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Photographer captures heart and soul of mining

September 1, 2012
by Heather Campbell
In: News with 0 Comments

Discovering a niche market in mining has helped Steve Clapp of Creative Photography expand into an area he never would have ventured. Several years ago, Clapp, a seasoned portrait and nature photographer in Sudbury, was offered an assignment to take a group picture of mine managers underground.

Now, almost five years since that group shot, the majority of his clients are in the mining industry.

“The mine setting requires very specialized skills,” explained Clapp.  “You are working in complete darkness.  I need to bring in the right external lighting and be able to focus the camera in the dark.”

Clapp becomes very excited about the new technology he is discovering to overcome the challenges of working in dark, wet and cramped areas underground.  This includes using lenses that capture small spaces, lighting powered by portable batteries and steady cams for training videos.

“Working underground challenges me to find creative ways to get a good shot,” said Clapp.

Not all of his work is underground. He also shoots aerial photographs of mining camps, tailings areas and cityscapes and has produced both HD and 3D training videos that help orient and train miners.

For simple portrait, group or product photos, he takes his portable studio to mine sites for an authentic setting, and then touches up the photos back at his studio. He also has a mining-themed backdrop in his studio for portraits of mine workers and their tools.

Clients have included Xstrata, BESTECH and FNX, now KGHM International Ltd.

Clapp just completed an orientation video for Cementation in which he captured a full day of operations both above and below ground.

“I used a lot of creative features in the video like time lapsing and split screens. All the actors are employees in the company, which can sometimes be challenging. Some are shy but then there are a few who love the camera and want to be in every shot,” he said.

Clapp built his business on portraits and nature photography, but he is enjoying his work with the mining industry.

Most of his photos are used for safety awards, trade show displays, brochures, websites and PowerPoint presentations.  He has thousands of photos that mining companies can use for stock photos and creates special safety awards and retirement gifts that reflect a miner’s career.

“You’ll also find my photographs displayed in offices,” said Clapp. “Every assignment is different and unique. I even took photographs of different minerals for a Science North card series.”

If the photographs are not on the office walls, they can also be found in his two hardcover coffee table books.

Miners and their families appreciate the books because they capture a life not many people have access to or understand.

A third book in the series is in the works and will be somewhat different as he plans to include the stories told by the miners he has photographed.  He has spent two years sorting through photographs and interviewing miners and expects to publish this fall.

Another project he is working on is a short film about the old mining technique of shrink stope mining. “It’s about a day in the life of a miner who follows a vein. It has a story behind it about a miner who has a real passion for his job and for working safely. It is incredibly hard work. I expect a lot of miners will relate to it.  We have become so used to automation, but this type of mining, which still takes place in some mines, takes a lot of heart and soul.”

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