Skills Shortage - why we need #Apprenticeships.

The importance of apprentices and apprenticeship schemes to future economic success. #naw19 #naw

#naw National Apprentice Week. #naw19

#naw National Apprentice Week. #naw19

As an industrial photographer I travel and get to photograph many different locations, on many construction, engineering, manufacturing and workplaces the content I shoot shows a skilled workforce engaged in all types of tasks. Getting the image that delivers the story..people - skills - investment - safety can be a challange at times.

I review my photography and website regularly and critically, and one thing is apparent, the age of the ‘models’ in the images.

Often a business will have lined up thier best and brightest for the photoshoot, a wealth of knowledge about the work in hand and an experienced eye on the safety issues and making sure we are photographing content that shows best practice.

Most of the ‘models’ I see have a few years under thier belts..which is great for images as it shows experience, knowledge and integrity through their facial expressions..and a few road miles adds a little character.

HOWEVER..where are all the young faces..the ‘young un’ ‘junior’ ‘the lad’ ‘the lass’ ‘bag carrier’ ‘tea maker’..or in photography land ‘voice activated light stand’…OK the terms are probibly non PC, but I’m sure you get the drift.

wc March 4th, 2019 is National Apprentice Week, it cannot be stated enough that the future workforce is going to pay for all us old’s a point of view..but importantly we (business community) have a massive skills shortage. Paricularly in the engineering, costruction and manufacturing turn those jobs securing finance, adminstration, material supply, energy, transport, research..the list is endless.

I know there are many will think that the investment they make in starting an apprentice scheme is just training a skilled workforce to leave and go somewhere else, NO NO NO, it’s bigger than that, OK they leave..but when you advertise for experienced welders, turners, electricians etc..where do you think they are going to come from.

You might loose a few..but you will gain..may be from someone else’s scheme..perhapes someone who will bring with them new learning, a different way to improve your business.

The big picture is the skills shortage, those business that are making a choice to run apprenticship schemes are investing in their future success and growth.

As an industrial photographer I am looking forward to seeing the average age of the people in my photographs start to there someone ypung to carry this heavy bag.

Mechanical & Engineering Photography.

Construction Industry Photographers.

Construction electrical engineering.

Find a very small space, fill with pipes heat exchangers, valves & pumps add an engineer, client, lighting equipment..and a photographer, then photograph.

Shooting M&E can be a challenge, photography in very small spaces is not just trying to ‘get everything in’ but to show an image that has clarity and some sense of depth.

Photographing the services that keep buildings working is either done during construction phase or as part of a re-fit or upgrade, either way job one on the list when getting to a location is the ‘tidy up’. I will often ask for the location to be tidied last thing day before the gives the airborne dust time to settle and clear, brushing the floors when you are setting for the shoot just fills the air making for less contrast in the image..fills the camera and lenses..and me.

Getting a viewpoint can be a challenge, often there will be only one view that works or is the only place you can set the camera. Then adding lighting, using a technique of mixing both flash and light painting illumination can be used to highlight and add contrast and separation to each of the elements in the photograph.

Lens selection is also a consideration, not just a case of picking the widest shortest focal length but considering how the perspective can be made less extreme by image stiching with a slightly longer focal length lens.

Long summer days industrial photography.

Long summer days mean late nights.

Industrial photography.

Industrial photography.

Long summer days can be productive if you need sunshine and skies..but for dusk and night photography the days only mean very late finishes and early starts.

Getting just the right balance of darkening sky and the working lights influencing the scene can be a short window of opportunity.  The 'Golden hour'..and 'Blue hour' are often used to describe the changing light from day to night. Getting just the right time to get a night sky and yet still have enought light to contrast the structure against the sky to retain it's shape and form but still dark enough to let the working lights on the building or structure to create the magical pools of light is more an art of observation than science. 

Spring and Autumn are often a great time for dramatic skies full of colour as the low sun helps the high level clouds to 'catch fire'  but not everyone has time to wait for just the right sunset/sunrise so in the meanwhile it's sleep depravation time.

Oil and Gas Photographers

Oil and Gas Photographers.

Oil refinery photography

Oil refinery photography

Working in an explosive environment, I do like to have structure and order in my adds to a visual composition that adds clarity to a photo - using people as scale and points of colour to draw the viewer into the photo.

Sometimes in complicated environments where there is a lot going on visually adding carefully positioned people into the image can add a controlled 'quite' moment in the chaos to help the viewer see and understand the context of the whole environment.

Oil and gas and energy photographers international industrial photographers.

Oil and gas and energy photographers international industrial photographers.

I was asked to describe my work recently and came to the opinion that my 'style' is 'classic industrial' so far as it's a style of imagery that shows the thing being photographed as recognisable and using it's own form to create a visual image that tells the story. 

Safety is paramount, all my camera and lighting kit is battery powered..and to the best of my knowledge there are no usable to the image quality and versatility required intrinsically safe housings for the camera and variety of lenses. So under permit working it's always a 'hot works' permit on the basis of there could be a source of ignition from the camera or battery with everyone wearing a gas detector to monitor the changing conditions… the regular 'chirp' of the detector always ever present.  

Battery Storage Capacity.

EDF to invest $8 billion in battery storage capacity.

Battery storage capacity.

Battery storage capacity.

Industrial photographers in Renewable Energy battery storage.

Photography of people in industrial location. Commercial, Advertising Photography.

Next time you complain about no charge on your mobile phone just think what happens if there was no electicity left to switch on the TV, lights or your computer. 

Think of the electricty demand peak events such as commercial breaks in the X factor finals or the forthcoming royal wedding, those peak demands on generation planning require many assets to be brought on line just at the right moment, those assets needing to be running at full power before switching in the generators to produce the electricity.

To be able to draw down at a milliseconds notice enough electricity to bridge the gap between demand and generation means generation resources can be used more efficiently, and store power produced by renewable sources.

EDF have announced an $8 billion (£7 billion) investment over the next 2 decades in battery storage capacity, having already commissioned and brought online a 49MW facility they are continuing to move towards reduced carbon eneregy production.  

Nine images.

How do you choose only nine images, if you have looked at the portfolio pages on this website the issue seems to be too many rather than too few. I'm still looking at choosing a much smaller number of images to show my industrial photography, but am having separtion issues about reducing content.

9 images text.jpg

I ask it enough just to show a few images that show the type of work you do, or will visitors only assume that is all you can do..if you show a picture of an oil refinery can viewers make the visual jump to a paint factory. 

As an industrial photographer the locations we work in can be very diverse but still require the same level of creativity and skill to achieve great loooking images. Then add into the mix shooting to brand image guides and also creative post production, all making the body of work more diverse and creatively different.

I understand about creating a body of work on a single subject but if that is what you show will viewers ony think that is all you can produce. Perhaps it's time to hand this off to a picture editor or photo rep to decide, perhaps just too near the subject to understand the core of my own photography. 

Safety briefing.

Site safety inductions.

Throughout the course of a year it is fair to say that I get many safety inductions and briefings, as a contractor that in most cases goes to each site or location only a few times during the course of a project I am often going to a new location every week.

Screen shot from my LinkedIn feed.

Screen shot from my LinkedIn feed.

I have had my fair share of 'site welfare' use over the years..and every cup of coffee is always accepted with good heart and thanks. Some work sites are only temporary for the duration of a particular operation - these tend to have a smaller compliment of crews typically 10 -20 persons.

So by way of' thanks for the coffee' I will sometimes bring a 'something' for the site mess, upon presenting the sweet treats to the project manager "ah it's coffee time..come down and meet the can do a tool box talk" 

I was introduced and asked to talk about my gift - it was great opportunity meet everyone and very brief tell the story of the message on the boxes, I really wanted to let everyone know that safety was the number one priority and thank them in advance for looking out for me.

The picture on the boxes is my one family - it's a few years old now but just reminds us all of what we would miss if we did not return home from work.




Brent Delta - the old lady of the North Sea.

Recycling of offshore oil gas rigs. Shell Brent Delta demolition photography.

 Brent Delta at the start of demolition. Offshore Photographer.

 Brent Delta at the start of demolition. Offshore Photographer.

Shell's Brent Delta one of the largest and oldest oil production platforms in the North Sea has been  brought to shore at the end of it's working life.

After nearly 40 years at sea (just think how long your car would last in that environment) the 44 meter tall excluding the flare stack, 24,000 tonne structure will be environmentally dismantled at the Able UK's Seaton Port, Hartlepool, UK with over 97% to be recycled.

A massive undertaking even taking the title 'largest ever marine lift' -to date anyway. It's the beginning of a new industry at such a scale, the decommissioning of such structures and the legal requiremnts for companies to remove such structures at the end of their working lives will see more growth in this offshore sector.   

RUK/GWO WAH & Rescue Wind Turbines, GWO Sea Survival, RUK MST Vessel Transit & Transfer.

More training completed. GWO RUK

GWO RUK WAH Working at height and rescue training for offshore wind and renewables.

GWO RUK WAH Working at height and rescue training for offshore wind and renewables.

Opito BOSIET + CA-EBS, MIST +Norwegian Sect.  RUK/GWO WAH & Rescue Wind Turbines, GWO Sea Survival, RUK MST Vessel Transit & Transfer, CSCS+Working at Height..the list of industry safety training is getting longer.

Let's get straight to it..all this training takes time and incurs considerable expense, however it does open up opportunities for access to client commissions.

The oil and gas industry although has had a tough time of late is still a thriving industry with many new projects in planning, the renewables and wind energy generation is a fast growing but still quite a young industry that continues to grow.

To support an ongoing commission I was asked to undertake safety training to enable access to offshore wind turbines and construction vessels, this involves not just getting to and transiting to the structures, but also climbing and in an emergency escaping from the top nacel or performing a rescue of a colleague, as well as sea survival.

Most of the vessels involved in the construction of offshore wind installations require the oil and gas BOSIET, this covers also sea survival, fire fighting, escape from smoke filled compartments and the HUET..a simulated helicopter ditching at sea and underwater inversion.

Although there were many areas of learning that cross over each has specific areas of training to cover, and stepping off an approx 30 meter training tower to experience how the Milan controlled rate descender works takes a bit of nerve.

I completed both BOSIET and RUK/GWO courses with Advanced Industrial Solutions Newcastle facility..worlds class facilities, knowledgeable training delivered by some great instructors..and the on site food facility provides great quality hearty meals with plenty of dietary choices (fyi-I'm not selling AIS..bit praising the whole set-up)

So...want some offshore projects photographed..I'm qualified. 

A World First- EDF Wind Farm Bases Floating.

Floating Wind Gravity Bases. Renewables offshore photographers.

It was great to see the EDF wind gravity base being released from it's construction drydock, in the dawn light 04.30 the first floating base was gently drawn from the flood drydock into the river Tyne, Wallsend, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK. 

This sees the end of the construction phase photography, now it's onto the offshore installation operation-really looking forward to seeing the completed project installed towards the end of this year. Having my offshore BOSIET etc means access to the construction vessels-mostly Dutch so guaranteed great coffee and creamer. (these are important details for a coffee powered photographer!) 

Wind gravity bases leaving drydock.

Wind gravity bases leaving drydock.

Wind gravity base en-route to installation location off coast of Blyth, Northumberland.

Wind gravity base en-route to installation location off coast of Blyth, Northumberland.

EDF ER Chief Executive Matthieu Hue said:

“This is the first major offshore operation on this project and over the coming months people will be able to see the wind farm being built out at sea. This ground-breaking scheme will benefit the North East of England and help the UK to meet its future low carbon electricity needs.

“This is the first time that this float and submerge method has been used on a wind farm project.

The GBFs are held in place by gravity and this unique design reduces the need to use expensive marine equipment for the installation on the sea bed.”


Wind farm gravity base floating down the river Tyne, watched by an onlooker on an electric bycycle.

Wind farm gravity base floating down the river Tyne, watched by an onlooker on an electric bycycle.

edf wind farm base floating down river offsore

These are a few of the image that were sent out within a couple of hours of the base floating down river, the wind and renewables industry pr, press and social news feeds made for some wide coverage of this world first across the world. 

Clear thinking

The importance of a clear strategy communicated effectively can never be underestimated.

Find what you are looking for.

Find what you are looking for.

-Photographers are hired on the basis of geographical location, specialism, nepotism or sometimes just being in the right place at the right time -Photographers will often accept work because it's good business, they need the money, there's an empty space in the diary, too scared and too poor to say no, and in between those states is the angst of the void.

Is this the best I can do, will I ever work again, can I sustain the workload, how can I be in two places at once, is it worth the grief, everyones work is better...was I ever good enough? 

I have always liked the quote by Steve McQueen 'racing is life-anything before or after is just waiting', creating new work is both at the same time an opportunity for greatness or disappointment, a moment to define your condition-validate your creative or technical expertise in your chosen creative medium.

I have always struggled with the void between assignments-finding 'busy' work to do, researching locations, sales, social media, the accounts-VAT-Tax, looking for that 'something' that will be the eureka moment, looking for the dream client or assignment that is more important than life itself. 

There are many 'business coaches' out there who I'm sure can help me for a fee to understand what my goals are, have the mindset to win those dream jobs and achieve greatness..although I do question what greatness is these days!

One of the best tools for both business and mind-it doesn't cost a fortune, has no ongoing consultancy fees and minimal application costs..a magnetic whiteboard.

I put one of these up in my office some time back, it has listed the usual whiteboard stuff-all current work-things to do/remember-picture of the kids and dog and those free promotional magnets you get sent for your refrigerator door.

The most useful feature is the section for 'thoughts' the place where I layout goals and targets and any useful info and resources, it's the place where I can stand back-look with clarity at the next thing to do, don't underestimate the power of accomplishment in wiping off an is liberating and addictive!

It's too easy to be swamped by the sheer mass of influences we take in, after all that's how we thrive and grow as creatives-letting these distractions add to our own interpretations, but in all the noise we need to hear our own soundtrack.