Assignment: Deep Within the Recesses of the Earth

When I got the call to make photographs inside a copper mine that had been abandoned for a decade, with no electricity or lights, it was at once exciting and scary. It was a new client who had come across my web site and selected me based on my corporate and industrial experience. The company who had just bought the old mine had new technology that could mine for copper more efficiently than ever before. Now they were having their engineers make plans to put it back into operation and they needed a prospectus, complete with compelling photographs to entice investors.

The Challenge: Making photographs deep within a pitch mining tunnel, showing veins of copper and engineers examining the rock. We had no photography list and so It was up to me to “make it up as I went” and make a creative set of photographs. Even the entrance to the mine was in a state of disrepair that needed creative angles to describe the size and depth.

The Solution: For days before the shoot I fretted over what lighting technique to use. I learned that the walls would be about 10 feet wide and the ceiling to the tunnel, also about 10 feet high. I considered a power generator, then discounted creating potentially dangerous fumes and setting up a vibration. I settled on some form of painting – with – light. I rehearsed around the house and studio after dark with all the lights turned off – painting with a powerful flashlight and also with bursts of a speedlight. When the day came that I entered the cave I had a plan. The light painting created beautiful depth and texture and dramatic appeal that the client loved. When copper prices soared the next month, my client told me they were Riding the Tiger and we'd be doing another project soon.