Posts Tagged ‘north augusta


Tall buildings and high places

From left, Ben Keilholtz, Joe Grabb and Greg James, all from AAA Sign, attach the "G" from Wells Fargo on the old Wachovia building, Monday, Oct. 18, 2010, in Augusta, Ga.

Let’s be clear about this:  I hate heights.  Not in the sense that you can say you hate carrots, simply because you’re over exaggerating a distaste for them.  It’s more like I loathe heights.

Probably related, I also have a deep fear of them.  An irrational muscle tightening and body paralyzing fear that strikes whenever I get on a ladder any higher than 10 rungs. 

I was reminded of all this when I was escorted to the 17th floor of the old Wachovia building and into the storage/maintenance facility wedged between the top of the building and the Pinnacle Club.  All this to photograph a crew putting up the new Wells Fargo signage on the side of the building.  Then came the worst part – and something I should have remembered from my previous trip to the roof of this building – the two story free climb up a perfectly vertical steel ladder attached to a wall next to the equally tall air conditioning units. Two of the cylinder rungs near the top are bent, as if an elephant had recently tried to use it (how you bend a metal ladder at that height is beyond me.) 

Being on the roof of a tall building, with a wall surrounding me is not the issue.  It’s when there’s open space below that gets me.  And that’s why that two story climb is exponentially worse for my nerves than hanging out on the roof and enjoying the view of sunny Augusta and North Augusta.

And then there’s the very awkward and embarrassing, if anyone’s with you, transitioning between the ladder and flat roof surface – with camera equipment.  It almost always ends up being a mix of falling and rolling oddly onto the flat surface.  No matter how hard you try, you can’t look cool as you take your shaking hands and grab at anything attached to the floor only to imitate Shamu jumping out of the SeaWorld pool.    

But, once on the roof, there’s a small retaining wall all the way around so as long as I keep my eyes looking level, or up, I’m ok…until I have to take pictures of guys attaching a giant G to the building’s side 20 feet below me.  There’s no other way to get a good shot without leaning over the side, thus exposing myself to the open space below.  As I’m taking pictures, the guy on the roof, making sure the hanging scaffolding is secure for the three men below, asks me: “Hey you should get down there with them, and feel how it swings.”

Um. No. Thanks.

This is all topped off with the process of getting down, this time with the equally awkward transition from surface to ladder, in reverse (arguably less dumb looking but probably more dangerous.)

I’m always so happy to return to solid ground after these assignments. 



(accidentally) getting involved

As journalists, and even more so, as photographers, we constantly try to stay out of the situation we are photographing.  We try to be a fly on the wall, letting the subjects do what they do while we document the situation. Sometimes this is difficult to get into peoples’ heads (i.e.: no I don’t want you to pretend you’re doing something, just do it naturally, as if I wasn’t here), but that’s for another blog post.

Last week, I got a call from bossman to head to North Augusta to shoot a giant dredge boat/pontoon being prepared for shipment to Canada.  It was cool. Very cool.  A 400,000 pound boat with a huge “ladder,” an arm that lowers with big teeth on the end to remove silt from the bottoms of ponds and such.  There were workers all over the place, cutting, wiring, welding, walking in dangerous places, the whole nine yards.  And the owner was really cool about showing me around, and even left me for a bit so I could do my thing.  Usually that’s a dream assignment; the kind where you have free reign to walk around shooting very photogenic things going on? 

Yeah.  Except apparently I need parental supervision because I accidentally dropped a memory card down the ONE crack in the boat that led to nowhere.  It didn’t even bounce on anything, it just fell straight down, perpendicular to the ground and directly into the slot between the hull and the pontoon.

Now, normally, if it had been a fresh card without ALL OF THE STUFF I HAD JUST SHOT on it, I would have considered letting it go as a gift to the photo gods, if you will.  But I needed those images.  So after getting on my knees and peering into the darkness to determine that it really had gone deep into the bowels of this $4 million boat, I had to resign myself to asking one of the workers to help me out.  His name was Ethan Robert and boy do I owe him a beer or 12. 

Long story short, he went to the ground with a long rod and started pulling (pushing, scraping, etc.) out a bunch of junk from underneath this boat that had been sitting there for a year, maybe more.  Everything but a very thin, small memory card.  By now half the crew is paying attention to me and Ethan.  People are getting flashlights, getting the air compressor ready to “blow it out.”  In other words, I halted work on this huge boat. Single handedly.  Ugh.  The opposite of what I could ever have wanted. 

All said and done, we figured out it was on a hook where the hull attaches to the fuel tank.  Ethan managed to knock it off the hook and drag it out.  Save for a bit of dirt, it was ok, and it later worked fine in the card reader.  And the images were fine. 

Ethan Robert uses a metal rod to retrieve me memory card that I stupidly dropped into the bowels of a 400,000 pound boat. I'm smooth like that.

Ethan’s the man.