Today’s photoessay contains images I initially shot for a client much earlier in the year; the German tunnel-boring specialists Herrenknecht and MMC-Gamuda for the greater Kuala Lumpur mass transit project. The project itself will bring a unified rail system to Klang Valley over the next five years; in the meantime, it’s utter chaos while everything is being dug up or diverted so overhead pylons can be put up. I was hired to document some of the underground work.
Though this was initially submitted to the client in color – per their requirements – I’d also shot a number of images with the intention from the start of presenting them in black and white; I suppose I felt simultaneously inspired and challenged by Salgado’s much earlier work during the Channel Tunnel project. Unfortunately, I didn’t get anywhere near the six months or unlimited access he did – more like three days and a chaperone – but I am still very pleased with the results. A secondary objective was to obtain as high image quality as possible under the difficult (dark, wet, dangerous due to heavy machinery) conditions; medium format was out because I was not allowed to use lights or tripods for long exposures. In any case, it would have been pointless as the ground and platforms vibrated significantly because of the cutting heads of the machine. What you’re viewing here is the process of laying a keystone into the tunnel lining, which is done immediately after the cutting head; for obvious reasons it’s impossible to take a photograph of the cutting head itself in action.
Weapons of choice were therefore the usual wide-envelope workhorses: a pair of D800Es. However, this time I used the Zeiss ZF.2 2.8/21 Distagon and 1.4/55 Otus – they were a challenge to focus in the darker environments, but the image quality more than justified it. The results are all suitable candidates for Ultraprinting (not that you can tell from an 800px web jpeg); many were shot at ISO 6400 just to get enough shutter speed to freeze action. In any case, I leave you to the images…MT
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