Photographing fire trucks in action

For several years, E-ONE Fire Trucks wanted their calendar to include images of their trucks in action. They were sticklers for detail and the manner in which their product was displayed. As such, they wanted clean, well lit, nicely posed trucks that were unobstructed in the frame. For a time they solicited images from the fire departments themselves or in the form of a photo contest for action shots. They learned rather quickly that their interests were at odds with what the average photographer captured and submitted. It goes without saying that working at real emergency scenes and trying to create images that were good product shots is not easy, and in many cases not possible at all.

They hired me and gave me the task of creating images for the calendar that would meet their criteria. Again, this was easier said than done … I was photographing fire trucks in action … that we created.

One such assignment sent me to Deerfield Beach, Florida to photograph a custom rescue pumper. I worked with the department ahead of time and we decided that we’d create a car crash scenario with an extrication. They had made arrangements with a local towing company that agreed to donate a couple of cars. The department also had a limited access road that we’d be able to use as a stage.

There’s nothing like putting a group of boys firefighters together with junk cars and asking them to create an interesting crash scene.

firemen free a trapped victim from a car crash
Deerfield Beach firefighters working a crash scene for the E-ONE calendar. Larry Shapiro photo

We did our best to create a realistic scene … that was missing police and spectators … I of course let the fire department layout the equipment, tools, and personnel placement after I determined the lighting and camera placement. I’m sure that it’s obvious that once we started the scene setup there was no turning back. I tried to anticipate the sun’s position a half hour after we’d started so that the engine would be illuminated evenly, but I underestimated the amount of time it took to get everything in place and ready.