The Daily Grind

I am always on the lookout for things that appeal to me as possible photo subjects and I recently made contact with a gentleman that owns a local machine shop. I had stopped by one day for another purpose and while I was standing in the office, I noticed some old machine shop equipment in the back. Everything had a rich patina of dust, grease, and everything in between from years of jobs being performed. These machines go back many decades, are built like a tank, and seem almost indestructible, to me anyway. Everywhere you look, there seems to be endless photo possibilities for those willing to look. You can just feel the history within the shop as your eye moves from machine to machine, and being allowed to photograph there is something I am very grateful for.

The owner not only allowed me and my friend to photograph there, but he also trusted me enough to let me shoot unattended the very first night I was there. This is something that I am very grateful for and do not take for granted. Being all alone in the shop gave me the opportunity to really look for shots that I thought might work with my light painting techniques. For those who read this and enjoy photography, I want to say that I always try to make prints and let the owners use my images as they need in exchange for their generosity. Having the chance to create new images is very important to me, and I am not sure why, but I seem to have a real drive to be creative, even if I am the only person to ever see the work. So in closing, I suggest to always ask if you see something unique that you want to shoot, because you might be pleasantly surprised, and always return the favor in appreciation for someone allowing you into their domain.

I do not know anything about this particular machine, other than it being a heavy-duty grinder. Keep a look out for more great machines from this shop in the future. Again, a special thanks to Lee and his helpful employee who assisted as well.

21 responses to “The Daily Grind

    • Sure, Set up the tripod, get an ambient exposure of the subject in a very subdued way,so it looks fairly dark,low contrast etc. then in the dark or fairly dark room, I light each part independently using various flashlights or spotlights at angles that help show the texture of the item. front light is flat and will never work,so side or backlight is what you want.Exposures can run from 10 seconds to 30 seconds, depending how dark your environment is. Usually f11 to f16 is good for my spot/flashlights, and i keep them moving over various areas till shutter closes.The real trick is when you bring your very dark base image in to start, you then drag your highlight shots utilizing your flashlight in as layers,and when you put the layer mode on lighten,the only thing that shows up is the light you shown on the subject.Maybe I will show a sample series sometime here.

      • Donald, So you end up with several shots, each highlighting a different area? You pull them all together with your first image using Photoshop? I would guess from the warmth of the lights that you use the older type of flashlight, not the new LED lights? Thanks for sharing, and yes, I would love to see a series of the photos used to build one of your wonderful images! ~Kyle

      • yes.sometimes 50 shots or more. I like to have lots to choose from.I use a laptop so the camera does not move a fraction. I shoot raw, so I can adjust color temp to whatever I want. My flashlight has two settings, a cool led look and a warm conventional look. you can also try flash,but its a little harder to control the spill. a snoot helps.

  1. Very Nice! That is a old Surface Grinder with a Magnetic Chuck. I think it is from late 1940 or 1950. All the years I have been a tool maker the hand wheel on this grinder that is on the right is on the left on grinder’s that I have
    run. Great Job with the light!

  2. My kind of image. Simple and clean, it’s an image that has little to do with a grinder. It’s about circles, texture, geometry, and of course light. Above all, it’s an image that people who don’t even know what a grinder is can appreciate. Great job and I’m glad you were able to stay. Good things come from the quiet of ‘alone’.

  3. Pingback: Iron | Larry Lefever Photography

  4. hello Donald, congratulations for the photo. I’m starting learning the amazing light-painting technique and wanted to know what advantages has your technique of taking several photos and merge them later in Photoshop rather than the technique of Dave Black not to use photoshop with a single exposure of 30 ” (look at his method here ).
    I think that your technique(the same of Harold Ross and Larry Lefever) maybe is “less romantic” but gives you more final control: I’d like to know your opinion, thanks Roberto

    • I could never do my shots that way. The intensity of your light,amount of time shining on the object,and the angle are all tricky to do in one shot. I could try certainly, but I prefer taking each piece as a separate piece of the puzzle,and not being rushed to do everything at the ultimate angle in 30 seconds. As i mentioned before, you could just do everything in a pitch black room for 5 minutes if you wished,but till your 5 min exposure is done,you have no idea if you overexposed an area,lit it improperly etc,so I would rather do more shots for less time and fine tune each one,using the last as a guide. no right or wrong,just what each likes to do.

  5. I’m a complete novice with my camera which I just point and click. I’d love to know more and one day, when I’ve stopped travelling and have some spare money I’ll take a photography class, then maybe I’ll know what you’re talking about. It’s makes for a transfixing read anyway. And your photos are simply amazing. How long did it take to get this image in the machine room and then afterwards?

  6. Donald, the process you explain is amazing. I have some old letterpress printing presses (1904). if you are ever in Australia you are most welcome to photograph them!

    • Dont wait for me, give it a whirl yourself. I actually did a couple old printing press shop images I did and I have one in my galleries under light painting. its in the middle column, near the bottom if you want to look. I will give you a call if I get in your neighborhood.

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