Photographing fire trucks

Some assignments work out better than others. Every time I go out photographing fire trucks on assignment, I work hard to create great images for the client … that’s my job. Bear in mind that these are not big budget productions … there are no assistants (not withstanding the firefighters on-location that go out of their way to help) … there are no multiple days allocated to get the job one … there is no advance scouting on-location by me. I fly in, meet the folks who own and work with the truck, scout the area for locations, setup the shot(s), and head back out of town either on my way back home or to begin again in another city.

I was hired to create images of an engine in Jackson, MS … the state capital. My plan was to build one or two shots using the capital building for a dramatic background. This was several years ago … a film assignment … without online mapping and satellite resources like we have today. I figured it’d be a relatively simple task to complete. Well, I was wrong. This capital city was packed much tighter than I’d experienced in other states. There were no big open areas or large parking lots around. And, to complicate matters further, it wasn’t a weekend.

The first shot illustrates the longest view that was available to show the capital dome and include a truck in the frame. It was a one-way street … and we were facing the opposite direction. Behind my camera position, firemen were diverting traffic to a cross street. There was no way to block any more cars. Digitally the street could have been rebuilt without the cars, but it would have been difficult, time consuming, and expensive (not in the budget). My goal here was to keep as many lines of the engine¬†clean and clear of distracting obstacles. Trees surround most of it down to the bumper line.

Jackson fire engine with the state capital
We spotted the engine on an angle in the middle of the street at a distance that gave us a view of the capital dome … and lots of parked cars. Larry Shapiro photo

Afterwards, I¬†found a nice looking area on a street alongside the building that had great possibilities. But, there wasn’t much room. My tripod was on the other side of a row of bushes with a wider angle lens attached. The engine was positioned to block the parking meters and angled slightly to keep it fairly level, compensating for the crowning the road. And, we had to wait almost a half hour until some people came and moved their cars which were obstructing the view. All in all, it’s not a bad shot.

E-ONE fire engine on brick road
This spot on a side street became the winner. The brick street gave lots of character to the shot and the trees helped the engine stand out. I felt there was just enough of the building showing to convey the feeling of the state capital. Larry Shapiro photo

Though the lighting was not even, the shaded area of the street allowed for vibrant colors without harsh shadows. The brick street adds interest and color as do the flowering trees, and there’s just enough of the building to convey the majestic feel of the state capital.