I’ve previously worked for Sebden Steel photographing their factory in Lisburn Northern Ireland. Check out the original post here, I was really happy how the images turned out despite it being a fairly dark factory. I really enjoy taking photos in factories. A lot of folk see the outside of these huge factories but dont realise what actually goes on inside. For a photographer (in my opinion anyway!) they’re gold mines in terms of the content that you can create. You definitly need to have an eye to make truely creative content in places like these because at first glance it can be difficult to see past the huge pieces of machinery and industrial equipment.
In the case of Sebden Steel Pontefract they recently had a new piece of machinery installed. From my basic knowledge of the industry this machine would take huge rolls of steel, unfurl them, flatten the steel to the required thickness and then finally cut it to the sized request by the client. It sounds simple enough but when I seen the size of the machine I realised it wasn’t such a simple process to photograph it.
I decided to break the shoot down in to three processes. It would be tricky as I would have to approach all three processes at the same time. I would have to get wide images showing the entire machine, close up images showing the various processes involved and finally the workers operating the equipment.
I wasn’t sure that the wide image of the machine would work as I couldn’t get far enough back to get one clean wide angle photograph. I decided to do a panoramic sweep and combine six images in to one. I was initally worried I wouldn’t be able to get a clean stitch of all the images but it surprisingly worked very well.
As you can see above the panoramic photos worked out OK. Yes the perspective of the photos is way off but this was the only solution due to the working environment.
The second area to concentrate on was photos of the equipment and different parts of the machine. I was photographing the workers at the same time but I am seperating them in to sections for this post. The trickiest part of this whole shot was moving the speed lights around the factory as everything was constanly changing. Once the workers finished at one station on the machine they’d move to the next but as I had never seen it working I wasn’t sure where to set up until they moved.
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I really enjoyed working with the two guys who were controlling this massive machine. As I said previously this was the trickiest part of the shoot as they were handling and working with steel that would actually be sent out to clients. They had to do their job as if I wasn’t there which isn’t always easy when I am running around and theres lights flashing away everytime I take a photo. Another difficult part of photographing the guys as they worked was the fact that they were facing the machine. I found it difficult to get good front facing photos as I couldn’t stand directly in front of them. I managed to spot gaps in the machine were I could shoot through.
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The last part of the day was a couple of quicker set ups of a fork lift truck and one of the blue Sebden Steel lorries.
It was a cracking day over in Leeds and whislt I was only on site for 5 hours before I had to head back to the airport we got everything done that was on the brief plus a few more setups. Job well done!