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chap1.JPGChallenge: A test of one's abilities or resources in a demanding but stimulating undertaking ...

The project, a corporate marketing film for Chaparral Steel, was the most challenging and physically demanding jobs I've ever done.

All photography was shot on location at a steel plant. Lights were not allowed in the mill area so I used what was available:sunlight, mercury vapor lights, sodium vapor lights, molten ore, fire and fluorescent lights. My film of choice was Kodak's 7297, a film with excellent grain and a broad range of color characteristics in natural or artificial light. My T-stop range went from 1.4 for the lowest ambient conditions to a T45 when shooting the hot molten ore.

Hot, Dirty, Noisy and Dangerous
It was so hot that we couldn't touch the metal hand rails of the stairs. It was so dirty that you would be covered in dust by the end of the day. It was so noisy that you had to holler from a foot distance from each other in order to be heard.

The molten ore was so bright that it hurt your eyes to look at it. Special shaded glass, similar to that of wielders goggles, was used in the mill control room to observe the pouring of the ore. When the huge caldron emptied, a wave of heat passed through the thick glass windows and washed over us.

chap3.JPGGiant Electrodes
Ten foot high electrodes in the mill would be lowered into a cauldron of liquid metal.The resulting crackling and flashing was like being in the middle of a thunderstorm, with sparks raining down. Unusual patterns danced on the corrugated metal ceiling and reminding me of the Aurora Borealis.

Dangerous Environment
While shooting interviews in another area of the plant an alarm went off in the mill area. A twenty foot red hot I-beam had jumped off its track and went end over end towards a worker that was just three days away from retirement. He saved himself by diving under a metal tool cabinet. The next day we observed a twisted piece of metal that reminded me of modern art, yet had almost killed the day before. The other sobering thought was that I had been shooting the same I-beams coming toward me one day before the accident. And yes, the worker retired that same day as the accident.
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