A front-loader scoops freshly crushed basalt, while a crewman (note orange safety helmet) attempts to clear a jam in the crusher (blue machine).
Just a few miles from my home lies a quarry where basalt is mined and broken up for a variety of construction purposes. Shortly after I began studying J Harlen Bretz's work on the Puget Lobe Glaciation, I realized quarries must have been high on his list of places around the Sound to include in his field studies, especially in the earliest stages of his work. Given the lay of the land in 1907-1911, any place where the wilderness that still hung on in the area was pushed aside would have represented an informational gold mine for his studies.
It is possible Bretz visited this one, although I won't be able to know for sure until I can get to the University of Chicago and work my way through the Bretz archives stored there. But given its location in an area I know for a fact he studied, I decided to ask for permission to come on to the property and take some photographs.The owner sized me up for a minute or two, listened to my pitch, and then smiled.
"Two questions I need to ask," he said. "One, do you have a safety vest; two, do you have a hard hat?"
"Yes to both," I said, and the deal was set, just like that. Since then I've been back a couple of times, including just last week. Its geological structure and geographical location make it highly relevant to my study of Bretz's work in this area. More than that, 'tho, it is fun to shoot here.
My earliest interest in photography was driven by a love for the editorial photography that was the hallmark of mid-century communications in the 1900s. I cut my baby teeth in the medium trying to master the B&W techniques of the Life/Look shooters. For a time I aspired to be a shooter for National Geographic. While my career never flowed down that particular channel, I still managed to shoot in that vein from time to time. Corporate/Industrial photography, it was called while I was in school. It differed from the reportage approach only in that the "editorial element" was up-front propaganda aimed at enhancing the corporate image. It was possible to shoot using lens work and other photo-techniques resembling any of the "documentary" styles, but great care had to avoid the accompanying attitudes/editorial slants.
The shot above is a good example of what I mean. It is hard to take interesting and illustrative shots in a place like a quarry without running the risk of orchestrating a shot that leads the viewer to focus on something negative. My goal with this shot was to show where the equipment is working, not so much what is doing. The caption helps; but even more important than the caption is the full color rendition. For example, compare the shot above with the one below. Images in B&W tend to look more nitty-gritty than those in full color. And even when it's been over half a century since the B&W photo-editorials established much of the photo idiom, at least where reportage is concerned, B&W shots still look somehow "more serious" than those in color.