PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: One must stand here, at the base of the mast, and observe how the cables fasten to the great wheel to appreciate the operation of the crane’s pivot.
If there is a postcard shot of the dry dock, this is it. I relinquished this angle once when we entered the dry dock, and the sky was good, and everyone streamed into the area around the boom. The spot was occupied throughout the workshop, and by the time I got back and found the tranquility to study the composition, the sky was glaring and awkward.
Although this corner was occupied with photographers studying the geometries throughout the workshop, nobody else offered an image from this location at our nightly image sessions. Seeing this (in a preliminary version), Tillman was rightly emphatic about the need for choosing an angle that allows for a person’s passage between the wheel and the railing; he ran his fingers along the empty passage to emphasize his message. Indeed, I had a number of shots that I’d ruled out for this defect. That’s only one of the geometric issues posed, but it is the first major constraint on where one must stand. Clearing the full path of the leading line was only possible in post-processing or by elevating the camera above my limits.
I wanted to include something of the tower from which the crane was operated, but opening too wide meant admitting more of the unpleasant sky. The final decision on where to crop the top was determined by the window, the brim of roof, and the need to show enough of the mast to give it importance. Even with sky minimized, as it is here (27mm DX), processing the sky required invention.
Tillman warns against the easy seductions of the postcard shot. Now, having taken this and understood it, I’m eager to go back and shoot it again, though I’d be sorry to have leaves on the trees.