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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:
- The ladle with the molten metal moves across the floor and is time restricted as the metal mixture would cool
- Exposing for the ambient light would over expose the metal, exposing for the metal would make the rest of the frame really dark.
- 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:
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.
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.
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:
- Aperture controls flash power
- 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:
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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