Photographing fire trucks with people

Here’s an example of another assignment that I had photographing fire trucks with people. I went to the town of Eureka in northern California. Known for  redwood trees, I knew that I wanted to incorporate that aspect of their environment into the images … easier said than done.

It’s common to find all manner of natural beauty throughout the country, but it’s not always easy or possible to insert a truck into the scene. Suffice it to say we spent quite a bit of time scouting locations. Between my absolute fascination with the natural beauty of the area and my need to combine it with fire truck photography, we had our hands full.

Remember too, that these images would be created with film. This was before the introduction of digital image capture and manipulation. In other words, we had to do it the hard way … the right way… in camera!

There were two scenes that stood out to create dramatic images … the forest and the lumber industry. The area had several lumber mills with giant stacks of these huge logs … with great colors and textures. I knew this would create strong contrast with the red and white commercial engine.

Kenworth/Pierce fire engine at lumber mill
This was the first image with a full wall of logs filling the frame. The shot was with a 210mm lens for perspective and compression. Larry Shapiro photo

Changing focal lengths can create a dramatically different image without moving the subject. I was shooting medium format (120mm) with a Mamiya RZ67 camera, so the perspective for each focal length is different than what would be found when using a 35mm format.  I moved closer and and lowered my position to increase the dramatic feel.

Kenworth/Pierce fire engine at lumber mill
This image was created with a 65mm, wide-angle lens for a totally different feel. Larry Shapiro photo

Then it was time to add the firefighters. First was back to the long lens which to my taste creates the most flattering perspective without any distortion.

Kenworth fire engine at lumber mill
Back to the long lens for a truck that has no distortion. It also compresses the subject with the background. Larry Shapiro photo

Next I changed back to the wide-angle. This meant a position change for me and because of all the new area within the frame, I repositioned the firemen as well. I brought two firefighters much closer to the camera to help fill the frame while making sure not to have any funky wide-angle side effects.

Kenworth fire engine at lumber mill
The wide-angle lens gave me all sorts of additional space to work with in the frame so I spaced out the firefighters. Larry Shapiro photo

Tomorrow … the redwood forest …


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