August 16, 2012

Boiler House Control Panels

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When I started photographing the mills in Lawrence back in the summer of 2009, the first building I got access to was the old boiler house that once powered the American Woolen Company complex. The boiler house and its towering smokestacks were scheduled to be razed in the fall and the building’s owners were as eager to get “preservation shots” as I was shoot. So, in exchange for access to play in the Boiler Room, I agreed to provide them with some specific shots for the City’s historical record. This is one of them — the control panels. And it was a challenge to get.

There were a few high, narrow windows in the boiler room and some light (and rain) leaking in through the porous roof, but at 6:00AM and in overcast rainy conditions, it was still pretty dark.  So dark that I needed a flashlight to focus on these panels. My first attempts to shoot them failed miserably. I tried a flash (dumb) and some light painting (dumber).

Then I remembered … a few months before this shoot I had read Trey Ratcliffe’s HDR Tutorial and tried my hand at it. And failed miserably. But, shooting in the dim light of this abandoned building, the concept and process started to click for me. From that point forward I shot brackets in the Boiler house and forced myself to learn HDR.

My in-field technique was lacking and many of the compositions were in-inspired, but I managed to learn a lot over the two weeks I shot there.

This is one of my favorite shots from the boiler house. It is the one where everything started to click.

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