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cover story
Firms Find Good Jobsite Photos Are More Than Pretty Pictures
By Tom Sawyer
Photographer: Keith Philpott
Submitter: Chad Pulley, Black & Veatch Corp., Overland Park, Kan.
Philpott says the Long Tan hydropower plant in Tian, China, was a tough shoot. It was a rough day-and-a-half of climbing and squeezing into tight places and puzzling out mysteries, such as the stream of workers carrying steaming 5-gallon buckets on poles across their shoulders. "It was lunch rice," he says. Job sites are rough on wallets and equipment, too, he adds. He just replaced his camera with a Nikon D3. The list price: $4999.95.

Improvements in cameras and their greater availability and more frequent use are giving construction professionals more bang for their clicks these days. There also seems to be a growing appreciation of how easily digital photographs can be used to improve the construction business.

Mike Neyman, of the Louisiana Dept. of Transportation and Development cites the old saying about a picture being worth 1,000 words. As a novice photographer, he started shooting progress shots of a $989-million bridge widening project in New Orleans as a senior bridge inspector. He uses a $150, 7-megapixel Kodak Easy Share camera and uploads weekly "picture reports" to LaDOT officials in Baton Rouge to help them "keep up on what's happening on the project."

Photographer and Submitter: Wilson Nazario, contractor, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Nazario's fish-eye lens shot of a friend's job, the $70-million airport terminal at Isla Verde, Puerto Rico, was top vote-getter among viewers who saw the gallery of all submissions to ENR's The Year in Construction Photo Contest at The view of the terminal's oval-shaped steel roof, cantilivering 117 ft, struck a chord. Nazario thinks talking-up by the port authority helped increase the buzz.

As a percentage of project cost, it is hard to imagine a better value than photography. Digital images from Neyman and others not only help coordinate work, but comprise a historic record of the complex project, which involves beefing up concrete columns, and adding millions of pounds of structural steel and wider decks to the longest rail bridge in the U.S., the Huey P. Long Bridge.

At the other end of the spectrum are companies such as Morley Builders in Santa Monica, Calif. Jon Sansom, marketing manager says Morley hires professionals to shoot its work because the images are an effective marketing tool. Morely's photographers often drill in on particular details, such as seismic features or finishes rather than the overall project, because such shots help the company showcase "what we do and our capabilities," Sansom says.

Related Links:
  • Booming Markets Bring Lots of Shots
  • Multimedia:
  • Photo Contest: The Year in Construction 2007

  • Conversation with John V. Robinson
  • Tim Souther, project manager with Wild Heavy Haul Inc., who climbed a 12-story silo to get the shot on page 38, makes the same point: "It's validation. You can say, I can do it, and it's proof."

    Another growing usage of digital imagery is for safety training. Greg Mays, a safety manager with Robins and Morton, Birmingham, Ala., says that many of the photos he takes, such as the one on page 26, are excellent training tools.

    Mays says that if he sees a safety issue onsite, he will decide whether to intervene or shoot depending on the seriousness. "If it is not too serious, I can snap a photo real quickly and go explain to him why it is incorrect," he says.

    Judges: Shostak, Pietroluongo, Sleight, Ivy and Sawyer, made up this year's panel.

    The invited judges for ENR's photo contest are chosen each year to bring in fresh voices on various perspectives, including safety expertise, as well as construction knowledge, design and photography. This year's panel included Tony Pietroluongo, safety supervisor in the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Manhattan area office; Mitch Shostak, creative director, Shostak Studios, New York City; David Sleight, deputy creative director, BusinessWeek .com; Robert Ivy, editor-in-chief, Architectural Record and vice president of editorial for McGraw-Hill Construction; and Tom Sawyer, an ENR associate editor and the photo contest coordinator.





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