Friday, 25 November 2011

The Establishing Image: 'Industrial Coast' - Fugro Seacore

On Tuesday 22nd November I spent the morning at Fugro Seacore, an offshore drilling company based in Brickland Industrial Estate here in Falmouth. I was to be given a 'tour' of the complex - upon hearing that dreaded word my heart immediately sank, and thoughts of a very 'health and safety' restricted shoot came to mind. That, however was not the case, the man who showed me around, four-year employee of Fugro, Sean Mitchell, was quite happy for me to wonder and 'do my thing' between him explaining what everything I was photographing was. I was taken around the numerous workshops and 'lay-up' yards which  the enormous complex consisted of. The following pictures are what ensued: 

The Fitting Shop

The fitting shop from atop a step-ladder.

Fugro employee Sean Mitchell shows me the inner-workings of a 'doghouse',  where the drill operator will sit.

The 'fitting shop' is where components of drills, rigs and doghouses (above) get serviced, cleaned, and generally checked. This was right at the beginning of the shoot, and so my creative juices weren't quite flowing, so the pictures aren't amazing - certainly not of 'establishing shot' quality, anyway - (bear in  mind that the establishing shot needs to encompass everything about the 'story' that theoretically will be written, in this case, about offshore drilling). 

The Fabrication Shop

'Derrick' sections of an R100 rig lay sprawled across the floor of the fabrication workshop.

Welding gear set atop a steel girder. 

The fab. shop was my favourite place of the whole shoot. There was a crazy amount of work going on in this building, mostly welding and fixing components. Huge steel 'Derrick' sections (top image) lay across the workshop floor like giant skeletons, with workers ducking and dodging in-between the monstrous steel girders. This part of the complex was where sections of drill rigs, such as the ones above, are welded and fixed together, ready for transportation.

I was getting in to my photographic stride at this point - still no establishing shots, however.

The Lay-up Yard

Drill rigs 'parked' in height order in the lay-up yard.

The doghouse of a drilling rig in the foreground, with a second rig in the background. 

Sean Mitchell stands as an example of scale adjacent to a drill head festooned with football-sized drill bits.

Sean takes a break in the seat of a doghouse, as other workers get on with their day.

Initially, when I first saw the lay-up yard, I was very excited about getting plenty of wide shots of the Goliath machinery, and it was here where I thought my establishing image would come from. However, after processing the films and printing the contact sheets, I was quite disappointed with my exposure values. Ironically, it was in the dark workshops where my best exposures came from. Having said this, I think there is merit for an establishing shot in the second from top shot of the doghouse.

The lay-up yard is essentially where "all the bits get put together", and then kept for future use. It was like walking through a forest of steel trees here, and I got a bit carried away with the picture-taking, burning my way through a whole 36 exposure roll of film in about 5 minutes. 

The Paint Shop

Quite simply where components get a new paint-job. This was a pretty cool building, the giant wall at the back of the workshop gave a great backdrop to the Fugro employees. When taking this shot I was very much aware of the amount of negative space in the frame, with plenty of room for a magazine title and accompanying text in-mind. I like the shot, but it isn't an establishing image - there is not nearly enough context.

The Blast Bay

Sean holds out rough granules which are used to literally blast drilling components - sandpapering on an industrial scale.
The blast bay lay just adjacent to the paint shop. In here, drilling components are literally blasted by rough granules fed through giant 'hose pipes' and cycled round again as they fall through the grated floor, acting in a giant cycle. Again this was a very large room, and I wanted to make this apparent in the very top image by placing Sean in the bottom left of the frame. It is a good shot, but again lacks the context for an establishing image - it is more like a photograph which would precede it. The same can be said for the above image of Sean's hand; it is a nice detail shot, but not a story-opener.

Seacore Gweek

Fugro employees working on metal ladders destined to be fixed to the side of a drilling rig.

Football-sized drill bits lay side-by-side in the Gweek workshop, waiting for distribution.

After finishing the Brickland Industrial Estate tour, I was taken down in a company 4x4 to the Seacore complex in Gweek, a small harbour town twenty minutes from Falmouth. It was basically the same as the first complex but smaller. Having said that, I think some of my best shots came from this part of the shoot, including a few candidates for the final print.

The Final Shots

As I was nearing the end of my visit at Fugro, and the the end of my rolls of film, I noticed the perfect shot just outside the Gweek workshop (above). I only had three exposures left, and so I took about 5 minutes composing each shot as carefully and meticulously as possible. I am very happy I got these shots, as the above landscape I believe will go on to become my final establishing image. Drills, boat, rigs, worker: Industrial coast. Perfect.

Cameras used:
 - Olympus OM-2n

 - Minolta 7000 AF

Film used:
 - Kentmere 400 (pushed to 800 ISO)


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