Tip: Photographing People at Work

Sometimes, it can be challenging to take pictures of people at work, especially if they’re working in a dynamic environment like a transportation work site, or on the train or bus.

Safety is number one, of course. Proper precautions and planning are essential – as Julie Duewel of the Nevada DOT explained in a recent post.

And picking the right subject is crucial. Katy Warner of North Carolina DOT shared that nugget of information just last week.

But, how do you take award-winning pictures of people working? Our friends at Shutterbug Magazine have some great ideas. Check it out!

2011 Category Winner – Katy Warner, North Carolina DOT

To give you an idea of what to photograph, and what might be good to submit, we’re letting you in on the thoughts of some our past award winners and what made a particular photo worth submitting.

This week features Katy Warner, the At Work category winner from the 2011 contest. Katy is the photographer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Photography is a passion for me, not just a job. I am extremely grateful to be in a profession that is so rewarding. I’m Katy Warner, photographer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and I have been working here for almost eight years.

I travel across our beautiful state, from the coast to the mountains, photographing projects, employees and events.

Louis Sandoval, North Carolina DOT
NCDOT maintenance worker Louis Sandoval.

I shot the photo of an NCDOT maintenance worker, Louis Sandoval, that won the “At Work” category. Louie was competing in a test of skill as part of the department’s annual “Road-eo” competition, which honors the most talented maintenance crew in Winston-Salem. I am so pleased to have won with this photo because I feel it really captures not only the essence of Louie, but also the spirit of all of my fellow DOT workers. We are a friendly bunch!

This photo is technically a bit more complicated than it looks. It was somewhat challenging to capture a proper exposure due to the reflective vest: you have to remember not to use a flash! I exposed the image with a meter reading of his face instead of the overall scene. If you do not have access to a digital SLR like the Nikon D700 that I use here at the NCDOT, search your camera for the spot meter setting, and target what you would like accurately exposed.

I may photograph many images of construction sites and other representative images for the NCDOT, but my favorite photos to take are of diverse folks that work all over the state.

Good luck to all with your submissions. I look forward to being inspired again by this year’s group of images.

It’s Not All About Winning, But…

Of course you want to win. Only natural… But that’s not the only thing to gain by entering a photo contest such as Faces of Transportation.Here are some other reasons to enter:

Experience

California Snow Plowing
Caltrans crews keep mountain passes open.

Entering a competition will give you a great reason to get out and take a portfolio of pictures of a concrete subject (pun intended). Transportation and the people who build, maintain, operate and use the system are wonderful subjects – and there are many stories to be told with a simple picture.

Exposure

Washington State Bridge Inspectors
Washington State DOT bridge inspectors at work.

Getting your work out into the public eye is a good way to see it in a different light. You’ll get a fresh perspective on your photo when AASHTO publishes it in various publications and reports that will receive national attention. The transportation community is broad and varied and represents a large cross-section of the nation. So, it’s going to be seen by quite a lot of people.

Excitement
If you’ve never taken a transportation-related photo before, you’ve got some exciting times ahead of you. Read Julie Duewel’s excellent post about her experiences on a photo shoot for the Nevada DOT. She’s a professional photographer with the Department, so you probably won’t get to climb around on a 900-foot tall bridge, but there are many other thrilling (and safe!) opportunities to be found out there.

Still want to win? (Of course you do!) We found the advice from Darren Rowse, writer for the Digital Photography School, particularly insightful.

So, what are you waiting for?

2011 Contest Winner – Julie Duewel, Nevada DOT

To give you an idea of what to photograph, and what might be good to submit, we’re letting you in on the thoughts of some our past award winners and what made a particular photo worth submitting.

This week features Julie Duewel, the Grand Prize and People’s Choice winner from the 2011 contest. Julie is the photographer for the Nevada Department of Transportation.

Balancing Act - Julie Duewel, Nevada DOT
Bridge Inspector Aleksander Nelson performs a delicate balancing act during a safety inspection of the New Hoover Dam Bridge, 900 feet above the Colorado River.

My name is Julie Duewel – I’ve been the photographer for the Nevada Department of Transportation for 3 ½ years. Every year I have a blast shooting images throughout Nevada! I am so blessed to work for a great organization and have such an awesome job.

Last year I won the People’s Choice and Grand Prize in the Faces of Transportation contest for a photo titled “Balancing Act.” Before the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge opened in October of 2010, our NDOT bridge inspectors did a full inspection of the beautiful bridge. I was able to climb in the bucket, suspended 890 feet above the Colorado River, to photograph our inspectors. (Nope—not afraid of heights, but had to go through fall protection training—just in case!)

I shot many, MANY photos from the bucket and then went to the base of the bridge to shoot up at the inspectors harnessed and balancing on the bridge. I love this photo because to me it shows the danger and diverse nature of the inspector’s job, and transportation jobs in general. I also love that you can see a second inspector peeking around the corner.

I would encourage anyone to submit photos to the Faces of Transportation Awards contest. You can get such inspiration looking at other photographer’s photos and you never know what can happen—I certainly didn’t expect to win! So get out there and get shooting….

What Should You Submit?

So, you’ve read all the submission guidelines.

You’ve thumbed through all your old pictures that might – just might! – have a transportation theme in them.

You’ve eliminated the ones that are just of pretty bridges, fast trains, lots of cars, etc. because, well, they don’t have faces in them.

Want some inspiration? Check out some of the photos from our competitions in 2010 and 2011!

General Public and State DOTs Encouraged to Photograph Faces of Transportation

For the first time, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), is opening its Faces of Transportation photo contest to the general public, in addition to employees of state departments of transportation.

“This marks the eighth consecutive year for our national competition,” said Lloyd Brown, AASHTO director of communications. “We thought this would be a good time to give the general public an opportunity to participate and show us some of faces that touch their lives through transportation, in communities big and small across the country.”

The theme of this year’s competition is “Framing the Benefits of Transportation.” Digital photographs will be accepted in three categories: “Building the Future,” “On the Road,” and “Taking a Ride.” Each photo should include faces of people and represent the positive effects of transportation on individuals and/or communities. Examples might include innovation and creativity in the built environment; an inspiring journey taken on America’s roads and byways; a new bridge that is making commuting times shorter; an interesting way to work, school, or simply running errands; or a repaving of a rural road that employed members of the community.

The competition starts today and runs through July 31, 2012. Judges will decide the winners and the photograph receiving the highest number of online votes will receive the People’s Choice Award. People’s Choice voting will take place online August 13-31, 2012. A $125 prize will be awarded to the best photograph in each individual category and the winner of both the People’s Choice Award and best overall photo will each win $500 prizes. Contest winners will be announced October 1, 2012.

Download the Contest Guidelines and Rules 2012 here.

And get out there and take some great pictures!