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Lighting Tips

How You Shot It – Lighting a Foundry ‘Archibald Young’

By Paul Monaghan on October 2nd 2014

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Foundry Paul Monaghan (8)

One of the many great things that my love for photography has given me is the chance to see and experiences things I have never done or thought about doing. I’ve learned that just by asking around and taking a chance you never know where it might lead you.

For me, going into the local foundry (the last of its kind in my town) called ‘Archibald Young’ with some members of my local camera club not only lead to some great images but also some work with my local council and a Scottish Distillery who wanted photos of their new mash turn parts being made in the foundry.


Here are some of those shots and how we went about capturing them while staying safe in such a working environment.


Having never been to a foundry before, the first thing we did was arrange a date to visit before going down to take photographs. This gave us valuable information, like what equipment we would need, but most importantly how things work, where we could go and any dangers we had to watch out for (as the last thing anyone needs is an accident where molten metal is involved).

Here were a few problems we had to overcome:

  1. The ladle with the molten metal moves across the floor and is time restricted as the metal mixture would cool
  2. Exposing for the ambient light would over expose the metal, exposing for the metal would make the rest of the frame really dark.
  3. No tripods or light stands were allowed as they posed a tripping hazard.

I knew from experience to make the most from this opportunity we would have to expose the camera for the molten metal and use flashes to bring up and shape the light in the rest of the frame, but doing so meant that the others wouldn’t be able to take as many photos since they would be in essence a voice activated Light stand.

In the image below, you can see some of the problems shooting with available light gives you:

Foundry Paul Monaghan (9)

It’s pretty flat overall due to the over head lighting, but the biggest problem is exposing for the scene.  We have no color or texture left in the metal as it is poured out of the ladle.


Pentax K5
Sigma 24-70mm f2.8
Bounce umbrella
Radio triggers


The lighting for this series of photos is pretty much the same throughout: a main light with an umbrella at the front, off to the side with a speedlight to the opposite side at the back.

Not all shots use both lights as I sometimes fired an extra shot while the smaller light was still recharging to get a different look.

Foundry Paul Monaghan (3)

The real trick to pulling this shoot together was to match the exposure for the metal with flash. This can be done easily if you remember these notes when mixing ambient and flash:

  1. Aperture controls flash power
  2. Shutter speed controls ambient light

Getting the exposure values of the metal from it cooking to around f5.6 1/30 at iso 80, I could then set the flash power to match and go about the shoot knowing I could quickly change the aperture and shutter to make any corrections.


Due to the amazing staff at Archibald Young, the shooting process was very pleasant as we knew when the ladle was coming, where it would be and the best angles to catch it from due to all the information they gave us. We always felt safe in their capable hands.

As the metal came out of the furnace and moved across the floor on the ladle, the other members of the club (who had the lights) and I, took care and moved around the floor with the workers to get into position for each of the shots we wanted to capture.

The settings mostly stayed the same, only the composition and, at times, lighting by my lovely assistants might have moved around from shot to shot.

Here are more images from the shoot:

Foundry Paul Monaghan (6) Foundry Paul Monaghan (7) Foundry Paul Monaghan (5) Foundry Paul Monaghan (4) Foundry Paul Monaghan (2) Foundry Paul Monaghan (1)

A big thank you to the other members of the Kirkintilloch Camera Club (Charlie Urquhart, John Wilkes and Janie Orr) who came with me that day and to the staff at Archibald Young foundry for being so cooperative and making the shots possible.


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Paul Monaghan is a self-taught photographer from Scotland and owner of a small photographic studio just outside of Glasgow, Scotland. Over the years photography has not only helped him document the life of his four kids, it’s also lead him to work on some amazing projects, make friends all over the world and gives him the tools he needs to bring Ideas in his head to life. Visit his websitehere.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar

    Love the shots

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  2. Brian Hammonds

    Really nice shots and an informative article. Thanks!

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  3. Christopher Siefken

    Awesome shots! With the intense orange coming from the metal, did you color correct or gel your lights at all?

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    • Paul Monaghan

      Not at all, I left them as is and pushed the white balance in post over to the warmer site a little as well as using the split toning feature in light-room and putting some orange in the shadows.

      This helped add some warmth into the image overall and make the liquid metal become more saturated.

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  4. Clare Havill

    Great images. I drive past a small foundry in East London every day and have always wanted to shot inside.

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    • Paul Monaghan

      It’s always worth asking, you will never know till you try and it could lead to other things :D

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  5. Matthew Saville

    Awesome stuff! I hope we see more from this style of photography in the “How You Shot It” series… :-D

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  6. Peter Nord

    I grew up in a factory. Always loved watching pours. Brings back a lot of memories of light, sounds, and smells. Just like a good photograph should. Nothing like a steel mill at night when your a kid.

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    • Peter Nord

      your => you are
      I’m getting too old to type.

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    • Paul Monaghan

      Typing isn’t my strong point either so don’t worry worry about it :).

      The foundry brought a lot of memory’s back for me too as it has that warm dusty metallic kinda smell my old metal coating place had.

      What really blew my mind was in making the documenty about the old foundrys in my town, as I found out all the different crafts and skills required to make it all happen. The pattern makers blew my mind.

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    • Peter Nord

      My great grandfather was a pattern maker. Think maybe it skipped me.

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  7. Rui Pinto

    Great photos! The details are awsome

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  8. Ron Fya

    Tip top pictures Paul! I very much like that roughness you showed from the foundry. The brown tones suit that very well.

    One side note tough. When I started flash photography, I was confused by that very common statement you use in this article as well:
    – Aperture controls flash power
    – Shutter speed controls ambient light

    This is not accurate and can lead to some misconceptions.

    One should actually read:
    – Aperture (and ISO) controls flash power AND ambient light
    – Shutter speed controls ONLY ambient light

    Hope this helps !

    Keep up the good work.


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    • Paul Monaghan

      Thanks Ron

      That’s true Aperture does control all light that enters the camera so you would have to adjust your shutter to compensate and I should have written it as you said.

      I’m glad you like the images, thanks for the advice and taking the time to reply.

      I’ll do my best to keep up the good work, sadly I’m no longer a contributor for slrlounge so you might not see much more of my work on here but it has been a great experience that I can only thank the great staff for.

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  9. Tanya Smith

    Super cool! I used to work at a fine art bronze foundry as a wax chaser back in the day. My first thought when seeing your picture was “why isn’t he wearing gloves????!” LOL.

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    • Paul Monaghan

      All the guys dealing with the hot stuff are wearing gloves in the images, it’s only the guys doing the prep work liked the green sand and post written that aren’t.

      My first ever job was for a company who coated metal objects, it was similar in a way that we had furnaces, acid baths and other such things so going into the foundry was like going back in time in a way for me.

      It was great to see how objects where made and I later found out more about it all when I helied to make a documentary about my towns history which had many foundry that are now gone..

      Its crazy how much work and different skills are involved in making objects in this way.

      If anyone is interested in seeing the documentary which has video of the above foundry at work then feel free to contact me and l will try track some dvds down from the local library as it was shot for the local council.

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  10. Barry Cunningham

    One of the accomplishments that made Margaret Bourke-White was figuring out how to light the interior of steel mills in Cleveland in the 1920s for her spectacular industrial photographs. Looks like the foundry is not quite on the same scale, and you have much better equipment now, which you wield well to yields some great pictures. Well done.

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    • Paul Monaghan

      Thank you Barry.

      This us quite a small foundry that has managed to stay alive buy doing more specialist work.

      Kirkintilloch was home to some massive foundry in its past making objects that can be seen all over the world including the red postbox and phone box’s but also guttering and decorative peaces for many different architectural projects.

      I’ve never heard of Margaret Bourke but I’m sure I will enjoy funding out more about her and her images.

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  11. Brandon Dewey

    Awesome pictures!

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