be. My first picture checked off the list. 

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Goodnight, Manny.

Everything changes. Nothing is forever. Everyone knows this, some in Pittsburgh more than others. I’m sure Manny never thought he’d see the day when he would lay down his hard hat for the last time because the once might mill was closing. Many years ago, on an editorial assignment, I was granted access to a shuttered mill in McKeesport. I had an hour. Not enough time to explore a place so vast as a once active steel mill. It was, at best, akin to salvage archeology; hurry up and gather as much as you can in as short a time as you can. But that’s often the job.  In this case, all I could do is look for the basics to illustrate the story. I needed something wide to set the scene, something closer, and details. I was more documentarian than anything else. 

In that brief time, I thought of the photographers from the Farm Security Administration who documented America for Americans in the 30’s and 40’s. People like Walker Evans. And, of course, Clyde “Red” Hare who photographed Pittsburgh first as part of Roy Stryker’s Pittsburgh Photographic Library, then stayed after falling in love with the city. 

My mind was racing, and my eyes were wildly scanning the scene for images to add to the narrative. I needed to tell the story, show what was there before it was gone, before time ran out. I wanted more time to explore. Request denied. It was time to go and leave this history behind. Within weeks the mill was razed. Everything is now gone. Just a memory. Another footnote in Pittsburgh’s history. 

Never take for granted the responsibility we hold as photographers. We don’t make history; we record it for future generations because, everything changes, nothing is forever.

 

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